Tag Archives: Together for the Gospel

Band of Bloggers 2012 Audio Available: Bethke, Elephant Room & Trayvon

Audio from the 2012 Band of Bloggers panel is now live and listenable.  Justin Taylor, Collin Hansen, Tim Challies, and Timmy Brister all contributed wisdom to a diverse array of topics.  I moderated the panel.  We had a blast.

Here was the event’s central topic:

Six years ago, two movements began to gain significant traction–blogging and the young, restless, and reformed. Additionally, 2006 was the inauguration of the Band of Bloggers fellowship, and since that time God has brought gospel rental in many ways to evangelical life, including the development of organizations like Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition, the upsurge of gospel literature in publishing houses, the growth of church planting and revitalization networks, and continued reformation in local churches. Throughout this period, the role of the internet, blogging, and advances in technology have played no small role. At the 2012 Band of Bloggers gathering, we will take a look back at the past six years and consider the impact–good and bad–of blogging and technology in the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement.

Apparently there’s been some dustup over the panel’s discussion of the Elephant Room.  I’m not sure I see the point, but I’ll invite you to listen in and form your own opinion.  I thought there were many helpful takeaways from the four panelists.


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A Startling Word from Mark Dever on False Conversions

Justin Taylor is live-blogging Together for the Gospel, which is quite a feat given the extensive content yielded by this outstanding conference.  Yesterday, he summarized Mark Dever’s message on “False Conversion,” which included the following.  It’s well worth pondering as a pastor and a Christian.

“In reading through the NT, there are five summary truths that were being distorted in NT times and are still being distorted again—on these we must be especially clear on:

  1. God’s judgment is coming (2 Peter 3). You can easily fill a church with people who will follow their own evil desires. Avoiding the doctrine of hell is one step away from denying it altogether.
  2. We should be judged by God. It’s not just out there for someone. We need to feel our own helplessness. God is good and we are not. We need to understand and teach clearly our natural state and indisposition—we love darkness rather than light. This will preserve us from the idea that if we just fiddle with stuff enough, things will be successful. Meditate on Ezekiel 3. Don’t deny or downplay natural human lostness. We cannot deserve—but Someone Else has deserved for us. He who thinks lightly of sin will think lightly of the Savior.
  3. Our only hope is in Christ. We must trust in Christ—who he is and what he is done. We cannot be converted through our own works. The bodily resurrection is an essential part of our message. Without Christ’s person and work, you can make “converts” but you will not have a Christian church. When we get this right, we begin offending and attracting all the right people. Only true converts respond to the truth about Jesus Christ.
  4. We don’t see the fullness of our salvation in this life. Christ’s death and resurrection secure forgiveness—but it’s not true that salvation is mainly for this life only. There is a blessed hope—the glorious appearing. If only for this life we have hope, we are to be pitied for all men (1 Cor. 15:19). Wanting health and happiness is not the same as repentance. We need to see Christ as worth more than all worldly treasure.
  5. We can deceive ourselves and others about our relationship with God. It’s counter-intuitive in our culture, but clear in the Bible. Please teach this! How would your congregation understand 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”


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Great Books: Josh Moody’s “No Other Gospel”

Without a doubt, one of the preachers I most look up to and learn from is Josh Moody of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois.  Josh is a humble man with an outsize résumé–BA from Cambridge, PhD from Cambridge (in none other than Jonathan Edwards), missionary to Georgia (the country, not the Dawgs) and Azerbaijan, husband to Rochelle and father of three adorable children.

If you are a looking for examples of the modern pastor-theologian, you should look directly and sustainedly at Dr. Moody’s ministry.  He reminds me of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the “Doctor,” due to the intelligence, crispness of expression, and soaring view of God found in his preaching.  College Church is a historic church (Kent Hughes formerly pastored it) and it just celebrated its 150th anniversary.  It is in the hands of a faithful expositor of God’s Word, one whose preaching reminds me of the speakers and leaders one finds in such organizations as Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition.  If you have not listened to Josh’s sermons, do so immediately (and here’s his website).  Here’s what Josh says about his passion:

My passion is the gospel.  By that I don’t mean the cheap, cheesy, man-centered gospel that tells you that heaven can be won with a little prayer and playing nice. I mean the full orbed, bloody, biblical, God-centered, gospel that tells you that heaven is won through what Jesus has done. When I first started preaching some years ago someone came up to me after a service and said, roughly speaking, “I’ve worked out what’s different about this church. Other churches are telling me what I have to do. You’re telling me what Jesus has done.”  It’s my experience that when the God-centered gospel of Jesus Christ is caught – when it is believed and embraced and internalized and loved – then lives are changed as a result. I don’t want to talk about money, and duty, and how to construct outwardly pleasing lifestyles that “look” Christian.  I want to preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit so that we are no longer simply nice looking people but newly made people.

