Archives For 2016 EFCA Theology Conference

In our Theology Postconference, we focused on the theme of The Ministry of the Gospel and Gender Dysphoria. Mark Yarhouse was our speaker. His first two messages helped pastors and leaders to understand this issue from a biblical and scientific perspective, with the final message focusing on a pastoral response.

Here are the messages of this Postconference:

  • Framing the Issue, Greg Strand
  • Gender Dysphoria: Foundational Considerations (Key Terms and Biblical Perspectives)
  • Gender Dysphoria: Scientific – Biological, Psychological, and Sociocultural Considerations
  • Gender Dysphoria: Toward a Pastoral Response

We have posted recordings of all Yarhouse’s plenary lectures, along with his bibliography and notes on our Theology Conference webpage. These messages (minus the notes and bibliographies) will also be posted on our new Theology Podcast webpage over the course of the next few weeks.

Because this topic is a new one for many, I include below excerpts from my introduction.

Introduction

The culture has long moved beyond homosexuality and same-sex matters such that it is considered the norm. However, we in the church continue to think through and ponder the Scriptures, affirming its truth and authority, while we wrestle with and pray over pastoral responses. The cultural push now is the presentation and acceptance of gender dysphoria. While we in the church continue to think through the past cultural agenda, which is important, the cultural mandate of normalizing gender dysphoria presses on ahead. It is vital for us in the church to learn about gender dysphoria and to understand it through the lens of Scripture, the absolute and ultimate authority, so that we can engage in pastoral care to those affected, both directly and indirectly.

Topic

The title explains that what we do is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Biblical truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ are the foundation of what we believe, the absolute and ultimate truth, what we affirm as sola Scriptura. This is also foundational for how we live, for God’s truth we affirm is also the means by which we grow in holiness and are conformed into the likeness of the Son. It is the only means through which we will truly flourish. From this foundation, we will focus on ministry among those who identify as, struggle or suffer with or are affected by gender dysphoria. This also includes those who know or love someone who so identifies. Although our title addresses gender dysphoria, the phenomenon, our focus will be on the person who experiences gender dysphoria, which emphasizes the role of pastoral care and shepherding.

Speaker

There are not many Evangelicals who are providing insight into gender dysphoria, much less are those who are actively seeking to provide pastoral care to those who experience gender dysphoria and their families affected by it. Mark Yarhouse is one of those few individuals.

Yarhouse affirms the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. He acknowledges the Scriptures as the absolute and ultimate authority. Furthermore, he is theologically anchored. His concern is to affirm the truthfulness of Scripture and apply those truths in a fallen world in which we provide care to people who experience gender dysphoria. He senses a call to minister directly to those suffering from gender dysphoria and families and others affected by it. This is why he has been asked to address this topic, as there really is no other Evangelical who speaks in such an informed manner on the subject.

EFCA

In the EFCA we are grounded in the gospel and tethered to the text of Scripture. We are also deeply committed to living out this truth of Scripture. And we do so in a fallen-yet-redeemed-though-not-yet-glorified world. There is sin, hurt, and brokenness. And yet in the midst of this, the gospel offers hope. We engage in pastoral care not only to share God’s truth with others, but because it is our only hope, our only true way of flourishing as God ordained.

As we engage in pastoral ministry of the gospel in the local church in the moral realms of human sexuality and gender dysphoria, we are an outpost of heaven. We reflect God’s eschatological people who offer the hope of the gospel in a context of love produced by the gospel which reflects the now of the kingdom. And we are often reminded through our pastoral care of our groaning, which reflects the not-yetness of the kingdom, as we await final redemption.

The Theology Conference is now behind us and the resources have been posted on our EFCA website. How can these resources be used most fruitfully?

I encourage you to listen to the lectures twice. First, listen to the messages individually, using the notes and also remembering to look through the bibliographies, and allow the teaching to instruct, exhort and challenge you. Jot down things you learn and questions that are raised. Following this, listen to the messages as an elder board and discuss them. The listening could be done either together as a whole group during an elder meeting, or the messages could be listened to individually and then discussed corporately.

