Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2018

Movement Caught in Freeze-Frame

Which one would you buy a used car from?

It’s those same old guys again.
Where are the up-and-coming leaders and teachers?
Does the movement have a succession plan?
Are there any rising stars?
If so, would they get an opportunity; a chance to gain a platform; or is it a closed shop?

Part of the payoff in doing this blog for ten years has been introducing people to communicators whom they might not have otherwise encountered to that point. I’m always interested in hearing what new people have to say; how they take the classic truths of scripture and breathe something fresh into it.

Right away I can hear some people thinking, ‘If it’s new it’s not true.’ This instant dismissal of the unfamiliar is valid if someone is propagating a different doctrine, but if it’s just a matter of clothing the gospel with different terminology, there should be no issue with that. God has gifted multiplied thousands of people, many of whom are exercising those gifts even as you’re reading this. I like to see a shared platform.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the perceived new-or-true dichotomy, we get emotionally bonded to certain words and phrases. I’ve told the story before of Bruxy Cavey speaking for 40 minutes on “the King-ship of Christ” and then being raked over the coals by a woman because he never once mentioned “the sovereignty of God.” She was in bondage to that phrase, and if she didn’t hear it, she tuned out everything which was said, even though it was exactly the same thing.

The same is true with authors and speakers. People get into a rut where they have their favorites, and it’s a closed set. There’s no room for succession. Sometimes these same people will stay home if it’s not the pastor preaching that Sunday. They might tell you they’re longing for “a fresh word from the Lord,” but they’re not interested if the Lord uses a fresh voice to make the delivery. Sometimes an entire movement can be failing to think in terms of succession. Or how frustrating it is to be a pastor in a particular movement with decades of experience and hundreds of stories, and yet never even be considered to share in that forum.

Which brings us to the picture above. Personally, I can’t begin to imagine why people would go back, year after year, to a convention with the same speakers as the year before, and the year before that. If you get it then you understand something important about the Together for the Gospel (aka T4G) mindset. If not, I’ll leave you to figure out what’s really taking place here; why the club is closed to new members.

(Even Bob Kaufflin, the music guy — one guy at a piano, not pictured above, for the entire weekend — is making his sixth consecutive appearance. Is there no one in this movement capable of bringing something different to that aspect of the conference? Trip Lee will be there to lead a seminar. That would be interesting.)

I look at the picture and I ask myself, ‘Which of these people would I buy a used car from?’ Chandler, maybe. Mohler looks like he’d be the one who owns the dealership. Platt looks like he just got promoted from the Service Department into sales; at least he’d know if the car is good mechanically. But DeYoung knows something about the car he’s not telling me. And Dever is charging me about $1K too much; I need to switch sales reps. Anyabwile was the first rep I talked to, but when I came back to ask for him, I couldn’t pronounce his name

Yeah, we’re better to stay with the used car analogy, because if we cross over from analogy to truth, it gets ugly. You’ve got a guy there who even people within the movement say needs to address things in his past before being a featured speaker. You’ve got a guy who has been tweeting nonsense, some of which makes Trump look sane by comparison. You’ve got a guy who’s got so much hate toward people outside the club. You’ve got people who’ve got to be part of this club by an accident of circumstances, and might have done better had they aligned with a different tribe.

But in April, they will gather; five Sola’s in one hand, five TULIP parts in the other, to declare the supremacy of The Gospel™, which of course they all agreed on before they arrived; and then head out to the bookstore to purchase the latest title from Crossway which will then be placed on their bookshelves, but not before they blog or tweet about how exciting it is to see a new release from ________ with some phrases copied and pasted from an online review and an overview of the Table of Contents.

Okay, that was over the top cynicism. I just have a passion for younger leaders, and there’s nobody on the T4G schedule that would cause me to board an airplane and fly to Louisville, Kentucky in mid April.

If you’re into this and you’re going, enjoy the convention. Tickets are now on sale.

From an outsider perspective, it looks like a bit of a yawner.


In 2014, I did a much longer article about T4G — after watching several days of the live feed — which you can read at this link. It resulted in the creation of this graphic; asymmetry is intentional.

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1 Comment »

  1. No worry Paul, it’s the Lord who calls leaders.

    Comment by B.J.E. van Noort — February 17, 2018 @ 8:43 am


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