Day 2 at the DG Pastor’s Conference

Four lectures on four topics from three pastors highlighted the second day at the conference.  In this post, I will go through the notes from Matt Chandler’s lecture.  I would encourage you to listen to it – he is very adept at communicating truth with flair.  I linked his lecture down at the bottom:

1.  Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, lectured on “Shepherding Unregenerate Sheep.”  He basically delivered a sermon from 1 Timothy 4.  The chapter begins by mentioning that there are some who will depart from the faith, meaning that they were supposedly in the faith.  How is the pastor to shepherd these unregenerate sheep?  The text is bookended by two realities and 7 distinct ideas says Chandler by which we may observe how to conduct such a ministry.  What follows are my notes, not Chandler verbatim.

Reality #1 (and here I’m paraphrasing): We will have some in our flocks who are unregenerate (not born again), who will nevertheless parade as though they were with an Pharisaical piety which actually denies the gospel.  Pastors must expect it and minister in light of it.

Reality #2: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” v.16.  That is, watch your life and doctrine closely.  What is the effect?  You and your hearers will be saved.

So there are some who will depart from the faith.  How shall we minister to them?  By soberly watching our lives and doctrine.  In this way both we and they shall be saved.  These are the two realities that govern ministry to the lost amongst the body of believers.  7 imperatives follow which speak to the particulars of such a ministry of sober living and teaching:

First, be trained in the Gospel, an expert of the Gospel, and the doctrine that flows from it – all innovation must go through the Gospel (v.6).

Second, avoid mythical fix-its and train yourself and your hearers in godliness – to address cultural issues, for example, in Christ-centered ways.  For the same issue may be addressed mythically (that is, not like unicorns, but more commonly, secularly – not having to do with the Gospel) and work in the world, but we have the task of training ourselves and our hearers to think about such things on Gospel terms, even when a secular idea may work, it has only temporal value; godliness elevates the address to eternity and back such that the temporal may be eternally (biblically) informed (vv. 7-9).

Third,  we are to command and teach “these things” – what things?  See above and v. 10 in light of it (v. 11).

Fourth, set an example for the believers (not just unbelievers) in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.  Live an exemplary life (v. 12).

Fifth, your devotion must lay with the Bible, for the Bible lovingly presses on our people’s assurance – when we teach it authoritatively and as sufficient for faith and practice.  We must decide what we believe about the Bible and where our devotion lay – the Bible and its teaching or numerics as a standard of success.  If numbers – congregational, baptismal, tithes, etc. – have captured our devotion, we will fail as ministers to carry out our God-given stewardship faithfully, for we will inevitably give up the Bible in favor of applause and people-pleasing.  If the Bible, then success will not be measured by the size of our congregations, but the faithfulness with which we proclaimed the whole counsel of God without compromise to those under our care and to the lost who so badly need Jesus Christ and reconciliation with the God whom He has revealed (v. 13).

Sixth, if anything else other than obedience to Christ is the goal of our ministry, Chandler says, he knows not how we will make it through the realities of life and ministry.  We must know our calling – Christ must be enough for us.  Our giftedness did not originate with us – this is implied it in being a gift.  God has given giftedness to be used in obedience to Christ – not to be set aside because we fear man, or we see that larger crowds attend because we neglect gifts of evangelism, etc. that make the Gospel preeminent on the consciences of our hearers.  Ministry is rough and tough; there will be many battles; one may be tempted to quit or to give up – but to do so would be to neglect the one thing that solidifies us – obedience to Christ – it must be the priority, such that when the time comes, obedience to Christ will far outweigh the trial and one will suffer well (v. 14).

Seventh, let your growth be evident to all – how?- immerse yourself in “these things.”  Paul writes, “Practice these things . . .” “devote yourself to them . . .” – to the Gospel, to godliness, to teaching and commanding the Gospel and godliness, to exemplary living, to faithful Bible preaching as the standard of success in ministry, to obedience to Christ in the midst of trial, and you will grow or “progress.”  Let your growth be evident to all (v. 15).

We come back then to the second reality – when we keep a close watch on ourselves and our teaching and persist in these things, we will save both ourselves and those unregenerate sheep.

Tomorrow, the second of Dever’s lectures on “The Pastor and Evangelism.”  To listen to Chandler’s lecture go here.

From Minnesota: Day 1 (continued) at the Pastor’s Conference

I will try to brief you on some more oddities, blessings, and messages as time allows.  For this post, a few things to mention:

1.  Another first for me this morning – as I am walking (not jogging) to the conference center, breathing ever so normally through my nostrils, an odd thing was happening in my nose that took me at least 4 seconds to realize what exactly had just happened – alas, my nose hairs had frozen, and as I wiped them as a thawing technique, they would continue freezing much to my wonder.

2.  Attended four talks today – one delivered by Matt Chandler, one by Piper, and two by Mark Dever; I’ll address Dever’s first message  (from yesterday) now, however, and the others will follow as time and space permits:

Summary: The Gospel divides.  It divides not only the unbelieving masses over the person and work of Jesus, but it tends to make clear divisions amongst evangelicals.  This is obviously an undesirable state, for there is only one Gospel – the biblical Gospel, the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, God’s redemptive drama supremely manifest in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ.  The one true Gospel must be the Gospel offered to the lost sinner, and the confusion that persists over the nature of this Gospel within evangelical circles does nothing to aid the current situation.  This does not mean that we ought to throw our arms up in the air as if we must forfeit all hope of Gospel endeavor when we may not agree, but only that we must agree and come together around this one Gospel.  There is one and only one Gospel.  We must turn to the pages of Scripture to know, articulate, teach, preach, live, and daily reapply this Gospel.  

