Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Conferences For What?

As I mentioned in an answer to a question earlier, my laptop has joined the list of casualties and has decided to break it's hard drive and lose all the material, interviews, transcripts and articles on it! I have been quoted it will cost me £400 to retrieve it so there is a thermometer on my front lawn at the moment ... if you drive by - give generously ...

So I do apologise that blogging has been a bit sporadic. I have been busy never-the-less. It has been a great opportunity to transcribe in written format (remember that?) many of Ern Baxter's awesome audio ministry as well as continue my pace of reading from holiday. During the time of quietness, of course, the Desiring God - "Above All Earthly Powers" - Conference happened and was dutifully liveblogged. While the session reports were interesting to read, I found reports of the Panel Discussions far more enthralling. As many know I love hearing heroes of mine in a question and answer situation as it puts their minds in a far more spontaneous mode as opposed to the pulpit where it is more prepared.

The reports of the Question and Answer Session can be found here and here. Many of the questions were well thought out as one would expect from Justin Taylor - who hosted the sessions. Two in particular caught my eye:

Drs Piper and Carson give advice to Pastors of Small Churches.

Justin Taylor: Dr Piper, a lot of pastors might be discouraged by the size of their church. What encouragement would you give to the small town small church pastor?

John Piper: Feeding the flock of God is the most precious and high calling in the world. “Feed my sheep.” There is always room for growth! Every one of these guys discourages me – so in one sense that is life. It is a great thing to rest in the calling God has given you. There has got to be witness in smaller populations. It is just that we cannot abandon the city! Faithful loving exposition is what you must do. God loves rural people.

Don Carson: There are different degrees of gift. If we are doing something wrong, then we must fix them. On the other hand, I was brought up in French Canada. There were very few churches there. My Dad was faithful through the lean years. God works on another scale. I made a resolution when I was young man to never stop going to small and insignificant works. Be faithful where you are.

Mission in a Conference Context?

Justin Taylor: John, foreign missions are often forgotten in conferences like this. Are you concerned that foreign work is being forgotten.

John Piper: I don’t know since I do not see evidence. The great commission is no where near finished. Muslims and others are hostile and difficult to reach. We need to go there! Are we raising up an army to go? The seeker sensitive way is having a trickle-down effect in missions in a harmful way. There is a fear of not succeeding. So, foreign missions can be undermined when you go with a compromised message – or a contextualized message that abandons Christ. There is no radical Jesus without hell. What emergent is doing is what they say we are doing: “domesticating Jesus!”

"Are we raising up an army to go?". I quoted David Holden yesterday saying that "Your Eschatology Will Affect Your Ecclesiology" and I suspect that the same principle applies in the conferences that we organise. Do we have a high view of where the Church is going? Do we have an ever present understanding of where Jesus Christ is now and what He is doing for us His Church? Do we believe in the Triune promise that Jesus Christ has been told to sit and reign until His enemies have been made His footstool? If we do, then it is highly likely that we will seek out conferences that (to quote Terry Virgo) "ever hold this vision before us".

I am tremendously stirred by this quote of John Pipers! "Are we raising an army to go?". Reformed theology seems to me to be the most apt foundation for the most radical and passionate mission advance, yet so often we retreat into hyper-Calvinistic groups devouring ass's heads and doves dung. This must be put right! In the New Frontiers Magazine - August - October 2001 - Greg Haslam wrote an outstanding article on Reformed Theology and Charismatic Experience. He said this concerning Reformed Theology;

"Both modernity and postmodernity have robbed us of the ability to explain or make sense of reality. They have no credible grand narrative or big story; consequently they have no hope to offer mankind. Reformed theology, reflecting the Bible itself has the power to integrate our total perspective so that we shun all forms of dualism that would divide life into the watertight compartments of sacred/secular, spiritual/material, body/soul, time/eternity, heaven/earth and work/worship. To us all of life is sacred and there is nothing secular except sin. We are to see God's Kingdom progressively advance to reclaim the whole of life, every activity and ultimately even the whole of the cosmos for Christ. We are to glorify God in everything we do".

What a quote! It oozes Ern Baxter! If we are to avoid "conference-ism" - the mentality where we hop from one conference to the next, enjoying the temporary spiritual high, it is vital to seek out conferences where we will be challenged into being built into an army - armed and ready to go to the ends of the earth for Christ. Any conference that doesn't do this isn't quite enough.

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