This looks like a wonderful conference, "Commending Christ: The Pastor, the Church, and the Perishing." It's a focus on evangelism, something I've been trying to think about this year and to do more faithfully.
Piper's invitation letter deserved copying in full:
Dear friends in ministry,
As I preached my way through a series on the new birth recently, I was gripped in a new way with the place of gospel-telling in the way people are born again. The key text was 1 Peter 1:23–25: “You have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
The implications of this are massive. People are born again through hearing the gospel. The God-wrought, sovereign miracle that no human can bring about does not happen where the gospel is not heard and known.
And what is the gospel? Basically this: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel. . . . that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4).
Telling this old story is the means God has ordained for people to be born again. This strikes me as simply amazing. Words coming out of our mouths about events in history are the way God brings about the stupendous, supernatural miracle of the new birth.
So I have set my heart on thinking and praying and dreaming about the implications of these things with you at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. What does this imply for our lives, our prayers, our priorities, our families, our church structures, our staffing, our worship services, our hearts?
We will gather this year under the theme Commending Christ: The Pastor, the Church, and the Perishing. The focus is on evangelism—telling the gospel.
I did not have to think long about who I wanted most to lead us in this thinking, namely, Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, in Washington, D. C. Mark inspires me with his personal engagement with unbelievers.
His new book The Gospel and Personal Evangelism puts his vision in writing. Just this morning, this book jolted me again (pp. 72–73): Telling my story (“testimony”) is not the same as telling Christ’s story. My story is not the gospel. Telling it is not evangelism. I am deeply thankful Mark will give the three keynote messages.
Meanwhile, I was listening (online) to Matt Chandler preach about the challenges of evangelizing church members who think they are saved but aren’t. I was moved by the insight and courage of what he said. Matt is the Lead Pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas. He has agreed to come and help us think about that issue in our churches—saving those who think they are saved.
Michael Oh is the president of Christ Bible Seminary and Institute in Nagoya, Japan. He has agreed to be bring global breadth to our theme from his strategic perspective in Japan, with its fewer than .25% Christians. When Don Carson heard that Michael was coming he wrote to me and said, “I'm so glad to hear that you have invited Michael Oh. . . . He is a remarkable young man, being used by God in ways that are wisely breaking all kinds of molds in Japan.”
In keeping with the theme of evangelism, I plan to do my biography this time on one of the most fruitful evangelists of all time, George Whitefield. Whitefield is long overdue for this kind of attention, and I am eager to immerse myself in his life and mind for my own soul and ministry. I pray that the overflow will be useful for you.
This conference is not mainly about technique or method. It is about becoming a certain kind of God-besotted lover of lost people. So I am eager to be together with you and to worship and pray and think and discuss these great matters. I hope you will come. The Great Room at the Minneapolis Convention center sounds like a mighty waterfall when 1400 pastors sing with all their hearts to the Savior they love.
The bookstore will be amazing. Conversation and prayer will be rich. Connecting with lovers of Truth strengthens the heart. We all be reminded that we plant and water, but God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). And nothing done in his name is in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
With affection and joy,
I would commend the conference and Piper's new book on the new birth, Finally Alive, when it's released.
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