Recently, Josh authored No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons Why Justification by Faith Alone is the Only Gospel (Crossway, 2010).  The book is a collection of sermons from Galatians, and it showcases the strength of this Wheaton expatriate’s ministry.  The sermons walk through the text of this weighty epistle, offering exegetical commentary, apologetics, theological connection, and application.  The book enters into recent debates over justification and gives helpful guidance on them.  For example, from a chapter on Galatians 2:15-16:

I want you to see that the works of the law don’t justify, that faith in Jesus does justify, and that this justification by faith alone in Jesus is what the Bible teaches.  Psalm 143:2, which Paul quotes here, teaches that.  Genesis 15:6 teaches that, and 2 Samuel 15:4 shows the Old Testament context for the meaning of the word justify.  First Corinthians 4:4 shows the meaning of the word justify in the New Testament context, and Romans 4:6 shows that the works of the law did not justify David but rather his faith, this faith that is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the one to whom the law points and of whom the law speaks, and before whom we worship and give praise that in him, because of his faithfulness, we can stand justified before the holy God, if we put our faith in him. (113)

You can see clearly that this kind of writing–and preaching–is powered by intellect.  Josh does not preach “5 Easy Tips for Biblical Time-management.”  You come to his church, you read his writing, you need to buckle up.  This is exactly the kind of preaching we need.  Logic on fire, as Lloyd-Jones himself said.  Pick up No Other Gospel and learn from its insights and broader theme.

And, he’s yet another Brit that we’ve cribbed for our American movement.  Another name to watch out for: Michael McClenahan, another Edwardsean.  The devotees of Edwards stick together, as you can see from my frequent call-outs (!).
Other important material:

Henry Center media from 2009 (preaching and interviews–great stuff)

Chat with Justin Taylor about the book

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Free T4G Sessions, Liberating Black Theology, and the Sad Story of Jennifer Knapp

In a stunning twist of irony, The Gospel Coalition blog has all of the Together for the Gospel sessions posted online, while the T4G site does not.  And you thought the two did not interface.  It’s great that they do.

I don’t know why, but CJ Mahaney’s session is not up.  I thought it was exceptional, and that it tied the whole conference together.  You had Mohler and Sproul doing high-level worldview thinking, Dever and others working out of their pastor-theologian mindset, and CJ–the heart of the conference–tying it all together for the vast majority of attendees, the faithful pastors of countless churches across the world. 


Anthony Bradley has written a courageous book on black theology entitled Liberating Black TheologyJohn Starke of TGC Reviews interviewed him.  Looks highly worthwhile.


Denny Burk links to CT’s coverage of the recent “coming out” of musician Jennifer Knapp, one of the first Christian musicians I heard who made beautiful music and sang meaningful lyrics.  I’m deeply saddened by this news. 


You’ve heard about Dr. Oz, but you don’t know much about him.  Here’s your source for information.  I met a driver who had once taken him to the airport.  She said he was on his phone the whole time.  There–now you know something completely extraneous about the man.


If you have not introduced yourself to the wonder that is Andrew Belle’s music, please do so.  I dare you to find a better recent song than “The Ladder”.  You can’t do it.  That song will stand playing ten times in a row.  Trust me.

(Photo of CJ Mahaney at T4G 2010: Devin Maddox–more pictures here)

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Michael Horton, Darryl Hart on “Church Parents,” and the Death of Private Practice

If you haven’t read recent texts by Westminster West professor Michael Horton, you should.  He’s a cultural critic of evangelicalism and has much good to say.  Here are some videos to check out.


While we’re on the subject of cultural critics of evangelicalism, we visit historian Darryl Hart’s blog for a provocative piece.  I heard Hart at the recent Wheaton conference on the early church, where he jokingly called the church fathers the “church parents” in light of gender inclusive language.  I found that hilarious, though it proved highly socially awkward, as no one else laughed.  He also went after the term “gathering”, noting that “we Presbyterians have conferences, not gatherings.” 

