Harry Chan has recently joined Indelible Grace Church as a pastoral intern. He will be studying at Western Seminary in San Jose starting this Fall. Below are his reflections on attending the 2011 The Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. The title of the conference was "They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel From The Old Testament."
"This was my first time attending any sort of Christian conference. I've known about other annual conferences such as Passion for younger adults but I was never motivated enough to spend all that money on airfare, hotel, registration, and food to experience first-hand the huge corporate worship for three days. I settled for watching this past year's Passion conference through the free live-stream on the internet. I thought this was good enough to learn and experience the conference. And so I was going to do the same with The Gospel Coalition conference.
My father-in-law called me up one day and said that Lauren, my wife, told him that I was thinking of flying out to Chicago for the conference. He told me he had a free airplane ticket that I could redeem from his rewards card. I jumped on the opportunity and buckled down to paying the conference registration fee.
Though my initial thoughts about attending The Gospel Coalition conference were to worry about the costs involved, I was excited and fired up to go to Chicago. I was both eager to learn and be fed and to worship with the crowd. I was excited for the chance to listen to many of my heroes of faith preach truth and the gospel from their assigned passages in the Old Testament.
I was not disappointed.
I've been exposed to preaching Christ and the gospel in all of Scripture prior to this conference, so the idea was not new to me, however, to see these godly men to do it with such passion and conviction to a crowd of 5,000, most of whom were pastors, was very inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting. To gather in a huge auditorium with all these godly men and women who hunger and desire for God and His glory, and sing praises to our Father as a body of believers was a moving experience. The many workshops and various discussion panels were helpful in stirring up my thoughts on different matters.
Each day of the 3-day long conference was completely filled. There were multiple sessions, workshops, and discussion panels going on throughout the entire time. Each morning I took the train from my hostel in downtown Chicago to arrive at McCormick Place, where the conference was held, at around 7-7:30 am, and I didn't get back to my room until 11 pm each night. With the exception of lunch, dinner, and an occasional mid-day break, I was always in a session of some sort and singing worship to end the night. I was tired but I loved every minute of it. I was soaking it all in.
Though the majority of these sessions and workshops are posted online, one thing I got out of being there in person was the opportunity to meet several different pastors and leaders from around the country who were also in attendance for the first time. It was encouraging to hear their stories and to be able to draw wisdom and insight from them.
I may easily be wrong about this, but I thought that The Gospel Coalition conference was heavier than normal, thinking of the non-Christians or newer Christians that were attending. I met a person at the conference who told me that it was a bit much and a lot of things went right over his head. I understood where he was coming from. It seemed as though much of the conference could be a bit boring if people did not already have a deep love for God and His Word.
But the greatest encouragement was seeing how these godly preachers love Christ and preach the gospel so faithfully, as famous as most of them are amongst evangelical circles. Their humility in themselves and their proclamation of Jesus Christ and the gospel in all of Scripture, both the Old and New Testament, and in their talks and messages was extremely powerful and moved me to a much greater love for God, the gospel, and His Word.
The Gospel Coalition conference was an awesome experience and I would definitely tell people to go at least once. But if you can't afford it, there's always an abundance of very rich online resources to encourage and stir up your affections for God."