Advance 09: The Conclusion
Reflections from the front line.

The final day and a half of Advance 09 built upon the themes started on the first day, brought another talk from Mark Driscoll, and marked the arrival of the Baptists - researcher and author Ed Stetzer, local Durham pastor J.D. Greer, the one and only John Piper, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Daniel Aiken.

I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the Acts 29/Southern Baptist connection. I know there's a Calvinist resurgence among Southern Baptists, but they still seem like strange bedfellows to me.

The juxtaposition was clear on Saturday morning. When the worship team from Mars Hill Seattle gave the platform over to Daniel Aiken, I experienced some mental whiplash. The group from Mars Hill offered a loud mixture of Green Day and the David Crowder Band. Then Aiken offered a fine sermon, but in a style and substance straight from an old-school Baptist revival or pastors' conference - complete with the voice inflections that southern preachers have been perfecting for going on a century now. Having served the North Carolina Baptist Convention for nearly a decade, I can understand a fringe of Southern Baptists overlapping with Acts 29, but Aiken is at the center of Southern Baptist life and didn't seem to fit the conference.

Meanwhile, one of the best talks I've heard in a while came from another Southern Baptist, Ed Stetzer, who spoke on the church as a sign and instrument of the kingdom of God. Two of his best comments went something like this:

1) "Some of you here need to get over the man crush you have on Driscoll and love the church you are in." Wow.

2) "Conferences like this can be a sort of pornography that promotes an unrealistic image of the church - one that is sure to leave you disappointed and feeling that you deserve something better than the church you serve back home." Wow number two.

He went on to say, "Most of us here are not going to serve a hip church filled with cool people. So stop wishing and waiting for a church that's cool enough to deserve you and start serving the church you're in." Someone needs to say this at every conference.

Speaking of Driscoll (if I dare, after Stetzer's comment and the heat some Out of Ur commenters threw out over the weekend!), he gave his second talk about some of the idols that plague churches and leaders. Two of the seven were especially powerful.

The first idol was money. He said that two theologies make an idol of money: the prosperity gospel (which says those who have money are holy), and the poverty gospel (which says if you don't have money you are holy). I couldn't agree more. I just don't see "God's preferential option for the poor" in the Bible.

June 09, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 22 comments


June 19, 2009  12:28am

Three snapshots from the Bible: - God chose the poor slaves in Egypt to manifest His power and glory. - God destroyed Sodom because they did not help the poor. - Jesus was born on a manger, walked the earth with “nowhere to rest his head”, lived with the poor, and buried in a borrowed tomb. Kenneth Swanson in his book “Uncommon Prayer: Approaching Intimacy with God” highlighted this charming prose: “God doesn’t have favorites, but He does have intimates.”

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Chad Hall

June 18, 2009  7:50am

Viktor, You over-generalize and hyperbolize to make a point. I suggest you find better ways to engage in the conversation. The conversation here around the poor and God's provision for the poor has been substantive and helpful - largely becaue of how many different interpretations of "God's preferential option for the poor" there are. The perspective of someone who is not coming at this as an American could add a lot to the conversation, so I'd suggest you bring that perspective rather than bringing stawman condemnations spiced with scripture. Just a thought.

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June 18, 2009  12:05am

"I just don't see “God's preferential option for the poor” in the Bible." - How remarkably American this presumption is! Where to "share your bread" means to collect enough for half of a million salary and give the rest to the poor. Of course, not every poor is holy, but do you not hear the cry in a world? May be, some day, brothers and sisters, you will learn what means "(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground."(Heb. 11: 38)

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June 15, 2009  12:28pm

Great article, thanks for sharing. I too love the "man on the scene" reports, even though I know they are just running through one more filter. Myself, I've all but given up on conferences at this point, but it's still good to hear what's out there. All that being said, I find it curious that the artwork used for this conference (and apparently the "war" theme) are vintage WW2. Seems like a not-so-subtle allusion to perhaps the last bastion of modernism (and it's failings?) WWII. Also intriguing is all the CS Lewis conversation. In so many ways we all seem to be mourning the loss (of certainty?), and this conference is trying to re-fight the battle. BTW, all that being said, I appreciate all these pastors you have quoted and am quite sympathetic to their conclusions, if not their methods. Great discussion!!

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June 14, 2009  8:02am

Actually that definition of "just" or "justice" being equal with "fairness" or "equality" has more to do with our cultural/legal views than anything else. Justice is not the leveling of the field or "equality". C.S. Lewis rightly said that real justice returns equality to equals and inequality to inequals. This insistence on "equality" need not be transported into everything. just my 2 cents.

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June 14, 2009  1:48am

this was really great. thanks so much for sharing it all.

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June 13, 2009  3:59pm

It's simple what the rich need from us: $$$$. Concentration of wealth is a fact and it gets worse every day. There's no such thing as a meritocracy in this country; I know too many spoiled rich kids whose only skill was being born to rich parents. Of course, rich does not equate to happy. I've read that people who inherit money are indeed less happy.

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Rob Dunbar

June 12, 2009  8:43pm

By definition, "preferential" and "just" are at odds. To be just is to treat all as the law of love requires; to be preferential is to lift one person (or class, or group) above another. Maybe the real problem is that we don't see what the wealthy person needs from us (though we see what we can get from him) while we see clearly what the poor person needs.

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Chad Hall

June 12, 2009  4:25pm

"God is holy and thus treats those who have received injustice with preference." Not sure Esau would see it this way.

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June 12, 2009  3:00pm

Scott's comment gets it right regarding the preferential option for the poor. It's about God desire for justice. Most often in our contemporary world and in history, the distinctions between those who are rich and those without are due to a large injustice in the way society functions. God is not pleased with this. Thus, God's choosing to ransom Israel from Egypt. Jesus definitely takes a similar route in the gospels. God's preferential options is never about humanity's holiness but God's holiness. God is holy and thus treats those who have received injustice with preference.

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