It’s hard to believe that the 2016 G3 Conference is now another page in the history books. This year the focus of the G3 Conference was the doctrine of the Trinity. People from around the nation and beyond gathered together on our church campus located just west of Atlanta for an intensive weekend of preaching and singing. Thousands more, from 52 different countries, watched the G3 through our Livestream. As always, the G3 is designed to be a theology conference rather than a Christian pep rally built upon a superficial foundation.
Preaching and Teaching
One of the foundational goals of the G3 each year is to educate people in sound biblical teaching and preaching. This year, we had 13 different sessions packed into three days. If you add the pre-conference session with Dr. James White on Wednesday evening and the post-conference sessions on the Lord’s Day by Dr. James White and Dr. Steven Lawson, that brings the numbers to 16 sessions over 5 days.
One of the main emphases of the G3 this year was to point out that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some esoteric teaching reserved for the seminary classroom or selective group of spiritual elites. The doctrine of the Trinity matters because God matters. How we view God will shape our worship and many other aspects of life and ministry.
I was joined by a lengthy number of preachers (Bruce Ware, Steven Lawson, James White, Tim Challies, David Miller, Anthony Mathenia, H.B. Charles Jr., and Todd Friel) in the conference, and it seemed like there was a great mix of different styles, focal points, and specialties among the men speaking in the conference. From pastors to seminary professors (and Todd Friel), the mixture provided depth, knowledge, and wisdom.
I preached the first session of the 2016 conference by preaching from the Great Commission passage. The goal was to exhort everyone and remind us that we as Christians are called to proclaim a triune God from a Trinitarian book. Tim Challies followed with an overview of the Trinity. From that point, the conference was propelled onward.
With the conference in full stride by this point, the Trinity in salvation, the dependence upon the Holy Spirit in preaching, roles among the Persons of the Trinity, sanctification, the resurrection of Christ, and beholding the Trinity in worship were all different subjects that followed throughout the next two days. There was a richness to the preaching and teaching.
- All who go to hell go there because of their own free will. All who go to heaven go there because of God’s sovereign will. ~ Steven Lawson
- Jesus had to be fully God in order to represent God to man & fully man to represent man to God. ~ Steven Lawson
- It’s hard to be godly and popular at the same time. ~ H.B. Charles Jr.
- God demands perfect righteousness and in Christ, God supplies what God demands. ~ H.B. Charles Jr.
- The Bible is like Big Mama’s house where you eat what she serves or you don’t eat at all. Can’t pick and choose! ~ H.B. Charles Jr.
- You don’t want your election to be on the basis of what God foresaw. ~ David Miller
- We know the Trinity because we’ve been known by the Trinity. ~ Tim Challies
- The hard work of exegesis is an act of worship and a service to others. ~ James White
- The Qur’an is only 14% the length of the Bible and was written by a man with no understanding of the Trinity. ~ James White
- The Trinitarian confusion would evaporate with great exegetical teaching. ~ Todd Friel
- There are no loopholes in the command to be Christ-like. ~ Anthony Mathenia
- The #1 most magnificent evidence that the Spirit controls a person is that they love and want to be like Jesus. ~ Bruce Ware
Good conferences have their place in the life of the church. One of those purposes is to encourage one another. That certainly happened during the G3 this year. I was greatly encouraged by old and new friends in the faith. However, we were never intended to remain in the huddle. We must move forward and get back in the game of life and ministry.
One particular man was in attendance this year from California who was with us last year as well. The difference between this year and last year is that his wife was not in attendance this year because she finished her course in this life within the past several months. This gentleman came along with friends – a good way to be encouraged in the faith. I met a sweet couple who told me that they had been dismissed from their church a few weeks ago. He was looking for another church to serve as pastor. I could see the tears in their eyes as I spoke to them after one of the sessions. It’s good to join together and be encouraged in conferences.
God has not called us to remain in endless hours of theology conferences. God expects us to learn, gain tools, and be encouraged among the saints, and then He sends us back out into the context of difficulties, trials, and problems. Ministry is never easy. There will always be real people with real problems, but we can rest assured that we have a real Savior who has real solutions.
My heart is full of joy, my mind is full of truth, and my body is tired after this past week. As I reflect on the success of the G3, I’m freshly reminded of what a great church I serve. I’m freshly reminded of what a good pastoral team I serve alongside. I’m grateful and encouraged and tired, however, I’m already looking forward to the 2017 G3 Conference. I hope to see you there.
If you’re interested in early registration for the 2017 G3 Conference, you can go ahead and register until 1-29 (save $80).
All of the sessions will be archived to the G3 Conference website over the next several days.
