Together for the Gospel – by Pastor Curt Sharbaugh
In April, I attended a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, called Together for the Gospel, or T4G for short. The conference developed out of a friendship between four pastors who were from different denominations but had one thing in common—the gospel. They all agreed on what the gospel was as well as “that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Churches and among many who claim the name of Christ.” They wanted to encourage pastors and churches to recover the full gospel and thought that holding a conference every two years would work toward achieving that goal.
Since 2006, they have held this biennial conference in Louisville, and even though I lived in Louisville for three years, I’d never had the opportunity to attend before this year. I went and was greatly encouraged by the sessions and panel discussions as well as by the comradery of other pastors who share our commitment to the gospel. I’d like to share a little about my experience.
The theme of the conference this year was “Distinct from the World.” It was a call to affirm the importance of holiness and to commit to pursue it by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The teaching was clear and insightful. It can be found online at t4g.org. It’s an important theme because those who claim to follow Christ are struggling today to affirm and pursue holiness. There are pressures to concede our distinctness when it comes to matters of sexuality and personhood. There are currents within Christianity that downplay holiness for the sake of evangelism. There is also an ignorance about what holiness really means and how it relates to God. The speakers addressed these concerns.
It was helpful to hear other pastors and teachers reflect on holiness and explain its relevance for navigating the issues of our day. We were taught about the nature of God and its impact on followers of Christ. Speakers pointed out our need to stand firm together as churches. They noted how important holiness is for our evangelism, since our distinctness is the way God shines the light of the gospel into our dark world. Holiness, it was observed, is expressed by love when rightly understood, but it is often misunderstood as austere and uncaring because it is replaced by legalism. One especially helpful insight was made by a speaker who said, “The most basic, most essential distinction between a Christian and a non-Christian is not godly decisions, good deeds, or genuine doctrine, but a new delight in the glory of God.” He in no way was denying the first three; he was simply saying that this new delight is more basic and essential for our holiness.
Now some might think at a conference with Baptists, Presbyterians, Bible churches, Non-denominational churches, and more that doctrine would have to be downplayed in order for everyone to get alone. This was not the case, and in fact, one of the key differences, baptism, was mentioned numerous times. Differences were acknowledged even as commonalities were affirmed. I believe that Baptist theology is correct, but that in no way suggests that God is not at work in other denominations that affirm a true gospel. It was encouraging to see that God is bigger than me and bigger than the Southern Baptist Convention.
There are other multi-denominational conferences that I would avoid like the plague because they’re gathered by way of denying important truths. But I can commend Together for the Gospel as a faithful conference, and though the messages were at times fairly deep, I would still recommend them for the benefit of those in our church.