Tuesday kicked off the ninth and final Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference in Louisville, Kentucky, which boasted over 11,500 in attendance. Most in attendance are pastors at local churches and represent a variety of evangelical denominations.
During the first panel titled “Addressing the Elephant in the Room: What Does Together for the Gospel Mean When We’re So Divided,” Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, H.B. Charles, and Greg Glibert discussed why they believe there is so much division within the church over the last few years.
What does it mean to have this title “Together for the Gospel” when there as been so much division in evangelicalism, Dever asked the panel.
After Charles and Gilbert briefly shared their thoughts, T4G cofounder Duncan shared a conversation the panel had before they took the stage, saying, “The kinds of things that we struggled to overcome were different in 2006 than now. So we knew it when an interesting group of people came together at Louisville in 2006.”
“Continuationists and cessations, Baptists and Presbyterians—that’s an older division. But people from fundamentalist bodies, who were a little bit worried about folks that were associated broader evangelical circles, were intrigued by the fact that we were willing to draw really big, bold theological lines on the important doctrines,” Duncan went on to say. “In that moment in 2006, there was a lot of coming together for the first time. We saw different groups that didn’t normally associate or interact. And that was incredibly encouraging to all of us. And it remained encouraging for the next six years. There was a lot of excitement and encouragement.”
Duncan then pointed to Shai Linne’s book titled “The New Reformation: Finding Hope in the Fight for Ethnic Unity,” because of the timeline Linne provides regarding some of the issues that began to unravel their unity.
“Now the things in the last few years that have that have drawn a lot of attention have been things like race, social justice, police, politics, and pandemic. I’ve found that even in local churches that [they] are divided over how to handle the pandemic,” he said. “And I’ll speak to a pastor who says, ‘Well, you know, I’ve had members leave, because I’m not pro mask enough. And then I’ve had members leave because I’m not anti-mask enough.’”
This makes pastors feel caught in the middle of how they respond to the pandemic, Duncan continued. “Then politics, and then how to process what’s been going on in terms of racial and social justice in the culture—you’ll have the same guy, the same church, with two different groups of people disappointed that he’s been too-something and not-something-enough. So I’ve seen this playing out at the local level, not just at the conference level,” which shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, he explained.
We are witnessing the same thing that has happened to churches over the last 500 years that has caused divisions within their denominations and local bodies, Duncan shared to conclude his answer. “I think we’re seeing that play out right now.”
Dever, T4G’s other cofounder, said that some people are using the fact that this the last T4G “as a chance to write the obituary for young, restless and reformed.” He shared that one writer made the comment that many people see T4G as a conference that stands for a “kind of moment,” and because the conference is will no longer be held, it is an identifying mark that the movement T4G stands for coming to an end.