Well that was an interesting experience.
#TGC11 was definitely worth the trip out to Chicago, and I am grateful to Gateway Church for allowing me to do this kind of thing. It ticked a lot of boxes for me – got me inspired about preaching again; made some interesting connections with interesting people; gave me an insight into a somewhat different world from the one I normally live in.
Even at a conference as good as this, with its incredible speaker line-up, there were a couple of slower moments; but I got through the whole thing without dozing off at any point. Yesterday was a long day, starting at 9am and not finishing till after 9pm. Matt Chandler got the last session, and didn’t start until 8.15pm, but his brilliant communication skills and the compelling element of his walking through the experience of having a brain tumour kept my attention.
All the talks are now available at the Gospel Coalition site. More remarkably, they are also all available in translation into French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
This translation service is an indication of the extremely professional organisation of the conference, and coming from the UK this was one of the more noticeable aspects. The UK and USA are different. It’s an obvious thing to say, but we tend to forget it because of the way our cultures overlap. The evangelical world is much larger here, and this was reflected in the number of Christian publishers, seminaries, and other organisations that were present at the conference. And they do things well.
The differences between the UK and USA are also clear in comparing a city like Chicago with a British city. It just is very different – in the way it is organised and operates, and in some negative things like the degree of racial segregation there is. This should also serve as a caution when listening to teaching from an American perspective in a British context – not everything will apply in quite the same way. Tim Keller was brilliant today on the why, what and how of reaching cities, but not everything he said quite mapped with how British cities works.
Despite the weaknesses (noted in the previous post) of this being a coalition event rather than a family one, it also displays some strengths. There was a real diversity of delegate, from the cool and edgy looking Acts 29 guys, to the chino & blazer preppy Presbyterian guys, to the jeans & big bellied reformed Baptist guys. That breadth was quite stimulating.
It will take me a few days to process the last few days – I have sat through a lot of teaching. I’ve got a couple of days to explore Chicago before flying home, and am looking forward to seeing some more of the city, turning over some thoughts in my mind, and beginning to draw some connections together. These are very interesting times.