Did you ever leave for a conference with the mindset that you would be challenged and edified in the gospel? Most of us think in that direction as we make our traveling arrangements. How many of us have left with the thought that we would come back depressed and discouraged? There is nothing like getting together with a group of Christians for a weekend conference. For those of you who attend one or perhaps two conferences each year know that those times can be truly refreshing, exciting, inspiring, convicting, and yes – tiring. Christian conferences provide a great time to rekindle old relationships and build new friendships with people that you meet for the first time. Some conferences provide a “family reunion” feel as you return year after year to learn and worship together. Have you considered the dangers of attending Christian conferences?
This past weekend was our first G3 Conference held in our church here in Georgia. As the conference came to an end on Saturday, although I was completely drained physically, emotionally, and spiritually – I felt like a great vacation was coming to an abrupt ending. As I reflected upon the weekend, I remember how I once felt leaving a similar Christian conference. Rather than leaving this specific conference encouraged and edified in the gospel, I walked away discouraged and defeated. The reason was centered on the fact that I had looked to the preachers in the conference as men who were successful in ministry and were walking the “easy” road back to their successful churches. I had allowed myself to look at the men through a rose colored lens. Instead of filling up my heart with the gospel, I was filling up my heart with discouragement. I had allowed my mind to think that the conference speakers were somehow immune to trials and problems in pastoral ministry. Rather than leaving the conference strengthened in the gospel, I returned home discouraged.
Below you will see a list of practical dangers to avoid as you leave a Christian conference. We are all suseptable to these traps and much like a soldier suiting up and preparing to enter the battle field, we must have our minds prepared and ready for the work that the Lord has called us to.
May the Lord protect us from these common dangers:
- The danger of viewing the conference speakers as immune to trials and very successful while you are somehow a “man of sorrows” and unsuccessful.
- The danger of feeling that your worship within the context of your own church family is less exciting than the latest conference you just attended.
- The danger of feeling lonely due to the reality that you just left your closest friends at the conference as you now head back home. Instead, ask yourself this question, “Why do I not have close friends in my current ministry context?” If you have become guilty of isolating yourself and refusing to pursue solid friendships, that is extremely unhealthy and very dangerous for any Christian – especially a pastor. Have you forgotten that God is with us at all times and will never forsake us?
- The danger of loving conferences more than the church of Jesus Christ. Although conferences can be exciting and profitable to our souls, we must remember, Christ died for the church – not conferences.
- The danger of covetousness. It’s really easy to covet the platform of another preacher, the position of another pastor, or the notoriety of a specific conference speaker. We must remember that this is a sin. God has gifted each of us and called us to specific tasks for His glory, and the unknown missionary or pastor serving in obscurity is no less important to God than the conference preacher who stands before thousands.
If you find yourself leaving an exciting conference discouraged, remember that anyone can pastor a conference, but only those specific men selected by God to pastor His church can carry out that task under complete reliance on His power. Remember that anyone can be a member of a conference, but only God’s children can be members of His church. God often uses conferences, but it is His plan to drive His mission and accomplish His will through the ministries of the local church.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. For if it were not for unbelief even the devil could do nothing. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks” (Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and its Cures, 1965, p. 20).
May God spare us from such depression and discouragement which leads to an open door of sin.
For His glory,
Pastor Josh Buice
I attended the Together for the Gospel conference this past week in Louisville, KY. Although I attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, I have never had the opportunity to attend the conference until this past week. I found many things extremely helpful and a few things very concerning. I would like to speak to one sentence that was stated in the conference that caught my attention and I believe it is worth addressing in this post.
The Good of T4G:
As many people have already written and recorded, this year’s conference was tremendous. Each of the 9 plenary sessions were led by extremely skilled preachers of God’s Word – and they all did an amazing job. I was greatly encouraged by each of the messages and I believe that much fruit should come into sight in the lives of the pastors and church members who attended the conference.
C.J. Mahney preached on the subject – “When a Pastor Loses Heart.” He preached from 2 Corinthians 4. In his message, he said, “This ministry is a calling to proclaim Christ….This calling is an ongoing confrontation with the god of this world.”
Albert Mohler preached on the subject “The Power of the Articulated Gospel.” In his message he pointed out the frailty of the phrase which says, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” He said, “Whatever you are doing when you are not using words, you are not preaching the gospel.”
Mark Dever preached on “False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church.” As we well know, many people are members in a local church but have no membership in God’s church. What a sad reality it is that many false converts are members in local churches around the world. Dever said, “He who thinks lightly of sin will think lightly of the Savior.” He went on to say, “False converts hire false teachers.”
Thabiti Anyabwile’s came in the form of a question, “Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?” Thabiti defined the lost condition in the following way, “A convinced blindness and a misdirected love that results in eternal damnation.”
