Advance focuses on gospel
    May 23 2011 by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications

    It all started when Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage 21 Church in Raleigh, had his heart broken because he knew the truth and the truth was not pretty: the church in the southern United States resembled a bone yard. Plenty of big, beautiful church buildings dot the landscape of the South, yet statistically, the majority of them are either dying or in numerical decline.

    In 2008, Jones began talking with pastors from different denominations across the South and they decided to host a conference called “Advance the Church.” This was intended to be a conference focused on how to revive the church, and bring it back to life, in the context of the “new urban South.”

    Jones and other pastors from around Raleigh began gathering once a month for prayer about the conference and how to advance the church in North Carolina and throughout the South. Slowly but surely the line-up of speakers grew to include Jones, J.D. Greear, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Daniel Akin, Bryan Chapell, Mark Driscoll and John Piper. Interest started pouring in. The first conference was hosted in 2009 and has been held the last two years.

    This year the Advance conference was held at the Raleigh Convention Center and featured speakers Alan Hirsch, Daniel Akin, Eric Mason, Darrin Patrick, Tyler Jones, J.D. Greear and NY Times bestselling author Timothy Keller. The theme of the conference was: “Gospel: Recovering the power that made Christianity revolutionary.” Each session featured a sermon or message on topics such as how the gospel changes ecclesiology, discipleship, church planting, the city and community, perspectives on current events, the global mission, church community, and apologetics.

    Keller spoke in two sessions and began by asking the questions, “How does a life shaped by the gospel make a difference in your life? How does it shape your heart?” He then suggested that when the gospel is brought to bear on a believer’s heart it will do at least four things.

    First, the gospel will bring “a new self image and forms of humility” to bear on the Christian’s life. “When the gospel comes into your life you are simultaneously a sinner and adopted and accepted and made right with God,” Keller said.

    The nonbeliever’s self image is in some way always based on their performance. Yet, “when the gospel comes in we see that we are more sinful than we dared to believe while at the same time being more loved and accepted than we ever dreamed we could be,” Keller said. The gospel is quite counter-intuitive, and thus it should “deconstruct and then reconstruct us.”

    Second, Keller said the gospel gives believers a new motivation and depth of joy. “Jesus took everything that we owe. He suffered physically. But he suffered emotionally also. When someone loves us like that, we love in response. Love produces love. Joy displaces fear. If you are happy enough in the gospel, then nothing people say about you will change your opinion of yourself or depress you.”

    Third, the gospel gives the believer a new set of values by which to live. The gospel gives the believer what looks like, by the world’s standards, upside down values. “Jesus came not with a sword in his hand but with nails in his hands. He won by loosing. He triumphed in defeat. He was made famous by serving,” Keller said.

    Fourth, the gospel gives the believer a general unpredictability of thought. Keller argued that, “Christianity is the most pessimistic and the most optimistic way of looking at the world. The Protestant doctrine of total depravity is the most pessimistic doctrine of humanity that exists. But the gospel is the most optimistic solution to the human predicament (sin) that exists.”

    Keller’s second session focused on how the gospel drives apologetics, as people generally want to know what Christians believe and why they believe it.

    The “what” question is answered by the gospel and apologetics answers the “why” question. “You have to be able to tell people ‘what’ and ‘why’ or else they won’t give you the time of day. Apologetics is a defense of the gospel, not the gospel itself,” Keller said.

    Keller warned against taking pride in doctrine or in one’s ability and skills. Apologetics is not winning an argument; it’s about sharing the hope and grace of the gospel.

    Keller concluded by saying that at the heart of a skeptic is really faith, as it takes faith to doubt Christianity. “The only way to judge the natural world as being bad (evil, suffering) is to have a supernatural view of it. Where do we get that supernatural view from? If there is no God then everything is relative and deep down everyone knows that,” Keller said. “The Christian has to show people that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it. Tell the Biblical narrative in such a way that people wish it was true; once you get them there, then you can do apologetics.”

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    5/23/2011 8:14:00 AM by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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