Also, the selection of books given away was not as uniformly stellar as in 2008, though it did feature some very good titles.
The highlights for me and my observations, mostly in random order:
- Spending a lot of time with Frank Turk and his wife was probably the highlight. They were already two of my favorite non-relatives in the known universe, but for me hearing them chat and interact and cut up was a deluxe hot fudge sundae with lots of nuts and no cherry. (Don't care for cherries on sundaes.) Only thing that would have made that better would have been having my dear Valerie with us. In fact, that would have made absolutely everything better. But I digress.
- Seeing Phil and Darlene Johnson is always a treat. (Readers: "Duh.")
- The warm greeting and chats with Ligon Duncan and Jim Hamilton. Love those brothers, absolutely love them; what gifts to Christ's church they both are. My bucket-list includes finding some way to spend more time with each of them. Both made my day. Wish I could take every one of Jim's classes, and wish I could be an undercover Calvidispiebaptogelical apprentice to Ligon. (More on Ligon, below.)
- Meeting and chatting with Chris Brauns, author of the stellar book on forgiveness (if you don't have it, you need it), and hearing of his writing plans.
- Meeting and chatting with Dr. Matt Harmon, one of the readers for my TWTG manuscript, and discussing our book plans and thoughts. Matt has some terrific projects in the works, I'm excited for him. Also a brief chat with Brian Rickett, one of the gracious TWTG endorsers and a good guy who sounds like he's got a terrific work going.
- Meeting -- and here I despair, because I know I'll forget someone I shouldn't -- Kim and Neil Shay for the first time in person, The Blainemonster (real name Blaine... Moore, I think?) Andrew Lindsey, Daniel Comings, Danny Wright, Steve Weaver, Evan May, Staci Eastin, Spencer DeBurgh, Logan Paschke, a missionary to Peru and then Mexico named Kenan Plunk, and Brad Williams. Seeing David and Kelly Kjos again, and spending more time with them. I know there were others -- a David, a Chris, others -- and I apologize for not remembering better. Saw Joe Thorn for, as I recall, the first time since the conference at Tulsa where the seed-thought for TWTG was planted.
- Dinner with Carl Trueman, along with my fellow Pyros and their wives, and Phil's associate Travis Allen. I think I understand many things better that affect me personally and evangelicalism at large, though not in a happy way. The dinner was very helpful, informative, fun. I think and hope it was good for him; I know it was good for us.
- Carl appeared on a panel with celebrity pastors talking about celebrity pastors. Carl was winsome and persuasive, made excellent points. He said he is concerned that, when he asks students who are the most influential figures on their lives, they name celebrity pastors they've never met and seldom (never) name their own pastors. Trueman is concerned about the impact on students' aspirations and expectations. Carl said he understands the need to sell tickets, but asks why all conferences always feature "the same twelve names." Indeed. I leaned over to Frank and whispered that they should ask him for his recommendations, and just then Carl (reading my mind) said "Why can't you have one or two sessions conducted by a faithful and unknown pastor of a small church?"
- On that: my mind went to the first session, where Mark Dever did his usual elimination rounds. I thought I might win one of them. He was closing in on the pastors there who'd been pastors for the least amount of time at their current churches. I was annihilated by a fellow who'd been a pastor for two days. But in the other direction, he discovered a gent who'd pastored the same church for (as I recall) well over fifty years. Now, other things being equal, that is a man I'd like to hear talk. I hope they kept his name.
- By the way, if any of the leaders are reading this: here's how you do it. Get a no-name or a relative no-name. Have all the speakers ready to talk at every session. Then simply draw a name before the session, and have that brother speak. That way, attenders won't flock to favorite celebrities and shun the faithful unknown. There y'go, problem solved.
- You will find audio of all the talks here. The talks I heard were all varying degrees of good. The most helpful and/or challenging to me were those by C. J. Mahaney, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Ligon Duncan. I spoke briefly with C. J. mainly to express appreciation. (In case anyone's fixing to accuse me of namedropping, C. J. stands in that vast majority of people who clearly don't know me from Adam.)
- Mahaney's talk was first. He has that George W. Bush gift for lowering expectations, then exceeding them. His text was 2 Corinthians 4, and I'll be listening again. In particular, he made a terrific observation about verses 4 to 6: verse 4 shows the impossibility of the situation, verse 6 shows God doing what only god can do, and verse 5 places the preacher of Christ right there in the middle.
- Thabiti talked about 1 Timothy 1, with particular emphasis on verses 11-17. He says the mention of the Gospel in v. 11 was like a favorite song for Paul, triggering a flood of associations. Thabiti's main challenge was that we not underestimate the Gospel, not exclude anyone as a lost cause -- for that exclusion surely would have excluded Paul. He challenged my cowardly timidity, left me with much to think and pray about. (I'm not sure Thabiti remembers me much, either, just to add to the previous.)
- Ligon's talk was devastating to the degree that I'm not sure I'm ready to say much about it, or ever will. Just listen to it. My handkerchief was pretty wet at its close. Ligon's text was 1 Kings 19, and he preached it with a pastor's heart and a scholar's eye. Absolutely wonderful, absolutely devastating, absolutely glorious. I will definitely plan to listen to it again, and incorporate much in my BibleWorks notes.
- Oh, and since several have asked, yes, a certain "recent book" was there, though not featured or mentioned by any particular T4G leader: