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  • Pastor Trevor Killip

Coram Deo Pastors Conference: Wednesday - Day 2

Today was a full day, starting at 9 AM and ending shortly before 9 PM. There were four sessions, a panel discussion, and plenty of singing, praying, and reading of Scripture. The reports of each of the sessions are below, please keep in mind, that the speakers said much more than what I wrote down, so what may sound clear in my head now, because I know the context, might not be exactly clear to you. I will do my best to avoid such situations, but I make no promises.

Session 3 - Carl Trueman

The morning began with prayer and a couple songs of worship. This time I found a spot where my right ear didn't get triggered, so I was able to enjoy the music more than usual. The first speaker was Carl Trueman, speaking on how to minister in an age of identity confusion. You may know Trueman from his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self or the condensed version of that book Strange New World. I was surprised by Trueman, as my past experiences with hearing him speak have been challenging in regard to remaining engaged. However, that was not the case today, and I think in the past, it had more to do with the topic he was speaking on than how he typically communicates.

He started by contrasting the speed of change today compared to how quickly life or culture changed in medieval times. Keep in mind, Trueman is a historian by trade. He noted how life from 1200 to 1400 AD would have seen very little difference in regard to culture, as it relates to the family and the life experiences of an individual. However, that's not the case anymore. Today, he stated that the world, the culture, of 2001, is not the world of 2024. The difference that exists between these years is far greater than what existed between 1200 and 1400 AD. Trueman referred to this as social acceleration.

The issue with social acceleration, the rate of which culture changes, is that it can feel overwhelming and perhaps cause pastors and churches to panic. However, he went on to explain that in order to minister in this period of social acceleration, the church needs to stay faithful with what it has used to minister in times past. He added, "The church is not he problem, it is the solution."

The bulk of Trueman's message focused on three underlying pathologies of our day.

  1. We are rejecting human limits.

    1. Self-realization is acheived by breaking external limits.

    2. Technology has allowed us to believe limits don't apply - e.g. gender theory.

  2. We are rejecting teleology (the ends or purposes of one's life).

    1. The ends are no longer determined by God or nature, but ourselves.

  3. We are rejecting natural obligations.

    1. Biological relations actually carry moral significance, so if we reject biological relations (motherhood, what is a woman, etc) then we deny the moral significance as well.

He then went on to propose three resources the church posseses that it can use in repsonse. Those three things are creed, culture, and code.

  1. Creed

    1. This is the teaching of the church, of the whole counsel of of God's Word, especially in regard to our understanding of who we are as mankind (anthropology).

    2. He stressed the importance of pastors to connect the dots for the congregation, for the congregation will not do it on their own.

  2. Culture (worship/liturgy)

    1. Corporate singing takes us back to the original purpose of singing - shaping the community.

    2. Liturgy imposes limits, when society often rejects them.

    3. The worship, the liturgy of a church, points us to an end.

    4. How a church worships ulitmately shapes and forms the people into who they are intended to be.

  3. Code (way of life)

    1. We need to embody the way we live.

    2. We need to recapture in the church the concept of friendship.

    3. We need to recapture hospitality as well.

      1. Hospitality takes different forms, but it is a non-negotiable.

Session 4 - Kevin DeYoung

Following Trueman's message, we had a brief break, followed by a message by Kevin DeYoung titled The Theme of Our Song: The Person and Work of Christ. This was one of the sessions I was looking forward to as I have always appreciated the teaching of Kevin DeYoung. However, as God would have it, I missed a good portion of it. During the break, another pastor randomly began talking to me. Thus, we ended up in a lengthty conversation that delayed my return back to the sanctuary. I wasn't disappointed as the conversation was edifying and encouraging.

Since I missed the first portion of Kevin's message my note taking was lacking quite a bit. He was focusing on the impeccability of Christ, centering on Hebrews 4:14-16. The impeccability of Christ deals with the inability of Christ to sin. He went over two main variations of the doctrine, while pointing out their weaknesses, then he closed briefly with some doctrinal applications.

In the application portion, he hit on James 1:13-15 and went on to explain how not every temptation is morally neutral. Due to indwelling sin there are some temptations that sinful purely by their presence within us.

He ended the message with two points. First, he stated that we shouldn't preach the gospel of sentimentality. That is, we shouldn't get people to act or believe because they feel sorry for the suffering of Christ. He referred to Luke 23:28 to back up his statement. Then he stated rather simply, since Christ can identify with us, Christ can help us. This obviously is plain to understand from the reading of Hebrews 4:14-16, yet, it is still good to hear, especially in the context of pastoral ministry.

