Dluxe's World

Wednesday, May 10

Reflections of a T4G non-attendee

There was a point in late-March where I was sitting at my desk staring at the T4G registration page. I was running through numbers in my head, trying to figure out if I could justify the cash-out to attend the conference. Well, I couldn't. So, I didn't.

Thankfully, the conference audio was posted for download (for a modest fee) by the organizers... I've spent all my listening hours for since late last week listening to all the messages. All have gotten at least two listens, some have had many more. I thought I'd take a minute to post some highlights. If you find these little tidbits interesting, I'd urge you to peek in the SGM store and treat yourself to some good iPod-fodder (iFodder?)...

The thing that is most fascinating about all the addresses at the conference is the sense of fraternity and vulnerability... There is an honesty and emotion as these pastors exhort their brethren to embrace the high calling of God and their office. To be honest, that sense of intimacy is almost uncomfortable at times - making you feel like you've peered in on a private exchange between family members.

For me, that intimacy was most evident in John MacArthur's address, "Forty Years of Gospel Ministry". MacArthur is always emotional and instructive, but somehow this was different. In a very real way, his address feels like the admonitions of a loving father to his children. Opening with reflections on the heritage of faith he received from his father and grandfather, MacArthur launches into a wide-ranging and deeply touching exhortation to the next generation of pastors.
If you want to have a church that really knows what it is to love, that is going to be driven by a common affection for the Word of God. A collection of people who will say with David, "O, how I love your law!". And that affection arises out of a conviction that it's true. And that conviction arises out of clarity - they understand it. And that clarity comes from the preacher because the preacher is certain that he is speaking the Word of God and the Gospel of God. Therein lies the mandate for the discipline of getting it right.
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Your sort of join the Bereans, right? You are really leading your people in a search [for/through biblical truth] so that you all arrive at the 'Eureka!' moment together. That's the fun of it!
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You have to go down if you're going to lead your people up. Transcendent worship experience is directly related to the depth of comprehension of divine truth... Most churches live in the flatland: The preacher nevers goes deep so they never go high. So what you have to have is some kind of clown up there whipping up some kind of artificial thing calling [it] worship when it's really just emotion.

And many more... Hearing MacArthur speak personally about the deep relationship with his church, built on 37 years of ministry fellowship, was just awesome.

I initially bought the set of mp3s because of the rave reviews circulating on the net for John Piper's talk. I've been on something of a Piper kick lately, thanks to my readings and some classic DG broadcasts. Piper's address, "Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God", didn't disappoint in any way.

Everyone, not just recovering pentecostals like me, has had those experiences where some message or moment seems especially anointed by the Holy Spirit. Something makes the speaker and the words come alive in a way that transcends every 'normal' experience. Even listening via recording, you get that real sense with this speech. Perhaps part of this is simply emotion - Piper's health issues and the brush with mortality that brings, combined with our admiration and love for him. Whatever it was, it was awesome. Ligon Duncan is quoted as having said, "After tonight, I wondered if I ever preached a sermon before." I think that speaks both to Lig's honest and humble service as a pastor and to the passionate, convicting oratory from Piper.

I'll quote some brief standouts here, though I would only use them to encourage you to download the source file. Piper's note, which serve as a loose transcript, can be found here.
God planned for his Son to be crucified and for hell to be terrible so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with fire of hell. Are you wearing that mantle? That’s the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers. Yet tragically some of the most prominent so-called 'evangelical' voices today diminish the horror of the cross and the horror of hell—the cross being stripped of its power to bear our punishment that is coming, and hell demythologized into self-dehumanization and the social miseries of this world.
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Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are transformed from one degree of glory to another. This is God’s way of changing people. And if you say to me, "Doesn't work!" then I think you should keep on doing it anyway... People are changed the way God wants them to change, not the way you want them to change. Suppose you do find another way that works, have you produced what God wants - namely, glory-seeing driven change? And if you produce another kind of change, He may not be interested... There are people in the category of the perishing who will never see. Are you going to let your failure with them alter your method?
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Woe to us, brothers, if we [preach] without exultation over the Word. If we open our Bibles, put it on the pulpit, and engage now to explain these glories and our face and our tone and our demeanor and our life is dull, we LIE about the Gospel. I don't care how many true sentences come out of our mouths. We betray the value of the Gospel, and the value of the Gospel is as important of the truth of Gospel! If you do not value the Gospel, you perish - no matter how many right thoughts you think about God and His Gospel.

This post has gone on too long already... So I don't have room to pull highlights out of the great talks given by Mark Dever and C.J. Mahaney. I'll simply tell you that I loved them and commend them to your listening pleasure.

I'll also recommend that we all register for the 2008 T4G conference as soon as the link goes live.

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