The first night was great. No big surprise there. Dever's first message was from 1 Corinthians 4 on the role of the pastor in the ministry of the Word. I'm not going to regurgitate it because Tim Challies has a typically thorough summary—far better than I could begin to do. The guy's just amazing.
One of the best moments in the first night was during Mark Dever's introduction to the conference as a whole in which he describes what we are together for and what we are not together for. Would that we had more thinking like this. Challies recorded Dever's summary this way:
Dever explained that these men are not together on what to wear, on what pulpit to use or on what songs to sing or on what music to play. Mark suggested that if any Sovereign Grace guys are present, they be given access to the aisle seat so they can move around a little bit. They are not together on applause or on "amen's." The Sovereign Grace folk will surely be vocal in letting you know their agreement, Baptists will mumble a polite "amen," whereas Presbyterians believe that silence is consent.The panel discussion after the message was simply fascinating. The structure of this conference is such that just about every session is followed immediately by a conversation between Dever, Mohler, Duncan, and Mahaney, and also sometimes including MacArthur, Piper, or Sproul. This first discussion focused on each man's explanation of his role in ministry and the relationship of that ministry to the local church. I hope to summarize and post some of the salient quotes tomorrow. We'll see. The schedule is crazy.
For the time being, I'll simply say that I cannot comprehend how anyone could not be grateful to God for gifting these men in such a way that they provide leadership not only to their own churches, but also to thousands of others. I'm still getting introduced to Duncan and working to grasp the distinct flavor of his ministry, but the other three have had tremendous impact on me. Mohler became the president of SBTS at the age of 33 when it was in need of a complete overhaul and rebuilding. That battle for the faith has been well-documented.
Dever, having finished his PhD at Cambridge and been presented with attractive and prestigious academic offers, accepted the pastorate of a dying church in what was then a dangerous neighborhood, committing himself even in the very early years to be there permanently. Mahaney's spirit convicts me every time I hear him speak. God took him from being an LSD addict to a big-time Jesus movement conference speaker to realizing from reading his Bible that God's plan is the local church, not conferences. So of course he planted a church that has directly or indirectly given birth to a hundred more.
One more thing. I have been in places with groups of people with whom I have had more “in common.” I have never been in a place with a group of people that is most passionate about the same things I am most passionate about. Better yet, most of them are far more passionate than I am about things I know I need to be more passionate about. Singing "In Christ Alone" with all 3,000+ of them stirred my heart to thoughts of what heaven might be like.
P.S. Wishing you were here. All the other fundamentalists are.