April 24, 2009
Dispatch from the Gospel Coalition Conference
Reformed pastors overflow their second national meeting.
This week's Gospel Coalition Conference - the second one open to the public - was packed out. About 3,400 registered participants meant breakout sessions and the main assemblies overflowed, with people sitting on the floor and peeking in from the hallways.
And these participants were overwhelmingly young men. I tried counting from my seat and came up with about 20 men per woman - not too surprising in a mid-week conference for pastors with Calvinist and complementarian views. Don Carson estimated that 80 percent were under forty.
The theme was based on 2 Timothy, a letter from a pastor near the end of his life to a young pastor. It was clear, especially in John Piper's sermon and the panel discussion at the end, that TGC see themselves in that role of pastoring pastors.
As far as the conference itself goes, clearly it's come a long way since 2007, when Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was able to fit everyone on their campus. The lineup of speakers continues to represent a very broad range of styles (John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, among others). Nevertheless, it's also a place where someone can say "peculiar unction" and be understood by all.
But it's no longer just a conference. One of the few non-sermon events was an introduction, led by Keller and Don Carson, to forming official chapters of the Gospel Coalition. Those will have a virtual existence on The City (a social networking site developed at Mars Hill). They're also expected to facilitate face-to-face meetings and conferences. On three separate occasions, people told me TGC seemed like a nascent denomination.
Some sessions are well worth listening to: Keller on contemporary idols, Driscoll on dealing with difficult people, Ajith Fernando on preaching the uniqueness of Christ in a pluralistic society (there doesn't seem to be an available audio file on this), and the second half of the panel discussion, where Keller, Piper, Ligon Duncan, and Crawford Loritts talk about suffering (also not online).