Tag Archives: Women’s Conference

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.

The Fight for Glory

I sat just outside the main venue all day interviewing others. I had a few minutes before John Piper would be sitting down with me---he was still on the platform speaking---so I snuck in the back and sat on the floor. He was nearly 4,000 people away, so I just sat and stared at the carpet. But I had walked into something.

God with us.

God was showing himself to a room full of women, and staring at the carpet felt like the right thing to do.

Piper said, "If you love the glory of man you do not love the glory of God." I started shaking, but the room was already trembling. We weren't trembling before a man, we were trembling at our souls before God. Scary thoughts raced through me as he spoke.

Do I even love God?

Why do I crave everyone's approval?

I want to fear you, God, above all else.

I want to tremble before you every day.

Piper prayed, and I looked up. He was gone and on his way to sit down with me.

I wiped tears and ran to the chair and the cameras rolled. We planned to talk about the conference and the women, but it all seemed small and trite after tasting God. International peace treaties would have felt small at this point. So instead we talked about the glory of God and the day Piper will face Jesus.

The Fight for Glory from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

With hundreds standing around wanting time with him we stood. I was going to say "thank you" and find a corner where I could fall apart. Instead he looked me in the eyes and said, "Tell me about you."

The war unleashed in me fell out in a few words. "I've just begun my journey into the world of publishing and speaking about God, and I am scared I am going to lose my soul. I am scared I will crave the glory of man more than the glory of God. I would rather die loving God most than die having had a successful ministry. I want to run from this."

He smiled at my tears and then spoke words that will mark my spiritual life. "When I was just beginning to write and receive praise for it, I felt the same fight. So I quit. I went back to being a professor."

An exit strategy from my new writing career began formulating in my mind as he continued. "But the fight followed me. I found myself fascinated with accolades and longing to hear about the lives of students who were changed by me."

He continued, "If the fight for my affection was going to be everywhere, I decided to fight in the place I loved. I love to write. I don't know why, but I love it. So I am going to fight this war here. We aren't alone, Jennie. The apostle Paul even fought it. We all are fighting to love God most."

I gave him thin words of thanks and handed him over to the many waiting to try to thank him, too.

How do you thank someone who gives you God?

As I write about this today I am burning. Our God is worth this fight. And if there is a sober, honest bone in your body you'll admit that this is a fight! It is a full-on war to love God more than any visible thing or person on this earth, even more than ourselves.

In the moments I tremble before God I wonder how I could ever, ever love anything but him. He is better. He is joy. He is where our souls were made to be.

You can't run from the fight. It will follow you wherever you go.

Tremble on. Fight on. You are not alone.

Where are you fighting?

Now Available: Audio, Video from TGCW12

Demand for media from TGCW12 has been intense, so we're happy to report that it's now available! Watch plenary talks you missed on the livestream, listen to workshops you couldn't attend, and enjoy pre-conference talks by John Piper, Don Carson, and Tim and Kathy Keller. Most workshops are available in audio only, though several were also captured on video. A few special Focus Gatherings were also captured on video from the main stage in Orlando. Plenary sessions translated into Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese will be coming next week. So listen, watch, download, and share with your friends, family, and neighbors.

Interviews captured during the conference will be released gradually in the coming weeks. So stop back to hear more from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Mary Kassian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Kathleen Nielson, Nancy Guthrie, and many others.

 

TGCW12: A Delight for the Senses

As I reflect on my time in Orlando for The Gospel Coalition women's conference, I realize that I am coming home full. My soul feels refreshed. My mouth has tasted, my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my nose has smelled the very glory of God. It has made me rethink the purpose for which God gave senses to his people. Like many others, I tend to think my five senses are really about me---so that I can navigate the world.

However, after our time together in Orlando, I recognize that God has given them (like all things) to point back to himself and bring him glory. Experiencing the smells, tastes, sounds, sights, and textures of this world are simply the backdrop for a finite being (me) to begin to comprehend infinite Glory. As I heard the various talks and was drawn into the biblical story, I was struck by the variety of senses used to describe God's interactions with his people. Let me share some of them with you.

Taste

As I spoke to other women at the retreat, the continual refrain was, "I feel like I've enjoyed a feast." Even the speakers commented on the experience of enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, savoring dish after dish. We left full of careful exposition, Scripture-laden wisdom, and teaching centered on the glory of God. Our souls delighted in the richest of fare. It was just a taste of glory, and it left me hungry for more.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:2).

Sight

My eyes were filled with glimpses of God's glory from the various biblical accounts. The cloud descending on the temple. The train of the robe filling the temple. The face of Jesus shining like the sun. The Lion. The Lamb. The costly jewels. Just as the different facets of a diamond reflect the light, these images fill my mind with the complexity of his glory. Words alone cannot express all that he is, so he gave us mental images. As I focus on the greatness of who he is, all else becomes increasingly insignificant. Even the blessings God provides are humbled in light of his greatness. They are blessings only in that they reflect the beauty of is glory.

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple (1 Kings 8:10-11).

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1).

There [Jesus] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:2).

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne (Revelation 4:3)

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (Revelation 5:6).

Sounds

From the Scriptures we heard the voices of the Seraphs as they cried, "Holy, holy, holy" in trifold witness to the glory of the Lord. We journeyed to the mountain of transfiguration and heard with Peter, James, and John the thunderous declaration, "This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" We had front-row seats to hear what our own refrain will be one day in heaven when we join in singing of his praise, honor, glory, and power.

In each story, hearing from these heavenly beings brought the listener to a new understanding of his own unworthiness. Isaiah cried of his ruin. Peter, James, and John fell on their knees. Even the heavenly beings had to shield their eyes from Glory. I was struck by the realization that hearing the truth of who God is reveals the truth of who I am. I do not need to seek self-understanding or self-awareness. I need to seek God. Revelation from him reveals an understanding of all things---even the darkness of my own heart.

Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:2-4).

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8).

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:13-14).

Touch

After the hearing that brought repentance, Isaiah, Peter, James, and John were all touched by glory. Tongs from the very altar of heaven acted as a sign of the removal of Isaiah's guilt. Jesus, his glory veiled, reached out to touch his disciples, encouraging them to get up and fear no longer. In touching them, I know he touches me. My failures, my imperfections, my brokenness, are all shielded by the cross, which acts like a sponge that soaks up the entire wrath that I deserve. Nails touched him, so that he could touch me.

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for (Isaiah 6:6-7).

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid" (Matthew 17:6-7).

Smell

The aroma of Christ permeated our time together at the conference. The speakers spread to each of us the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. When I think of nearly 4,000 ladies from all over the globe, gathering for a weekend and now being led out, my prayer is, "Oh, Lord, make us smelly!" May the knowledge of Christ go out in each and every of one us and collectively bear his fragrance. For some, it will make us odious to those around us. For others, it will be the smell of life.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

We had some of the best teachers we could hope for at this conference. Yet I realize all the more that each of them simply echoes a greater Voice that will continue to speak throughout all ages. I come home thankful for their teaching but all the more aware that I am invited to such a feast each and every day. His word still speaks. I must daily listen if I want to delight in the richest of fare. It is a continual feast that engages each and every one of my senses. Why should I settle for the crumbs of the world when he offers a seat at his table?

Thankfully, there is only one requirement: thirst. So I come, hungry for more.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:1-2).

And somewhere I hear an echo of Paige Benton Brown reminding us all:

After the best, comes the better. 

Femininity, Diversity, and the Next Generation: Remembering TGCW12

Last week I packed up my things to fly to Orlando and sit under the teaching of popular Bible teachers and theologians John Piper, Tim Keller, and Don Carson at The Gospel Coalition women's conference. Having listened to them over the years, I felt like I knew what to expect. But I was curious to see how they would turn their typically powerful expository preaching into talks about women's issues.

And then there were the women speaking. Prior to the event I hadn't heard of many of these women. I read the bios of Paige Benton Brown, Carrie Sandom, Jenny Salt, Kathleen B. Nielson, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss (the only familiar face for me) and was quite impressed. These women are authors, ministry leaders, and college and seminary professors. They are strong, they are complementarians, and they are wise. But as I read their profiles I was perplexed and again wondered how they would turn "Here Is Our God" (the theme of the conference) into talks about hospitality, decorating, caring for our children, and submitting to our husbands.

I wasn't alone in my perplexity, and I wasn't alone in my delight as each speaker taught about the transcendent, holy, powerful God. They set out to teach about God's revelation of himself in Scripture, and they delivered. The conference was intentionally unfeminine. We didn't get flowers and chocolates (I sort of resent not having chocolate) at the registration desk, no tout bag full of goodies, no flowers or girlie sayings anywhere. Then again, many men were in the background running the conference---makes sense to me.

Femininity or Lack Thereof

The environment was fitting for the messages. We learned about a God who is terrifying in his majesty yet beckoning us to come; a God who is in us---we are the new temple; a God who is infinitely valuable; a God who delivers us from ourselves but most importantly delivers us from himself---his wrath. Here is Our God---revealed to us in his Word! We experienced him, we learned about him, and we rejoiced in the knowledge of him.

