The advance conference was an amazing time that I have been a bit reluctant to write about because it is hard to come back from a conference with a list of speakers like that and know what to do as far as applying it. One thing is for sure though, that the church is on the decline and the Bible belt of today is not the one of yesterday.
The conference started off with Mark Driscoll (Acts 29 network) who defined what the church is, which he do so by first answering who Jesus was looking in Gen. 3:15. He then went on to give us 8 things of a healthy church: 1.Regenerate church membership,2. Qualified leaders, 3. Gathering for preaching & worship, 4. Sacraments rightly administered (Driscoll's church has communion every week), 5. Unified by the spirit, 6. Church discipline, 7. Obey the great commandment to love, and 8. Obey the great commission.
Next, Tyler Jones (Vintage 21 church) spoke on the decline and resurge of the church and gave reasons that we see the church on the decline and used Ephesians 3 as his biblical example. He gave a list of about five reasons the church is declining and then wrapped it up with a 3 fold problem: 1. We have taken our eyes off of Jesus, he is no longer our first love, 2. We have taken our eyes off the mission, and 3. The toxic nature of our churches. His answer was that we need to see long term repentance.
Next, Bryan Chapell (Covenant Seminary) spoke on communicating the gospels though preaching. He gave four ways in which all scriptures relate: 1. Predicting the coming of Christ and his work, 2. Preparing the coming of Chris and his work, 3. Reflecting on the coming of Christ and his work, 3. Reflecting on the coming of Christ and his work, and 4. Coming from the coming of Christ and his work.
The first day ended with a message from Matt Chandler (The Village Church), who spoke on preaching the gospel to the de-churched. His advice was get away from all the pragmatism of loving ministry more than God. A quote that I really enjoyed from Matt was when he said, "If you opening your mouth then your being theological, the problem is your probably being a heretic."
Day two kicked off with Ed Stetzer (Lifeway research president) who spoke on the keys to understanding the Church and the Kingdom, using Matt. 16-20. Three main points were brought out of this message: 1. We need to recognize the centrality of Christ, 2. Peters confession is the foundation of God's character, and 3. The Church is God's tool to Kingdom mission. At the end of the message Ed said, "In the new urban south we have a lot of religion, but not a lot of Jesus."
Next to speak was J.D. Grear (The Summit Church). He spoke on 6 timeless characteristics of religion using Matthew 23. The 6 timeless characteristics are: 1. Religious people love recognition, 2. Religious people substitute religion ritual for a love of God, 3. Religious people elevate secondary traditions over the things of God, 4. I miss this one, 5. Religious people are more aware of the sins of others than their own sins, and 6. Religious people always talk about someone else.
Next was Eric Mason (Epiphany fellowship) who spoke on the credibility of the church using Ephesians 3:20-21. He narrowed down the credibility of the church to three things. First, the faith of the church. Second, the prayers of the church. Third, the Christ of the church.
Next was another session with Mark Driscoll speaking on ministry idolatry. Basically he pointed out that anything in our lives can be turned into an idol if we let it, and this does not exclude ministry.
Day two ended with an amazing message by John Piper, which he is famous for, Let the nations be glad. He answered the question, what is the biblical task of missions? Piper said, "You keep on crossing barriers until there is established a missional church is every area of peoples group in the world. He then answered the question, is missions necessary? This was answered with three other questions, which he answered yes to all. The three questions were: 1. Are people perishing?, 2. Is Christ work necessary to save them?, 3. Do you have to hear about that to be saved?
Day three was a short day that started out with Danny Akin (Southeastern Seminary)speaking on the topic of healthy marks of a community of faith based off of Hebrews 13. These were the 9 marks: 1. Consistently love each other, 2. Care for those in need, 3. Honor the divine institution of marriage and family, 4. An unshakable faith in the providence of God, 5. Respect the community and those who shepherd the soul, 6. Will not be moved away from Christ centered doctrine, 7. Characterized by the sacrificial giving of praise, thanksgiving, and service, 8. Characterized by a manner of prayer for its leaders, and 9. Will look to the Lord Jesus as the great Shepherd who will perfect them in their faith.
And finally the conference came to a conclusion with John Piper speaking on the second part of Let the nations be glad. I will give you a few quotes from Piper that stick out. "Preaching is the work of missions." "You cannot know what prayer is for until you know that life is war." "God doesn't need people, he blesses them with causality." He closed his message talking about suffering and why it will cost you your life. 1. Because Jesus suffered and said we would, 2. Because Paul said there is no other way home, 3. Peter said it is the normal path of blessing, 4. Because Paul said it is the normal cost of godliness, 5. Because in suffering he is refining our faith, and 6. Jesus said you are the salt of the earth...
That is a brief conclusion of the conference, although it may not seem like it. I really wish you all could have been there with me, but you can go online and hear all these messages at desiringgod.org and look for the advance 09 messages.