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gospel coalition

April 24, 2009

Yesterday I posted the first part of an answer to the question many people have asked me (and the question I’ve, in turn, asked many other people: What Is The Gospel Coalition? In that article I answered a few of the what, where and why questions. Today I want to discuss how you and I can be involved in it.

Important to the ethos of The Gospel Coalition are the differences between an organization and a movement. The leadership of TGC wants it to be both. It is an organization in that it has leadership (through D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and the Council Members), in that it has charitable status, foundation documents and the like. The organization is important to provide structure and to provide a common vision. But primarily, TGC is (or its leaders hope it will become) a movement. Tim Keller says that a movement depends upon unity around a vision for the future that is carried on by those with shared beliefs. And he says that a movement depends on a level of grassroots spontaneity. There needs to be some control over the shared vision and belief and this, of course, is the job of the organization. But within that bit of structure comes great freedom and great ability for spontaneity.

The Gospel Coalition exists to create a network of like-minded believers who are committed to the gospel and are committed to working with other believers to further the gospel. One person compared TGC to a magnet that passes over iron filings in a box of sand, grabbing the filings and binding them together. Through networking, both online and offline, TGC hopes to find pockets of Christians who are committed to the gospel and to bring them together for that gospel, for missions, to change lives. Though such networking can happen through traditional means and undoubtedly will continue to happen through traditional means, TGC has launched a social media site, The Gospel Coalition Network, that they hope will serve as a means of bringing Christians together based on geography and common interest. If you are unfamiliar with the term “social media,” think of Facebook or MySpace or the like. It is software that fosters relationships and connections.

As networks grow, so too will opportunities for these like-minded Christians to work together in their regions or for their common interests. So as a network grows in the Greater Toronto Area (to use just one example), members, many of whom may never have met each other before finding one another through The Gospel Coalition Network, can begin to meet to discuss concerns common to Toronto or to inform one another of local events. They should be able to find many ways of working together to further the gospel. They may choose to begin a local chapter (explained below) to provide a more formal TGC presence in that area.

And so the best way for you to get a taste of The Gospel Coalition, and for you to get involved, is to begin to use that software. This software is absolutely free for anyone (men or women, pastors or laypersons, North American or European, etc). The TGC leadership is hoping that tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people will create accounts and begin to use it. As of this very moment there are 2874 people registered with many more registering every day.

There are four terms you should be familiar with as you begin to use the software and begin to get involved in TGC.

“Participants” need only fill out a few digital forms at which point they can join in the discussion. They do not have to agree with The Gospel Coalition; they do not have to be Christians. The “participants” level is for anyone wanting to engage in networking and in discussion of common themes with other people. These people can create an account and immediately begin participating in groups, discussions, and so on.

“Members” are asked to take a further step in the registration process: they are asked to read the Foundation Documents, all of which are available online—Preamble, Statement of Faith, and Theological Vision of Ministry—and signal their agreement with these documents, without mental reservation. Only members will be allowed to start new groups on the Network.

“Groups” are simply groupings of members and participants based around a common theme or common geography. Groups may be based around location (Greater Toronto Area), interest (Church History), occupation (Youth Pastors), church (First Baptist Church) and so on. Each Group has a leader who can moderate that group, determine who may be a part of it, and so on.

“Chapters” are regional centers for carrying on the work of The Gospel Coalition at local and regional levels. Already, for instance, TGC Bay Area (San Francisco) exists, and several other regional chapters are on the cusp of forming. TGC hopes and expects that such local leadership will be far more effective at the local level than a central Council can possibly be. For obvious reasons they insist that these local chapters share the vision and priorities enshrined in the Foundation Documents. They hope in due course to serve these local chapters with special web pages and the like.

Your sign-up page depends on your geographic location:

If you are interested in being involved in TGC, simply sign up and get involved. If you agree with the Foundation Documents, consider becoming a member. Find groups that interest you or, if no such group exists, create one. Find friends, find local interests, and join in the discussion. And then take the relationships offline and begin to get involved with other Christians in working together for the gospel in your region. This is not the entirety of what it means to participate in TGC, but it is the place to start.