Dever primarily kept to the outline of the redemptive drama: creation, fall, redemption, restoration.  These serve as a map to help us know where we are and where we are going when evangelizing the lost.  The Gospel is not just the story of redemption; it is, but it also includes the biblical realities of the Kingship of God, His rights as Creator, humanities (and thus one’s) fall from God and grace through sin into rebellion and death and separation, redemption in Christ of the individual sinner and the entirety of creation, and the final restoration of all things in Christ Jesus, the settling in of the kingdom of God in fullness again.  In sharing the Gospel we are moving this loved one, this neighbor, this waiter through the biblical witness of the purpose of God that centers on Jesus Christ and salvation in Him.

Dever seemed to stress clarity and authenticity in evangelism.  One must make the bad news clear before the good news can be made clear.  One must communicate clearly who God is, what state the sinner is in which he is ignorant of, the discontent of God with them, and the willingness of the eternal Son’s sacrifice for them.  One must be clear about the person and work of Christ, both of His deity and His humanity.  One must be clear in one’s call to repentance and faith – (I think this is the most difficult aspect of evangelism, but it is vital); one must be met with the reality of life and death; clear about what is at stake in their rejection and in their reception; like Christ one should be clear (not fearful of) in mentioning the sovereignty of God in salvation, in being the One who grants both repentance from sin and faith in His Son.  

3 reasons for all Christians to be doing evangelism included: a desire to be obedient to God’s commands, a love for the lost, and our love for God (he, of course, went into some depth here that this post will not allow, but your inquiries and comments are always desired).

The most important thing that Dever said, however, I believe he may have said in passing – his personal practice, if I have perceived it correctly, is authenticity and honesty with the unbeliever.  Lost people are still smart people who know what we are doing when we are doing it.  It is best to be up front with them – “I am a Christian.  I’d like to share with you about becoming and being a Christian.  How might I best communicate this to you?”  Or something along those lines.  I do believe that this is vitally important in our efforts.  Be honest in our evangelism, honest about who we are, for we are Christ’s and there is no shame in that, nor in making that known to others, nor in making that way known to others for their own conversion.  Let us do this faithfully, and let God bring the fruit.

3.  Tomorrow, a summary from Matt Chandler’s message on “Shepherding Unregenerate Sheep,” and the rest of Day 2 including briefs on Piper’s biography on George Whitefield, and Dever’s two messages on “The Pastor and Evangelism” and “The Church and Evangelism.”  I would highly recommend listening to, downloading, watching all of these messages – they will encourage you in the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  

 4.  To listen to Dever’s message from last night, click here.  You can listen to every message thus far (including Chandler’s and Piper’s biography) already by clicking here.

From Minneapolis at the 2009 Desiring God Pastor’s Conference

This past Saturday morning, Jenny and I embarked on the 13 hour trip from Louisville to Minneapolis for the Pastor’s Conference with our friends Eric and Anna Schaefer. The conference is titled “Commending Christ.”  Tonight, being as late as it is, I’ll give some highlights from the trip thus far (not including Mark Dever’s talk from tonight’s opening event of the conference; that will come with more time):

1.  Did I mention that it was a 13 hour car ride?

2.  Oddly, the temperature changed 50 degrees while we were driving – it was -6 degrees in southern Indiana at 5 a.m. when we left, and as we travelled north it actually became significantly warmer, 44 degrees when we arrived in the twin cities.

3.  Arrived just in time for Saturday night’s service at Bethlehem – worship in song was truly a blessing, and of course, Piper’s sermon concerning God’s plans in and with and through our current recession was so very good – a true reminder of the majesty of God.  To read or listen, click here.

4.  The Schaefer’s, having been members at Bethlehem, hooked us all up with housing and tremendous hospitality via sweet brother and sister in the Lord, Jack and Mary Delk – we thank the Lord for their kindness.

5.  Jenny and I have met so many unique people through the Schaefer’s previous friendships with them; we have made their rounds with them and have been tremendously blessed by the authenticity of these brothers and sisters in the Lord and their loving hospitality towards us; we were particularly fond of the Heddle’s (not to take away from the others), due to their native Scottish and English accents – so cool.  In later conversation, it was wonderful to reflect upon the reconciliation that occurs between human beings in the gospel alone, for a man and woman from South Carolina, having believed upon Christ, may find more common ground and unity of heart with a man from England and a woman from Scotland who also have believed upon Christ, than they may have with their unbelieving parents, or friends, or neighbors next door.  The union is found in Christ; though we are from afar, yet in Christ, we are immediately and fantastically family, one in Him.  (You can check out the site concerning their sweet daughter and read her amazing story of infancy here.)

6.  I ate deer meat in chili for the first time – oh yeah – and a “lettuce wrap”? – and an apple salad with snicker bars in it (random).

7.  Studied Hebrew for 4 hours this morning only to discover that I know less about the language now than I did when I started – I think Mounce calls this “the fog” or something – but that’s Greek and this is Hebrew – I’d say it’s a little more dense!

8.  Jenny and I walked on water this morning – truly – with an 18 inch think covering of ice – ever wanted to see cars drive on lakes?  Come to Minnesota!

9.  Apparently Jenny and I have southern accents – who knew?

10.  Lastly, I’d say that there’s at least 1500 men at this conference – when we stood to sing it sounded like a vast army rising – and when we sang unto the Lord, well, the army lived – truly an amazing sound – oh yeah, and then there was Dever on “what the gospel is” – but that will come tomorrow – maybe – if there’s time!

Grace to you all from Minneapolis, Minnesota in Christ Jesus to the glory of God.