By the way, does anyone find it funny that Hart has a blog?  Seems so–I don’t know–modern.  He’s a must-read, wherever he writes.


From the NYT, we find that “More Doctors Taking Salaried Jobs” over private practice:

[A]n increasing share of young physicians, burdened by medical school debts and seeking regular hours, are deciding against opening private practices. Instead, they are accepting salaries at hospitals and health systems. And a growing number of older doctors — facing rising costs and fearing they will not be able to recruit junior partners — are selling their practices and moving into salaried jobs, too.

As recently as 2005, more than two-thirds of medical practices were physician-owned — a share that had been relatively constant for many years, the Medical Group Management Association says. But within three years, that share dropped below 50 percent, and analysts say the slide has continued.

For patients, the transformation in medicine is a mixed blessing. Ideally, bigger health care organizations can provide better, more coordinated care. But the intimacy of longstanding doctor-patient relationships may be going the way of the house call.

Of course, I’ve never had a house call.  But despite the paper’s assurance that these changes have “very little” to do with recent developments in health-care legislation, I’m calling bluff here…


I just saw the list of some of the books for the Band of Bloggers event at T4G, and it is a sweet collection.  Just saying.


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Band of Bloggers at Together for the Gospel

Have you heard about the upcoming Band of Bloggers event at Together for the Gospel in just under a month’s time?  Timmy Brister, the event’s planner, recently announced it.  Here’s the essential information:

The theme for this year’s meeting is Internet Idolatry and Gospel Fidelity.” With the advent of new media and the increasing influence of technology on our lives, it is important to address the relationship of the gospel to technology, especially the areas where we are tempted with idolatrous desire (power, identity, influence, acceptance, control, etc.).  While the internet, with all of its platforms (such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be a powerful tool to leverage our lives for the gospel impact, we want to examine our hearts to bring to light the various ways in which the idol factory of our hearts challenges and subverts the very gospel which we long to embrace.

The format for this year’s gathering will be similar to last year.  We will begin with a catered lunch, listen to 4 speakers address a subtopic on the theme, and transition to a moderated panel discussion with questions fielded from attendees.  The guys I have asked to speak this year are: Justin Taylor, Jonathan McIntosh, Trevin Wax, and Jared Wilson. I am thrilled that these guys have agreed to lead the discussion, and I believe you will be blessed and challenged by their contributions to this important topic.

The meeting will take place at The Galt House (the Archibald Room) on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 from 11:00am-12:45pm.  The Galt House is located just two blocks away from the Louisville Convention Center and is connected to the Center via a skywalk.  Due to limited seating, we encourage you to register early as every BoB gathering to date has reached capacity prior to the event. Registration for this gathering is $25 and simply covers the cost of the catered lunch.

This is exciting news.  I’m thrilled to be a small part of this event through moderating the panel.  I’m also looking forward to the free books that Timmy magically procures for this event year-after-year.  I haven’t seen any hard figures, but I’ve heard that those who pay the $25 cover will receive around $200 worth of free books.  If that is not economics working for you, show me what is.

If you’ll be at T4G, make it a part of your plans to come to BoB.  It’s a very fun gathering and is a rare opportunity for the blogging community to get together.  Hope to see you there in a few weeks’ time.


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The Week-est Link, May 9, 2008: The Dark Knight, a Theology of Rap, and More

1. Westminster professor Bill Edgar gave a lecture on the theology of rap music a few years back. My friend Andy Naselli tipped me to the lecture, and I think that you will find it positively engrossing and illuminating. Dr. Edgar, simply put, is one of the neatest theologians out there–he tackles topics that other theologians won’t touch, and he does so with generosity, clarity, and a bit of appreciation that makes him really interesting to listen to. I’ve learned a good deal from him, and I think you’ll enjoy his material.

2. The preview for the upcoming Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight,” is out. This movie looks incredibly dark and cool and enjoyable. Pardon the language on the webpage where the link is found–I don’t endorse it, but I do endorse the watching of really cool Batman movies…

3. CJ Mahaney has been publishing helpful words on women and modesty on the Sovereign Grace blog. Read his words–he has some of the most helpful, practical counsel you’ll find on matters like this, and he anchors it in stout theology. This is an incredibly thorny issue nowadays, what with the proliferation of tight women’s clothing and plunging necklines, and CJ wants to help. Let him.

