It was a really great experience. At the beginning of the conference Dr. Wells painted a rather dismal picture about the condition of faith in the western world (from Tim Challies blog).
We see a pattern emerging that Christianity is moving South to Latin America and Africa, and moving East into some of the most populous nations in Asia. There are probably more Christians in China than in the United States. It is also growing in India and elsewhere. In the West, Christianity is struggling to survive. The United States is a bit of an exception, but in Europe vast areas of its life have been stripped of all Christian presence, leaving behind nothing but empty churches and cathedrals. This is somewhat true of Canada; it is true of Australia and New Zealand. This Sunday only 2% of people in New Zealand will go to church. By contrast, in some African churches up to 80% of people go to church. Some meet under a tree or beside a building, but they still meet. There is more Christian believing outside the West than inside the West. Christianity is becoming de-Westernized.This should serve as a rude awakening to those of us who think of the western world as the most reached area in the world. Times are a changing.
I believe the “big picture” message was that we must combine allegiance to the timeless truths of a good Biblical theology with timely ministry that contextualizes ministry in a way that makes it relevant to postmoderns. Both Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll did an excellent job helping us to better understand how to do this. One thing we must understand is that the postmodern generation is the most Biblically illiterate generation we’ve seen in ages. This means that more now than ever before we must take into consideration that those we are trying to reach have absolutely no comprehension of even the simplest aspects of the Christian faith. Consequently, we must incorporate the meta-narrative (historic story) of the Christian faith in all we do. We must also remember to be “seeker sensible…” which means “we don't lose theological vocabulary, but take the time to explain it,,, in terms they (seekers) understand.” Another reminder was that our commitment to social ministry (serving our community) must parallel our commitment to proclaiming the gospel.
Of course John Piper, David Wells, and D.A. Carson did a phenomenal job cautioning us that our strategies and the cultures epistemology (how we know something / how we think) must not erode the Christian beliefs that are foundational to our faith. Some facets of the emerging church are neutering Biblical doctrine by denying hell, the wrath of God, the penal substitution of the cross, etc… If one denies these doctrines they are denying some of the very things that make us Christian.
Certainly, there were many other memorable and instructive moments in the conference. For a complete review of the sessions you can read a complete summary on all the talks on Tim Challies blog. The audio messages will be available for free download on Desiring God’s website within a few days.