Sovereign Grace Ministries 2009 ‘Next’ Conference is one that I completely, and unfortunately overlooked. Josh Harris is joined by Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson & C. J. Mahaney to give a wonderfully edifying conference that focuses our attention on Jesus Christ.
This year the New Attitude Conference became Next Conference. The subject this year was Jesus Christ, and a marvelous conference it was. Between Sinclair Ferguson and Don Carson you can’t go wrong.
One surprise speaker was Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, and author of a number of books including Why We’re Not Emergent and Just Do Something. DeYoung gave us a wonderful picture of Christ as life giver, looking at portraits of him dealing the demoniac, Jarius’ daugther, the unclean woman, and the storm that threatened the disciples.
Here is the list of main sessions:
Preeminence, Josh Harris
Incarnation, Don Carson
Life, Kevin DeYoung
Death, C. J. Mahaney
Resurrection, Sinclair Ferguson
Return, Sinclair Ferguson
Panel with Dever, Ferguson, Taylor, DeYoung, Mahaney & Harris
What a privilege it is to be ministered to by God, through the likes of the men that are involved in the Gospel Coalition. This years conference was focused on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. The title should be gripping for those in ministry: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy.
It seems the headliner for Entrusted with the Gospel is Tim Keller’s message on idolatry, using Acts 19:21-41 as his text. Tim looks at how Paul always seemed to attack the idols of the culture or place he preached before giving them the gospel. Keller takes quite a detailed look at what constitutes idolatry and gives some very helpful thoughts and examples to help us think through this issue of idolatry. Tim points out that we live in a very idolatrous age, and even in the church we have our own systems of idolatry.
John Piper (2 Tim 1:1-12) tackled the subject of courage, as he examines the timidity of Timothy, and the boldness that Paul calls Timothy to. Piper understands the gift that Timothy received through the laying on of hands was the white hot flame of courage to stand alone in the face of opposition. Piper calls all pastors to be bold and courageous, because that is what Paul modeled, and it’s what the sheep need. The sheep need bold leaders who will stand up courageously without wavering. And Paul’s final motivation for Timothy is the fact that before the foundation of the world God chose Timothy to be his man.
Phil Ryken’s message (2 Tim 1:13-2:13) ‘The Pattern for Sound Words’
Mark Driscoll gave a very helpful look at rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:14 -26). Mark’s message has the flavor of coming from the battlelines as he looks at quarrels about words, irreverent babble, and ignorant controversies, and he humbly admits some of it comes from his own hand of failing. A significant part of his message looks at categories of people who bring quarrels, babble and controversies into the church. These categories are quite humorous and can be helpful, but we have to take care that we don’t put people so quickly into boxes as they struggle to grow into their faith.
K. Edward Copeland (2 Tim 3:1-9) looks at the subject of godlessness in the last days when men are ever learning but not able to come to the knowledge of the truth. His message title is verycaptivating: Shadowlands: Pitfalls and Parodies of Gospel-Centered Ministry.
Brian Chapell (2 Tim 3:10-4:5) looks at what it means to preach the Word. Chapell has a very rich section of 2 Timothy about all Scripture being God-breathed, and preaching the Word, being ready in season and out of season.
Aijith Fernando is National Director for Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, and he has a unique perspective having come from a country that once was very Christian while under British rule, but the new nationalist fever in Sri Lanka is seeing a new wave of persecution of the church as a move to cast off the relics of the British occupation. New legislation in their parliment attempts to make it illegal to evangelize anyone under the age of 18. This has some serious implications for Aijith’s work with Youth for Christ, and his subject of missions is very gripping.
Ligon Duncan (2 Tim 4:6-22) looks at the subject of Finishing Well.
Don Carson concluded the conference with a discussion of what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 9 when he said he became all things to all men, a widely abused scripture both liberally and conservatively. Carson does a masterful exposition of the text to draw the correct understanding of what Paul was saying, and how we should shape our ministry efforts by this principle.
