Today, I attended the simulcast of the Elephant Room at Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale. It was a great event, listening and learning. Connecting with and making friends was a huge highlight. The big controversy, if you haven’t heard, was about the invitation of Bishop T.D. Jakes, who allegedly had denied the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. I actually registered before Bishop Jakes was invited to join the discussion, and, honestly, I would not have registered afterward. When I registered Mark Dever was lined up to participate, and I was disappointed when he was no longer going to be involved. However, I am still glad that I went, and here are some of my thoughts on the cluster of conversations.
1. I was encouraged by Bishop Jakes affirming a more orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He explained he was converted and trained in a Oneness Pentecostal church, and that he has grown in his understanding of the doctrine of the Trintiy. He flat out said, “One God, three persons”, even though he explained that he doesn’t like the word “person” because it creates some problems. But it is clear that he has grown significantly in a biblical direction on this crucial issue, and that is worthy of celebration and joy.
2. However, I was also discouraged by the conversation between Jakes and Pastor James MacDonald and Pastor Mark Driscoll. They did address the issue of the Trinity, but there was also a lot of ducking behind the mystery of an infinite God. It disappointed me that no one distinguished between incomplete knowledge of an infinite God and incorrect knowledge of an infinite God. In other words, we can never know God completely or perfectly, but we can know him truly. There are some things about God that are simply wrong, such as Oneness (modalist) theology. This was not sufficiently addressed. I appreciated the humility and brotherly love between all of these great men, but I think all of the expressions of mutual admiration took a lot of the time, and it would have been helpful to spend more time in serious discussion about the most important subjects in the universe.
3. I was convicted and encouraged by the spirit of “assuming the best about a brother.” I have too often been guilty of assuming the worst about someone based upon their reputation. As Christians, our impulse should be to assume the best about someone who claims to be a Christian. We should not be naive. We should be shrewd and unflinching in our commitment to the truth, but we should not accept a charge against a brother unjustly.
4. I was helped by the discussions on pastoral burnout and moral failure. I was reminded again of the importance of guarding myself and my family for the sake of Christ. I believe it was Wayne Cordeiro who explained that our pastoral impulse is like being on an airplane when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. We often do the equivalent of exactly what they tell you not to do in the safety information on the airplane. They say to put your own oxygen mask on first. Because if you pass out or die, you won’t be any good to anyone. The same goes in ministry. A pastor is always tempted to neglect his own spiritual health in an effort to help others. But that will end up being detrimental to the sheep and deadly for the shepherd in the long run. I was reminded that if I’m not close with Jesus, I’m no good to anyone.
5. I was encouraged to preach the Gospel wholeheartedly and urgently. Crawford Loritts said something that hit me between the eyes. “Don’t front-load the Gospel,” he said. I am too often guilty of not pointing people straight to Jesus in a simple and direct way. I will never be able to dot every “i” or cross every “t”. I must simply preach Jesus and him crucified and call people to repentance and faith.
6. I was impressed with the staff of the event. Last week, I emailed the generic Elephant Room information email address, because I needed to change the location I was attending. Within ten minutes, I got an email from Luke MacDonald, who got the issue taken care of immediately. Super impressive.
Overall, I’m glad I went to the event. I was encouraged, challenged, and helped. I think I will be a better pastor in the long run because I attended. If you went, what did you think?