I’ve been to my fair share of Christian conferences geared for pastors and ministry leaders. They usually have great preachers as headliners, many edifying conversations with friends old and new,free books, large amounts of caffeine (and often-times Chick-Fil-A), and at times bearded men in cargo shorts debating theology over a urinal stall wall.
The Gospel Coalition National Conference was no different.
This was my second TGC conference, and even though I didn’t make it out of the convention center much to enjoy Orlando weather, it was an amazing way to spend four days. Below are some personal highlights:
1. The Spanish Preconference.
Leadership Resources had a booth at both the Spanish pre-conference and the main conference. At our booth and during events, I was able to connect with so many brothers and sisters in Christ from all over Latin America: Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Chile, Puerto Rico, the US, the Dominican Republic (¡había muchísimos Dominicanos!), and more. We had about 600-700 people total.
- I heard amazing Reformation stories of how the gospel has penetrated and transformed churches previously preaching legalism, prosperity, or whatever a pastor thought best.
- I enjoyed meeting several other contributors to The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish blog and heard of the great impact it is having in the world.
- I also was introduced to a couple of new powerful and passionate preachers like Sugel Michelen.
- I heard encouraging reports Spanish publishing efforts (including B&H) and of the great interest stirring in Latin America for sound doctrine and gospel-centered ministry.
The one thing I didn’t like about the pre-conference was the end. When I saw people begin to stream in for the main conference, I got sad. I knew the small community feel of the pre-conference was coming to an end.
2. The people.
People make conferences. It was great connecting with friends, both old and new, from schools I went to, other ministries I’m connected with, or friends from Twitter who I met face-to-face for the first time. It was also refreshing to hear about so many other ministries doing amazing work for the spread of the gospel around the world.
I enjoyed many conversations/interactions including time with Coalicion Por El Evangelio editors Jairo and Steven (and several other contributors), Aaron Armstrong over lunch, Clay Kraby, Cristopher Gallardo of B&H Spanish and Reaching and Teaching, time with some of the Matthias Media guys (including Tony Payne, Marty Sweeney, and Jason Crank), Mat Sims and Bradford Davis, and more. (Stay tuned to the blog for an interview I did with Tony Payne on disciple making.)
3. The focus on justice.
Events this year like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri have made justice (particularly racial justice) an extremely timely and important topic for Christians. #TGC15 featured a panel, special event, and breakout session focused on justice. While I didn’t make all of these sessions (I plan to listen to the mp3s when available), I greatly appreciated this focus. Since justice is near and dear to the heart of God, it should be near and dear to the heart of every believer.
Here’s a video highlight from John Piper:
4. Friendly banter between speakers.
Like many other evangelical millennials, my love for Christ and the church has been greatly influenced by The Gospel Coalition’s leaders. That being said, I really enjoy seeing them take friendly jabs at each other when sitting on a panel together or introducing each other to speak. Being able to joke about someone’s view of baptism is a beautiful thing when men who are united in the truth of the gospel and love for one another. In particular, I enjoyed my former professor D.A. Carson’s sense of humor–especially those times where he cracked himself up.
5. The Gospel at the Center.
Part of The Gospel Coalition’s vision is unity around the gospel of Jesus Christ–putting first things first in Christianity. When that core conviction is shared, secondary issues like baptism, view of spiritual gifts, and church government take a back seat so unity can be achieved in Christ.
I saw this fleshed out the whole time, and particularly at the pre-conference’s great session on alliances/organizational partnerships for the sake of the Kingdom (helpful for my work with Leadership Resources). Pastor Miguel Nunez had a great line describing a minister who doesn’t engage in alliances for the gospel’s sake, preferring to minister solo: “When a man becomes all ‘wrapped up’ in himself, he makes himself a very small gift [to the church].”*
The theme of the conference was Coming Home: New Heaven and New Earth and focused on heaven and what is to come. I greatly appreciated Voddie Baucham’s message on The Resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 in which he unpacked practical implications for everyday life. In a world filled with suffering, injustice, division–both inside and outside the church–the doctrine of the resurrection was a breath of fresh air.
6. A small glimpse of heaven.
Not only did the conference’s theme provide a glimpse of heaven and increase my yearning for our future home, but so did many details of the conference itself. I was amazed thinking at our small multitude (6,000+) of blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world worshiping our Risen Lord together in several different languages.
The group showed the universality of Christ’s Kingdom rule and proves the fact that Jesus is keeping His Word when He said, “I will build my church.” While we worshiped our Risen Lord together, I stood amazed God would offer us so great a salvation in Christ.
If you were at TGC15, what were your highlights?