What's Next for The Gospel Coalition
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor Don Carson and Tim Keller came up with the idea for the Gospel Coalition (TGC) several years ago. They kicked it off in 2007 with a conference attended by 500. In 2008, the conference was a by-invitation-only, off-the-record meeting of the nearly 50 men on the coalition's council. In 2009, 3,100 pre-registered and 223 walked in.
They also rolled out the Gospel Coalition Network (TGCN) on The City, a social networking site developed at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The site will allow TGCN to approve and register members who agree with TGC's foundation documents (including their statement of faith and "Theological Vision of Ministry"). They can then organize in geographical groups.
Carson sat down with Susan Wunderink at the conference to talk about the surprises and challenges of the last few years of TGC.
There are a lot more people here than in 2007. What does that say to you?
In some ways we're almost a coalition of coalitions. Tim represents a whole network. John Piper represents a whole network. And because we share a common vision of what the gospel is and common aims and so on, it's not, in some sense, just individual churches. It's all the networks that are linked with that.
It's partly [that] we've worked very hard at distributing materials on the web. Now it's going through another huge technological leap.
I think, humanly speaking, those are the reasons. I don't want to sound too pious. Certainly I eschew every hint of triumphalism. I do think that there is a hunger in the land for a vision of confessional Christianity that is robust, God-centered, tough-minded, able to address today and tomorrow and the next day, and comprehensive.
Where is it going now? Do you just see growth? Or do you see this coalition taking on different forms?
Well, Tim and I were the ones that first organized it, and we both agreed we would keep assessing it every two or three years. If we see it meeting a genuine need, doing good, and being faithful to the gospel, we'll keep it going under our direction for about ten years.
Our aim is not to keep the coalition as an end in itself. It's a coalition of people for the sake of promoting the gospel. And if the gospel is so implanted in enough things that are taking it forward in all kinds of useful and happy ways, then we should morph into something else or stop as an organization.
I'm neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I'm not sure where it will be in 20 years. I have some confidence where it will be, God helping us, in 5 years or maybe even 10 years.
It seems like TGC shares some of the characteristics of a denomination.
It does, but it purposely disallows others.
Sociologically, there is a lot less loyalty to denominations today than 20 years ago. In one sense we're growing because of that. We are meeting a sense of dislocation.
On the other hand, in a denomination there will also be, for example, means of ordering who is ordained and who is not. There are going to be agreed standards on who becomes a member or not. Whereas we're a center-bounded set. We're not a boundary-bounded set.
Tim Keller is a deeply committed PCA man. He's a paedobaptist. My ordination is Baptist. And we're not going to agree on everything. We're happy to talk about anything, but we're not going to make one standard or the other the touchstone for the organization.
Likewise, we're not running a mission organization. We're not collecting funds to oversee a missionary sent to Pago Pago. We're not that sort of an institution.