April asked the obvious question a few days ago. With all of this talk about eschewing worldliness and being better stewards of our finances and our time, what am I doing about it? That is a fair question and one I expected earlier. Talk is cheap and blogging is doubly so.
The first change I am making is a minor one but a good first step. I am canceling my plans to attend Together for the Gospel next year.
There are a number of reasons why I am nixing the trip to Louisville in 2010. First, it is quite expensive. Gas and perhaps a rental car, several nights in a hotel, three meals a day on the road from Monday evening to Thursday night, not to mention the $200 registration fee. Even splitting the costs with other guys still results in an expensive trip in terms of time and money. I have been justifying the cost to myself because of all of the books you get “free” at the conference. It is a huge haul of books, no doubt (well over twenty in total). Does that make it worthwhile?
Nearly two years after the 2008 installment of T4G, I have read 4 or 5 of the books I brought home from Louisville. It is not that I haven’t read any books in the last two years, rather most of the books I have read didn’t come from T4G. There are several books that I got at T4G ‘08 that I probably will never read because I am just not interested in them. I think I am better off saving the money and picking out books to read on my own. I have literally hundreds of books I am interested in reading that I have saved on Amazon and I already have bookshelves full of books that need to be read (although I despair of ever reading Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology).
It is also true that the teaching at Together for the Gospel is outstanding. You get some of the great minds in the church together and sit at their feet for three days. Men like Sproul and Piper, Mohler and Dever are the intellectual heavyweights in the church. On the other hand, there is a lifetime of teaching from these men and others available for free online. I can watch or listen to hundreds of talks from Piper and Sproul for free. The volume of material put out is greater than I could ever hope to listen to, coming out faster than I or anyone else could absorb it. The Together for the Gospel talks will be published online as well, so I can listen at my leisure for free. Besides, I already have access to the greatest teachers to ever live in the Word of God. I need to spend more time in there and less in seminars and conferences. Piper and Sproul and MacArthur are great but I need to hear a lot more from Paul and Peter and James and our Lord Himself.
There are other minor issues. In some way Together for the Gospel feeds into an undercurrent of intellectualism in the church that sometimes smacks of elitism. This is especially true among the Reformed wing of the church and that is the target audience for T4G. Many of the talks at T4G 2008 were very academic and Al Mohler's was so complex I wasn't sure what he was talking about. Christianity is a life to be lived, not a subject to be studied. It is a faith of action more than one of contemplation. There is a place for study and academics, but it is not the first priority in the Christian life. Together for the Gospel is also billed as a “pastors conference” and is part of the “trickle down theology” system in the church where ministers go to seminary and conferences to learn and then come back and disseminate that information to the congregation. I think the more Biblical and healthier method is to have the church gather together and study the Scriptures together instead of sending one or a couple of guys to a conference.
Ultimately, Together for the Gospel is a self-indulgent luxury for me. I get a week away to go hang out and listen to men that I look up to talk about theology. My wife stays home with the kids. It is expensive and it burns almost a week of vacation time (granted I get a ton of vacation time, but still). That is time and money that I could and should spend with my family or in service to others somehow. So T4G 2010 is off the agenda for next year. Maybe I will shoot for the 2012 conference but even that seems unlikely.
A minor step? Sure. It is just one step in a quest to see the Christian life lived out in my life.
Sounds like a good plan, Arthur. We've been asking a lot of those "Is this really necessary" questions lately. It's funny, when we're honest with ourselves, how so many of our have-to-have things are really self-indulgent luxuries.
I am blessed to read your words in this article and look forward to Part II.
My own similar convictions became more sure after attending a second conference in N.E.USA a few years ago.
Kudos to you my friend.
Perhaps plan a great 1 week vacation with your family.
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