Friday, April 13, 2007

Twin Lakes Fellowship 2007

The 2007 edition of the Twin Lakes Fellowship (TLF) was nothing short of extraordinary. I'll have more to say about it later on, but for now, let me say this.

What a blessing it was to have faithful ministers from all over North America and the World, from the PCA, ARP, PCUSA, OPC, RPCNA, Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, and other Presbyterian/Reformed bodies, as well as from Baptist churches, Bible churches, et al. Dr. Dominic Aquila, the current Moderator of the PCA was with us, as was Dr. Guy Richardson, President of RTS-Jackson, Brad Bradley of the Southwest Area Church Planting Network and Dr. Andrew T.B. McGowan, Principal of the Highlands Theological College, Scotland and leader in the World Reformed Fellowship.

Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Peter Jones, founder and executive director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet and Scholar in Residence (and former Prof of NT) at Westminster Seminary California, gave a stellar lecture on Christianity and the New Spiritualities. Then we enjoyed an interview with Dr. Phil Ryken, Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA concerning the forthcoming Literary Study Bible and the Reformed Expository Commentary Series (by P&R). This commentary series is designed to provide a comprehensive exposition of the text that is doctrinal (committed to the Westminster Standards), redemptive-historical (committed to a Christ-centered view of the Old Testament), and practical (committed to applying the text to people today). Co-editors with Phil are Rick Phillips, Iain Duguid and Dan Doriani.

Tuesday night, Dr. Doug Kelly (Jordan Professor of Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC) preached a powerful message on forgiveness, and hit us all right between the eyes. Jay Harvey remarked to me afterwards that Dr. Kelly has this amazing way of disguising his own intellect, learning and profundity behind the simplicity and clarity of his sermons. Dr. Kelly's hallmark emphasis on prayer and the importance of unseen, supernatural reality was everywhere evident. Dr. Harry Reeder of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham led the service, and his prayers (in particular) were exceedingly powerful.

On Wednesday morning, The Reverend David Robertson (Senior Minister of St. Peter's Free Church, Dundee, Scotland and Church Planting Consultant to PCA MTW Europe) gave a brilliant address on Robert Murrary M'Cheyne drawing applications from the life and ministry of that famous 19th century Scottish inner city Pastor and using them to inform church planting and ministry today. Later Wednesday morning, the Reverend Brian Habig, PCA church planter, former RUF campus minister and now Pastor of the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina brought a tremendously convicting and challenging word to us to be more intentional in our Gospel witness as pastors, right in our own contexts. This worship service was ably led by the Reverend Kevin Smith, a self-identified "recovering church planter" and currently the Senior Pastor of the Pinelands PCA Church in Miami, Florida.

On Wednesday afternoon, we enjoyed a scintillating conversation with Wy Plummer, Lance Lewis, Kevin Smith, Erwin Ince and Thabiti Anyabwile about Reformed outreach to the African-American community. These dear friends gave us tremendous insights about the most important things for the PCA to do in its witness to African-Americans. Hearing their own testimonies of how they came to Christ, to the doctrines of grace and to the PCA (except for Thabiti -- who said his name meant "token Baptist on the panel" in Swahili!) was hugely inspiring. They also spoke forthrightly and helpfully about obstacles to African-Americans embracing reformed theology and becoming members of PCA churches. Then we enjoyed interviews with Dr. Don Carson Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago and leader in the Gospel Coalition; and Dr. Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and head of IX Marks Ministries. Don told us about his upcoming book Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans) and about the Gospel Coalition meeting in May. Mark told us about a number of his current and forthcoming writing projects, and kindly answered our questions about how Presbyterians could benefit from the ministry and resources of IX Marks.

Wednesday night, the Reverend Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands preached a powerful message on Ephesians 2. His introduction was riveting, his exposition solid and his final four applications were penetrating. He was ably assisted in the worship service by the Reverend Jay Harvey.

Thursday morning, our dear friend Dr. Derek Thomas, Minister of Teaching at First Presbyterian Church and Professor of Practical and Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary preached a gloriously encouraging message on the Benediction. More on that soon.

The Twin Lakes staff spoiled us all rotten, fed us well and generally waited on us hand and foot. Of course, an annual highlight for me is singing with and hearing the men sing. I'd come just for that!

A friend wrote me today and said: "thanks for another wonderful Twin Lakes Fellowship oasis in the sometimes-desert of solo pastoral ministry. Once again, TLF was a Providentially-appointed blend for me of encouragement, instruction, rebuke, and inspiration. It was a particular treat for me to bring a Ruling Elder with me this year. After the introduction to the TLF on Tuesday afternoon, he turned to me and said, 'I understand you so much better now.' The singing, as always, nearly reduced me to tears several times and the readings from Alexander Whyte have whet my appetite for a new vicarious friend."

What did that introduction say that we longed to see come out of the Twin Lakes Fellowship?

". . . a strong coalition of Bible-saturated, truth-driven, God-entranced, prayer-soaked, aggressively evangelistic, Christ-treasuring and exalting, Spirit-filled, sovereign grace-loving, missions-advancing, hell-robbing, strong-thinking, real-need-exposing, soul-winning, mind-engaging, vagueness-rejecting, wartime-life-style-pursuing, risk-taking, justice-advancing, Scripture-expounding, cross-cherishing, homosexuality-opposing, abortion-denouncing, racism-resisting, heaven-desiring, imputation-of-an-alien righteousness-proclaiming, justification-by-faith-alone-apart-from-doing preaching, error-exposing, complementarian, joyful, humble, loving, courageous, happy pastors working together for the Gospel. (Thanks to John Piper for many of these words and thoughts).

"And we want to see them leading strong evangelical churches who, while they hold as faithfully and biblically as they know how to certain doctrinal distinctives not shared by all other biblical evangelical churches, band together for the Gospel on a basis that is robustly doctrinal, historic, orthodox, reformational, world-opposing-while-at-the-same-time-world-serving, Bible-preaching, Scriptural-theology-inculcating, real-conversion-prizing, deep biblical evangelism-practicing, New Testament church-membership-and-leadership-implementing, church-discipline-applying, healthy and growing Disciple-making, – all for the display of God’s glory in the churches.

"May the Lord raise up such a ministerial fraternity – not on the basis of doctrinal minimalism but rather on the basis of shared conviction of the truth and Gospel forbearance in the areas where we differ; not to the detriment of our convictions regarding our distinctives in faith and practice in the local churches and families of churches we serve, but to their enhancement. And may the Lord raise up churches that are truly a witness to grace in this passing age, a display of the glory and power of God’s saving grace, outposts of heaven, suburbs of eternity. For the church is God’s strategy, and there is no plan B.

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