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Gospel Coalition conference focuses on evangelism

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — Some 7,000 evangelicals — including a significant contingent of Southern Baptists — gathered around an evangelism theme at The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference April 1-3 in Indianapolis.

The eight keynote speakers included at least three Southern Baptists while employees of Southern Baptist Convention entities spoke at breakout sessions and ancillary events. LifeWay Christian Resources hosted a conference bookstore, and at least eight SBC entities, including four seminaries, were represented in the exhibit hall.

Among ancillary sessions was an interview of apologist Sam Allberry hosted by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at which Allberry addressed recent controversy surrounding Living Out, a ministry co-led by Allberry and offering resources to help Christians “who experience same-sex attraction stay faithful to Biblical teaching on sexual ethics,” according to the Living Out website.

The Gospel Coalition website describes TGC as “a group of pastors and churches in the Reformed tradition that put the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of all activities.”

In a keynote address on Mark 2:1-12, former International Mission Board President David Platt urged attendees to be faithful in evangelism, including reaching the nations for Christ.

There are “more believers at this conference than among 80 million people in Turkey,” said Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in suburban Washington, D.C. He noted the world has 6,000-7,000 unreached people groups. “So let’s go to them with compassionate conviction…. Let’s marshal our resources and commit our resolve to doing whatever it takes to bring them to Jesus.”

H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., addressed personal evangelism based on Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4:1-42. He compared that encounter to Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3 and noted the broad scope of God’s saving grace.

Jesus, in John 3, “teaches us there is no one beyond the need of grace,” said Charles, immediate past president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, while, in John 4, He “teaches us that there is no one beyond the reach of grace.”

Trip Lee, a Christian hip-hop artist and young adult pastor at Concord Church in Dallas, preached from Matthew 8:1-13 on the need for a broken world to approach Jesus with humility and faith.

“Faith is bringing your brokenness to the One who is both willing and able” to fix it, Lee said.

A March 31-April 1 TGC pre-conference on “evangelism for the next generation” included addresses by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin and Trevin Wax, LifeWay’s director for Bibles and reference.

An April 1 ancillary event hosted by Midwestern included Jonathan Leeman of 9 Marks ministry interviewing Allberry about articles on the Living Out website that have drawn criticism over the past month. As an example, Leeman cited one article urging people to accept themselves as they are, including their sexual orientations. Another article cited by Leeman stated that two men formerly in a same-sex marriage who later become Christians may be permitted to continue living together in a celibate relationship and raise a family together.

Allberry, who did not write either of the articles cited by Leeman, agreed they were confusing and poorly worded and took responsibility for allowing them on the website.

“Where we’re going from here, I hope, is a good audit of the [website’s] content,” Allberry said. “We’ll have some different pairs of eyes having a look at it” in an attempt to remove unhelpful content.

SBC entities represented in TGC’s exhibit hall included the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources, LifeWay, Midwestern, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern, Southern and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.