Category Archives: Conferences

Resources for Wrestling with Contentment

If you are discontent, then you need this post. If you are perfectly content, then you need it too. We were made for contentment, but ever since Adam decided that God wasn’t enough, contentment has been a problem for all of us. Evidence of this problem is everywhere, from storefronts to the thoughts in our head. Some of our discontentment is for superficial reasons, and some of it from sickness, hurt, loss, and sin with its various and pervasive effects.

What does Christianity offer to discontented people like us in an unsatisfying world like this? Exactly what we need. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to die for our sins of discontent. But he also came with thirst-quenching living water. He came to satisfy us with the bread of heaven—that is, himself. He promises that one day he will satisfy us completely in a whole new creation.

C. H. Spurgeon put it this way:

The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveler in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home.

Rick Phillips and Thabiti Anyabwile recently teamed up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to address the theme of contentment in the Christian life at Clarus ’14. Attended by 700 from across the region, Clarus is TGC’s Southwest Regional Conference hosted by Desert Springs Church in partnership with TGC Albuquerque.

Click here for photos from this year’s conference, here for songs we sang together, and here to download the song “My Father Planned it All.” This is an old text to a new tune recorded live at this year’s conference and a great match for this year’s theme.

Thabiti Anyabwile

“Contentment Consummated: The New Heaven and New Earth” – Revelation 21:1-22:6 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment with Our Possessions” – 1 Timothy 6:3-10 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment through Communion with Christ” – 1 John 2:28-3:3 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment with Christ’s Body, the Church” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (audio, blog recap)

Rick Phillips

“Contentment Lost: Sin and Restlessness” – Genesis 3 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment Found: Jesus Saves and Satisfies” – John 4:10-15 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment with Our Weaknesses” – 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (audio, blog recap)

“Contentment with Identity” – Psalm 16 (audio, blog recap)

Panel Discussion

Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips (audio, blog recap)

Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

“I don’t know any pastor who has been more personally fruitful in discipleship ministry than Randy Pope,” Tim Keller observes. “Nor do I know of any church leader who has had a more sustained, lifelong commitment to making the ministry of discipleship a pervasive force throughout his whole church.”

Pope sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss his vision for and experience with church-anchored discipleship over the past 25 years. ”Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel,” explains the founding pastor of Atlanta’s Perimeter Church and author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church (Zondervan, 2013) [written interview | TGC13 workshop]. “If you want to see lives change, you’ve got to do it life-on-life.” 

How does this vision get worked out practically? “We start small and invest deeply in the lives of a few,” Pope says. ”It’s important to go deep before you go wide.” At Perimeter this process entails small groups that gather weekly to invest time in truth, equipping, accountability, mission, and supplication (“TEAMS”).

Watch the full nine-minute video to see Pope discuss leadership development, training clinics, how this vision fuels global missions, and more.

Randy Pope from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.


Why Nehemiah?

I thought of Nehemiah this week, in the midst of a Christian wedding ceremony attended by several thousand, in a country with the world’s largest Muslim population. The wedding was like a light shining bright, and I could only look up and see the hand of God at work on behalf of his people and his gospel. I pictured Nehemiah serving in the Persian court, finding favor from King Artaxerxes as he presented his plan to visit and help his people in Jerusalem. “The king granted me what I asked,” Nehemiah reports, “for the good hand of my God was upon me” (1:8).

TGCW14 AdNehemiah reminded me to see through—to the invisible reality of the good hand of God actively shaping the course of the nations, for his sovereign, eternal gospel purposes. The tumultuous events in Ukraine are being directed by God’s good hand. North Korea and South Korea are in God’s good hand. And the United States too. All the nations are finally his. I love getting glimpses of this truth—and being reminded of it even in the dark.

I thought of Nehemiah this week, as my husband and I chatted with our driver on a traffic-filled trip to a dinner on the other side of the island where we were staying. Not only did our friendly driver want to practice his English; he also enjoyed talking about his Hindu faith. We asked him lots of questions, and lots about various religious figures, including Jesus—all of whom, he confidently asserted, are manifestations of the one god. Do the gods ever fight with each other, we asked? “No no no . . . they never fight,” he said. “They live up in the mountains where it is all peaceful.” As we talked, my husband and I found ourselves sending up “bullet prayers,” the kind Nehemiah reports praying in the midst of his interchange with the king (2:4). Those prayers are incredibly comforting, as you’re searching for the next comment, the next available opening to point to the Lord Jesus.

