Friday, September 29, 2006

In Minneapolis: Day One

I flew to Minneapolis, MN, today with CJ Mahaney and Jeff Purswell. We’re here for the Desiring God conference entitled Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. I'm very excited about the chance to learn from men like David Wells, John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and Voddie Baucham (who hands down has the coolest name). But the chance to hang with my two dear friends CJ and Jeff (and to laugh with them, discuss the sessions with them, and learn from them) is what I'm most excited about.

I would tell you how rousing the worship was, but we totally missed it. We got into a lively conversation with a three guys from Mark Driscoll's Acts 29 Network (two from Mark's church and one from the Philadelphia area), and had to be asked by an usher to quiet down. Oops.

David Wells kicked off the packed conference with a message on the Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. He set the stage noting that today Christianity is moving south and east, but it is dying in the west.

Drawing from Hebrews, he showed that in increasing ways we face a situation similar to the Jewish Christians to whom the letter was written. They were tempted to revert to Judaism out of fear of persecution. They needed a reminder of the supremacy of Christ over all the world. They needed faith in His ultimate triumph. We need that same faith.

One statement Wells made in reference to the seeker-sensitive movement was particularly striking. He said, "We are shrinking back from the uniqueness of Christ and his centrality. They [the recipients of Hebrews] did it out of fear for their safety—we are doing out of fear that we won’t be successful."

In what I found to be the most powerful portion of his message, Wells described the far-reaching effect of Christ's redemption through his death and resurrection. This he showed, must be the foundation of our view of culture and our interaction with the pain and suffering of life in this world. For, there at the cross, the very back of evil was broken. And like a chess match that has already been decided, the outcome cannot be changed. What we see today in terms of evil—in humanity and in creation—are the last futile moves of the enemy, not one of which is going to change the outcome that happened at Calvary. Christ is supreme in our world and our universe.

After the session, Justin Taylor did an outstanding job leading a conversation/question & answer time with Piper, Driscoll, and Keller. It would definitely be worth getting on CD. One of the key moments was when Piper described his recent lunch with Emergent leaders Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. His comments on how a truly radical Jesus is only discovered when we acknowledge the hell Christ came to save us from were powerful. I also benefitted from the answer given to Justin's question posed to Piper and Driscoll about interaction with pop culture. Here's my best paraphrase:

Justin: "Pastor Mark, you watch movies and TV, listen to modern music and go to comedy clubs. Pastor John...you don't. (much laughter) How do you remain relevant without being immersed in culture. And, Mark, how do you remain faithful/pure as you interact with pop culture?"

A great question, which Driscoll didn't completely answer (and Keller called him on this). I'm looking forward to hearing more from Driscoll on the subject tomorrow. Piper noted that they are seeking to reach different audiences. He also explained that the first reason he avoids a lot of movies and media is because he's weak and would be easily tempted by much of the sinful content. In addition, he shared that just "feeling" and communicating out of the universal realities of the human condition (i.e., the fact that we're all going to die), can make our preaching relevant and powerful to our listeners.

Keller had very insightful things to say (as usual). I particularly appreciated his comments on the settings we have today in which to proclaim the gospel. It's obvious that he's been very purposeful and creative in NYC in finding ways to preach the gospel.

That's all for now. Let me know if you have friends at the conference. And if you're here with me, come say hello!

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