Band of Bloggers & T4G: Initial Thoughts
Since this coming Friday, April 25 we are planning to make a trip down to Tennessee to visit my family, instead of our regular blogging fare I’m going to spend the next week deconstructing my thoughts on Band of Bloggers and Together for the Gospel. It would be good for me (and hopefully for you) to do this now while it is fresh in my mind and I am in an extremely meditative and applicational mood. Today I’d like to share my impressions in general and a few thoughts about the fellowship I experienced.
I entered this conference very excited. I knew that I would be in a conference consisting largely of people in my own age group; the majority of attendees were in the under-40 and under-30 age groups. I knew that I would be experiencing three days of intense teaching and exhortation from some of the finest preaching minds in America. Where else can you get to hear, almost as if in tag-team synchronicity, people such as Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R. C. Sproul? Where else would you get to see another “young” pastor, Thabiti Anyabwile (who is actually over 40, I think), spectacularly demonstrate the fruit of studying under men like these? Where else would you be able to pick the brains of writers (bloggers and authors) such as Thabiti, Abraham Piper, Phil Johnson, and Tim Challies? Where else would you get a glimpse into the type of fellowship men like “Al, Mark, Lig, and C. J.” regularly practice? Where else would you get to meet men, some of whom you only know through blogging, who might one day become that type of friend? Where else would you get to sing great and powerful songs about the Gospel with 5300 others and know beyond a shadow of doubt that you were in the presence of the Holiest One?
I had to caution myself early against expecting too much from mere men. I’m happy to report that my expectations were actually exceeded on all levels.
Band of Bloggers ministered deeply to me as a blogger. I was encouraged to keep a Gospel-centered mindset in my writing. Timely cautions were given that enabled me to think critically about my own blogging. Helpful suggestions for writing were presented that will help me to blog about the things that are important to me in the future. A solid exhortation was given to me to be willing to “walk away” from my blog before it becomes a dominant fixture of life. The Silent Holocron and its readers will greatly benefit from the learning given its author.
Together for the Gospel challenged me in ways I have never been challenged. It revealed to me areas of my life and ministry where I have failed — sometimes coming as an illumination of ignorance, other times coming as stinging rebuke from which I had no option but to bitterly repent in my seat as I choked back tears. It encouraged me to be a much better husband and father than I have been. It encouraged me to be a bolder pastor and a more effective evangelist.
True to the name of the conference, T4G revealed to me things I had never before considered or been confronted with about the Gospel, things that left me greatly humbled that I, a great sinner, have such a great Savior. Those things left me hungry to preach the Gospel to God’s church and to share the Gospel with the lost. Those same things left me utterly disgusted at the “dumbing-down” of Jesus, outright twisting of Jesus, or blatant misrepresentation of Jesus (all right, lying) that has taken place in our churches. Many of the things warned against were things I have heard all my life, things I had been taught in church and in college, and have even heard taught or had been taught by me in the nearly nearly 10 years I have been involved at my church here in Louisville. It left me utterly scared at how easily those things found their way into my theology and teaching and left me on my guard to defend the Gospel in all that I believe and teach. Indeed, it had never dawned on me that in my entire time at Southern Seminary, I had never heard any of these teachings on the Gospel promoted!
Thoughts on Fellowship
One of the great benefits of a conference like BoB and T4G (especially since they are connected) is that a massive opportunity for fellowship exists. As I mentioned above, 5300 attendees (I think that is the official “rounded-up/down” number from the attendance figure) were at T4G; Band of Bloggers had 150 registrants with a total attendance at or over 200. The only way you were not going to meet anyone was if you were an extreme introvert or had horrible B. O.!
At BoB, I got to work with several people to prepare the book giveaway, and it was a great time of fellowship for all of us. I sat next to Yogi Taylor and instantly gained a friend as we shared about ourselves and our ministries and prayed deeply for each other. I met Owen Strachan for the second time (I think we had a class or two somewhere as well). I met Alex Leung and several others whose names and blogs escape me at the moment. I also met the guys from Team Pyro — Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and Mr. Frank Turk and was able to thank Phil for his example to me and bemoan that I didn’t get to talk with Frank more deeply than “this is where I am right now” — something I fully intend to correct if I ever get to see him again. I got to meet Tom Ascol and thanked him for being a model of integrity, as well as telling him about the large unreached Deaf community sitting in his church’s backyard. I finally met fellow Tennesseean Tim Ellsworth; we instantly recognized each other on the first glance. I also got to meet representatives from publishers such as Banner of Truth and Reformation Heritage Books. Steve Burlew was the Banner of Truth rep; he profiled my bio of Richard Sibbes and The Bruised Reed on his blog. The great part was getting to catch up with guys I met from the first Band of Bloggers such as Scott Lamb and Alex Forrest.
At T4G, I got to see many friends I have not seen in a long time, as well as blogging friends that I had met but had not seen in a while either. Three of the supervisor guys I work with at UPS were there and we all had a blast together. I got to meet author Sam Storms and thank him for his book Chosen for Life, which is the clearest explanation of the doctrine of election I have ever read. I got to jaw for a few minutes with a representative from a Christian counseling organization about Deaf counseling and counseling literature and resources. I also finally met Joe Thorn, a guy I have come to really admire. I simply could not believe how short he was. I thought he was like William Wallace — “7 feet tall and they also say lightning shoots out his arse.” (Kudos to you if you’ve seen the fantastic movie that quote is from.)
The greatest fellowship I had outside of these was the fellowship I had with my Deaf brothers who attended T4G. There were people from Chicago, Indiana, California, Kentucky and Texas. We spent each day of the conference together, ate together, praised God together, shared our testimonies, asked ministry questions, encouraged one another, prayed for one another, applied the messages to our ministries together, and generally became the Body of Christ together. This fellowship alone was worth the price of admission. That the 10 of us were truly “together for the Gospel” even though some were Baptists, some were Presbyterians, some were Independents only made the fellowship sweeter. They all invited me to stay with them in their homes if I am ever in their areas. I believe that I gained friends for the rest of my ministry in them.
Most importantly, God was most glorified in me this week, simply because I was most satisfied in him. This week was like a cool drink of water, an empowering charge, a welcome adventure. This conference was an aspect of true Gospel satisfaction revealed to me this week. Oh that I could glorify him in this way in every aspect of my life!
If you are a pastor, you need to attend this conference in 2010. If you are a pastor’s wife, do everything necessary to make sure your husband attends; and if you can, leave the kids with Grandma and attend with him. If you are a church member, this would be the best thing about which to stir up a hornets’ nest in your church — demand that your pastor attend! Make the church vote on it if you have to! I guarantee your pastor will love you for it, and you will get him back better skilled and in better condition than that in which you sent him. And you will love your pastor even more as he, through the Gospel, loves you even more.
Well, those are my initial — if rather lengthy — thoughts on Band of Bloggers and Together for the Gospel 2008. I will have plenty to sustain me until 2010. Next time I’m making sure Steve Dye goes with me; he’s got 2 years to read the books I gave him before the next massive book giveaway at this thing!