I thought of Nehemiah this week, in the midst of various Indonesian worship gatherings filled with many wise elderly people and even more strong, winsome young men and women who are being educated on the foundation of God’s Word for their various callings. Into my mind came the magnificent scene in Nehemiah 8 with that great gathering in Jerusalem’s square before the Water Gate, where “men and women and all who could understand what they heard” assembled at sunrise and stayed for hours to hear and learn the Book of the Law. This is what we need to do, I thought. This has always been what we need to do, as God’s people—worship with the Word at the center, and pass on that Word faithfully to the next generation.

I thought of Nehemiah this week, in witnessing Christian leaders here in Indonesia working with all their energy and hearts and hands for the sake of gospel witness. Some here have the means to sit back and simply enjoy life in this beautiful country—but they are right in there laboring with their brothers and sisters day and night in order to accomplish gospel work during an open window of opportunity. I pictured the high priest and priests in Nehemiah 3 getting their hands dirty building that sheep gate, along with all the others lined up in section after section of the hard, rushed, messy work along Jerusalem’s wall. I was convicted by the call to be awake and faithful now, with the day at hand. I remembered the Tekoite nobles who by contrast “would not stoop to serve their Lord” (3:5).

I thought of Nehemiah this week, reading in Hebrews about the confidence we believers enjoy as we enter the holy presence of God by the blood of Jesus (10:19). Nehemiah put forth unrelenting effort to re-establish Jerusalem with its temple as the center of the ceremonial worship system, according to the Law given by Moses. Nehemiah loved God’s Law, and he helped the people celebrate in worship according to it, with priests regularly offering up those sacrifices, spilling the blood of all those animals—pointing forward faithfully to the only blood of the only Lamb of God who could take away sins, through his death for us on the cross.

Why Nehemiah? It speaks right into today. In any corner of the globe. Of course it does; it is the living and active Word of God.

Not only will the The Gospel Coalition 2014 Women’s Conference plenary talks take us right through the book of Nehemiah, but we’ll be pleased to present a new Bible study in Nehemiah created specifically in coordination with the conference: REBUILD: A Study in Nehemiah (LifeWay). It’s been a joyful joint effort: I wrote the study, Don Carson edited it, and then he and Nancy Guthrie and I created teaching videos to accompany each of the eight sessions. We’re hoping those who attend will want to study further—and will leave better equipped to help others study this compelling Old Testament narrative.

Nehemiah is a powerful story. We can’t wait to get into it together at TGCW14.

CBMW 2014

How Complementarian Teaching Shaped My Life

Editors’ note: We hope you’ll join our friends at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at their inaugural national conference on Tuesday, April 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. Addressing “A Brave New Movement: CBMW and the Gospel,” speakers include The Gospel Coalition Council members John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Kevin DeYoung, and Albert Mohler, along with many others, such as Melissa Kruger and Trillia Newbell. Learn more about the purpose and need for such an event in the following article, written by CBMW conference coordinator Grant Castleberry.

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When I was in the Marine Corps, I remember once hanging out with some other officers during the day as we escaped the heat. We were all telling funny stories about that day and taking a few minutes to cool off in the air conditioning. Then one of them tossed a Playboy magazine to me and told me to check out a certain girl. I refused to look. When they all asked why I wouldn’t look, I quoted Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin.” One of them, quick-witted, replied, “I don’t think she’s a virgin.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at his joke. “But all the same,” I said, “I will not look at any woman’s body besides my wife’s.” They all nodded in an understanding way, but in the moment that followed, we all realized something: we did not share the same standard of morality. Awkward silence followed.

CBMW 2014I think many Christians have similar experiences as they strive to live out the ethics of the kingdom of Christ in today’s culture, especially in regards to sexual purity and gender roles. They run head on into opposition to the gospel and to Scripture from people they love and care about. In reality, things have not changed all that much over the centuries. In the Graeco-Roman world, when the New Testament was written, the ethics of Christ’s kingdom regarding sexuality and gender were also seen as counter-cultural. That’s what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 regarding purity:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.

Peter goes on to say that Christian women are co-heirs with their husbands in Christ in 1 Peter 3:7, a thought that would have been seen as revolutionary in that culture:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

So I am not surprised when people who do not know Christ do not conform their lives to God’s standard for gender and sexuality. And in some sense, it is easy to understand how even young believers or confused believers, living in a sensual culture, can fail to understand God’s standards for purity, gender, and marriage. It’s a process for all of us as we are conformed into the image of Christ.

Here are a few things I learned in my journey to understanding what it means to live out the ethics of Christ regarding sexuality and gender, a view that I have come to know as complementarianism.

