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Thursday, May 04, 2006

T4G: I Love Paneling

I'm often amazed by the 70's trend of wood paneled walls. While it can make for the ultimate bachelor's pad (it evokes a sense of killing something and eating it, even before you get a chance to cook it), it's always baffled me as to the other places it cropped up; restaurants, church auditoriums, and especially basements. Chock it up to our attraction to fads, but many people installed paneling, only for the next occupant to ask, "What were they thinking?" Hopefully, we have all learned from it, and it is not a trend we will see return (at least not the dark stuff).

However, I hope the panel discussions at Together for the Gospel will not be a simple fad or trend that is here to day and passes, but will be a long lasting addition to many conference scenes. During the conference, each block of meeting time was concluded with a panel discussion from Dever, Duncan, Mohler and Mahaney (and, when applicable, the guest speaker...Sproul, Piper, MacArthur). I have heard a multitude of clamoring for the audio of these panels (and hopefully the ears from T4G have heard our cries), as these were some of the most meaningful discussions to get to eavesdrop. I think they were especially beneficial for the following reasons:

1. Dever--uberFacilitator--If facilitating and emcee-ing were spiritual gift, Dever would have it in apostolic proportions (oh, sounds like CJ is wearing off on me!). Anyone who has listened to his interviews on 9marks.org (and you should, they are free), or heard him lead a question and answer panel at events like the Shepherd's Conference, have to acknowledge he is one of the best. Being highly informed about the topic himself, he seems to know how to lead the discussion with his questions, but does not ask them in such a way that he is the one who is also giving the answer. He really leads the time with a servant's heart.
2. Friendship--These were not men on a panel because of expertise. Granted, each is highly informed and educated. However, the strength of the panel discussions was in the strength of their friendship. You truly felt like you were sitting in a hotel room as they debriefed together on the message they had just heard (which they claim is a common occurrence at conferences they attend together). They laughed. They picked on CJ a lot (which he received graciously). Dever could even make sharp comments about infant baptism to Lig Duncan without Duncan feeling threatened to attacked. They not only lead in message, but in example, that they are truly "Together for the Gospel."
3. Straight-forward--Al Mohler gave a message Preaching with the Culture in View. When John MacArthur shared he stated that he does not look to the culture when determining his message. Ligon Duncan spoke on Preaching from the Old Testament (highly beneficial for me, since I'll be preaching through Joshua next year), while MacArthur stated that he only preaches from the New Testament (to clarify, he did not say he does not believe the Old Testament or that he does not see it's value. He simply said his primary exposition would be from the New Testament). MacArthur (maybe he is the catalyst for opposing perspectives!) later explained that he has been going through Luke for nine years and is in chapter 16. Dever, on the other hand, has preached all 66 books of the Bible in 66 weeks. They did not duck from these differing views, but graciously discussed them together...sometimes explaining they are saying the same thing from different angles, other times explaining their differences.
4. Word-centered--The panels were built on an immovable foundation. When these men disagreed, I did not find myself disparing that answers were not out there. You did not find yourself merely thinking, Oh well, since they disagree, it must not be very important. Instead, you were struck by each man's desire to be faithful to the Word and it motivated you to seek out God's will according to His revealed purposes. I was not driven into abiguity, but motivated to search out the glory of God more clearly.

Hopefully, paneling like this is here to stay. (And hopefully, the audio from these will crop up somewhere.)

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