Over the weekend I drifted up to Katoomba with about 2,500 other workers for the second annual Engage Conference; aimed specifically at Christian workers. It’s a little different than other Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) organised conventions, with a catch-phrase of ‘late starts and coffee carts’. This year a couple of drawcard speakers were on board: Mark Driscoll and Don Carson, resulting in tickets being sold out within minutes. The talks were to address the question of “So, is this it??“.
Driscoll was first off the ranks as Carson was still airborne on the friday night when things kicked off. Throughout the weekend Driscoll would speak on the gospel of John. Mark gave us some background on John; being one of Jesus’ inner inner circle who shared in the most intimate moments of His life. He also mentioned that the gospel of John was the last one written, having 92% of it’s content unique and targeted at the Greek people. The Friday night session covered most of John 1:1-18 and then 3:1-8 which addressed who Jesus was; the Word and the son of God, and why he came; as a missionary so that we may be born again or regenerated, making the differentiation between being religious & regenerated. This regeneration doctrine says that when one is born again the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a persons heart and changes them, giving them
- a new Lord
- A new identity
- A new mind
- New desires
- New power
- New life
Driscoll’s second talk was around John 4 which tells of Jesus encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. Mark continued to speak of regenerative doctrine and expanded into worship, this is a way that God has Glory. He mentioned that readers should put themselves in the position of the sinner that encounters Jesus. I guess I’ve never really thought to do this explicitly. Mark gave the ultimatum of whether we worship creator or creation. His final point was to ask some questions for people to ponder:
- What do you long for most?
- Where do you run to for comfort?
- What makes you angry with God?
- What do you make sacrifices for?
- Who’s approval do you seek?
- What makes you happiest?
The third Driscoll talk was to cover John 6 which tells of Jesus feeding of the five thousand, but he cut this very very short (3 minutes, if that??) to answer questions put forward by the audience by way of SMS to a mobile specifically setup to take them. Now whilst this hour of question time was useful, I would have preferred at least a half/half split due to the uniqueness of Johns’ gospel would have liked to hear how this part was different from the other books. Someone pointed out that all of the questions did seem to ask about themselves and what they should do, which were contrary to what Mark had been speaking about in the previous talks. He also seemed to use them as a springboard into things that he wanted to talk about that were slightly related.
Carson was the speaker for Saturday evening after landing in Sydney sometime that afternoon. His talk was on Matthew 11, more specifically on Christian identity and how that is grounded in Jesus. Most of the content in the chapter is about John the Baptist: Jesus sending a message to him and then speaking to the people about him. The talk was broken down into a few sub-sections:
- Portrait of a discouraged Baptist
- Portrait of a defended Baptist
- Portrait of an eclipsed Baptist
John is discouraged because not only is he in prison, but he’s heard of the deeds of Christ, which he’s longed to see. He sends his disciples to ask of Jesus, who sends a rather cryptic reply in language very similar to that used in scripture: Isaiah 35: 5 & 6 and Isaiah 61. These two passages speak of the day of The Lord – when the messiah will come to restore things, however in the context of the scriptures there is also mention of massive judgement, which Jesus doesn’t address in his message, rather he hints at the blessings that are starting to be fulfilled in himself
John is defended by Jesus!! Jesus questions the crowd asking what they came out to see. If it was a shaken reed, representing something that was weak & limp, or a man in soft clothing, signifying a rich man; someone who would give hand-outs, or a prophet, which is what John is. He is the one that Malachi prophesied about, not unlike Elijah. He is the greatest because he introduces Jesus: Gods visitation to Earth.
John is indeed greater than those born of women because he points to Jesus with greater clarity, yet the least in the kingdom, i.e.; those living after Jesus death & resurrection are greater still then John. Yet those against the kingdom of Heaven have been forcefully advancing, trying to take it by force and exploit it. Jesus then goes on to explain how this generation didn’t accept John & doesn’t accept Jesus in the roles they played, drawing from the scriptures again to show fulfillment of them and to illustrate how John & Jesus’ roles were different and both unaccepted.
Sunday morning Carson spoke first, running through Psalm 40 which was excellent. I have a real appreciation for Carson on Psalms after hearing him speak on Psalm 1 about 5 years ago. One pearl of wisdom he gave was that it was common that older Christians tended to read, enjoy and understand the Psalms as they’d had enough diverse experiences to understand this diverse collection of work, however if you are to read and study them at a younger age, they will help you through through those situations in life.
He went on to explain how Psalm 40 was the last in a triplet from 37; which talks about the Psalmist waiting on God, 38 & 39; the Psalmist going through a phase of self-examination, and then turning to joy in Psalm 40. The talk was particularly encouraging in how God looks after us in times of struggle, which were referred to as a miry bog. Carson said that were either removed from the bog or kept there as God heaps grace on us to help others in the same or similar situations.
The final Driscoll talk was from John 10, which is about Jesus the shepherd and sheep.
He spoke of how much of a sacrifice the shepherd makes for his flock in great detail, especially how horrible his crucifixion was, making quite a number of people around me cringe and weep, definitely putting things into perspective.
So there is a wrap up of the speakers… The social aspects of the weekend mainly frustrated me as the group I went with was particularly cliquey, as I guess most Christian groups tend towards, so I didn’t have much of a chance to interact and converse with them. I did get a chance to catch a few friends from days gone by like Mark & Jess Bootes, Phil from ACC (Asian Church Carlingford) and Dave Irving. I also had an alright time on Saturday evening with the Guthries, Lawsons, Lovells, Russells, Tooses, Geoff, Tiff and Issac; watching the hopeless union match, drinking beer and discussing various aspects of Engage up to that point. I also found myself serving the cliquey group by cleaning the house and washing dishes by myself on the Sunday morning which seemed to fuel the weekends fire….
Overall a great weekend for Christian teaching which has set my mind racing over changes going on in my life and how to approach things, but a less than mediocre time for relationships which has also set in motion some steps to help me in that respect and possibly be less accommodating and polite.
I’ve also picked up a Mark Driscoll power pack of 7 books, so expect to be hearing about those sometime after I’ve waded through reading them.