I have in previous posts written synopses of each day of the conference (see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 for more details!). In this last post I reflect more broadly on the WGUK 2015 conference as a whole. In particular, these are four things arising out of the conference which I thank God for.
1. “Beholding the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
“Christ-centered” and “Gospel-centered” are labels which are often bandied about in evangelical circles without much thought; indeed, sometimes we use them as a kind of non-heresy indicator for a particular speaker/book/conference!
But when I say that WGUK 2015 was truly Christ-centered, what I mean is this. From start to finish, from every song that was sung to every seminar taught, from each speaker to every member of the worship team, there was a tangible emphasis on the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the phrase above — “beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” — was a slogan that was oft-repeated by every speaker at the conference. (2 Cor 4:6)
This is perhaps something that — to our shame — one may not always associate with a conference on worship! Too often there is a focus on techniques (e.g. “how to mix the sound well”) or experience (e.g. “how to encounter the Spirit in our worship services”). That is not to say that these are unimportant things, but they pale in comparison to the glory of the gospel. If our worship services do not emphasise the glorious work of Christ in ransoming sinners, why do we bother with corporate gatherings at all?
To quote the Apostle Paul:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)
The power is in the gospel: the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Our corporate gatherings must be drenched in this good news. Seekers who visit need to hear it to be saved. And believers must be reminded of it so that we may repeatedly behold the glorious grace of our Saviour and be turned more into his likeness (2 Cor 3:18).
2. God’s Glory is Revealed in God’s Word
A second thing which I was so thankful for was the commitment to Scripture’s authority as the Word of God. The songs we sang were drenched in the richness of Scripture and the teaching too was heavily anchored in Scripture.
In particular, we were exhorted to delight in Scripture. Tim Chester said it really well: “The Spirit at work in the hearts of the Bible writers is the same Spirit at work in the hearts of Bible readers, ensuring that the words we read are the Words of God.” Though the daily reading of our Bibles seems unglamorous, even mundane, it is far from it — when we do so we are communing with the very Creator of the Universe Himself, the one who created all things just by speaking His Word.
Indeed, we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ when God speaks to us by His Word. During the Q&A, Tim Chester pointed this out which I found so insightful: when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was shining not because he saw God, but because God had been speaking to Him (Exodus 34:29). And we present-day Christians under the new covenant can expect to behold even more glory than Moses, as we have seen Christ by the power of the Spirit:
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. (2 Cor 3:7-11)
3. Love for the local church
Thirdly, I was so encouraged by the love that the speakers in general had for the local church. Much of the teaching, especially in the small group seminars, was aimed at equipping pastors and leaders (and volunteers!) to serve their local congregations better.
Often after the spiritual high of a conference, one dreads returning to the “real world”. During the Q&A, however, it was emphasised by all of the speakers that no matter how beautiful the worship could be at a conference like this, it cannot compare to the worship at your local church. Why? Because it’s in the “real world”, in the grimeyness of real lives, that God’s glory is displayed all the more. To borrow an example — when you see a single mother whose child is stricken with cancer continue to sing of God as her ever present help in times of trouble, you see the greatness of a true and living God up close.
4. Fellowship of the saints
Finally, I was so thankful to meet and spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ from across the world. As the only participant from my church, and not a naturally outgoing person, I arrived with the apprehension of a schoolboy on the first day at school (“will I make any friends?”). But I didn’t just make “friends”; I found saints whose company I will enjoy in eternity.
I was also deeply encouraged by the passion of my fellow brothers and sisters for the kingdom of God. We might hail from different churches with different backgrounds, but we were united as one body around the beautiful gospel. God is really doing a work in His church here in the UK. (Please Lord continue to deepen our love for you and our boldness for the gospel!) In particular, I was so encouraged by the number of songwriters passionate about writing songs to serve their local churches — not for their own fame or hits on Spotify, but the fame of Jesus’ name.
In short, I was really refreshed at WGUK 2015, and captivated once again by the glory of God. In many ways the teaching was exemplified by the conference itself — not only were we taught to “behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, but I believe that we have left having beheld this glory in the wondrous cross of our Saviour. May we never be the same.
Thanks for reading my posts. To be honest when I started blogging about the conference I didn’t think anyone would read my ramblings. I hope that they have encouraged you, and maybe I’ll see you at WGUK 2016!
Soli deo gloria.