Hoping for More Than a Conference

The conference has been very good. For details check out Timmy Brister's blog.

Someone told me that there were around 50 "Reformed" conferences this year. I can't confirm that, but it doesn't surprise me. Tim Challies lists 18, and a Google search turned up others. Whatever the number, the increase of such conferences speaks to the growth of the Doctrines of Grace in our American churches. Back in 1983 when the first Founders Conference met in Memphis, TN there was only a small handful of Reformed conferences to attend. Today, I hate having to choose between them all, but this is a fantastic frustration. Throughout any given year now we have gospel-centered gatherings that emphasize a Reformed perspective. These conferences are varied in subject, audience and location. Besides the general subjects other emphases like pastoral ministry, mission(s), youth, college/student, worship, history, art and culture give greater opportunity for the Reformed tradition to demonstrate the transforming power of the Gospel and the truth of God. Such gatherings not only reveal the spread of Calvinism, but contribute to it.

Here's what I'm thinking about. What if all this is more than mere religious activity and theological curiosity? What if all this is connected to the work of God in his church? Could all of this be the precursor to revival? I hope that it is. I love conferences like this, but am always hoping for something greater than a conference. And I have reason for such hope. The great historic revivals have happened when the gospel was plainly preached, when grace was exalted - when men were simply doing what God calls all Christians to do. Jim Elliff explains,

Many are unaware that Jonathan Edwards was preaching a series on justification by faith alone when revival came to New England, or that the many of the Scottish revivals, for instance, were precipitated by the preaching of series on regeneration, or that the highly doctrinal book of Romans has an illustrative history as a tool of great revival of the kind I am speaking. Sound doctrine was at the core of revival.

Revival is not the fruit of innovation, creativity or even extraordinary works. It is the an extraordinary work of God through the very normal means of grace. At the very least, the kind of preaching we hear at the Founders Conference is the kind of preaching God uses to bring about his reviving influence.

Tom Ascol