Cross is a new missions conference that took place in Louisville, KY December 27-30. More than 3,500 people attended, most of them college age students. Most of the speakers are regulars and connected with Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. Knowing their affiliations I had some expectations, but since this was the first year for the conference I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I should have warned the students that came with me about “drinking from a fire hose” but it didn’t take long for them to come up for air. It was packed with deep and moving expositions of Scripture, all of which were connected to God’s mission to reach the nations.
Now that I’ve had time to rest and consider all that took place, I want to offer several reflections:
1. God desires the joy of all peoples. John Piper gave the first address on Friday night and I was tracking right along with him since I recently finished Desiring God for the first time. The supremacy of God and the joy of all peoples are one in the same.
2. Calvinism fuels missions. While I was nervous that Kevin DeYoung’s sermon would be perceived as “Calvinistic Propaganda,” he answered a very important question, “If God has elected people to salvation, why are missions important?” DeYoung’s main point was that the Five Points of Calvinism are Five Surprising Motivations for Missions. John Piper said earlier, “If God has ordained the ends then he has ordained the means.” DeYoung shared, “God’s sovereignty is fuel for faithful ministry.” I found his talk extremely helpful and a great conversation starter with my students.
3. The Wrath of God is real. Thabiti Anyabwile and Conrad Mbewe gave wonderful expositions of Scripture and presented the wrath of God clearly and truthfully. All people without Christ are going to hell. This should motivate God’s people to spend their lives for the sake of others in gospel ministry and proclamation.
4. Young people like hymns and congregational singing. Matt Boswell did an amazing job leading God’s people in worship. He led many hymns and introduced some of his own modern hymns that were very singable. It was a joy to lift our voices together and sing rich and wonderful truths. I hope young worship leaders will follow Matt’s example.
5. Invitations to respond are still helpful, if done well. David Platt gave the best invitation I’ve ever witnessed. He made very clear what he was asking people to respond to at the beginning and the end of his sermon. Never did I feel like he was trying to emotionally manipulate people to respond. This entire session was amazing as we witnessed many respond with the desire to go reach unreached peoples.
6. The centrality of the gospel is of utmost importance. I appreciate how every speaker made the gospel so clear and continued to emphasize that we do not move on from the gospel. As I watched the lights turn on for my students I remembered my first TGC conference when I realized this for the first time. This was life transforming for me and I pray for many students as well.
7. Unreached people must be prioritized. There are over 6,000 unreached people groups and thousands more that are unengaged by gospel ministry. We must spend and be spent and even give up our lives for their souls.
8. God is doing something remarkable in this world. John Piper gave four reasons why this conference is a dream come true for him and one of those was that God has brought about a great awakening helping people understand the sovereignty of God in all things. You can call this Reformed Theology or “Big God” Theology, but it is undeniable that God is working in great ways to raise up people to go into all the world in proclaim the gospel knowing God is sovereign over all. Conferences like T4G, TGC and now Cross do not seem to be going away and their influence is only gaining. I believe this is a good thing for the church and her mission in the world.
There is much more that could be said about this conference. One of the joys for me was having my wife accompany me. I told her it was like inviting her into my mind. It was also wonderful to bring along five college students. At this point they are not thinking about becoming missionaries, but I believe they caught a passion for the nations. I am convinced if you are excited about the nations coming to Christ then you will be excited about seeing people in your community coming to Christ as well. Someone said the best way to encourage missionaries is to make disciples where you are. I was also excited to introduce them to speakers and authors they were mostly unaware of.
I’m thankful for Cross. It was well done, well thought, and Christ exalting. I pray that God will raise up workers to go into all nations and make disciples especially in those places where Christ is not named.