Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the 2017 G3 Conference in Atlanta, GA to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation [my substitute for going to Germany]. It was a marathon! In two and a half days, we managed to fit in fifteen one-hour sermons from ten different preachers, two Q&A sessions, and three breakout sessions. It might not be the most conventional way to start the year, but in my mind, it was worth it.
Yet, at the end of the conference, I had a great desire to go home — not because I was tired of the conference, but because of what the conference had taught. Although the theme was Reformation 500, more or less every session found its home on the theology of the church — biblical ecclesiology. From session 1 to session 15, every single preacher emphasized the local church: its statutes, its health, its growth, its value, its centrality, its purpose, and its glory. They were not interested in encouraging "conference junkies" (a term forever burned into my mind), but in building up the local manifestations of the global Church of Christ.
So by the last day, I was ready to go home, ready to go home and love the people for whom Christ had died, ready to serve them with greater love and greater zeal. And that's what you want from a Christian conference, right? So, I thank the Lord for G3, and may He continue to do His work through it!
Since the sessions are starting to be posted, I figured I could give my brief impressions of each session, to encourage you to listen to good preaching. Of the fifteen, sessions 6, 10, and 11 were my favorites. I hope this brief review proves useful; enjoy!
Session 1 — 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Doctrines Worthy of Death and Scripture Worthy of Preaching
Pastor Josh Buice is the lead pastor of the local church that puts on the G3 (Gospel, Grace, Glory) Conference each year. He gives a few glimpses into Martin Luther, some Marion martyrs, and Tyndale, to sum to one main point: the Reformation is not over. Preachers have the great responsibility to keep suffering for the cause of the gospel and to keep preaching the Word.
Session 2 — Colossians 3:5-17, Let the Gospel Give You Your Song
Tim Challies is the famous blogger of the modern Protestant movement (www.challies.com). His text was about the source, audience, and object of our worship. The source: the gospel. The audience: one another. The object: the Lord. It was a good refresher on the importance and necessities of biblical worship in the church.
Session 3 — Romans 3:23-31, Preaching Justification Expositionally
David Miller is an evangelist and the senior member of the group. The video makes it a bit harder to see, but in person it was evident that Mr. Miller is confined to a wheelchair and has limited use of his arms. Consequently, he recited the Scripture text he is preaching from memory, and then proceeded to exposit the text from memory — complete with an outline, headings, illustrations, and humor! I really enjoyed this sermon, but even more so his example of faithfulness and diligence amidst suffering.
Session 4 — Deuteronomy 17:16-20, Laying the Foundation
D. A. Carson
Dr. D.A. Carson is a research professor at Trinity, and in typical professor fashion, lectured with freshness and appeal to encourage us to love the Lord with all our minds by loving, reading, and studying the Word of God. Some philosophical discussions went over my head, but overall the session was helpful to lay the foundation — Scripture.
Session 5 — Galatians 3:6-14, Justification by Faith Alone
Dr. Steve Lawson is a professor at The Master's Seminary and itinerant preacher. Of all preachers I've heard, he is the most precise, the most refined, and the most relentless. After I've listened to him preach, I usually feel like I've been run over by a semi-truck, which then slowly backed up a few times, just to make sure it got me.
This sermon was no different; it was like a systematic theology book on fire. He parses through the biblical definition and explanation of justification; if you've never studied this topic before, I highly recommend you listen.
Session 6 — 1 Timothy 3:14-16, Sufficiency of Scripture: God's Church God's Way
Paul Washer is the founder of Heart Cry Missionary Society, and (although he doesn't know it) the man that God used to save me. His zeal for God's Word, prayer, and God's church comes through in everything he says, and this sermon was no different. For this hour, he righteously rebuked every person who would try to take God's bride and make her a scandal for the carnal world to look at. Given the disaster that most evangelical churches are in, I highly recommend you listen.
Session 7 — Hebrews, The Atonement - The Strongest Refutation of Rome's Eucharistic Errors
Dr. James White is the founder of Alpha Omega ministries, an apologist, and an elder at his church (which, in my mind, is much more important). Before the conference, he debated a young Roman Catholic apologist on the question, "Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation?" In that debate, we saw in full detail how deceived most Catholics are, and the twisted and nonsensical gymnastics they do with the Bible to make it fit their heresy.
This was almost like an epilogue to the debate, as it directly addresses biblical doctrine of the atonement, and further details why Protestants can never come back to Rome. To get the most out of this session, I recommend you watch the debate as well.
Session 8 — Ephesians 1:3-14, Soli Deo Gloria
D. A. Carson
Somehow, Dr. Carson managed to preach one of the most theologically rich passages in the entire Bible in about an hour. This was classic preaching — precise, helpful, clear, and doxological — that revealed our glorious blessing of election, adoption, redemption, and forgiveness, and revelation in Christ through the gospel, all to the glory of God.
Session 9 — James 4:4, Love Not the World: Brothers, We Are Not Worldlings
Phil Johnson is an elder at Grace Community Church and the editor of John MacArthur's books. In this sermon, he shows that the context for the Reformation was worldliness in the Catholic Church, and makes (and defends) the shocking statement that "the evangelical movement today is more in need of reformation than the Roman Catholic Church was in 1517." Worldliness continues to ravage the church, and the first step is identifying the rotten bones.
Session 10 — 1 Timothy 1:1-11, Biblical Reformation Requires Courageous Preachers of God's Word
Pastor Conrad Mbewe is pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church and the first Chancellor of African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. This was my favorite session of the conference. His theme: we often know the problem, but the real problem is that we lack the courage to preach the Word. He asked, "Where are the courageous preachers of our day? Where is the Luther of our day?" Christians must be men and women on fire for the Lord. No matter if you are a preacher or not, I would whole heartedly recommend this one to you; we need courageous Christians with holy hearts that love God above all else, not timid ones afraid of the opinions of men.
Session 11 — Hebrews 13:7-8, 17, The Need for Reformation in Evangelical Ecclesiology
Pastor Voddie Baucham is the Dean of the African Christian University Seminary. If you're familiar with his ministry, you know that he has a brilliant way of using humor to drive home truth (i.e. the thirty-second [or two minute, I forgot] test). His refrain for this sermon was, "We've lost the local [church], " and the main point of the exposition was that God gives imperfect pastors/shepherds to the flock for the good and glory of the church. God loves His Church; do you?
Session 12 — Romans 1:1-6, The Reformation was a Recovery of the Gospel
Dr. Lawson presented the gospel in all its power and beauty in this session. You can never, ever assume everyone is saved. This is not a gospel according to a wooden outline; it is living, breathing, and powerful.
Session 13 — Luke 22:31-32, Satan Has Asked to Sift You
Pastor Conrad wove Martin Luther's hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God into this sermon to comfort the afflicted and explain suffering biblically. If you're in a trial, or want to understand how God can use even the trials of life for our good, this is for you.
Session 14 — 1 Timothy 3:14-4:6, The Ever-Present Danger of Apostasy
In this session, Pastor Paul just stared at the audience for 43 straight minutes. Just kidding. Honestly, even though both my housemate and I have notes on what he spoke about, I don't remember what stood out about this sermon; apparently, by this point I was exhausted. When the sermon is posted, maybe it will jog my memory, but until then, I don't remember!
Session 15 — Revelation 1:4-6, The Need for Reformation in Worship
Pastor Voddie drew on the Trinitarian (Three-in-One) nature of God from this passage, especially noting the pattern of triplets in the book of Revelation. This is a nice pairing with Challies' sermon in session 2.