1. Christ was worth my singleness.

Christian singleness can be difficult. I say Christian singleness, because our culture champions singleness as a time of sexual freedom and experiential adventure. But the Christian single is called to sexual purity and to not cohabit with someone other than his spouse. In my early 20s I remember facing the reality that I probably would not get married for a long time. I was 24 years old in 2008, and I was staring a two-year tour of duty in Japan in the face. That worried me—until one night in April. I was traveling for a buddy’s wedding. I had recently bought Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and decided to bring it along on the plane. While on the flight, I read the first chapter by John Piper on singleness. I was cut to the core by Piper’s exhortation to maximize singleness. I was moved by the accounts of singleness by people who necessarily didn’t feel “called” to be single. As I watched the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico outside my window, a new thought dawned: I must leverage my singleness for the glory of Christ.

That’s exactly the type of life Jesus is getting at in the parables in Matthew 13. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a treasure that a man finds hidden in a field. The man sells everything he had to buy the field and possess the treasure. Jesus’ point is that he and thus his kingdom are worth our all, everything we have to give, including our singleness.

2. When you do it God’s way, marriage becomes a lot easier.

When I got married, many people told me that marriage would be a lot harder than I expected. Some told me that the first two years especially would be tough as my wife and I got used to living with each other. In one sense those warnings were true. It is difficult to always strive to serve someone more than yourself. But at the same time, we have found that striving to serve God and each other in our God-designed roles in marriage has made our marriage relationship much better.

What does that look like? We agree that it is my job to:

  • love and serve her as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25-28);
  • joyfully provide for her and our children (Gen. 2:15; 1 Tim. 5:8);
  • be the self-sacrificial leader of our family (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Tim. 3:4).

We also agree that her role in our marriage is to:

  • primarily be my helper in everything that God has called me to do (Gen. 2:20);
  • be the primary caretaker of our young children (1 Tim. 2:15; Tit. 2:5);
  • follow my leadership as long as my leadership conforms to God’s will (Eph. 5:22-23).

We do not fulfill our roles perfectly; we need the gospel daily. But we have found that as we strive to serve each other in our respective roles, our relationship grows stronger. In other words, when you do things God’s way, you open up the door for God’s blessing.

3. Someone must be held accountable.

I learned early on first as a yell leader at Texas A&M, and then as an officer in the Marine Corps, that a leader is always accountable. When I was a series commander at Parris Island, one of my drill instructors fell asleep while driving early in the morning, crashed his car into a telephone pole, and sustained severe injuries (he has since fully recovered). The entire company had been working on little sleep for days. This accident could have happened to any of us.

But I’ll never forget the conversation with my battalion commander the next time I saw him. In a helpful way, he reminded me that I was accountable for this Marine’s accident because he was in my command. He pointed out how I had not ensured that he was properly rested and how I had kept the drill instructors on the base late the night before for a meeting. He concluded the conversation by saying, “Lieutenant Castleberry, you are accountable for everything that happens in this series, whether you know about it or not.” I wasn’t offended. I knew then what it meant to be a leader.

It is the same way in marriage. God holds men accountable for what happens in their marriages, whether they want to be held accountable or not, because it is clear that God expects men to be the leaders of their households (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Tim. 3:4). That’s why when Adam and Eve sinned, God addressed Adam, even though they were both standing before him (Gen 3:9).

4. Our differences should be celebrated as we pursue Christ together.

Men and women are different, but we both bear the image of God (Gen. 1:27). We represent God’s rule on this earth in our differences. And in the new heavens and new earth we will finally break through the trappings of sin to experience creation as God intended.

It is also encouraging to realize that in one sense, the kingdom is already here (Luke 10:9; 17:21). It has already broken through into our present reality, even though it is not finally consummated. Together, men and women, we have been redeemed by a God who is transforming us into the image of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Therefore let us press into what God has made us to be.

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Learn more from CBMW executive director Owen Strachan about the upcoming conference, then register to reserve your spot on April 8.

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S1NGLE—God’s Gifts: Our Plans

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Livestream this sold-out event at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. 

For the 25 years Redeemer has existed, the majority of its attenders have been single. There are thousands of singles at Redeemer seeking to engage the culture with hope and integrity. Join Redeemer for this conference to hear personal stories, theological reflections, and a Q&A dialogue about being single. This conference is for you whether you are single, have single friends, are praying for singles, ministering to singles, or just want to encourage the ministry of the church.


