I’ve missed two days and so much has happened. The Resurgence Conference has kicked off and is full steam ahead already. But let me start with Sunday. On Sunday morning I went down for breakfast in the hotel and hooked up with a couple of guys from Bethlehem Baptist (John’s Piper’s church) who were also attending the conference. We were all really keen to attend a Mars Hill service that morning so we went along to the 11am service at the Ballard campus. And so after listening to all the podcasts, watching all the vodcasts, reading the books and reading the blogs I finally arrived in the flesh at Mars Hill Church. It was kind of a surreal experience in many ways to be thousands of kilometers across the ocean at the place you’ve read and heard so much about. And it definitely wasn’t a let down. The church is fairly massive but its nothing like any other mega church you’ll come across. Its got a very industrial look, being a converted warehouse. The lighting inside is all done up to create kind of grunge rock concert feel. Technology and multimedia is all over the place. And then the band got up to play – and it was nothing like any contemporary worship music. Instead the music had kind of an indie-rock feel to it with a lot of the songs being old hymns rearranged. It was a pretty awesome worship experience. And then Mark Driscoll took to the stage to preach. He was in the middle of a series of answering questions that the congregation had asked him. On this occasion he tackled the issue of the emerging church – but you can’t really just preach a sermon on the emerging church so before long he turned to Acts 17 and gave us a run down of how Paul engages culture with the gospel of Christ. At one stage he passionately declared what the foundational beliefs of Mars Hill Church are which he centered completely on the cross. At the end of that passionate little proclamation the congregation just broke into applause and cheering. It was unlike any kind of cheering or applause I’ve ever heard in a church – these guys were applauding the gospel! The entire experience was amazing.
After lunch the pre-conference tracks began and so I sat in a session of Q & A with the various campus pastors who explained how they’re figuring out the workings of multi-campus church. Mars Hill currently has 6 campuses. Mark Driscoll only preaches at Ballard (6 times on a Sunday) but the live video feed is sent to the other 5 campuses. Each campus has its own pastor (who only preaches when Mark is away), music team, community groups and is basically a church plant. It was interesting to hear how an operation the size of Mars Hill operates.
That evening I went out of supper with the guys from Bethlehem Baptist and then got to bed early for the next day of full sessions.
We started the morning with a session with Tim Smith, the worship pastor at Mars Hill, entitled ‘Building Missional Bands’. I was I quite surprised to see the Tim and Mars Hill were big into David Peterson’s ‘Engaging God’ – in fact Tim spoke quite passionately about avoiding the use of music as a spiritual mediator between you and God. It was so refreshing to hear guys that have a great theology of worship but still perform really high quality music in their church.
After that we had the main opening session of the conference with Mark Driscoll speaking on ‘Putting Pastors in their Place’. Mark came out all guns firing highlighting the centrality of preaching in church today – he was extremely passionate and extremely hard hitting – as only Driscoll can be. After his session we had a session with CJ Mahaney who preached on ‘Pastoral Character and Loving People’. CJ Mahaney is one of those guys who just oozes godliness and humility. He gave a challenging talk reminding pastors to have a heavenly perspective on the Christians that they serve. The final evening session was by John Piper entitled, ‘Why I trust the Scriptures’. It was an amazing privilege to finally hear Dr. Piper in the flesh. In fact Mark Driscoll was visibly moved as he introduced the great man of God. Unfortunately my brain was beginning to shut down by that time of the evening and so I’m glad all these talks will be available online shortly.
In between the last two sessions I got to have supper with Mike Gunn who is the international director of Acts29. He was super keen to hear about the potential for church planting in South Africa and so today I’m having lunch with a few other guys who are interested in planting internationally.
Its going to be another long day.