In all of this talk about the Gospel Coalition Network, I do not want to neglect to mention all of the resources TGC offers through their web site. By visiting the thegospelcoalition.org you will find a large and fast-growing list of resources meant to serve both churches and individual Christians. You will find the theological journal themelios, information about the Christ on Campus Initiative, conference audio and video, interviews and much more. Some of the resources coming in the near future are going to be better still.

So there is your introduction to The Gospel Coalition. Feel free to ask questions and, if I can, I will answer them. If I do not know the answers, I will try to find someone who does.

April 23, 2009

As I wrote yesterday, I am in Chicago at The Gospel Coalition Conference and I am here primarily to discover what The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is and why you and I should care about it. It is my impression that most people are quite confused, as I am, about what the organization is and what it hopes to accomplish. I am also uncertain as to who this organization is for—whether it is exclusively for pastors, if it is for both pastors and laypersons, and whether it is open to Christians of all stripes or only those who hold to certain points of theology.

And so I have been here on a fact-finding mission. Today and tomorrow I will share with you what I’ve learned (and what I am continuing to learn).

What is The Gospel Coalition Not?
Sometimes it is easier to define something from the perspective of what it is not. This may help alleviate confusion by allowing us to see what roles this organization does not intend to play. And in this case we will find that The Gospel Coalition is not a church and that it is not a denomination. It seeks to support both churches and denominations but to exist separately from them. It is wider than denominations even while acknowledging that denominations must continue to exist. It seeks to support the local church without replacing it.

It is also not a replacement for anything. It seeks to exist alongside Together for the Gospel (which is why they have conferences on alternating years) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It exists alongside churches and denominations.

The Gospel Coalition is also not a conference. It does (at least at the moment) have a large conference every two years, but this is only a part of what it is and what it does.

Who is The Gospel Coalition?
The Gospel Coalition is the brainchild of D.A. Carson and Tim Keller and they continue to lead it. However, they do hope that this organization will outlive them and will move beyond them. There are at this time only one or two employees of The Gospel Coalition. Beyond these men exists a Council of approximately fifty members who provide leadership, guidance and oversight. These Council members, all men and mostly pastors, are diverse theologically (within the theological foundation of TGC) and racially. And beyond the council are thousands of Christians of all walks of life who are members of TGC.

What is the Theological Foundation of The Gospel Coalition?
TGC has three foundation documents which you can access here. They are “The Gospel for All of Life: Preamble,” “Confessional Statement” and “Theological Vision for Ministry.” The documents are very consistent with the theology of the Reformation. They are distinctly Calvinistic when it comes to salvation and broad when it comes to secondary issues such as baptism and the end times.

Why Does The Gospel Coalition Exist?
The founders of The Gospel Coalition hope that it can become very big and very influential. In that way it is quite different from, say, Together for the Gospel, which is much more limited in its scope. Yet this want this to happen from the bottom up, not the top down. The Gospel Coalition wants you (no matter who you are) to become an active participant and to participate on a regular basis. And through hundreds of thousands of participants, they want to create a network of like-minded believers who, together, can “stimulate one another to faithfulness and fruitfulness in life and ministry in this rapidly-changing, increasingly urbanized, and spiritually hungry world.” “National and regional conferences constitute part of the outworking of this vision. At the same time we hope in due course to foster ties of mutual encouragement and support with believers in other cultures from which we have much to learn.”

So TGC exists, at least in part, to create and to foster a network of Christians (and a network of networks of Christians) who are committed to the gospel and are committed to working with other believers to further the gospel. They seek to do this on a regional level, a national level and even an international level.

And now I have a few more i’s to dot and a few more t’s to cross. In my next article I will tell you about how you, no matter who you are (Christian or not, Reformed or not, Pastor or not, etc, etc) can participate and whether or not, at least as far as I can determine, you should participate.

