What is the purpose of going to theology conferences? I haven’t gone to very many in my day – though I did have the pleasure of being at Together for the Gospel last year in Louisville.
Why go, though? What’s the point? This time, I decided I wouldn’t go the Refocus Conference in Burnaby (only 11 hours down the road) unless I could take somebody with me. The point of going this time for me was leadership development. Five of us went, including two teens. One of those teens (the other one, not my son), said that what he came away with was a greater sense of the fear of God. That’s a good thing. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of leadership development, so to speak. The four fellows that I went with all really benefitted from this experience. The teaching was terrific.
What about me? Was this trip completely altruistic? Hardly. I really did want to go. There were many things that I learned, but it always takes me a little while to decide what cumulative effect of the conference … was? Is? Will be? For example, last year, it took me months to figure out that I was much more settled in my role as a simple pastor here in Edson: “Preach the Word and Love the People,” is the lasting lesson from last year’s T4G. I had been stressed by all the things I wasn’t getting done.
It was great going to Refocus with the other guys. That was one thing I missed about T4G last year (though it was great to meet new friends there). We had a long trip to reflect on Refocus and we have talked about it since we’ve been home. Mark Driscoll’s charge to make church a “man factory” (point 2 behind the #1 point of keeping Jesus and the Gospel #1) was a real eye-opener. Build men on a healthy foundation of the Gospel and then you will build a healthy church that is missions minded (I still don’t like the word “missional”). That was a very helpful message.
John Piper’s messages were amazing. I’ve heard a lot of Piper, but I think these three messages were the best ever. Wow. Go watch the videos. John Neufeld’s messages were a breath of fresh air (I went to his workshop, too). This from a Vancouver mega-church pastor? Very encouraging. Paul Negrut was my friend Brian’s favorite speaker (though he thought highly of the others). I can see why. His message on Psalm 2 brought perspective to suffering in light of the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ as one who has experienced persecution in communist Romania.
I’ll listen to these messages again. I’m sure they will make a difference in our church. With a whole bunch of memories running around in my brain, one thing is rising to the surface already. Yes, my title: A Holy Dissatisfaction.
I believe that Christians should always be content but never satisfied. On the one hand, we are to trust God’s providential care and sovereign purpose for our lives. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, ESV). On the other hand, how can we be satisfied with our lives when God is the Gospel? Do we have enough of Him yet?
For instance, I’ve often wondered how the grace and work of Philippians 3:7-14 could be resolved. Sure, Paul says that this righteous is not his own, but it doesn’t seem like he has assurance of his own resurrection and he is consumed with his work, apparently. If we see Paul dissatisfied with his own delight in God Himself as the motivation for the effort, then the passage makes more sense.
If we take the New Testament phrases like “make every effort,” “press on,” “that I might know,” and “work out” as a passion for pleasure in God – a holy dissatisfaction with our current preference for created things rather than the creator – then the picture begins to come into focus. John Piper’s messages last week were masterful. I thought I understood the whole “Desiring God” thing (I read that book years ago), but now I think I’m finally getting it.
I think this concept deserves some fleshing out, so I’ll quit here and do another post with some examples of how this dissatisfaction has been surfacing in my life this week and how it differs from mere restlessness and worldly dissatisfaction.