That is what the pastor and elders are doing at the local EFC church where I am a member. The pastor will write up some questions for discussion that get to the heart of the implications and applications of the messages to this local church. Here is what I wrote to my pastor: “I would suggest that you draft some specific questions regarding implications of the teaching in each lecture along with the possible application in the local church. As you do this, it is important to bear in mind that each lecture is part of a whole.”

As you prepare to listen to these messages, please remember that you will learn some new things, and you may also be challenged with hearing some things with which you may disagree, either in principle, in emphasis or in practice. That does not mean you will not or cannot learn. As you listen, if there is something with which you are not sure because it differs from what you presently affirm or practice, I encourage you not to dismiss it immediately. Rather, ponder and think through what you have heard. Go back to Scripture, since that is the foundation for truth, and consider and reconsider the belief and practice. And even if you end up believing and practicing in the same manner, you have thought it through and you now reaffirm it with a freshness, with a greater awareness of the issues around the belief and practice, and with increased conviction and humility.

Here is what I wrote to one of the Spiritual Heritage Committee members about the Conference.

I am grateful to hear it was thought-provoking. I think it was for many. As I noted often throughout the conference, the key is not that one agree with the applications or implications, or even biblical exegesis. Rather, the key is how this will be understood, taught and lived. No one gets a pass on these issues because these are biblical issues, and they must be thought through biblically, theologically and pastorally for the local church. If one does not like a presentation or an application, that is acceptable, and to some degree expected. However, it is still required that one work through the biblical and theological issues and come up with some understanding and application. It is not sufficient merely to disagree with the message and then dismiss it.

We do not plan our Theology Conferences to inform pastors and leaders of all they already know and all they already affirm. Much of it is reminders of what they know, some of it is dusting off biblical and theological cobwebs, some of it is new categories of settled convictions, some of it is new. What I find when some settled convictions are challenged people often immediately dismiss the messenger and message. They may do this, but they ought not to do it so quickly and prematurely without using the thought-provoking lectures as a guide to think issues through again. One may end up with the same exegesis, implication and application. But now with a much broader base of understanding and a freshness to one’s view and practice.

May you take up my encouragement to use of these resources. Let me know how the Lord uses this among your leaders in your local church setting.

Our 2016 Theology Conference focused on the important theme, The Doctrine of the Church: The Embodiment of the Gospel.

This theme was captured as follows: The heart of the doctrine of the church is the gospel. It is the gospel that creates the church. It is the church that proclaims and propagates the gospel. It is the church that embodies the gospel.

The Conference was excellent. Lectures were great. Discussion was stimulating. Worship was rich. Fellowship was sweet. This was the testimony from both the speakers and attendees. I give thanks to and praise the Lord!

We have posted recordings of all the plenary lectures, along with bibliographies and notes on our Theology Conference webpage. These messages (minus the notes and bibliographies) will also be posted on our new Theology Podcast webpage over the course of the next few weeks.

As a reminder, here are the messages:

  • Welcome and Framing the Issue, Greg Strand
  • What is a Church? A Biblical and Historical Overview, Timothy George
  • The Church: A Visible Community – Boundary Markers of the Community, Michael Lawrence
  • The Church: A New Kinship Community, Joe Hellerman
  • The Church: A Community that Transforms, Peter Cha
  • The Church: A Missional Community, Greg Waybright
  • Shepherding God’s Church: The Privilege of Being a Pastor, Bill Kynes

For those who attended, plan to listen again. For those who were unable to attend, please take the time to listen to these important and helpful messages. I would also encourage you to listen to these messages as an elder or leadership team. I will say a further word about that in my next post. Until then, being listening!

We no longer live in a culture that is heavily influenced by Christian values and mores. Many in the culture are becoming antagonistic to Christians.

This is not the first time Christians have experienced trials and persecution. To be sure, there are variations of persecutions, and there is a spectrum. What Christians in the west experience today is persecution, but it is nothing to what Christians in other countries face: martyrdom – death because they are Christians. Even though the history of the Christian church is littered with reminders of persecution, it is new to those Christians living now. There has been a significant shift culturally in the past 25 years.

But this is the climate in which the early Christians lived and in which the proclamation of the gospel spread, resulting in the transformation of lives. This is not a time to bemoan what is, or to expect what is not. Rather, it is to live in peace as we trust in and rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ as he has overcome the world, and it is to have hope in the midst of the tribulation. I think of Jesus’ words: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

I include links to a few conferences held recently that address this important topic.