  • Brent Bounds: Introduction, Q&A Moderation
  • Wesley Hill: I Love You Because You’re Mine: Friendship and the Single Life
  • Jessica Hong: Expectations vs. Reality
  • Bethany Jenkins: Why I Hate the Term ‘Single’ (And Why You Should, Too)
  • Tim Keller: Theology of Singleness
  • Kathy Keller: Singles and the Rest of the World: The Commonalities of Suffering
  • Jordan Tanksley: What You Didn’t Know About Being Single
  • Janice Worth: Testimony
Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST

Watch the livestream.

Platform Building and the Gospel: Band of Bloggers

Band of Bloggers 2014

There’s a lot of pressure today for pastors and leaders to build their “platform” in order to gain an audience and influence, especially if they’re seeking to publish a book. With all the encouragement to self-promote and brand your identity online, how do you follow the gospel call of taking up your cross and denying yourself? How do we make much of Christ when it seems so necessary to make much of our work?

On Tuesday, April 8 (before Together for the Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky) the 2014 Band of Bloggers with gather to fellowship together at Heritage Hall on the campus of Southern Seminary and discuss the important topic of “Platform Building and the Gospel.” Justin Taylor, Joe Thorn, Trevin Wax, and Denny Burk will share their thoughts as The Gospel Coalition editorial director Collin Hansen facilitates the discussion many of us are already having online.

Registration is just $15 and includes Chick-fil-A lunch. As we have been known to do in the past, we will do our best to provide you will a bag full of great books and resources to take with you. You will not want to miss this gathering of bloggers, publishers, authors, and church leaders across the world.

Seated is limited, so register soon! Hope to see you there!

Women’s Conferences . . . Why?

I generally do not enjoy conferences. I usually go to be a team player, to learn what I can, or to share an experience with other women. As one who loves my job as director of women’s discipleship at a strong gospel-centered church, I look for every opportunity to connect with other Christian women. Until 2012 that’s what most conferences were mainly about for me.

TGCW12 Friday CrowdThrough the pastors of my church and others, I heard about The Gospel Coalition and their conferences, which are full of expositional Bible teaching. Along came TGC’s conference for women—and I actually jumped at the chance. I (along with thousands of others) was thrilled that TGC was offering a conference for women. I LOVED the motto: “a conference for women but not all about women.” The focus was on the Word—hearing it, learning it, learning to share it, living it out. The lineup of speakers was packed with women and men I respected and couldn’t wait to hear.

I particularly appreciated the way all the sessions were built on one another using the central theme of God’s unfolding revelation of himself in his story of redemption. (I’m looking forward to the book of TGCW12 collected talks and study questions coming out soon from Crossway.) It did my heart good to hear men come and speak to such a large crowd of women and call them to love the Lord more deeply through the study of his Word. The worship through song, led by Keith and Kristyn Getty, was phenomenal. The workshops were challenging. I knew after attending the conference two years ago that I would recruit every woman I could to attend in 2014.

I think TGCW14 should be attended by any woman who wants to grow in her love for the Lord, in the skills of handling the Word accurately, and in learning to pass this faith on to the next generation. It is our turn to make sure this happens. And it happens as the living and active Word of God does its work in us and through us, by his Spirit. If you have ever wanted to attend seminary but couldn’t, here is your opportunity to learn from some of the best leaders across the country. Not just the talks but the conversations that take place in such a context are thought-provoking and stretching—exciting in all sorts of ways. I am so grateful for those who have made this conference possible—and look forward this June to bringing along a whole group from our church. It’s encouraging to see a number of churches helping make it possible for women to attend.

Experiencing the conference with other women in 2012 was wonderful. Those moments are richer and deeper when they’re grounded in growth in Christ and in his Word, rather than in the experiences themselves. At the heart of the conference weekend was that kind of deep growth, shared and discussed so profitably together. Still, it doesn’t hurt to add on a fun trip to Orlando, a bit of shopping at the outlets, taking advantage of the pool/lazy river, and just laughing with friends. We made lots of great memories. We made progress together as joyful, faithful followers of Jesus. I can’t wait to do it again.

Join Us at Clarus ’14 to Wrestle with Contentment

Clarus—which is Latin for bright, clear, or radiant—is the Southwest regional conference of The Gospel Coalition held this year from March 14 to 16 at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year TGC Council members Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips will address the theme “Wrestling with Contentment.” Fernando Ortega will also join us as a special musical guest.