The Q&A session was just marvelous. The main focus was on how 2 Timothy and a Scripture-focused ministry works itself out in the ministry of the church. Piper, Keller and Loritts provide impassioned pleas for church leaders to stay true to the teaching and preaching of Scripture at all points, and from that flows the shape of ministry. Loritts said it best when he said, “We have to be careful that we believe that God is articulate.” In other words, Scripture is God’s wise and powerful articulation to his people, and it should be treated as such. Piper said, “If Scripture bores you, get out of the pulpit.”
If you are in ministry, this conference will challenge, instruct and encourage you.
Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Al Mohler, John Piper, Josh Harris, Eric Simmons. It’s right here.
C. J. Mahaney, Josh Harris and Jeff Purswell have launched the first Sovereign Grace leadership podcast targeting church leaders for enouragement, instruction and wisdom.
This first podcast focused on the purpose of the podcast, and then primarily addressed the topic of a pastor’s reading habits. A very helpful podcast.
- Joshua Harris – Discernment
- Mark Dever – Discern Your Doctrine
- Albert Mohler – Discern Your Culture
- C.J. Mahaney – Discern Your Heart
- Eric Simmons – Discern the Graymatters
- John Piper – Discern What Pleases God: Himself
- John Piper – Discern What Pleases God: Personal Obedience
- C.J. Mahaney – Discern How to Apply
Sovereign Grace Ministries is somewhat of an anomaly in the church today, and I mean that in a good sense. We live in a day where we are seeing denominations shrink, but Sovereign Grace Ministries is planting healthy, growing churches based on solid reformed teaching. They are also heavily involved in writing new, theologically sound, worship music. God is doing amazing work through this organization. So, when they put on a leadership conference, I want to know about it. All three general session speakers, Sproul, Powlison, and Mahaney, delivered messages you will want to hear.
R. C. Sproul opened the general sessions. C. J. Mahaney was correct when he said nobody can preach about the holiness of God like R. C. Sproul. If you’ve never heard Sproul preach on the holiness of God, you’re in for a treat.
David Powlison brought a message that has been deeply embedded in his mind of late. He confronted the unfortunate tendency within the church to follow the culture in it’s unhealthy habit of introspection. Powlison argues that our introspection should be short lived and our focus on God and Scripture should be more weighty. The message he brought was like a lightning bolt to our age. If you only buy one MP3 from this conference it must be Powlison’s message.
C. J. Mahaney’s message title ‘Trinitarian Pastoral Ministry’ might be somewhat misleading, but his lecture was timely and needed. I won’t go over the spine of his message, but will cover two important points he raised. First, he brought much needed clarity to the ‘charismatic’ issue, and offering a clarifying term for his position which he calls ‘continuationism’ (as opposed to cessationism). He also called for the church to stop trying to redefine itself to be ‘relevant’ to the culture. He calls for churches to recover lost ground in the face of post-modern church thinking.
When you order the conference, order the whole conference, general sessions and seminars. The full package is only $4.oo more and there are some excellent seminars. Powlison returns of a seminar. Other seminar speakers include Mark Dever, Joshua Harris, and Mike Bullmore. For the ladies, Carolyn Mahaney brings a message titled ‘Watch your Man’ and then is part of a panel discussion.
The conference consists of 4 General Sessions and 16 Seminars.
New Attitude Conferences are brought by Joshua Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Sovereign Grace Ministries. They are geared toward singles and young married couples, but relevant to all ages.
Aside from the usual NA suspects, Mark Dever, Mike Bullmore, Bruce Ware and Al Mohler joined the ranks as they rallied under the banner of ‘Humble Orthodoxy.’
Having just published his excellent two volume Bible survey ‘Promises Made’ and ‘Promises Kept’, Mark Dever brings a message ‘The Story: Understanding the Story line of the Bible.’ Justin Taylor weighs in with a very good analysis of the Emerging church movement. Al Mohler draws us to consider ‘Cultural Discernment from a Biblical Worldview.’
One of my big surprises was being introduced to Mike Bullmore. Bullmore brought two excellent messages, one about applying the Gospel to all of life, and a second about feeding on God’s Word. I hope to see more from this pastor of Crossway Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin.