Thabiti Anyabwile|1:08 am CT

T4G’ 14 Debrief

The every-other-year family reunion called “Together for the Gospel” has come and gone for 2014. Somewhere near 8,000 persons gathered for a week of preaching and teaching on the theme of evangelism. There couldn’t be a timelier theme or a more encouraging group with which to consider it.

As with all edifying events of any length of time, there’s much to give God thanks for and to reflect on. And there’s many way to distill one’s thoughts into a summary of sorts. In fact, there’s probably too much to comment on for any one debrief post. So, I’m going to narrow my thoughts to a series of superlatives. Mark Dever doesn’t like superlatives, but I think they’re the best! So, here goes….

1. Best sermon for my heart

Without question, Lig’ Duncan’s exposition of Numbers 4, “The Gospel by Numbers,” was the best sermon for this often weary, sometimes heavy, frequently wandering heart! As I listened, I felt a new appreciation for the Savior’s words, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” Christ was majestically lifted up and extolled as glorious! From Lig’s meditation on sin as defilement to his biblical theological run to Christ as the One who cleanses, my heart mourned over sin and rejoiced in my Lord! Thank you, Lig!

2. Most convicting sermon

That superlative goes to David Platt’s passionate exhortation to prayer, “Relenting Wrath: The Role of Desperate Prayer in the Mystery of Divine Providence” (Exodus 32). I wept listening to this sermon, heavily convicted of my relative prayerlessness. David’s preaching is consistently God-centered, really Puritan-esque (as was the title of the sermon) in its development of the doctrine followed by the exhortation/application. So his sermon’s tend to leave you with the escalating majesty and weightiness of God and a clear sense of what God wills you to do. I found that to be the case with this sermon. Afterwards, I felt we should have spent a season of pleading prayer with God for lost family, friends, and people groups. I was also warmed by this sermon since it’s the text the Lord used to save me nearly 20 years ago.

3. Sermon with the greatest likelihood to help a generation

That’s how I feel about Kevin DeYoung’s address on inerrancy, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before.” A good 40-50 percent of the attendees were there for the first time and in their 20s or early 30s. In other words, this was a young crowd growing up in the shadow of the last major battle around inerrancy. They’ve grown up taking it for granted and now find themselves on the edge of renewed battles. Kevin’s talk was a piercing exploration of the Lord Jesus’ view of scripture and the view all Christ followers should take. I’ve never seen Kevin better, and I’m not sure any other sermon has led me to treasure the Bible more.

4. Most encouraging evangelism testimonies

I really enjoy the testimony elements that have been a part of the last T4G conferences. This year conference organizers filmed and presented a number of testimonies involving new converts and the Christian evangelists (none of them would like have called themselves that) who shared the faith with them. I loved the stories of God’s powerful grace. But the testimonies I found most encouraging were the two evangelists who shared with the friends who were not converted. It was such an encouragement to be reminded of the privilege and burden of pleading for the unrepentant and unbelieving. Here are the two testimonies:

5. Hymn I’m most likely never to get out of my head

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling….” Thank you John Piper!

6. Weirdest piano placement that kinda grows on you

Bob Kauflin in the middle of the arena floor. The singing at T4G is not about the guy up front. Nobody understands that as well as Bob, who serves so faithfully and cheerfully. Bob was his cheerful self leading with his usual joy and skill… from the “piano mosh pit” in the middle of the floor. But it worked. Or at least it stopped feeling weird and I was taken up in the wonderful singing of T4G once again.

7. Funniest line…

“Did I say ‘merely’? I love precision.” You had to be there.

8. Oddest microphone for a person’s skin tone

Mine. My wife says it looks like an ice cream cone hanging from my ear! Think I’m going to have to pull a Chandler and start bringing my own. That’s the price you pay when you have a head the size of mine! :-)

9. Sweetest truth in song during the conference

“He Will Hold Me Fast”

10. Most beautiful woman at the conference

Kristie Anyabwile! Forgive me, but after communion with our Lord, the sweetest part of the week for me was sitting with my lovely wife hearing the word and being built up in the faith we share. Doesn’t get any better than that!





Thabiti Anyabwile|8:25 am CT

Why Do I Agree to Be Publicly Shamed?

Together for the Gospel’14 is coming up in just a couple of weeks (April 8-10th). Registration remains open until March 31st. If you’re still thinking about attending, let me encourage you to do so. I’m certain you will be glad you did because of the encouraging fellowship, the teaching on evangelism (I know I need encouragement in this area!), and the precious time of retreat we all need from time to time.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a Christian pastor’s equivalent of the county fair’s dunking booth: Stump the Panel. This year our brother Mike McKinley is leading a panel made up entirely of questions from you, the ball buying, ball throwing public. It should be fun… in that heart-sinking, shame-inducing way it’s “fun” when you see the ball hit the lever, hear the bell ring, and plunge into ice cold water only to mount and do it all again! I don’t know why I agree to these things. Here’s Mike talking about it:

T4G 2014: Stump the Panel from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Here’s How to Submit Your Question:

Option #1 (Preferred): Record Your Question (Via Smartphone Video)

  • Record a video of yourself asking a question.
  • Say your name, your church’s name, where it’s located, and then ask your question.
  • Only one question should be asked in each video. You may submit multiple videos.
  • Videos should not exceed 30 seconds.
  • Please hold the smartphone horizontally during recording and be in a well lit area.
  • Email your video to: info@t4g.org with “Stump the Panel” in the subject line.

Option #2: Write Your Question

  • To submit your question via written form, click here.

Please address all your questions to the guys with the multiple degrees!





Thabiti Anyabwile|12:46 pm CT

T4G Debrief: Where Were All the African Americans?

A couple days ago, David Murray posted a second reflection on T4G where he asked, “Where were all the African Americans?” Murray expressed some timidity raising the question for fear of saying something offensive or incorrect. We’ve all had enough hand-slapping when it comes to reaching into the “race” and ethnicity cookie jar.  I appreciate the courage to press into the issue.  As far as I’m concerned (and who am I to offer an opinion?), it’s okay to ask the question, even though something feels “off” with the question.

For anyone interested, here are my quick responses:

1. Murray guesses that African Americans made up about 1-2 percent of the crowd.  That might be correct.  But here’s the question for me: What percentage of the Reformed Christian world do African Americans comprise?  I’d think we’re not much more than 1-2 percent–tops!  The Reformed world is small and the African-American Reformed even smaller.  Perhaps this is what seems “off” about the post to me.  On a percentage basis, I wouldn’t be all that concerned even though I’d love all my kinsmen according to the flesh to adopt this robust, God-exalting, and biblical theological world and life view.

2.  Murray mentions that the Man Up! conference was happening at the same time and might have attracted some who otherwise would have attended.  That might be true.  I know a couple guys who opted for Man Up! over T4G.  And I think they made the correct decision.  Here’s why.  Man Up! represents an important movement with more application to the African-American community and more popular appeal among young African Americans than does T4G.  Don’t forget that T4G is unashamedly a pastors’ conference.  Though many are welcome to come, the conference has always had as its aim to primarily address and encourage pastors and aspiring pastors in their role.  If you’re a young African American Man Up! likely seems more relevant and important a theme and topic.  Would I rather they attend a conference with one panel on complementarianism and no specific reference to African-American applications or attend an entire conference contextualized on the theme of manhood for African Americans?  No brainer.  The fact that some might choose a unique conference like Man Up! is no indication that we’re not together.

3.  R.C. Sproul and John MacArther are probably the T4G speakers that Reformed African Americans most often identify with.  Sproul and MacArthur are the human means the Lord used to introduce many of us to Reformed theology.  Just check the appendix of Tony Carter’s Glory Road for an indication of their influence.  In retrospect, I’m guessing Sproul’s and MacArthur’s inability to be with us must have weakened interest among some African Americans (and not just African Americans).  I’ve already written about how I personally missed them.  I’m guessing I’m not so weird that I’m alone in that.  We were without the two Christian radio ministry leaders that many African Americans would know.  There’s far less familiarity with the rest of us as speakers.

4.  My impression is that in absolute numbers the attendance of African Americans seemed stable.  I can’t say I noticed a big drop off over the years.  There weren’t a ton in 2006, 2008, or 2010.  However, the venues and the audiences were smaller in each of those gatherings.  In social psychological terms, what we might have here is a case of “the visibility hypothesis” at work.  The visibility hypothesis is simply the notion that the smaller a group is in the general population the more noticeable they are and the more attention they attract.  The attendance grew over the years, the absolute numbers of African Americans remained relatively constant, and so the visibility went up for some.

5.  The speaker rostrum at T4G, unlike most other conferences, is built on friendships.  I noticed in the comments of Murray’s post that some speculated that a more diverse representation of speakers might help attendance.  It might.  But speaking invitations aren’t “managed” that way.  At the heart of the conference are four friends with like passion for the gospel.  Over the years, they’ve invited 3-5 other friends to participate with them.  Everything that happens with the conference–from speaking invitations to meals with the speakers to retreats before and after–is aimed at deepening friendship.  That’s not to say any of the men lack close friendships with people of other ethnic backgrounds.  They all have many.  It’s simply to say, as far as I’m aware, though everyone would like to see greater diversity, such diversity is not the main strategy for organizing the conference and speakers.  The main goal or strategy is to rally around the Good News.  Would we ultimately have it any other way?