There is a place for the flowers, the chocolates, the wonderfully feminine decorations, and the talks about womanhood. But the overwhelming response from women at this conference was thanksgiving for the difference. We have all benefitted so greatly from learning about womanhood. Now we know why it's important. Womanhood is about God, God is not about womanhood.

In other words, as we know more of God's character, as we understand the gospel more clearly, as we grow in love with Jesus, we will be compelled by love to obey him. Our knowledge of God will affect our application of his Word. John Piper said it this way during his preconference session: "Nobody praises what he doesn't enjoy." There is a "grace of obedience" as Tim Keller shared during his session. Exploring the issues and topics of womanhood isn't merely about the issues; it's about God himself---glorifying him, knowing him, learning about him.

The Last Days

On the last day of the conference Don Carson spoke about heaven. His major point was that heaven centers absolutely on the one triune God. Carson described pictures of heaven, glimpses of who will be there and who will not. He shared that we will be learning for all eternity. He reminded us that we will see the holy face of God and will not die; we won't be consumed. He said the culmination of everything is to see God. Every tribe, nation, and tongue will be represented in heaven, and as he put it, "they won't be all pale faced," pointing to himself.

Simultaneously, volunteers in the back of the room translated the words spoken immediately into Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and French. I saw women from England, Dubai, Australia, the Cayman Islands, Canada, and beyond. When Carson finished we all stood, from various tribes and tongues and nations, with one voice to worship our holy God led by Keith and Kristyn Getty, who are originally from Northern Ireland. Are you seeing the picture?

The conference not only brought together various evangelical churches but also an ethnically and geographically diverse people. God has created people in his very own image---unique and distinct---yet united in Christ. This image of unity and diversity and the imagery we read in Revelation was on display at the conference. I imagine this remarkable diversity blew away the expectations of even the organizers. It was indeed an international event.

The Next Generation

While I benefited greatly from the speakers I couldn't help but notice the next generation of men and women in the background serving. I had a unique opportunity to meet many of the volunteers and TGC employees. While seasoned ministry leaders spoke during plenary sessions and workshops, volunteers were working hard to make sure the event ran smoothly and to provide resources so the event would go beyond the Orlando hotel.

I watched Josh Mathews (TGC director of operations) with his ear piece and walkie-talkie run from location to location directing volunteers with a bright smile on his face. Jennie Allen (author of Anything and all-around great gal) conducted interviews during many of the sessions, often forfeiting the opportunity to sit and learn. Matt Smethurst (TGC assistant editor) organized interviews while pushing his young daughter in her little stroller so his wife might enjoy the messages.

These examples of servanthood by the next generation don't even scratch the surface of what I saw. It was exciting to me because I saw the faces of the young, restless, and reformed, whom Collin Hansen (also there serving) described in his book, in the background serving the attendees and the speakers with joy.

Yet I also caught a glimpse of the next generation in the conference crowd. God is raising up the next generation---they can never replace today's great theologians and ministry leaders but will carry on the legacy that God has begun. Now this generation serves in the background, to serve other generations coming up after them---until Christ returns.

I believe the messages from the men and women at this conference will also serve this generation and beyond as we sit and ponder and share about our God.

Image credit: Lydia Ruth Francis

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.

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TGCW12 - Friday Night Plenary Sessions

Corporate Worship lead by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty have been at the forefront of the modern hymn movement over the past decade, bridging the gap between the traditional and the contemporary. They currently live in the United States where they have just finished their second album together, Awaken the Dawn, a collection of hymns that takes believers on a lyrical journey of grace and hope for all the nations. This follows their first collection of hymns, the 2006 release In Christ Alone.

 

On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God (Exodus 19)
Tim Keller

"We're here to connect women to hear and do Bible exposition, not to talk and think about women but to talk and think about God. Talking about God and not just talking about women; wherever this goes, we want to build up the church by encouraging women to do Bible exposition and build up the Body."

See also: Liveblogging notes by Lisa writes... and Tara Barthel.

 

In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God (1 Kings 8)
Paige Benton Brown

"The temple is a continuity--nothing new. And yet it is so new and so important that three chapters of the Bible are dedicated to its construction. . . .The temple- an Inhabitant God in a building, an Incarnate God in a body, an Indwellng God in our hearts."

See also: Liveblogging notes by Lisa writes... and Tara Barthel.