07 March 2006

Highlights (and a few regrets) from the 2006 Shepherds' Conference

by Phil Johnson

Here's my high-speed debrief on last week:

  • Steve Lawson's message in the Friday morning general session (on Nehemiah 8) perfectly summed up the main point of the conference. This was one of the most powerful messages about preaching I have ever heard. If you are a pastor, get a copy and listen to it several times.
  • John MacArthur was dynamic, thought-provoking, and convicting, as usual. A few months ago, he gave a five-sermon expostion of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and I have listened to that series several times now. But John's single message on that same passage (set in the context of lots of audible response from 3600 pastors) was poignant and moving in a truly extraordinary way. Those who were there will not soon forget it.
  • Turns out that in person, Tim Challies ("The World's Most Famous Christian Blogger"®) is exactly like he is on line: cool, likeable, smart, and a very fast typist. He did an amazing job liveblogging. There's no way I would have wanted that duty, but he did it superbly.
  • Doug McHone of CoffeeSwirls likewise did a great job chronicling the conference for the blogosphere. He covered many things Challies didn't have time to blog about. I think Challies needs an official sidekick, and I would like to nominate Doug as a worthy candidate.
  • If you want an even closer peek in on what a Shepherds' Conference seminar is like, Carla Rolfe has posted the full transcript of my seminar on the "emerging church movement" at EmergentNo.blogspot.com. The transcript is long, but (I hope) worth reading. This turned out to be one of the best-attended seminars ever, and it has generated lots of discussion. (I expect this transcript will be the subject of some discussion in the blogosphere.) It seems that the whole "emerging church" phenomenon has quickly become a major concern for many Reformed, evangelical, and fundamentalist pastors.
  • And, (speaking of fundamentalists) thanks to Jason Janz, my seminar on fundamentalism may also be read in full at SharperIron.org, complete with feedback from my fundy friends there. The consensus of my critics seems to be that because I already beat that whole topic to death last year, there wasn't much in this year's seminar that sounded new and earth-shattering. That's probably a fair evaluation, because this year's seminar was mostly a review and refinement of 200+ pages of debate and discussion I had with several fundamentalist pastors and leaders in the wake of the huge controversy caused by last year's seminar. I was trying pretty hard not to pick any new fights. (Of course, that didn't keep a few of our more irascible fundy friends from getting angry anyway.) The comments and subsequent discussion on SharperIron.org are quite worth reading. I especially liked this cartoon.
  • Dave Doran, whose patient but candid (and challenging) dialogue made for a stimulating discussion after last year's seminar on fundamentalism, was at the conference. I think he skipped this year's seminar on fundamentalism, but I don't blame him. (I tried to skip it myself, but Darlene made me go.) And although I saw Dave twice between sessions, it was barely long enough to shake his hand. I had hoped for an opportunity to have an extended conversation with him, not about fundamentalism, but about issues I'm sure we agree on. Unfortunately, things were so hectic, we never got to do that. Missing an opportunity to get to know Dave personally was one of four great regrets I took away from the week.
  • I also ran into C. J. Mahaney a few times but never really found an opportunity for a decent conversation with him, either. He attended my first seminar and was extremely kind to come by afterward and greet me warmly. He even waited patiently behind a mob of Pyro aficionados clamoring for bumper stickers. His smile and enthusiasm are always infectious, and I would have loved the opportunity to spend some time with him. That's my second major regret about the week. Incidentally, at one point, C. J. and Mark Dever walked by while a fundamentalist pastor was getting in my face in the courtyard between sessions. Dever punched me in the shoulder and smiled knowingly, but they kept walking and made no attempt to bail me out. I love those guys.
  • Ligon Duncan came in Friday and spoke Saturday morning (pulling no punches) on the egalitarian-complementarian controversy. I had a brief opportunity to meet him for the first time and chat in John MacArthur's office with Al Mohler and Steve Lawson, just before that final Saturday session. My third regret is that there wasn't more time for that conversation. It was interesting to eavesdrop on what kinds of things the "Together for the Gospel" guys say when they get together. I won't reveal anything about that conversation, except to say that all these guys read PyroManiacs, so let's be on our best behavior, OK?
  • Regret number 4 is like all the others: My very best friend for 35 years, Steve Kreloff was there, as were several more of my dearest friends in ministry, including Lance Quinn, Tom Pennington, Joe Aleppo, Chris Williams, and Doug McMasters. Dozens of other close friends and respected fellow-pastors, including Marc and Jerry Wragg, Mark Vaughan, Sean Higgins, Mike Fanning, Jack Jenkins, Ken Fuller, Jim Kirby, Scott Ardavanis, John Zimmer, and several others were there, and I barely got to talk to any of them.
  • I did get to have lunch with John Duncan, Lig's brother. He is on staff at Ligonier Ministries, and we talked about an exciting opportunity that may soon allow Sproul, MacArthur, and the rest of the "Together for the Gospel" team to extend their broadcast ministries to satellite television. Stay tuned for more news about that development.
  • The full pack of Fide-O dawgs were there, and it's always fun, exciting, and encouraging to mingle with them. They gave Darlene a Fide-O fridge magnet that she thinks is much more useful and tasteful than the Pyro bumper stickers and Zippo® lighters. ("Why can't you do something like this?") I dismissed the suggestion by saying fridge magnets are too effeminate for PyroManiacs, but truth be told, they're pretty cool.
  • Speaking of the vinyl decals: they were a big hit, but my supply of about 50 was quickly exhausted. I autographed one of them with a sharpie. Somehow that one seems to have ended up on eBay.
  • TeamPyro needs to get next year's conference on the calendar: First week of March. It would be cool if Dan, Frank, James, and Pecadillo could all be there, too. We could host a special luncheon with the hordes of bloggers and blog-readers who are there.