4. Have you heard about the New Attitude conference? It sounds tremendous. It’s evolved into a mini-Together for the Gospel deal. If you’re single or a young married couple, truck over to Louisville in a few weeks for the conference, and be prepared to come away knowing a great deal more about how to live a holy life in a darkened world. Speakers include Josh Harris, Mark Dever, John Piper, and Al Mohler.

Have a grace-filled weekend.

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The Week-est Link, April 25, 2008: Craig Blomberg, T4G Videos, Doing Hard Things

1. The Henry Center of TEDS in Deerfield, IL recently hosted a great lecture by eminent New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary. Click here to go the Center’s website and click on the links under “Recent Media” to hear the talk and also an insightful interview with Dr. Blomberg on the topic of a biblical, pastoral approach to wealth. I happen to be slightly partial to this website, of course, as I manage it in my daily work!

2. Check out a fun video showing the “bookstore” at the T4G conference. Click on the video at the bottom of the page to see the so-called “store” which stretched all prior conceptions of the word. Also, look for an appearance by yours truly at the video’s end–I’m in the yellow shirt, meekly handing out Henry Center booklets. In fact, when I first appear in the frame, I’m having one of my booklets handed back to me. Impressive marketing, indeed.

3. Check out Tim Challies’s new review of the book Do Hard Things by the younger brothers of Covenant Life pastor Josh Harris. Great book to give to a parent of a teen or a teen himself to encourage a spirit of godly industriousness.

Have a great weekend, all.

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A Sweet Work of God’s Spirit: A Reflective Review of Collin Hansen’s New Book Young, Restless, Reformed

One of the more shocking developments in the evangelical bubble the last few years was the sudden appearance of a number of very thoughtful journalistic pieces on the reformed movement and its figures in the mainstream evangelical magazine Christianity Today. CT, as it is known in the evangelical world, is well-known for its international focus, centrist theology, and high-quality writing. Until Collin Hansen’s groundbreaking article, “Young, Restless, Reformed“, though, it had not given a great amount of attention to the surging reformed movement among evangelical Christians.

That article, which expertly combined fresh writing with high-level observation, led to several other profiles of reformed thinkers and events, including one of Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll that is eminently worth reading. These various pieces eventually found their way into Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, a book hot off the presses from Crossway Books. Crossway is putting out many of the best books nowadays, and I am excited to see what the Lord continues to do with this publishing house. They have a clear winner in YRR (as I will refer to the book from now on) as Hansen has succeeded in giving the reader a fascinating on-the-ground account of the reformed movement among the young evangelicals.

The “New Calvinists”, as Hansen terms them, often happened upon reformed theology by accident. Raised in Arminian or mainline churches, many young people gravitated to the Passion conferences staged by Louie Giglio throughout the South in the 1990s and the early years of this decade. Seeking the fresh, loud, zesty music of the conferences, many of these attendees were struck nearly numb by the preaching of a slight, bespectacled 60-year-old man named John Piper, who delivered messages calling for radical self-sacrifice for the glory of a transcendent, majestic God who personally loved His people enough to give them joy forever through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of these students walked away from Passion profoundly changed, their theology transformed, their minds blown, their hearts inflamed to pour their lives out for the glory of God. Minds humming, many of these young people went back to their campuses, their local churches, their youth groups, and transformed them. The movement was afoot.

Hansen was not far behind. It is this group of people whose scent he tracks in YRR. He himself is one of their number, and thus the book reads with the same wide-eyed, excited, theologically captured kind of tone one finds among countless students today at places like Southern Seminary (which Hansen aptly terms the “Ground Zero” of the new calvinism), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Master’s Seminary, Gordon-Conwell (to some extent), Reformed Theological Seminary, and many others. Hansen’s chief assertion–that this movement exists at all, which some might question–is indeed indubitably proven by these campus communities, and by the energy of institutions connected formally or informally to the New Calvinism. Beyond the seminaries, think about organizations like Acts 29 (church planting network spreading like wildfire), Together for the Gospel (5000 strong), and The Gospel Coalition (scheduled for thousands in May 09). Each of these groups count twenty- and thirty-somethings as their key demographic. There is tremendous energy in this movement, as one can readily see.

