The every-other-year family reunion called “Together for the Gospel” has come and gone for 2014. Somewhere near 8,000 persons gathered for a week of preaching and teaching on the theme of evangelism. There couldn’t be a timelier theme or a more encouraging group with which to consider it.
As with all edifying events of any length of time, there’s much to give God thanks for and to reflect on. And there’s many way to distill one’s thoughts into a summary of sorts. In fact, there’s probably too much to comment on for any one debrief post. So, I’m going to narrow my thoughts to a series of superlatives. Mark Dever doesn’t like superlatives, but I think they’re the best! So, here goes….
1. Best sermon for my heart
Without question, Lig’ Duncan’s exposition of Numbers 4, “The Gospel by Numbers,” was the best sermon for this often weary, sometimes heavy, frequently wandering heart! As I listened, I felt a new appreciation for the Savior’s words, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” Christ was majestically lifted up and extolled as glorious! From Lig’s meditation on sin as defilement to his biblical theological run to Christ as the One who cleanses, my heart mourned over sin and rejoiced in my Lord! Thank you, Lig!
2. Most convicting sermon
That superlative goes to David Platt’s passionate exhortation to prayer, “Relenting Wrath: The Role of Desperate Prayer in the Mystery of Divine Providence” (Exodus 32). I wept listening to this sermon, heavily convicted of my relative prayerlessness. David’s preaching is consistently God-centered, really Puritan-esque (as was the title of the sermon) in its development of the doctrine followed by the exhortation/application. So his sermon’s tend to leave you with the escalating majesty and weightiness of God and a clear sense of what God wills you to do. I found that to be the case with this sermon. Afterwards, I felt we should have spent a season of pleading prayer with God for lost family, friends, and people groups. I was also warmed by this sermon since it’s the text the Lord used to save me nearly 20 years ago.
3. Sermon with the greatest likelihood to help a generation
That’s how I feel about Kevin DeYoung’s address on inerrancy, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before.” A good 40-50 percent of the attendees were there for the first time and in their 20s or early 30s. In other words, this was a young crowd growing up in the shadow of the last major battle around inerrancy. They’ve grown up taking it for granted and now find themselves on the edge of renewed battles. Kevin’s talk was a piercing exploration of the Lord Jesus’ view of scripture and the view all Christ followers should take. I’ve never seen Kevin better, and I’m not sure any other sermon has led me to treasure the Bible more.
4. Most encouraging evangelism testimonies
I really enjoy the testimony elements that have been a part of the last T4G conferences. This year conference organizers filmed and presented a number of testimonies involving new converts and the Christian evangelists (none of them would like have called themselves that) who shared the faith with them. I loved the stories of God’s powerful grace. But the testimonies I found most encouraging were the two evangelists who shared with the friends who were not converted. It was such an encouragement to be reminded of the privilege and burden of pleading for the unrepentant and unbelieving. Here are the two testimonies:
5. Hymn I’m most likely never to get out of my head
“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling….” Thank you John Piper!
6. Weirdest piano placement that kinda grows on you
Bob Kauflin in the middle of the arena floor. The singing at T4G is not about the guy up front. Nobody understands that as well as Bob, who serves so faithfully and cheerfully. Bob was his cheerful self leading with his usual joy and skill… from the “piano mosh pit” in the middle of the floor. But it worked. Or at least it stopped feeling weird and I was taken up in the wonderful singing of T4G once again.
7. Funniest line…
“Did I say ‘merely’? I love precision.” You had to be there.
8. Oddest microphone for a person’s skin tone
Mine. My wife says it looks like an ice cream cone hanging from my ear! Think I’m going to have to pull a Chandler and start bringing my own. That’s the price you pay when you have a head the size of mine!
9. Sweetest truth in song during the conference
“He Will Hold Me Fast”
10. Most beautiful woman at the conference
Kristie Anyabwile! Forgive me, but after communion with our Lord, the sweetest part of the week for me was sitting with my lovely wife hearing the word and being built up in the faith we share. Doesn’t get any better than that!