Here’s an invitation to the conference from Ryan Kelly, TGC Council member and pastor for preaching at Desert Springs Church:

If you don’t live in the Southwest, the low cost of this conference makes it easier to fly in for the weekend. Before January 31, registration is only $30. There are also student, married couple, and group rates available.

Visit the TGC Albuquerque site for audio and video from previous Clarus conferences:


The Gospel Coalition: Historical Anomaly?

Is The Gospel Coalition a historical anomaly? Not according to Ryan Kelly, TGC Council member and pastor of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. He sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss historical precedents for parachurch networks like TGC.

Kelly cites John Calvin’s 16th-century “company of pastors,” a network of sharpening friendships among ministers, and past “prophesying conferences” in England for preaching and prayer. From the Westminster Assembly’s interdenominational makeup to John Owen’s occasional synods, Christian history includes other examples similar to today’s networks. Consequently, he says, ”What we’re trying to do with TGC is not novel at all.”

Moreover, TGC isn’t just a website or a conference. Kelly is also part of a regional chapter made up of dozens of pastors who gather quarterly for fellowship, prayer, theological discussion, advice, encouragement, and more. The group plans to host its own regional conference in March.

Watch the full eight-minute video to hear Kelly discuss learning from our predecessors, conferences as self-indulgent vacations, “sheep tracking,” and more.

Is TGC a Historical Anomaly? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Christmas According to Luke

It’s that time of year. Many of us are encountering the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel afresh as we prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Produced in partnership with LifeWay, The Gospel of Luke: From the Outside In is a 12-session group study offering a thorough look at the life of Jesus through the eyes of Luke and the interpretation of scholars David Morlan and D. A. Carson.

The following excerpt from the lesson on Luke 1-2 features written commentary from Morlan and video teaching from Carson.


Long Story

Luke Outside InIn the first two chapters of his Gospel, Luke highlights that Jesus didn’t arise out of a contextless situation. God didn’t choose him from any random family or people, nor did he just drop him in out of nowhere. Jesus was connected intimately with what God had been doing with Israel through ages past. Indeed, the story Luke tells about Jesus isn’t a new story, but rather the culmination of one reaching back thousands of years.

So if the story Luke is telling connects Jesus with the story of Israel in the Old Testament, then that means the God connected to Jesus is the Lord of Israel. The God who called Abraham and spoke through the ancient prophets is the same God whose plan unfolds in the opening scenes of Luke’s narrative.

Echoes of Creation

And a major character at work is the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the language used for the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35) echoes the language for the beginning of creation itself. Genesis 1:2 says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Just as the Spirit “hovered” over the deep before God’s great miracle of creation, so he “overshadows” Mary before the miracle of Christ’s conception.

Luke assures his readers that “the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). This previews a special relationship between Jesus and the Spirit that will become increasingly evident as his ministry progresses. It also reveals the magnitude of what the Father is doing in Jesus—it is an act on the scale of creation itself.

Superior to John

If the story of Israel and activity of God come together dramatically in the person of Jesus, what does this tell us about him? Jesus is utterly unique. And the main way Luke demonstrates this is through a comparison with John the Baptist. John is an immensely important prophet like Elijah who prepares the way for God’s people; Jesus is God’s own Son who will rule on David’s eternal throne. While John’s conception occurs in the conventional way, Jesus’ comes about through the creative work of the Holy Spirit. While John, like the Old Testament prophets before him, points to salvation, Jesus actually brings salvation. John’s father, Zechariah, gives him the role of prophet and forerunner while directing his attention mostly to the one who “raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69). Even as an adult John admits his baptism was just with water while he pointed to Jesus’ baptism being with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:15-18).

By providing a comparison of John and Jesus, Luke wants us to see how truly unique Jesus is. If John, a great prophet of God, wasn’t worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals, what does that tell us about Jesus? If Jesus says “among those born of women none is greater than John” and concludes “yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” what does that tell us about the importance of the kingdom Jesus is establishing (Luke 7:28)? John was great, but Jesus was absolutely unique.

Worldwide Significance

Luke doesn’t only situate Jesus within the history of God’s people, but within world history as well. The events he recounts happened “in the days of Herod, king of Judea” during the rule of “Caesar Augustus . . . when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1-2). The following chapter further roots Jesus’ public ministry within world history: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene” (Luke 3:1).

By doing this, Luke is indicating that Jesus will not just affect Jewish history, but the history of the world. The stage is set for global ramifications. The borders of his kingdom will stretch to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Indeed, this baby will be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles”—an ancient vocation Israel had forsaken long before (Luke 2:32; cf. Isa. 49:6).