In all of this, one thing seems abundantly clear to me: The greatest ability to strengthen and diversify friendship in the gospel probably comes not from the speaker panel’s ethnic make-up but from whether or not we attenders intentionally invite and reach out in our own circles of influence.  We could ask ourselves: How many African Americans (Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, etc.) did I invite to come to the conference (any conference) this year?  If we didn’t invite anyone not like us, then at best we have the same blind spots or limitations we assume conference organizers to have.  One result of past conferences is that we’d regularly hear from people that they came alone the first time and committed to bringing others the next time (usually staff or elders or young guys from the congregation).  I think that’s great.  Maybe we should modify that commitment just a little to ask: What brother from a different mother has the Lord placed in my sphere of influence to invite the next time?

Maybe that makes things a little more diverse?  Maybe it helps our friendships?  Maybe not.  Either way, we still have the gospel of our Lord and the Lord offered in the gospel.





Thabiti Anyabwile|6:52 am CT

I’m Excited About the Family Reunion that Is T4G

More as to why…





Thabiti Anyabwile|10:07 am CT

How Much Water Does It Take to Properly Administer Baptism?

I try to answer that and other questions in this T4G tour of my office.

Thabiti Anyabwile – Study Tour from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.





Thabiti Anyabwile|8:48 am CT

Prepare Your Church for Suffering


C.J. Mahaney explains why he asked that Matt Chandler fill his speaking slot at Together for the Gospel:

When I was a young pastor, a wise older pastor communicated to me an unforgettable sentence: “C.J., prepare your church for suffering.” I’ve never forgotten that sentence. It’s a sentence that informed my 27 privileged years in pastoral ministry. It is a sentence that reminded me over the years to prepare the church I love and serve for suffering. It is a sentence I have shared many times with several pastors over the years. And it is why I approached Mark, Al, and Lig with the idea of having Matt Chandler take my session.

Hearing from Matt will equip us as pastors to respond to suffering in a way that glorifies God. And it will help us return to our churches more intentional about preparing those we love for suffering. From my observation Matt has done this well, both personally and pastorally. I want to learn from his example and I think you will as well.

You can read the whole post here as he goes on to explain how they’ll structure that session.





Thabiti Anyabwile|6:45 am CT

R.C. Sproul’s Office

R.C. is clearly the much-beloved “grandfather” of contemporary Reformed theology.

R.C. Sproul – Study Video from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

I wanna be like R.C. when I grow up.





Thabiti Anyabwile|3:42 pm CT

Are You Coming to T4G?

I hope you are. It’s going to be a feast on and in the word of God! If you’re thinking of coming, remember that the “early bird registration” lasts until Saturday. A snippet to whet the spiritual thirst:

Together for the Gospel: T4G 2010 Conference from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Register here.





Thabiti Anyabwile|4:18 am CT

Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology

What a tremendous privilege it was to participate in 2008′s Together for the Gospel conference, and to attend in 2006. Both of these events have had sizable impacts on my life and ministry, and I’m very much looking forward to attending next year as well. I hope you’ll be there and bring a team from your church.

In advance of T4G 2010, you may now get a copy of the book, Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology, which features the talks from the conference along with a very helpful addendum from Greg Gilbert called “What Is the Gospel?”
Publisher’s Description:
Loving, teaching, and rightly dividing the Word of God is every pastor’s privilege and responsibility. If a pastor understands what the Word says about God, man, and the curse, about Christ and his substitutionary atonement, and about the call to repentance and sacrifice, he will develop and preach a sound theology. And sound theology is, in the words of J. Ligon Duncan, essential to faithful pastoral ministry.
Proclaiming a theology that is centered on Christ’s atonement is especially critical, for by this atonement, Christians have been brought from death to life, and by it a church lives or dies. In this penetrating sequel to Preaching the Cross, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Thabiti Anyabwile join authors Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler in exploring the church’s need for faithful proclamation and calling pastors and churches to cross-centered, scripturally saturated thinking




Thabiti Anyabwile|8:31 pm CT

Hey… Who Re-Started the T4G Blog?

This slipped by me. But visiting the T4G blog again is a treat because they’re posting short interviews with some great guys:

Kevin DeYoung (here and here)
Anthony Carter (here and here)
Mike McKinley (here and here)

My favorite question is #8, “Which of the main T4G speakers could you take to the mat, so to speak?”

Kevin, you’re too kind. Tony, don’t make me lose some weight!