April 22, 2009

Since yesterday morning I’ve been in Chicago at The Gospel Coalition Conference. This is my first time at this particular conference and, as you may have noticed, I am not giving it the usual liveblog treatment. The sessions are going out live over the internet (where, from what I hear, tens of thousands of people are taking them in) so there seemed to be little reason to go through all the work of typing out summaries. If you want to watch them, simply head over to christianity.com. You can watch live as it happens and, as soon as they can work out the details, you’ll also be able to watch the archived sessions.

I came here with one goal—to figure out what The Gospel Coalition is and to find out if (and why) you should care. And, honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. It has proven a bit harder than I would have thought. Somehow the vision for this organization or conference or movement—this coalition—is just a little bit hard for me to describe. This is the reason for the silence on my blog—I’ve been learning. I’ve been going to sessions featuring D.A. Carson and Tim Keller (the men behind it) and have been talking to guys like Ben Peays who does the administration and is, as far as I know, one of only one or two employees of the Coalition. I’ve been asking almost everyone I meet while walking the halls and hanging out in the bookstore, “What is The Gospel Coalition?”.

I think I am starting to figure it out. Check in here tomorrow and I will start to tell you what it is, what it hopes to be and how you can be a part of it.

December 25, 2006

It is Christmas. Our day began a little bit earlier than I would have liked, but also a little bit later than I had expected. With our children growing older, we are finally able to celebrate Christmas the way I remember it as a child - a day of rising early and trembling with anticipation, hoping, just hoping, that the toy you wanted most is there, waiting under the tree. Christmas is a great time to be a father, to enjoy the children squealing with excitement, joy and gratitude. I was thrilled to hear my children suggest that “mommy and daddy should open presents first this year since they take such good care of us.”

Because the children are only now coming to that age where they really appreciate Christmas, we are only just beginning to create some family Christmas traditions. To this point our traditions have been derived from a combination of how my family celebrated and how Aileen’s family celebrated. Neither family made Christmas into a distinctly religious occasion, so such an emphasis does not come naturally to either one of us. We are still not sure how much we will emphasize Christmas as Jesus’ birthday and how much we’ll just emphasize family, giving, gratitude, and so on. We’re uncertain if the day will revolve around the birth of Jesus or around Christian virtues. I suppose we’ll just have to see how the day evolves as time goes on.

After spending a good bit of my morning building Lego spaceships, assembling Playmobil garden centers, and cleaning up scattered bits of plastic and wrapping paper, Aileen and I were able to turn our attention to dinner. We got our Presbyterian Turkey all prepped and ready to go (we consider it Presbyterian and certainly not Baptist after we poured a half a bottle of sherry into its body cavity), the potatoes peeled and the table set. Now we’re just waiting for my in-laws to arrive in an hour or two. Already it has been a wonderful Christmas. I suspect it will get better still.

So from me to you, and from my family to yours, have a safe and wonderful and blessed Christmas Day.

October 30, 2006

Monday October 30, 2006

Reformation Day: If you are a blogger, don’t forget about the Reformation Day Symposium. Entries are due by tomorrow. Get details here.

Music: The wonderfully eclectic Sufjan Stevens has a series of Christmas albums coming out and they are available for pre-order beginning tomorrow from this site. “Having an inherent aversion to the standard Christmas carol, Sufjan indulged in the project initially as an exercise to make himself ‘appreciate’ Christmas more. It was a tough childhood, but you can’t be a Christmas Curmudgeon forever, can you? What he discovered, for better or for worse, was a fascinating canon of Yuletide hits, some emotionally rewarding, some painfully cliche.”

Book: Tyndale House is collecting stories for a new book. They are asking for people to submit stories of how their life verse changed their life. My life verse is that one that commands us to have a life verse. Where is that one again?

Blogs: A new service from Google allows you to create alerts for particular subjects being discussed in the blogosphere. Check it out here.

December 25, 2003
Merry Christmas! I don’t suppose you expected me to say anything else on Christmas Day.

I have been up for the last hour, waiting for the kiddies to get up. I’ve taken the time to do checks of all my regular Web sites (news, blogs, etc) and now am just waiting…

And so I wish you a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour.