Jun

28

2012

Kathleen Nielson|10:00 PM CT

Looking Back on a Blessed TGCW12

Praise God for his blessing on The Gospel Coalition 2012 National Women's Conference! What a joy to see nearly 4,000 women who attended, to partner with more than 30,000 people from 67 countries joining via livestream, and to know of the many thousands who were praying diligently for God's blessing. Inevitably, the days following such an event give us opportunity to look back---not just to praise God but also to discern even more clearly just how he blessed. Every one of those blessings pushes us to look ahead, eager to see God's continuing work.

Looking Back

The greatest blessing, I believe, is that God allowed us truly to focus on the stated theme: "Here Is Our God! God's Revelation of Himself in Scripture." Consistently during the conference, it felt to me like God was center stage, and the more than 30 different speakers just kept pointing to him and saying, "Look!" Of course we all did that imperfectly. But that was the aim, and by God's grace it seemed that aim was clear.

In the plenaries, we glimpsed God's sweeping redemptive purposes through expositions starting in Exodus and ending up in Revelation. In passages where God showed himself to human beings, we found God showing himself to us. In the workshops, focus gatherings, and interviews, a remarkable array of gospel-centered people shared their focus on living out God's redemptive purposes in a whole variety of ways, by the Spirit according to the Word.

Not just the speakers, however, made the theme come alive. This conference "for women but not all about women" brought thousands of women excited about that theme, hungry to learn more of the Word, and eager to learn better to communicate that Word with others. From 47 states and 21 countries came women ready to dig deep. It was hugely encouraging  (especially for those of us no longer in the category of "young" who have prayed for God to raise up a zealous next generation) to see a huge beautiful army of young women intent on gospel growth. Perhaps that's not a good metaphor for a women's conference. Then again, it's biblical. In any case, the younger generation showed up in numbers and with passion.

It was a seriously intent army---but an incredibly joyful one! We wanted this conference to be substantive. Interestingly, the most serious of purposes often brings along with it the best kind of laughter and joy. That combination characterized the conference. The photo booth, even more fun than we hoped, created such great memories! In the sessions, ready laughter accompanied the most challenging expositions. Of course, when Keith and Kristyn Getty appeared, joyful worship just kind of broke out, as they led us so beautifully and biblically at every turn.

Finally, in retrospect, the context for all that occurred at the conference emerges especially clearly and meaningfully. TGCW12 happened in the context of TGC, which is led by a group of pastors aiming to help the church center on the gospel, the "evangel" of evangelicalism. That aim has implications not only for ordained pastors but also for every member of the church. With a desire to minister even more effectively and intentionally to the whole church, TGC began its formal "women's initiatives" just a few years ago. TGC's Council has been encouraging, prayerful, and downright excited about what is happening through the women's initiatives. TGC's founders were not just there at the conference; they were enthusiastically there, participating and teaching, obviously moved and encouraged by what they saw.

I actually had no conversations with women at the conference about what we women cannot do, according to the Scriptures. We were there intent on seeing God more clearly, and on gaining more gospel-centered excellence where God has called us: perhaps to teach the Scriptures, perhaps to shine in the workplace, perhaps to love husbands and children---but for all of us certainly to understand and communicate well God's living and active Word. I believe the goodness of God's biblical design for men and women, with men's leadership in the church and in the home, shines forth not only in the direct teaching of it, but also when that design provides a strong and peaceable context within which fruitful ministry and growth can happen.

Looking Ahead

The conference itself creates some waves that keep flowing into the future. Video recordings of the plenaries, and audio recording of the workshops, focus gatherings, and interviews will be made available for free through TGC's website in the next several weeks.

And then there's next year's TGC 2013 National Conference, also in Orlando, April 8-10. Women are warmly invited to attend this conference, titled "His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke."

Will there be another TGC women's conference in 2014? We certainly hope so. It will be our job in the next weeks to evaluate carefully what happened at TGCW12 and to project the most fruitful paths of resulting ministry. We'll be gathering feedback from all the speakers, and compiling a list of resources mentioned in all their workshops. In the meantime, vibrant TGC ministry continues, through a variety of regional conferences as well as through TGC's online presence. The international outreach is launched. We encourage you to take full advantage of the resources available---and to share them with friends.

Praise God for his blessings always flowing---in the past and into the future.

Kathleen Nielson serves as director of women's initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. She holds MA and PhD degrees in literature from Vanderbilt University and a BA from Wheaton College. Author of the Living Word Bible studies, she speaks often at women's conferences and loves working with women in studying the Bible. She shares a heart for students with her husband, Niel, president of Covenant College from 2002 to 2012 and now leading an enterprise developing resources for Christian schools around the world.

Categories: Conferences
  • http://www.lisaspence.com Lisa writes…

    Thank you, Kathleen and TGC, for your efforts toward making TGCW12 a reality. I appreciate your commitment to encouraging and teaching women and I echo your reflections here. It was indeed a great time of beholding our God and seeing His redemptive purposes across the broad sweep of Scripture, from Exodus to Revelation! I love what you said about gaining more gospel-centered excellence where God has called us. How very exciting to hear women teach the Word with theological and intellectual depth but more exciting yet was the charge and the encouragement for me to go and do likewise!

  • http://daughteredeemed.blogspot.com/ Chelsea

    Such a sweet time of learning and fellowship! My biggest takeaway from the entire conference was that God does indeed speak to me through his word. As someone who grew up in the church, my head knows that God speaks to us through his word. But at the conference, my heart and mind beautifully connected on this point. Honestly, going into the conference, I wanted to hear from God. I wanted peace and clarity in ministry decisions. I wanted an impression...a sense of stillness from God. I wanted a game plan for the next stage of life, but thankfully, I didn't come home with this in the way I expected. I did hear from God this weekend, but there were no gut feelings, no butterflies. Only the truth of God revealed in his word, and that is more than sufficient. Thank you to you and your team for your hard work and thoughtfulness in preparing for this conference. And on a more personal note, thank you for your bible study resources. I purchased the John study while in Orlando, and I am devouring it!

    http://daughteredeemed.blogspot.com/2012/06/conference-reflections-truth-be-told.html

  • val vickery

    trying to find the printed version of your Sunday morning talk from Rev 4 and 5. When will we get to get these and to hear them again. I keep wanting to share this with friends who couldn't go.
    Thanks for all you did! Fabulous conference.

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

    So many events planned for women are full of fluff. Add to that silly games that I find frankly demeaning. I am so thankful this was not the case for TGC! What a blessing it was to sit under every single speaker I heard biblically and boldly proclaim the Word of God. I returned home with notes full of meat to feed off of for a long time. I wake up now with the Getty's music in my head (which was also very Scriptural). I am so thankful to have attended and look forward to 2014!

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  • http://treasuringitup.blogspot.com Hannah

    Thank you, Kathleen, and EVERYONE who was involved with this conference. Such an infinite topic (truly, infinite) and each session, breakout, and workshop passionately pointed to the living well from which all may drink: the Scriptures. Thank you for a women's conference focused on our God(!!!!). I was awed and encouraged beyond what I could have imagined.

    I was also deeply thankful for no appearance of rhinestones, hot pink, or tiaras but rather beautiful and brilliant woman seeking to serve God as their first love in a Biblical context and led by godly men passionate for women to grow in the Lord.

    I say TGCW14 Denver, CO :-D And I wouldn't mind same speakers, same topic. Who could get tired of it?

  • http://jessinhotpink.com Jess Versteeg

    My friends and I LOVED the conference. We noted at the end of it that there were no full-bible commentaries left to be purchased. Everyone had snapped them up. I found this pretty remarkable since women aren't usually the ones known for their use of commentaries to supplement their study. Now, they could have been buying them for their husbands, but judging from how I bought one for myself and so did my girlfriends out of motivation for knowing the word - I'd say this conference was a smashing success.

  • Justin Wevers

    Will the talks be made available for download?

  • Barb Fuller

    Kathleen, I particularly want to thank you for your leadership in putting on the conference as well as at the conference. I loved your no-nonsense, gracious announcements! I was encouraged & motivated by many of the talks to start a Bible study in my home this fall, & your book "Bible Study" is helpful in that preparation. Looking forward to 2014 - meanwhile, I'll continue to seek & glory in our God! Blessings!

  • Cynthia Lewellen

    I was so thankful I got to "participate" online for some of the sessions having just had surgery! So now I'm trying to patiently wait for the sessions to be available online - several I missed - so i feel I have "gaps"!

    and yes I do hope that 2014 will bring another women's conference!

    When can we hope to find the messages online??

  • Mang

    I have been longing to be together with the women who are in the leading role all over the world in my life. So sad I missed this one.