Here I am in Cleveland to take in The Basics conference. I drove up here with my friend Jason and after an early start we arrived just around noon. We ate at a local restaurant and I continued my strategy (borrowed from Thabiti Anyabwile) of always asking the server just to bring me whatever she thinks I’d enjoy. So far it has proven a good strategy. I recommend trying it!
The conference began at 3 PM with a round of seminars. Like last year, I led a seminar dealing with blogging (“Blogging Your Ministry”) though this time we did more of an interactive Q&A format. Though it may not make much sense to a person simply listening to the recording, I think it was a reasonably valuable time. I enjoyed it, at the very least! Tomorrow I’ll tackle discernment in a second seminar.
The conference proper began an hour later with Alistair Begg welcoming the 600+ attendees. He made a point of pointing out that this year they asked for each person’s denominational affiliation…and that we were true post-modernists with almost half of those in attendance being undeclared! The attendees come from 35 states and 9 countries. It is truly a diverse crowd.
After Begg’s welcome, Jerry Bridges provided the first of his addresses. In all the conferences I’ve been to, this is the first time I’ve ever heard Bridges speak. He is a natural fit for this event. The subject of this conference is “Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves” and it will focus on the gospel in the heart and mind of the pastor. When people think of preaching the gospel to ourselves I’m sure many think of Bridges who, in his terms, “paparazzized” this term, borrowing it from another preacher.
He began by saying that we tend to slip into the understanding that the gospel is addressed only to sinners. We can forget that we are practicing sinners—sinners every day in thought, word, deed and motive. Hence we need to continue basing our lives on the gospel and need to continue to preach the gospel to ourselves. This is the foundation on which he will build his messages.
This talk started by introducing his two all-time favorite books. The first is The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton and the second is Communion with the Triune God by John Owen (and here he recommended the modernized version edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor). As he gave this message, by his own admission, he broke the first rule of homiletics by quoting extensively from another person. And the man he quoted is John Owen. Because the talk was based around extended quotes, I was not able to really do a whole lot to encapsulate them (understanding Owen is hard enough—transcribing him is near impossible). So I’ll refer you to the audio if you’d wish to learn more…and will try to do a bit better with the remaining messages!