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.