Kevin DeYoung preached on the subject, “Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort.” His point was that as a Christian we are to continue to fight and live out the faith that God has given us. At one point he said, “If you have an anger or bitterness problem, you have a gratitude problem.”
David Platt preached on, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Global Missions.” Tim Brister said that the message by David Platt at T4G was “perhaps the greatest missions message ever preached.” I think that David preached an amazing sermon and one that has truly impacted my life, but with the many awesome men of history such as Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, and William Carey – I find it hard to believe that his sermon was far superior than those men who labored to reach the unreached with the gospel. Furthermore, how do you properly evaluate what sermon is better? In any case, the sermon was amazing and you should take time to hear what David said. One of the most earth shaking statements he made in his message was his opening line, “A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.” He went on to say, “Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of His hand.”
Ligon Duncan preached on “The Underestimated God: God’s ruthless, compassionate grace in the pursuit of his own glory and his ministers’ joy.” He made the statement, “In every discouragement we are tempted to doubt that God is God, and God is good.” Ligon gave a great warning. He made the point that any voice that tells you that you always deserve what makes you happy should be heard with a hiss.
Matt Chandler preached on “The Fulfillment of the Gospel” from Revelation 21. Matt made two statements that stick out to me. He said, “Jesus came, died my death and rose from the dead to show that my bill is paid.” He went on to say, “The promise of a new earth isn’t an excuse for escapism; it’s a motivation to be faithful to God’s calling now.”
John Piper preached on “Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy.” John Piper always does an excellent job preaching the text of Scripture, but in this message he gave some illustrations from his personal life and journal that illustrated what he was preaching from Jude. He read a journal entry from 25 years ago when he was facing difficult decisions about the future of his ministry at Bethlehem. He was asking himself if his ministry was over there and if God had other plans for his life. He then made the point that he is amazed at the “keeping” power of God. He asked, “What does it take to keep you a Christian? It takes glory majesty, dominion, power, authority.”
The Not-So-Good at T4G:
It has already been said well at the conference, but the celebrity culture that follows some of these events is just flat scary! On a couple of occasions, people rushed by us running to the front to get a chance to meet these men and receive autographs. I must admit, I was trying to get an autograph while at the conference as well, but it was really a joke. We were trying to get John Piper to sign a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. It was totally a joke. But the sad reality is that many men in their 50’s and others much younger were running toward the front to get autographs in the front of their Bible and on books written by these preachers. While it may not be an outright sin at the surface, the celebrity culture may reveal a hidden sin deep in the heart of many of these conference attendees. For good things to consider regarding these dangers, listen to Tim Challies and David Murray talk on their Connected Kingdom podcast as they reflect on the good and bad of conferences – “Thinking About Conferences.”
As we plan the G3 Conference here on our campus for this coming January, we must think critically about the people who will be attending. Will they rush the speakers when the sessions are over? Just in case we have some of the celebrity pastor followers attending the G3 Conference in January, I would like to sound a huge warning to the one who rushes Paul Washer and requests him to sign a Bible. It may make Carl Trueman look rather tame! While the celebrity culture is not going away, we must be more open about these dangers. Those who are speaking from the platform should sound the alarm regarding the problems with the “celebrity” culture. When divider boundaries are needed to keep people from swarming preachers before and after sessions at a Christian conference – it’s evident that a serious problem exists.
A Very Important Reminder
As the conference was coming to a close, Dr. Albert Mohler reminded us that the pulpit of T4G was not more important than the pulpit of the local church. The T4G conference is designed to feed and encourage pastors, but that pulpit is only active for a few days every two years. The pulpit of the local church is active each week as the Word of God is opened and proclaimed. We must resist the dangerous tendency of elevating conference pulpits above the pulpit of the local church where pastors shepherd God’s flock entrusted to their care on a weekly basis.
While I enjoy attending one or two conferences each year, I enjoy the ministry of the local church in far greater ways! Jesus Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25) and we must always place a higher emphasis upon the church than any single conference or Christian event. As we plan our G3 Conference, we must design it in such a way that it benefits the local church but never seeks to overshadow it. May God be pleased to use conferences to make the pulpit in the local church strong once again as pastors stand with God’s Word opened and proclaim it with power!
Philip Ryken writes,
The reason the church tries so many other things besides preaching Christ is because it suspects the kingdom can be established some other way. But there is no other way. People will not come into the kingdom because they like the minister, support the children’s program, or enjoy the music. They may come into a church that way, but not into the kingdom. The only way people ever come into God’s kingdom is by hearing His heralds proclaim a crucified King.1
To God be the glory – forever – Amen!
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. When You Pray, Crossway, 2000, p. 83.