by Paul Briggs
Perhaps you have heard the colloquialism that expresses being overwhelmed by information as being “like drinking from a fire hose.” Thankfully, this is an experience I have literalIy never had, and frankly, hope to avoid in my lifetime. But figuratively, I would have to say that the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference might be the closest thing I have experienced to drinking from the proverbial fire hose! It has been a personal joy at various levels to be in attendance at six of these conferences, beginning with the very first gathering in 2006 and culminating last week with the last one.
Together for the Gospel is a gathering organized by four longtime ministry friends who wanted to create an opportunity for church leaders and friends from around the world to come together. The first conference in 2006 was 3,000 participants. Last week (April 19-21), approximately 11,500 people came together in Louisville, Kentucky to be challenged by the word of God, to sing the truth of God, and to connect with the people of God, all for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
But how does one begin to process a conference experience like this one? Since coming back from Louisville, I have been asked several times, “What was the highlight of the experience for you?” I would break down the highlights into three categories. (I limit myself to these to stop myself from writing a book!)
Challenged by God’s Word
Together for the Gospel is centered on Gospel preaching. We heard fourteen messages from different Bible passages over two and a half days (52 hours) at T4G around the theme “The Last Word.”
There were two messages that I continue to reflect on over a week after the fact because of their challenge to me at a personal level. H.B. Charles, a pastor in Jacksonville, Florida, delivered a message from 1 Peter 1:10-12 entitled, Don’t Forget the Significance of Your Salvation. The sermon was profound in its simplicity and clarity but much needed for each one of us as believers. Remembering the significance of our salvation is a fact that drives our daily activity.
The second message that challenged me greatly was given by Greg Gilbert, a pastor in Louisville. He spoke about The Two Step Process of Humility from Philippians 2:1-11. His two points: (1) unity lives where self regard dies; and (2) self regard dies at the foot of the cross. Several notable quotes from that particular sermon continue to circulate in my thinking:
- “We think too much about ourselves because we think too little of Jesus!”
- “We are able to see God’s kindness only because we have experienced God’s mercy.”
- “Self regard is fatal to churches.”
- “We will never humble ourselves as far as Jesus did… you and I cannot fathom what it means to be equal with God.”
Together for the Gospel is saturated with gospel singing. At the beginning and conclusion of each session, we were led by Matt Merker (author of He Will Hold Me Fast) at the piano in the singing of Gospel-rich hymns and spiritual songs of praise and worship to the Lord. Over the course of the three days, it was a blessing and a great joy to be part of a choir of 11,500 people singing together more than forty hymns of profound theological depth. I thought on numerous occasions as we sang that this was a small foretaste of what we will experience when we, as God’s people, are gathered around the throne singing praises to the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:9-13). What a day of rejoicing that will be!
Connected to God’s People
Together for the Gospel is a conference integrated with Gospel fellowship. The letter “T” (Together) was more precious at this T4G conference than perhaps any of the previous ones for several reasons. Two years ago, the decision was made due to the COVID pandemic to move the whole conference online. That fact alone made this year’s conference special as there was renewed appreciation for the many benefits of being together. Then there was also the announcement prior to this year’s conference that T4G 2022 would be the last T4G conference which, I believe, made this year’s opportunity to be together a special occasion.
As I sent home photos of people I encountered at T4G that I count as ministry partners, my wife, Geri, made the comment, “Just seems like a big reunion instead of a conference.” Indeed, it was that, for sure! I encountered numerous people who had been here at Kossuth once upon a time and are now elsewhere serving the Lord. It was a special joy and privilege to get to hear some of the stories of how the Lord is using those who have been shaped in some way by having been part of the Kossuth family in years gone by. That caused me (and I believe you should stop now and do likewise!) to praise the Lord for his faithfulness over many years to us as God’s people at Kossuth. Thank the Lord for giving us the privilege of speaking into the lives of young people. They come to study engineering, math, biology, agriculture, or some other discipline of study, and the Lord allows us the joy of living the Gospel together in this very transient community of Greater Lafayette. Then, by his grace and for his glory, he takes them elsewhere, either here in the continental United States or somewhere else in the world, to continue to faithfully serve and proclaim the wonderful truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A week after returning to normal life and ministry, I find myself looking in the rear view mirror at T4G 2022 and reflecting on biblical topics like humility and the significance of my salvation in Christ alone. I find myself humming (or whistling) some of the glorious hymns we sang together. I find myself remembering the faithfulness and love of God for his church. I find myself rejoicing in the privilege it is to be a part of the Kossuth family… and I am grateful to be “together for the gospel” with God’s people here!