It’s Saturday, and as I thought, the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky was a whirlwind. Much to remember, much to celebrate, much to respond to. Who knows what kind of fruit will emerge from these three days?
One thing is certain. C.J. Mahaney, Lig Duncan, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever have not only instructed us on the unity the Gospel brings. They have demonstrated it. This conference brought men from very diverse backgrounds together to talk, worship God, learn, and grow. And it’s all because of the Gospel.
Music was one area in which the effect of the Gospel was obvious. There’s no question that music in the church is an explosive and divisive issue. In fact, early on in the conference planning, there was talk of having no music, to minimize distractions. Wisdom prevailed, however, and we obeyed God’s command to sing his praises (Ps. 47:6). Mark Dever sent me the original list of songs to choose from. I added a
few, and then decided when we would sing them during the conference,
with Mark’s approval. We combined well known and not-so-well-known hymns with a few Soveriegn Grace songs.
At the conference, God enabled us to transcend our stylistic preferences, lay down our understanding of what kind of music God really likes, and simply lift our hearts and voices to Him with jubilant, loud, passionate, Christ-exalting praise. It probably wasn’t exactly like anyone’s experience in their local setting. The music was a little toned down from what I “normally” do, as I usually play with a full band. For some, I’m sure extended clapping after a song was a new occurrence, perhaps something they’ve been warned against. But the clapping wasn’t something I encouraged – it happened spontaneously. No one seemed to notice because our hearts and minds were focused on the One to Whom we were giving glory. The only Savior whose sacrificial death has atoned for all our transgressions and saved us from God’s just wrath. The perfect Son of God Who bore our sins so that we might be clothed in His righteousness.
The take away is this: when we concentrate on what really matters in our relationship with God – the unity He has given us with Himself and each other through the Gospel – peripheral issues fade into the background. Maybe that’s how it’s always supposed to be…
UPDATE: I’ve still learning how the blogosphere works. I post my thoughts today and within hours, Adrian Warnock from the UK is helping me communicate more clearly. Thanks, Adrian. In responding to my comment, "maybe that’s how it’s always supposed to be," Adrian wisely points out that peripheral issues aren’t always to remain in the background, especially in the local church. Conferences and friendships are different from what we are seeking to build, by God’s grace, in our local fellowships.
This topic reminds me of a post by Al Mohler where he describes three levels of theological urgency. I was thinking primarily of the third level of doctrinal disagreements he describes – those issues which Christians can disagree about and still remain in close fellowship. However, there are many secondary doctrines that are still important, and define local churches. Those include the meaning and mode of baptism, and whether or not women
are called by God to preach and rule in the local church. A church can’t be built on the belief that "our only doctrine is Jesus." We need to come to some agreement on Who He is, what He has commanded, and the meaning of what He has done. However, the Together conference was a clear demonstration that it is possible and a great blessing for Christians who agree on the primary doctrines of the faith to come together to exalt His glorious name.