Hansen’s book is an on-the-ground account of the Calvinist Convergence, and so it does not offer statistics or factual data which would anchor its claims in irrefutable numbers. It does quote some studies, including the controversial Lifeway study of SBC Calvinism from a few years back, but it eschews in-depth numerical work for the telling of stories of the young people who populate this movement. If one wishes for a bit of background on what other theological movements are drawing young people, and how their draw compares to the New Calvinism, one will have to turn elsewhere. One cannot strongly fault Hansen for this matter, though–it’s quite clear throughout the book that he has his capable hands full trying to track the fast-moving reformed crowd.

The book is nicely written, with an admixture of crisp, clean reporting and pithy comments. Hansen alternates between personal profiles, abstract observations, and theological commentary, and the combination works well. This is theological journalism, albeit fresh, passionate theological journalism that fits the subject it profiles. How boring it would have been to read a cold, rote account of the movement. Hansen succeeds in giving each of the title’s elements flesh and bone. One feels the youth of the reformed movement, the restlessness of its participants, the strength of its commitment to the doctrines of grace. To be a part of this group is to be a part of a profoundly exciting, dynamic work of God, as my own life attests and this book reflects.

For many young reformed types, discovering true biblical theology is not an exercise in doctrinal calculation or scholastic argumentation. It is all about discovering a big, massive, breathtaking view of God that fundamentally reorients one’s life and views, that displaces the self from its throne and that frees the soul to gaze at a majestic, mysterious, and incredibly generous God as He works out His plan and calls His people to labor with Him to blast His glory all through this earth. This vision, for most New Calvinists, does not stifle evangelism, or squelch Christian love, but fuels it, shapes it, funnels it into dynamic and even radical acts of service to God. More than any other piece of journalistic sociology I know of, YRR captures these realities.

Buy the book. Buy it. It reads very quickly–160 pages of lucid, engaging prose–and it will give you a place from which to evaluate and understand the reformed movement that is sweeping through churches and organizations of all types and denominations. I would have liked Hansen to give a bit more explanation on how the popularity of hip-hop relates to the reformed resurgence, and I would have liked more contemporary context, but these are mere drops on the duck’s back. Collin Hansen is an excellent profiler, but he is also a shrewd commentator, and his book will not fail to educate and entertain you. I count Collin a good friend, and I am excited to see what the Lord does with his gifts. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves–order Young, Restless, Reformed and see firsthand what the Lord is already doing through Collin and his gifts.

The fundamental take-away of YRR? God is great, and He is good! He is doing incredible things among His younger people. Where they could be wasting their lives, pursuing their own interests and glory, and falling away from the faith due to doctrinal malaise, they are vibrant, happy, hungry for biblical truth, and zealous for God. Read the book and see if you’re not challenged while reading it to spontaneously give praise to God for this sweet work of His Spirit, this fresh stroke from His painter’s brush, that is reshaping an entire generation to give their hearts, their hands, their voices for the spread of his awesome renown.


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Dispatches from T4G: Day Three–Sacrifice and Sayonara

Today’s very quick thoughts:

1. One of the hardest things about T4G is the fact that many friends from the past are around. We’re talking the type who you never see. This makes it really hard to know what to do in organizing one’s schedule. Do you listen to the speaker who’s got great things to say or catch up with a long-lost friend for mutual edification? Tough call.

2. John Piper gave a typically stirring talk on the biblical imperative of Christian sacrifice for the sake of God’s glory. I found most moving, perhaps, his comments afterwards on how fathers must sacrifice their interests for the betterment of their families. I recommend you find the panel discussion (when it’s available) following Piper’s talk and listen to the whole thing.

3. Dr. Al Mohler hosted his fellow conference organizers on his radio show today. Dever, Duncan and Mahaney came in for a fun and helpful discussion that will prove helpful to those wondering what on earth I’ve been talking about the last three days. Give it a listen.

4. To all friends of the past seen at the conference: it was a treasure to be with you. To all friends made at the conference: it was a joy to meet you. To all who hunger for a much fuller fellowship, a fellowship that will include not simply the reformed and conservative but the international, trans-denominational, trans-labels body of Christ united by faith in His death and resurrection: it will be simply unspeakable to taste in full what this conference gave us in a very small part.

See you in 2010.


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