Reflections on Advance09 (Part Two)

The Music – As we first walked into the Durham Performing Arts Center, a worship band was playing one of my favorite hymns – “Before the Throne of God Above.” It was excellent. It was loud, but it was excellent. In a nutshell – I was encouraged by the energy and excellence of the worship through music, but I was concerned by the appearance of these bands – that they might be walking a thin line between leading the people of God to worship God and performing before the people of God and calling it worship. That is a huge difference of course. So much of the difference depends on the hearts of the lead worshippers, which can be very difficult to discern just by mere appearances. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed that hymn along with the “Power of the Cross“, “In Christ Alone“, “Help My Unbelief“, and a few others over the course of the weekend. With that said, I’m sure you can see my bias for the more congregational-ly oriented songs.

Driscoll – He was very helpful in his comments regarding the topic, “What is the Church?” He nicely qualified his affirmative answer to the question of whether a “video church” was a church or not. I don’t think I agree with him about it, but he has obviously put more thought into it than I have and he is dedicated to his answer. Of course, he has to be dedicated to it because his sermons are taped and sent to other “campuses” for use in those worship services. However, if the “campus” has elders who lead and practice discipline then he would consider the “video church” a church. To me – maybe, maybe not…I also enjoyed his comment that some churches needed to stop doing Sunday School. It definitely challenges our commitment to “programs” instead of what best benefits our congregations. Even better was the reaction he got from that statement. One pastor, obviously Southern Baptist, even shouted incredulously, “What?!” It was funny. His coverage of the topic “Ministry Idolatry” was thoroughly convicting and gave me a heavy burden to pray more urgently for my pastors and my brother, who is a pastor. Driscoll did a good job this weekend. He was Biblical, pastoral, and insightful. I pray his “lapses” will decrease so that Christ would continue to “increase” in his life and ministry.

Tyler Jones – I was struck by his humility and how genuine he was. Who would want to follow Driscoll at one of these things? How could you not feel the pressure to be something you are not in that context? Jones definitely overcame that temptation. I was convicted by his comments regarding lifelong active repentance. Peter denied Christ and then spent the rest of his life and his death in active repentance – shepherding the flock of Christ for the advancement of Christ’s church. That is a very appropriate call for me.

Bryan Chapell – This was a Christ exalting message. His exhortation to preach Christ was accompanied by some valuable instruction on how to do that and what it looks like practically through a Christ-centered hermeneutic. I actually am reading through the Psalms right now in my devotions and his instructions have opened my eyes to the nuggets about Christ that are found in every Psalm, not just the Christologically prophetic ones…

Matt Chandler – He is very entertaining and engaging. He seems to me to be authentic. I loved his introductory words regarding conferences like Advance 09. He challenged the assembly to avoid making these conferences into gatherings that God hates. It was a great reminder to guard against the idolatry that can run so rampant at these type of events.

Ed Stetzer – So much better than I expected. I’m encouraged that the Southern Baptist Convention has guys like this that are committed to reformed theology and missions. I know he has taken some heat because of his connections to the emergent church, but those connections seem to me to be circumstantial at best and I didn’t hear anything this weekend that caused me to question the man’s orthodoxy. I pray his health improves and that he continues to lead in the Southern Baptist convention.

JD Greear – Same thing as Tyler Jones, but, like others have written, I wish he would’ve stuck with his original message instead of feeling the pressure to change it all up the night before. I was challenged by the things his church has done to reach their community. I hope more church’s will follow that kind of example. Stetzer talk set the stage for the challenges to the majority of methodology in the church…more on this point in Part 4.

Eric Mason – I love that this guy pastors a church in urban Philadelphia and has hip hop artists there. His challenge was that the church, to many in our culture, is just like a white guy that says he can do hip/hop. Either the guy is a “beast at what he does” or “there is gonna be some trouble”. This is the church. We say that we can display God’s glory but more often than not, this doesn’t get any validation in the eyes of our culture. That’s a good call to all the churches that have become completely invalid to their communities and the cause of Christ. This world sees the church as invalid because of a number of things. We need to repent of this… I hope more churches will follow the example of Mason’s congregation and become a valid display of the glory of God through the proclamation of truth and the demonstration of life transforming power in Christ.

Danny Akin – Akin totally surprised me. He was thoroughly expositional (Hebrews 13) and presented a depth of thought that completely shocked me. I just thought we’d get a bunch of nice, quaint stories from this Southeastern Baptist Seminary president. I am just so encouraged and delighted that there is a guy like this as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological seminary instead of what I had in mind. Maybe the Southern Baptist Convention shouldn’t be written off just yet. Bottom line – I just love to hear the president of a Southern Baptist seminary quote John Calvin so much. Keep up the good work Dr. Akin. I also, having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, love Akin’s challenge and example to the church to stop being so homogenous. I’m sick of looking around on Sunday morning and seeing a bunch of people that look just like me. I just don’t know what to do to change that…it is going to take much thought and prayer and some Spirit guided realizations and repentance to determine what to do.

John Piper – I’ve read most of his books, including, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” I have listened to just about every sermon he has preached…So I know his material pretty well. But just as one of the guys who rode with me at the conference said – reading it and being convicted by what you read is one thing, but there is just something about experiencing the proclamation of the truth by a Spirit-filled man and the Holy Spirit energy that accompanies the event of preaching that cannot be written in a book. This was vintage Piper and he is a gift from God to the men who were at this conference. I just hope and pray that the men at this conference, including myself, will look not to the gift but to the Giver of the gift and give Him the glory for what He is doing through men like John Piper. I also pray that Piper would continue in his integrity until he drops or until Christ meets him in the air. God, for your name’s sake, don’t let him fall into sin…

In part three I’ll reflect on the greatest blessing of going to this conference – the men of Grace Bible Church that I accompanied to Advance09.

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