I am at the Advance 13 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is my goal to give a little time to write about what I am learning through this conference. But let me give a few preliminary thoughts before I get to the main teaching times.
The people working the event were very friendly as I approached the convention center. That is always important to me. Are the people who are serving displaying the gospel the conference is going to communicate? I was very warmly welcomed. But then as I entered the auditorium at the convention center, I knew it was going to be different than almost any other conference I have attended. The stage was set for an obvious concert, in which I was not disappointed. The music that led into the main speaking times was dynamic, worshipful, and very loud. Let me emphasize that again: it was loud. It could have been that we were sitting in the second row in front of a rack of about a dozen speakers, but if my heart was not in rhythm, it is now.
The music aside, the way they have organized this event is according to sessions. Each session could last between 2-3 hours, in which they will worship, have announcements, and a few teaching opportunities. Some of the teaching times are purposefully longer and some are practical praxis sessions. In my review, I have chosen to organize my thoughts around each session, not each day. That will make for more blog posts, but shorter ones. What you will read below is how God moved in my heart during the teaching times of session 01.
There was only one negative from the sessions. They have tried to create a very worshipful atmosphere in the room by dimming the lights. Then when the teaching time comes, they turn them up a little bit. But it was still difficult to read my small compact ESV Bible. I wish they would have had more lights during the teaching times. But that is simply a trivial matter. Let me get to the three speakers in session one and some things that impacted me.
"You Can't Lead What You Don't Live" by Tyler Jones
I have not heard much of Tyler Jones, who is the Lead Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Vintage Church in Raleigh, NC. This is the first time I have ever heard him speak. My initial observations is that he is brilliant, gifted communicator. And he just might be the fastest preacher I have ever heard. There were so many things in his message that I wanted to write down but couldn't because he was moving so fast. It felt as if he was trying to fit two hours of information into 45 minutes.
He began by making the argument that we have more opportunity to impact and make disciples than we ever have in the history of the world. The technology at our beckon call should help us in our endeavor. But unfortunately, we are not producing fruit or disciples. Instead, we have reduced the disciple making process down into the dissemination of information. We have missed the mark of making disciples who reproduce themselves. We are too content for knowledge. He emphasized that if we are going to reverse this error, it must start with us.
The bulk of his message was from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. I was greatly impacted by his repeated emphasis of understanding "this ministry" that we have been given by the Lord. As he unpacked this, he asked several questions that hit home in my life:
- Have you robbed the followers of Jesus of their ministry because you think you can do it better?
- Are you setting the environment for healthy ministry to take place?
- Are you doing anything that should be entrusted to someone else?
- Do you have a Superman Complex?
- How are you going to create an atmosphere where every follower of Jesus is empowered to be what God created them to be?
One of the most impactful parts of his message was when he said that most pastors he knows are really good at speaking the gospel, but they are imbeciles at applying it to our own hearts. It was like I was listening to Paul Tripp talk about the Dangerous Calling of pastors.
I really did enjoy this message and hope to hear it again sometime soon. It was a great start to the conference. I simply need to process more of what he had to say.
"Everyday Church" by Steve Timmis
Compared to Jones, I am somewhat familiar with Steve Timmis. I read and reviewed his book, Total Church. He began his message by saying that he was not going to talk about anything that was new, but that it was cutting edge. His message began in Genesis 1:26 when God said, "Let us make man in our image..." God's desire was to create a globe-filling, image-bearing community of people for Himself. That statement was repeated over and over in his message. God wants to create a people for Himself in order to reveal His glory to them and to display His glory through them.
His message made me want to buy his book by this same title. If this is truly God's heart for people, to be in a community to reveal and display God's glory, then it makes no sense that we have reduced the gospel down to only "Jesus died for my sins so that I can go to heaven." While it is a true statement, it is an incomplete thought. The gospel is not less than the forgiveness of my sins, but it has to be much more.
His final appeal was that we would be the church. Let us repent of our individualism. Let us repent of our superficialism. And let us form communities that reach out in the world to reflect His glory to those that do not know Him.
"The Kind of Men the Church Needs" by John Bryson
The last speaker of session one was John Bryson, who dropped the bomb on the men at the conference and the Christian community. When I heard he was going to speak on men, I was very interested as our church has recently started to emphasize this ministry. He was very clear that you can't have a strong church without strong men. In his initial diagnosis of the men in the world today, he shared several sobering realities about men.
- Men are confused
- Men are disappointed
- Men live with pain
- Men are lonely
- Men are drifting
- Men turn to escapes
- Confused men create problems
- Without a compelling vision of manhood, men will settle for less.
In response to these concerning realities, he emphasized that most pulpits are silent; Fathers are missing; and most people don't really want to deal with the real issues. Then after giving some historical realities of how we ended up at our current situation with men, he gave some hope in the gospel for men.
Jesus is often referred to as the second Adam. The first Adam failed. He was passive. He didn't lead. He didn't do what He was called to do. But Jesus fully accomplished what he set out to accomplish. And men now can either walk in the shadows of the first Adam or the light of the second Adam. We need to help our men find that second Adam.
That was the first session. I will share later today what took place during the second session, Tuesday night.