Acts 29, Ad Fontes, Albert Mohler, John Piper, Kevin Deyoung, Lansing Center, Leonce Crump, Matt Chandler, Noel Heikkinen, Sola, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Solus Christus, Stephen Um
Last Friday morning at a crisp 4:30 AM, a good friend and I set out on a four and a half hour drive to Lansing, Michigan for the SOLA13 conference. There was a weather advisory that day and it was sleeting/snowing/blowing/icy deliciousness as we started driving. Thankfully, the farther west we got, the snow stopped. We arrived in Lansing a bit late, as is normal for the two of us. We had a time trying to find the place where the pre-conference was being held. Eventually we made our way into the place where Acts 29 was holding the pre-conference. As we walked in, I could hear Kevin Deyoung speaking, which was weird because I am only used to hearing him on a podcast or something of the like. The folks at the registration desk asked us for our registration and being the technological hipsters that we are, we pulled out the app on our phones with our tickets on it. However, we had only registered for the main conference and had no idea there was a separate registration for the pre-conference. However, they were gracious enough to let us in.
We settled in for a morning of content from Kevin Deyoung, John Piper and Noel Heikkinen. I will say that during a break, I brushed shoulders with John Piper and we gave each other a smile and a polite nod. I am ashamed to say that I was a bit geeked out to be able see in person and get a smile and nod from John Piper. I obviously don’t know him personally, but I know that he would dissuade me from such a perception of him or of any other man for that matter. Deyoung had some great thoughts on preaching, but we didn’t get to hear his entire message. I have a whole mess of notes from Piper’s talk that I still need to digest. But at its core, his message was one of encouragement for pastors and church planters to keep going and keep trusting in Christ. Finally, Noel finished with his story of planting Riverview Church and how God led him to stay in Michigan against Noel’s will. Remember how I said that we weren’t registered for the pre-conference? Well, there was a lunch provided, so my friend and I felt really bad that we weren’t registered and were now getting fed. However, we quickly gave that to the Lord and ate.
Conference Day 1
We made our way over to the Lansing Center where the main conference was being held. While we were just getting there that morning, my gas light was on in my car for about the last 25 miles. Had my wife been with me…well that wouldn’t have happened. We wanted to take the time to go get gas before the conference began, but found out that we had to pay again for parking when we came back in. I tried to ask the lady at the booth if we could get back in since we had already paid, but she just said, “Yeah, it’s $6.00.”
The Lansing Center is a mammoth place and the main room reminds me of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The worship band was from Riverview Church and they were very talented! I thoroughly enjoyed the music during the conference! Noel spoke during the first main session setting up the conference and some vision he had for Michigan. Deyoung spoke on Ad Fontes for the second session. He had some great historical content along with a look at how the same Ad Fontes (to the fountains) concept remained true for the Church today. We enjoyed burgers with a pastor and his wife who are actually from our area. Matt Chandler was to be speaking for the last session, but unfortunately he couldn’t be there in person due to the weather. My friend and I were pretty bummed that he wasn’t there in person, but through the blessing of technology he was able to record his message from his church and send the video to us in Lansing. Chandler spoke on Sola Fide (faith alone) and as he commonly does worked in much of his own story to declare the Gospel. Though it was via video, it was a great message. We made our way back to the hotel and quickly crashed.
Conference Day 2
We got up a bit late Saturday morning and inhaled a mediocre continental breakfast. We decided to try and get Starbucks, but quickly found out that there was no Starbucks close enough to our route. So, we went to Coffee Jam, which was a little local coffee shop next to the hotel. It was bustling with conversation of knee replacements and gout. We arrived at the conference and Leonce Crump began the day by speaking on Sola Gratia (grace alone). One thing that stuck out to me was this quote, “Grace is the conduit through which God transmits the very faith that we have to stand justified before him.” Stephen Um spoke next on Solus Christus (Christ alone) and it was so refreshing to hear from someone who is a seminary professor and a pastor. The conference speakers were well balanced in the sense that not all were pastors and not all were academics.
We went to lunch at Taco 911 across the street from the Lansing Center. We had a significant discussion about the name of the restaurant. Do the tacos make you call 911? Is it an emergency that one should have these tacos? Do I really want, need or can I handle these emergency tacos? Nevertheless, we ate there and it was pretty good. We then went to Biggby Coffee and sat for a bit before our next session.
Albert Mohler spoke next on Sola Scriptura (scripture alone), and he is an absolute blessing to listen to. He has an uncanny way of explaining things and really connects all these wonderful themes together when he speaks. I have more to chew on from what he said, particularly about the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Finally, John Piper closed the conference with Soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone). He set his session up by talking through what the five solae reject and he went through each wonderfully. Finally, he finished with an exposition of Romans 11:33-36.
We sat in our car waiting to leave with about 3,000 people trying to get out of a parking lot. We decided to take that time to pray together to seal up all that had taken place over the last two days. I didn’t leave with any new books even though I was adequately tempted at the conference bookstore, yet I left with lots to think and pray through. One thing that stood out the most for me is a reminder to revel in my own salvation. As we went through the five solae, I was struck with the mastery that God displays in the work of salvation. It is so not of me and so very much of Him. There is so much simplicity and complexity wrapped up in these truths that those in the Reformation spelled out for us. It is even more encouraging seeing them weaved through scripture. Even though we had a bit of a heartbreak driving home listening to the Buckeyes game, we went home feeling full of truth, encouragement and a fresh look at the majesty of God.