“It’s a time to gather and feast around the Word of God,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as he welcomed the crowd assembled at Southeastern for the third annual 9Marks Conference.
More than 600 people attended the conference Sept. 23-24, the third in a series of conferences that focus on building healthy churches as outlined in Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks.
The focus of this year’s conference was on the gospel, and how a healthy church should build its life around the gospel.
Joining Akin and Dever were Ben Mandrell, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; James MacDonald, pastor of the multisite Harvest Bible Chapel in the northwest Chicago suburbs; and Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey in Saint Louis, Mo.
Dever opened the conference with an exposition of Psalm 4. He said the psalm reminds believers of their need for deliverance. Dever said it is easy for pastors to neglect the fundamental truth regarding the need for deliverance from sin and the problem sin has created.
He encouraged pastors to routinely address that problem and its solution with their congregations.
“We need to help them understand the problem that the gospel is the answer to. That’s a foundational part of gospel preaching,” he said.
Mandrell spoke about Psalm 93 and Luke 22, and the importance of teaching the sovereign power and majesty of God – something he believes is lacking in today’s preaching.
“So few church members have a picture of the majesty of God,” he said. “You can’t believe the gospel unless you believe in a powerful God.”
Anyabwile continued the theme of God’s power as he spoke about the power of God to save sinners. Calling Romans “the gospel of God’s righteousness,” Anyabwile said the gospel of Jesus Christ includes much more than the common modern day equation of forgiveness and love.
“The sacrifice of Jesus Christ both demonstrated and satisfied the Father’s righteousness while at the same time achieving righteousness for every sinner who believes in Jesus,” he said. “Our gospel preaching should include the imputation of God’s righteousness.”
The Sept. 24 session featured sermons from Akin and Patrick. Akin preached through the entire book of Galatians in less than one hour.
“The gospel is the dominate theme of this epistle,” Akin said.
He then proceeded to show from Galatians how passionate the apostle Paul was for the gospel. During his sermon he listed 27 references to the gospel found throughout Galatians and exhorted pastors to be zealous for the gospel in the same way as Paul.
Patrick closed the conference with a sermon from Philippians 4:11-14.
Patrick said the gospel should give Christians the same joy, contentment and peace as it did Paul. “If the gospel is alive in me, then contentment will necessarily follow,” Patrick said.
True contentment is elusive for many in society today, and the solution can only be found in the faithful proclamation of the gospel.
“Pastors need to teach their people how to be content through the gospel,” Patrick said.
In addition to sermons, the conference included several panel discussions featuring sermon reviews and discussions on topics related to church ministry and the gospel.
Although he has followed the 9Marks ministry for several years, this was Allen Stillwell’s first opportunity to attend the 9Marks Conference. Stillwell is a youth pastor from Vale.
“I loved each message and the preaching was a blessing to me on all accounts,” he said. “The clarity of the gospel message is very important, and my goal in coming to this conference was to learn more about Jesus and the truth of the gospel.”
All six messages from this year’s conference can be seen at the seminary’s website: sebts.edu. The seminary’s chapel services, which are usually held Tuesday and Thursday during the semester, are open to the public. Check the school’s site for more about upcoming services and conferences.