Bob Hayton did an excellent job describing Wednesday's night sessions, so i'll leave them alone, other than to say they were indeed powerful. Let's just say there was no time for daydreaming.
Thursday morning's sessions were quality.
Mike Bullmore, pastor of Crossway Community Church in Wisconsin preached the book of Zephaniah.
He entitled it God's Great Heart of Love Toward His Own.
I hesitate at being critical, but his presentation was the least engaging of any of the conference speakers. However, his message was very solid. He highlighted something that i had never given much thought. When God gathers his people together in the last day, he is going to sing over us loudly. Mr. Bullmore talked of the Lord's passion at what he will have accomplished and how powerful it will be that the Lord will rejoice in his bride. It will not be, "Father, I did the best i could with the cards you dealt me." It will be loud rejoicing among the Godhead over the righteous bride in all of her glory. It was encouraging.
The second session was by D.A. Carson. He's the research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He's also the heart and soul behind the Gospel Coalition. The man is the real deal. If you have not read or listened to him, you should drop whatever else you are doing and absorb some of what God has gifted him with. He's written approximately 50 books, and not just leaflets, major volumes. He writes music, poems and publishes hosts of articles. He's also a pilot, a plumber, and an electrician. But above all, he demonstrates a deep reverence for God in all that he says and does.
His message was from Psalm 110 entitled Getting Excited About Melchizedek.
He spent an hour threading the scriptures together connecting David's prophecy, Abram's tithe and Hebrews' explanation of the connections to Christ. As was the case with the entire conference, very little of the content was "new". But the depth and articulation of the truths Carson unfolded were lofty. He brought the multiple trajectories of Melchizedek into focus and developed in his words the "theological payoff" of Jesus as King, Conqueror and Priest.
I am sure Bob will add some more on these sessions.
Finally, our staff stayed for a post-conference session with Tim Keller that Bob was unable to attend. For those that don't know Tim Keller's church is in Manhatten, and he has had a strong influence on developing evangelical conceptual strategy for urban ministry. His session was entitled Reaching the City for Christ. It was not a sermon. It was an hour seminar on some basic strategy.
He broke it into three questions: 1) Why Reach Cities?, 2) What Do You Have to Know?, 3) How Do You Reach Cities? I don't have time to give the details, but one of the takeaways was his emphasis on the critical thinking that has been put into what he calls a Biblical Theology of the City. He doesn't just wing it, and hope the Spirit fills in the gaps. Their ministry focuses in specific areas with specific purposes. He quickly acknowledged that strategies don't save people. But he gave a keen illustration.
He described the planning and strategy of partnerships and church planting and such in the urban environment as a way for the church to build an altar. And by building an altar we invite God to pour himself out upon people. In other words, intentional ministry is the act of faith that God will change lives, as he alone can change lives.
It was a controversial session, and he acknowledged that as well. The key controversy was his recommendation that churches partner inter-denominationally united by a consistent Fabric of Theology. His personal opinion which he readily voiced is that his presbyterian polity is the best system of church organization. But he knows that some people will not align with that. So in an effort to reach the city, he recommended reaching out to others who employ various systems of church organization. Be aware, this was not ecumenical in the sense of joining hands with Catholics or some such nonsense. His thoughts were along the lines that Baptists, Presbyterians, Bible, Community, and Non-Denominational churches that embrace core orthodox theology but accept differences in polity and ministry specific vision can unite to have a broader influence in a city.
What he meant by ministry specific vision was that one church might have a burden to be in the heart of the art district while another may focus attention on being a light in poor neighborhoods. One church may be focused on schools, while another focuses on the business community. All urban churches will have influence in these areas, but one may have a greater burden and vision for one or the other. Diversity in the partnerships will assist in broad influence.
So, unique plan. Controversial for evangelicals. And i would wager Extremely Controversial for fundamentalists. Regardless it was informative, well-crafted and food for thought.
That concludes my general summaries of the Gospel Coalition 2011. I may post another note about general observations of the conference in relation to fundamentalists interacting with evangelicals and such.