Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Elephant Room Conference

I recently finished watching the Elephant Room conference DVDs.  If you are unfamiliar with it let me give you a brief synopsis.  The Elephant Room Conference was a one day event recently held by Dr. James MacDonald of Walk in the Word Ministries where he gathered several well-known pastors with differing beliefs.  The goal was to get together with these men who don't always agree on some of the issues of the church and discuss them in a very generous fashion.  

I am 100% fine with generous, grace filled discussion.  In fact, I believe that we need less snarky straw-men attacks and more of these genuine grace filled conversations.  I know that I have personally fell into the trap of a snarky argument from time to time and I pray God will continue to grow me in grace and wisdom so that I choose my battles wisely and fight well when the time comes.

That said, I also think there is room for Biblical admonishment.  It is fine to discuss these things as long as the goal isn't just to better understand someone's position but rather to try and come to a common understanding of the issue. 

I don't want to spend this blog post on taking a position for each of the things they discussed... maybe in a later post... what I want to do is offer some thoughts on each person who was there.  Since the goal was to better understand them... here's what I now understand better about them.

On the panel were the following Pastors:
James MacDonald
Matt Chandler
Perry Noble
David Platt
Steven Furtick
Greg Laurie
Mark Driscoll

So here we go.

James MacDonald did I think a fair job in moderating the whole thing.  There were a few times when, in the context of a discussion, some things came up that maybe needed a bit stronger of a Biblical rebuke and exhortation to turn from that behavior and he seemed to shy away from it.  That was a little disappointing to me coming from a man who has a brilliant reputation for defending the Gospel.  I don't feel that he compromised the truth, I just personally felt he could have been a little stronger in some areas and it would have had the potential to be very helpful to those to whom he was speaking.

Matt Chandler was no surprise to me whatsoever.  Matt is ferocious about the Gospel, he loves God, he loves people.  He articulated well the Gospel, he articulated well his positions, I know that it helped me because I tend to hold many of the same views as Pastor Matt and so it really helped me think through how to articulate some of these specific convictions.

Perry Noble was also surprising.  Ok, I am going to say this and I know my reformed brothers are going to get a bit torqued at me about this but I actually found myself liking some of what he said.  I said some!  This is by no means an endorsement of Perry Noble or his practices, he does many many things that distorts and waters down the gospel and I think that is a serious issue... However, on some of the topics... I agreed with some of what he said.  Now the issue of his church band playing secular music came up, he defended it with Scripture... unfortunately for him he defended it with scripture that was ripped out of context and so it didn't make the case.  I think the issue with Perry is that he is a man who loves the Lord but perhaps he is just terribly misguided?  I won't say that he is a wolf necessarily, but he is flirting with apostasy pretty heavily.

David Platt was by far my favorite.  David has a way of articulating truth so well and in his tone you can hear that his motive is not arrogance but love for the Gospel.  He sincerely wants to see God glorified and it comes across in his approach.  I know that he has been critiqued for the Radical book, that it will lead to an extreme poverty theology, however, when you hear him defend some of his views espoused in Radical you understand more of what his aim was in writing it.  I think the reason that some people are so up in arms over his book has less to do with them feeling that he is pushing a bad poverty type theology and more with a love for stuff in their own lives and a heart that doesn't want to get rid of idols... just a thought.

Steven Furtick surprised me but not because I agreed with him more than I thought... Furtick surprised me because I was astounded to find someone who can find a way to boast on himself and what HE has done in almost every subject.  I may not be being as generous with Steven as I ought, I'll confess, but I was shocked at how often his defense for his positions wasn't 'Well, the Bible says...' but rather, 'I just did this', 'I led our church this...' so on and so on.  We heard about everything from how he shouldn't be called a wolf or false teacher because he sold everything to start his church and how he does to teach his church to love the Bible because he just led them through a fast and through the New Testament in 30 days (New through 30 he called it).  When Matt Chandler confronted Steven on his methodology, instead of making a defense of it Steven just countered back by taking a shot at something Chandler had said.  Now, whether or not Matt was in error on the comment that Steven brought up is not what I'm addressing.  I'm merely saying that boasting in self and side-stepping arguments doesn't exactly do much to help people understand you better if being misunderstood is what you feel you are by the general public. 

Greg Laurie was a new name for me.  Prior to this conference I had never heard of him although upon hearing him speak and doing a little research on him online I am becoming more of a fan.  He articulated himself well, he was clearly passionate for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he seems to hold to very sound biblical doctrine.  Though he wouldn't call himself a Calvinist, he certainly holds to those views.  He just prefers to avoid those labels and I am fine with that... truthfully the word Calvinist has such a stigma attached to it, because most people don't really understand it, I would just as soon leave that little title off of me as well... even though I am a "five pointer" as they say. haha

Mark Driscoll did what Mark does.  He defended the Gospel well and he made me laugh.  I like Mark.  I think because of my conservative upbringing he may be a bit too close to the contemporary style for me personally... but I don't think he is in sin or error with any of what he's doing (that I'm aware of).  He made a very good point that really convicted me as well and that is that sometimes people confuse their love for the Gospel with a fear of God (fear in a negative way).  What he went on to explain was that if we take the Gospel and hide it away, never sharing it.  Treat it like the wicked servant of Matthew 25.  Then we really don't love the Gospel.  If we loved the Gospel, we'd share it.  Further, he pointed out that it is those who are like that who are most likely to take cheap shots at those who don't share the Gospel at all or share a watered down version of it.  Convicting for me because I don't want to ever drift towards the behavior of the wicked slave.  I want to be faithful with what God has entrusted to me and take the Gospel to the Nations as the Lord has commanded.

Final thoughts:

I was helped by this conference.  I think that I may have had a bit of bloodlust interest in it to begin with because I wanted to see some of those guys get a Gospel beating... which was a sinful desire in my heart.  Thankful God revealed that to me through this.  I deserve a beat down just as much as anyone for my sin as well.  I do wish that some error had been labeled as error a bit more clearly BUT I wasn't there behind the scenes so I'll pray that maybe some more useful exhorting and admonishing went on backstage.

You can pick this up from the Elephant Room Conference website and it is a bit costly at $50 but I feel it is worth the price.

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