The first one I mention is the EFCA Theology Conference 2014 on the theme, Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture. This was an attempt to frame the issues related to our changing culture, and how we seek to live faithfully as Christians and as the church of Jesus Christ in this changing culture. Even though this conference was held in 2014, there has been much that has changed culturally since that time.

The second one is the Andrew Fuller Conference, held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last fall: Persecution and the Church. The topics include the following:

  • Persecution in Revelation (Tom Schreiner)
  • Persecution and Paul (Brian Vickers)
  • Roman Persecution of the Ancient Church (Bryan Litfin)
  • The Persecution of Anabaptists (Jason Duesing)
  • Baptists and Persecution in Virginia (Steve Weaver)
  • Communist Persecution of the Church, 1917-1989 (Nathan Finn)
  • Islam and the Persecuted Church in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benjamin Hegeman)

The third one is the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors 2016, just recently completed: Joy Set Before Us: Perseverance and Hope in the Day of Opposition The topics included the following:

  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 1) (Joy Rigney)
  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 2) (Joe Rigney)
  • The Woman from Kentucky (Don Carson)
  • Think It Not Strange: Fiery Trials and the Testimony of Christ (John Piper)
  • How Long, O Lord? Steadying Our Soul in the Midst of the Storm (Don Carson)
  • The Gift of Suffering: The Purpose and Pleasure of God in Persecution (Jason Meyer)
  • Boldness Under Threat: Speaking the Gospel with Clarity as Opposition Grows (Leonce Crump II)
  • Preaching to a Persecuted People: The Pastor as Leader, Comforter, and Guide (John Piper)
  • The Blood of the Martyrs Is Seed: Learning from Missions and for Missions (Tim Keesee)

I commend these helpful resources to you as an aid, to borrow the title of our Theology Conference, to live faithfully by the enabling and transforming power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.

Our 2016 Theology Conference focuses on The Doctrine of the Church. In addition to understanding the biblical nature and purpose of the church, it is important that we discern the cultural and contextual issues of the day in which our pastors, leaders and churches need to think through and respond from a biblical, theological and pastoral perspective.

This year the focus will be on gender dysphoria: The Ministry of the Gospel and Gender Dysphoria. Although the numbers are small, the cultural push and implications have been huge. One of the recent figures I read was that 0.3 to 0.5 percent of the population identifies as transgender (acknowledging the challenge of compiling accurate statistics). One would certainly not know that through the media. Furthermore, those experiencing gender dysphoria or those in relationship with one experiencing gender dysphoria sense a far greater weight than that small percentage.

The title explains that what we do is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Biblical truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ are the foundation of what we believe, the absolute and ultimate truth, what we affirm as sola Scriptura. This is also foundational for how we live, for God’s truth we affirm is also the means by which we grow in holiness and are conformed into the likeness of the Son. It is the only means through which we will truly flourish.

From this foundation, we will focus on ministry among those who identify as, struggle or suffer with or are affected by gender dysphoria. This also includes those who know or love someone who so identifies. Although our title addresses gender dysphoria, the phenomenon, our focus will be on the person who experiences gender dysphoria, which emphasizes the role of pastoral care and shepherding.

In the three sessions, we will focus on the following:

  • Session 1 – Gender Dysphoria: Foundational Considerations (Key Terms and Biblical Perspectives)
  • Session 2 – Gender Dysphoria: Scientific—Biological, Psychological, and Sociocultural Considerations
  • Session 3 – Gender Dysphoria: Toward a Pastoral Response

Dr. Mark Yarhouse is our speaker. He is a leading Evangelical voice addressing this issue.

As we engage in pastoral ministry of the gospel in the local church in the moral realms of human sexuality and gender dysphoria, we are an outpost of heaven. We reflect God’s eschatological people who offer the hope of the gospel in a context of love produced by the gospel which reflects the now of the kingdom. And we are often reminded through our pastoral care of our groaning, which reflects the not-yetness of the kingdom, as we await final redemption.

Plan to join us at our Theology Conference Postconference on January 22. You can register here for the Theology Conference January 20-22.

If you are unable to attend the entire conference, the Postconference is available for $50 – check made payable to EFCA or Credit Card, payable at the door.