This past week, at the generosity of Baptist Church of the Redeemer, I had the privilege of attending the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY. The God-centered, mercy magnifying, Bible proclaiming humility of the men who spoke at the conference was enormously encouraging. This is a kind of evangelicalism, a way of being Christian, that I want to be a part of. The kind of evangelicalism put on display at the conference is united not by a lowest common denominator theological affirmation but by a fervent passion to revel in the untraceable mercy of the righteous Father expressing his love in the death of his Son and redeeming people from their just deserts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is an evangelicalism that is denominationally diverse: Ligon Duncan ministers in the Presbyterian Church of America, C. J. Mahaney in Sovereign Grace, Al Mohler and Mark Dever in the Southern Baptist Convention, R. C. Sproul in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, John Piper in the Baptist General Conference, and John MacArthur is representative of the Bible Church movement. But these men all share a big view of the God revealed in the Bible, and their shared view of God unites them across denominational lines.
This is an evangelicalism that is spread across the country: MacArthur on the West Coast in California, Piper in the far north of Minneapolis, Duncan in the deep south of Mississippi, Mohler in the middle America of Kentucky, Sproul in the south east in Florida, Mahaney and Dever on the East Coast of Virginia and Washington D.C, respectively. Across the miles these men are united in the belief that the Bible must be proclaimed because faith comes by hearing.
This is an evangelicalism that is confessional. These men signed 18 articles of affirmation and denial that clearly define who they are and what they believe. If they ask for others to affirm these as well, sign me up.
As I mull over this conference in the coming days I may post other thoughts on it. The point of this one is to say that I pray that the Lord would use this to ignite a widespread revival. On the flight home last night I was reading Tom Nettles’ The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity, and I was struck by this passage about William Kiffin:
In 1653 a most affectionate fraternal letter was sent from Baptist churches in Ireland to ‘the churches of London under the care of Messrs. Kiffin, Spilsbury, and others’. The letter called for a maintenance of correspondence and a faithful sense of supplication and repentance before God. Every first Wednesday the churches pledged themselves ‘by fasting and prayer humbly to mourn before him for the things following’. They then listed under twelve numbers the sins of omission for which they earnestly sought repentance including such concerns as, ‘Our want of spiritual wisdom to reprove sin plainly in all without respect of persons . . . ; Our little praying and praising frame of heart; in particular for faithful labourers in the Lord’s vineyard; . . . Our little serious searching into the word of God, and not substantially acquainting ourselves with the foundation truths revealed therein; . . . Our little concern for the sufferings of the people of God; . . . our little mourning for sin; . . . Our great ignorance of the deceitfulness of our own hearts.’ These issues, plus others, seemed sufficient grounds for ‘our lying low before the Lord, that he may lift us up in due time’.
The Baptists in London, led by Kiffin, responded immediately by having a day of fasting and prayer on these very issues and sent the correspondence along to the brethren in Wales with a cover letter. ‘We shall not offer arguments,’ they wrote, ‘to persuade you to compliance with our brethren’s desire and ours.’ The statements in themselves ‘carry so much evidence and demonstration of truth, necessity and suitableness to the Gospel rule’, that no such convincing is necessary. ‘We have already kept a day of holy fasting and prayer, upon the grounds expressed; and trust we shall never lay down our spiritual weapons.’ (Nettles, The Baptists, 135–36, emphasis added).
O that God would use the Together for the Gospel conference to spur his people to widespread “maintenance of correspondence and a faithful sense of supplication and repentance before God.” O that God would use many weblogs to create and maintain correspondence, and O that many would indeed give themselves to fasting on the first Wednesday of the month, praying for God to bring reformation and revival, repenting of sin, and asking God for a hunger and thirst to know Christ.
The first Wednesday of the month is in just a few days.
Here again are the things mentioned in the letter above:
(1) Our want of spiritual wisdom to reprove sin plainly in all without respect of persons.
(2) Our little praying and praising frame of heart; in particular for faithful labourers in the Lord’s vineyard.
(3) Our little serious searching into the word of God, and not substantially acquainting ourselves with the foundation truths revealed therein.
(4) Our little concern for the sufferings of the people of God.
(5) Our little mourning for sin.
(6) Our great ignorance of the deceitfulness of our own hearts.’
We Baptists are famous for our “invitations.” I invite you to join me in repenting of these sins and fasting before God from breakfast and lunch on the first Wednesday of the month, beseeching the Lord to bring revival. Do we love him, and do we desire him to save surprising numbers of people, more than we love one breakfast and lunch a month?
With Kiffin and those on whose shoulders we stand, may we "never lay down our spiritual weapons."