I had opportunity to attend the 2006 Shepherd's Conference on two days. First on Thursday afternoon to hear Phil Johnson's second installment critiquing and commending Fundamentalism in America. The full transcript, with pro and con comments, can be read over at the Sharper Iron, blog here. I have to confess I liked the part one presentation from last year much better, I think because the material was fresh on Phil's heart, and he presented it from a personal concern for Fundamentalism in general. In other words, he had more umpf in his first presentation. But, he did have good stuff to say this time around, any ways.
Then on Friday, I snuck into Phil's presentation on the Emergent Church. That one was extremely well done on a subject that is not going away anytime soon. Then in the afternoon, I sat in on the panel Q and A session with R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Steve Lawson, with John MacArthur asking questions. I appreciated the fact the time was more personal and pastoral. The group didn't really deal with theological hot topics, but reflected upon their personal experiences walking with the Lord. For instance, John asked each person to share about the one person who has impacted his life as a mentor. Steve Lawson eloquently spoke on the life of S. Lewis Johnson and what an impact he had on Steve as his seminary professor when he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. There was one point where he began to weep as he remembered the man's life. I was so moved by his testimony, I immediately came into work and did an Internet search of S. Lewis Johnson, bookmarked his audio page and plan to start listening to his teaching. You can hear him at Believer's Chapel Online.
The real highlight of the Q and A panel was Steve Lawson's re-telling of his heartbreaking trial with Dauphin Way Baptist Church and how the congregation essentially kicked him out of the Church for being Calvinistic. His reflections on S. Lewis Johnson and his recounting this event in his life is worth the price of the MP3 download when they come available on the Shepherd's Conference website.
And on the note of Calvinism, I met many pastors who are at odds with their Churches over this issue of Calvinism. I can see the doctrines of Grace being a major factor for the Church life in the years to come. Obviously, it has become a dividing line among Southern Baptists. It is not as though these men are forcing the doctrines on the people and telling them if they don't believe and embrace those doctrines, you might as well just leave. They are preaching through the Bible and when the pastor's exposition brings him to a passage affirming any one of the five points, the opposition in his Church get out-of-sorts.
I met one man who is returning to his Church to probably preach his last sermon this next Sunday, all because he taught on Jesus's words from John 6:44, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draws him." I met even another man who was removed from his pulpit 2 months after he arrived to serve, just because he gave out a book written by John Piper. Once the anti-Calvinist crowd at the Church discovered Piper was Calvinistic, all hell - literally - broke loose. Some of the reaction he received from unhinged anti-Calvinists that he described to me sounded demonically inspired. After hearing these type of stories, it makes me want to become a welder, or maybe a truck driver. But, thank God for His grace, because each of these men are going to return with more devotion to their calling, more love for God, and more love for His Word, even if it involves being forced from their current ministries.
I know speaking with these men gave me a deeper appreciation for my pastors who teach my family the truth on a daily basis, and it certainly gave me appreciation for the rich fellowship I share in my Church with the common folks who love to hear these doctrines preached. That is a rare thing in these days.
Yet, I cannot close this highlight review without mentioning meeting all of the major blog personalities who attended. I met Tim Challies, who did an excellent job posting live summaries on the conference. I have to confess a tinge of envy at a guy who has the ability to write quickly, concisely, and with lucid articulation. I sat near him at the Fundamentalism talk and I marvelled at his blogging ability. And, probably the biggest highlight, at least for me, was meeting the Fide-O boys, Jason and Scott. That was almost akin to meeting true, famous celebrity. I do find it amusing how blogging, to what amounts to a massive, world-wide audience, lends itself to a perverse element of the renown. I guess if you write some widely read posts on Rick Warren and his main bulldog, Rich Abanes, comes and takes you to task on your comment page, you have made it big time as a blogger. I will have to get one of their coffee mugs for sure.