Session 5 - Greg Gilbert

After lunch Greg Gilbert delivered a message titled What is (Still) the Mission of the Church. Greg and Kevin apparently wrote a book back in 2011 titled What is the Mission of the Church, thus the title of the message emphasising the "still". With all that has changed since 2011, and with 50% of the attendees being pastors between the ages of 20-39, the topic was seen as appropriate.

The message was pretty straight forward, the mission of the church is still to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and make disciples. Greg pulled from a variety of texts, obviously Matthew 28:16-20, but he started with Genesis 12:1-3, then moved to the gospels, starting with Luke 4:16-19, which he stated was one of the clearest passages about the mission of Jesus, yet also one of the most misunderstood, especially by those who embrace and cling to a social gospel advocating for social reforms. He says that those who do, miss the trees for the forest, that is they miss the actual verbs in the passage. Jesus is to proclaim good news to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to the captives. Thus, the primary mission of the church is one of speaking.

Greg then went on to deal with good works. Where then, do good works fit? If the church is to be focused on speaking and proclaiming, then what about good works? Good works are obviously good, important, and not optional. But what is their theological purpose? He presents two options, with the second option being the correct option.

Do we do good works to make where we live a better place (social reform)? Is that a promise in Scripture? Has God promised that our state of living will be better if we do good works? No, there is no such promise.

Or is the main purpose of good works is to affirm and confirm and adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ? This is, as Greg taught, the answer. He went on to say we want our people to do good works for 80 years, without losing faith even when society does not get better. If it does, great, but it's not needed to sustain one's faith.

Greg then concluded with one more thought... that if the churches don't make disciples of Christ, no one will. However, in regard to charitable work and social work, there are others who will do that if the church does not do it (he's not saying the church shouldn't do it, it's just not the priority).

Panel Discussion

After Greg Gilbert's session, a panel discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Jonathan Leeman was held. The topic for the panel was Christianity and Politics: What Is the Role of the Church? The Pastor? The Christian?. The discussion was good, though my note taking was not. Hence, the fleeting presence of this section. Dinner then came.

Session 6

And dinner went. The evening session followed the same structure as the first night. For those unfamiliar to a PCA, or reformed structure of worship this is how it was set up:

  • Welcome & Announcements

  • Scripture Meditation - Isaiah 40:29-31

  • Silent Meditation

  • Call to Worship - Psalm 66:1-4, 5, 8 (This involved a response from the congregation)

  • Prayer of Invocation

  • Song - Sing Praise to God who Reigns Above

  • Prayer of Adoration

  • Song - Praise the Lord (Psalm 150)

  • Song - The Voice of the Lord (Psalm 29)

  • Responsive Psalter Reading - Psalm 42

  • Song - Lord, from Sorrows Deep I Call (Psalm 42)

  • Old Testament Scripture Reading - Job 19:23-26

  • New Testament Scripture Reading - 2 Peter 1:16-21

  • Prayer of Confession of Sin

  • Assurance of Grace - Ezekiel 36:25-28

  • Confession of Faith - Nicene Creed

  • Song - Gloria Patri

  • Prayer of Intercession

  • Song - Jesus Paid It All

  • Preaching of the Word - 2 Corinthians 4

  • Song - Christ Our Hope in Life and Death

  • Benediction

A lot there, right? We started at 7 and were done at about 830. The message was still a solid 45-50 minutes, if not a little more. There is much about this order of service to appreciate, but that's not the focus of this post. But I'll be happy to speak more about it in person if you have questions.

The evening speaker was John Piper and he preached on 2 Corinthians 4. To say the message was edifying is an understatment. His main point, which is Paul's main point, was don't lose heart, and if you do lose heart, don't tamper with the message. I took copious notes, but this post is long enough, so I'll share some of my favorite snippets from my notes below.

  • Pastoral ministry is about giving life to your people.

  • Pastoral ministry is very bleak and very glorious.

  • People get grace, God gets thanks, therefore, don't lose heart.

  • Pastoral ministry is designed to kill the pastor. Yet, daily renewal is given. How? Heavenly mindedness. Remembering every pain endured is a stroke into eternal glory.

  • Retirement is over realized eschatology, retirement starts at death.

  • When the gospel remains veiled, so people do not believe, it may not be due to your inability to communicate, but due to the gospel being veiled.

  • The sovereignty of God is meant to be stabilizing, He decides

John did a great job of working through the text, summing it up, and bringing it home to bear upon his target audience, pastors. The words spoken were both encouraging and convicting. They were weighty and yet, uplifting. It was by far, the best message given up to this point.

After John Piper spoke we sang one more song and as Kevin DeYoung came up to give the benediction Amazing Grace broke out acapella style. It was a beautiful ending to a long exhausting day.

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