My family returned from another fun weekend in Traverse City, probably the most beautiful place on earth you’ve never heard of. The area has vineyards, cherry and peach orchards, islands, peninsulas, sand dunes, Petoskey stones, and a vast, unsalted ocean. It’s Tuscany with water.
We were saddened to see so many dead buds on the fruit trees—apparently the date of the last killer frosts is not advancing as quickly as the start of spring, and there may not be many cherries or peaches this year. This is terrible news, especially for the farmers.
We really enjoyed our time at Immanuel Baptist Church yesterday (even my 13 year old son commented that it seemed like a great church). Pastors Matt Heron and Ben Whipple had returned from an inspiring week at T4G, and I was eager to hear about their encouraging time in Louisville.
Last week I noticed that at least one theologian was questioning whether the pastors who assemble for such gatherings truly understood the gospel, or whether they had reduced the Lordship of Christ to a message that merely told sinners how to be saved. I think we had this conversation in the nineties, with John MacArthur challenging Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie, but this time I don’t believe the charge is justified.
At least not at Immanuel. Matt and Ben are the quintessential T4G pastors—young, hip, and focused on Jesus, Scripture, and both the temporal and eternal application of the gospel. Yesterday we celebrated the gospel as very good news—with exuberant worship and unvarnished testimonials—a message which resonated with the many young people who attended.
But while he emphasized that Jesus saves us from sin, Matt also explained that following Jesus leads them to end suffering wherever they find it. To this end Immanuel unites with other churches to host all day clinics which provide medical care, financial counseling, and many other services which meet the community’s physical needs.
While the Spirit’s work at Immanuel is particularly exciting, I don’t think it’s unusual. I could name many GRTS graduates who are TGC members who are capably leading their churches to cherish Jesus as both Savior and Lord. These theologically conservative leaders agree with the criticism that the gospel must transform how we live now. They just don’t think it describes them.