I spent Thursday through Saturday at the Advance 09 conference at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
Advance 09 was sort of the springboard for Advance The Church, which you might describe as a movement dedicated to shifting the momentum of christianity in America from hypocrisy, politics, morality, pragmatism, and judgment to a hyper-focus on Jesus, His death, burial, and resurrection, and all the consequences that follow from that.
A joint effort of TheResurgence, DesiringGod, and Acts 29, I was interested in the conference as soon as I heard about it, and especially because it happened only about 30 minutes from my house, I prayed seriously about whether to go; but I was also hesitant because it was a little expensive and also required a day off work. But God seemed to really nudge me to get there, and He seriously cleared a path to make the decision easy.
In the end, I walked away with so much. I still feel like my head is going to explode. If I took the time to write out everything that happened this weekend, you probably wouldn’t even have time to read it, but here is some processing by way of bullet points (you can also download the entire conference audio here for free):
The Message – When you get Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Danny Aiken, and Ed Stetzer in a room together, give them each a topic to teach on, and then say ‘go’, here’s what you might expect to happen: you might expect all the conference attendees to walk away with a ton of new information and a couple of new man-crushes on these great guys and how well they know the scripture and how much they love Jesus. But that isn’t what happened at all. Even though there were about a dozen sermons on a variety of topics over the course of three days, there was one very strong theme: repentance. The work of the Holy Spirit was evident as He wove together each topic into one message: the Christian life is one of continual repentance. And rather than trying harder to build our churches into more glorious idols to ourselves and our religiosity, we need to repent of all the effort and energy we put into chasing everything but Jesus. It’s like the main point of the conference was “Whatever we make the main point of this conference will be an idol and therefore wicked, unless it’s Jesus.” It rang in my ears. It’s great perspective.
The DPAC – The Durham Performing Arts Center is a crazy nice building, and the staff there were surprisingly kind and friendly. The one exception is the people who scanned tickets — they were all pretty mean in my experience. Also, bring your credit card, ’cause they won’t let you carry anything in, and they charge you 3 bucks for a bad cup of coffee.
Fellowship – My spirit has literally been shriveling up and dying for lack of good fellowship with Godly brothers who love Jesus. Friday night, I sat down for dinner with two new friends. We spent three hours talking — until they kicked us out — and then another hour and half standing outside Panera. Just awesome.
Old People – Yes, that is seriously a bullet point here: old people. God challenged my heart towards older people this weekend. Not that I ever consciously felt any animosity or disrespect towards anyone, but I see now that I had an un-founded assumption that older people are generally judgmental and stuck in their ways and blind to their selfishness in retiring and watching TV or playing cards all day. Yes, I realize how terrible that sounds, and I don’t think I ever would have said that, but I think that in some way I probably believed it. But I met some people this weekend who challenged me, bit time! I met a little old couple — maybe 70-something — who have left their denomination to help a young pastor start a reformed, Acts 29 church in downtown Charleston, SC. I’ve never met two people so excited to see a church get going who weren’t part of the official leadership. I also sat 2 seats down for a guy who’s leaving for Malaysia in a couple of weeks — indefinitely. He’s “retiring” to the mission field. And he talked about it like, “Of course I’m doing this. Is there really any option?” So ridiculously awesome.
Missions – Which leads to the last point — at least for now: Piper brought the thunder about world missions. I felt so convicted and encouraged by his teaching. I just don’t have anything in my life right now that reminds me that God gave us a global mission. I feel like I struggle to have a mission that goes in a 20-foot circumference around me. The ends of the earth? What’s that about? But I think my dreams are way too small. My perspective is all out of whack. I’m so thankful for Piper reminding us that Jesus’ heart breaks for the lost people groups crying out to Him for direction. Love it!