Addenda on the Shepherds' Conference debrief

  • Whilst I was critiquing his movement at the Shepherds' Conference, it seems Andrew Jones called in on one of my favorite places in the whole universe.
  • Be sure to see Nathan Busenitz's comprehensive list of blogcomments about the Shepherds' Conference.
  • Update: The cartoon thread at SharperIron.org overran the 20-page limit in record time. Too bad. I was hoping to get the last word on that one. But Bob Topartzer, who actually did get the last word, raises a great question:

    One thing I have wondered about. If those who planned the Shepherds conference wanted to put Fundamentalism into perspective and Phil Johnson states he was asked to give his presentation, Why didn't they choose their own resident expert on the subject:
    Dr. Larry Pettegrew, M.R.E., M.Div., Th.M., from Central Baptist Seminary, Plymouth, MN. and Th.D. Dallas Seminary. His degrees are in historical Theology. He has written on the origins of Fundamentalism and the Niagara Bible conference. He taught at Pillsbury and Central for years and was Dean at Central for a period of time. He has been a Professor at Masters Seminary for several years.
         His presentation would have been authoritative and he would have critical analysis.
         Why Phil Johnson who is associated with the Reformed Baptists and Sovereign Grace churches that are viewed by many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals as unbalanced in ministry and extreme in some practices.?

    Now there's a suggestion I like. A lot.

    Note to self: If the masterminds who plan the seminars at the conference suggest another follow-up on fundamentalism next year, punt to Dr. Pettegrew.

  • As of 2:00 PM Tuesday,
    the auction for the decal is up to $20.
    That's $19.85 more than I guessed it would go for. This is indeed the last of the classic decals, and the only one I ever autographed. If you want this little piece of bloghistory, it's apparently going to cost you alot more than it's really worth. I'll get nothing from it, BTW, so there is no ethical dilemma or conflict of interest if I urge you to bid higher. No shame or self-respect, either. Keep the bidding hot.

Phil's signature


NEB said...

Book the luncheon, Phil. I'm there. I am so there.

Gordon said...

Now that you've dropped enough names ;-) let me say that the guy on the island in that cartoon has a pretty good tan.

Paul said...


I too was there and could not have said it any better. Dr. Lawson's sermon brought me to tears and put a fire in me. Dr. MacArthur's Seromn made me realize that I never even knew what Luke 15 ws all about (and I have taught through that passage). I can't believe how gracious the Grace Comm. family is. I spoke with one older lady and thanked her for all she was doing. She responded by saying "don't bother thanking me, if you want to thank me just go home and preach the Word!" Wow! The pressure is on now.

By the way I let Ken Fuller know you dropped his name (he is oblivious to any blog).

Paul S.

CDubbs said...

Man,you people love your John MacArthur...I think he's a good teacher, but seems to be turning into an angry old man who doesn't like change.

Forgiven Sinner said...

C dubbs said "Man,you people love your John MacArthur...I think he's a good teacher, but seems to be turning into an angry old man who doesn't like change."

Apparently you were NOT at the conference and sounds like you may be converting to "Warrenism" before long......jump that wave and ride it like the rest of the people who don't want their feelings hurt!

"Al Mohler, if you are out there, I plan to sport my Reformed tee shirt (Arminian Advisory) to your conference at SWBTS!!"

IB Dubbya said...

'Man,you people love your John MacArthur...I think he's a good teacher, but seems to be turning into an angry old man who doesn't like change.'


Lord willin', come next SC, and ah may just be in like Errol Flynn, myself...

Screaming Pirate said...

Paul" I too was there and could not have said it any better. Dr. Lawson's sermon brought me to tears and put a fire in me."

Paul as a personal friend of Dr. Lawson and memeber of his congregation it does my heart well to hear you say that. He worked long and hard on that message. I will try to personaly relay you thanks i know he will apreciate it. His passion for preaching is unrivaled. It makes me apreciate more what he does for me and my church we are truly blessed to have him.

Oh and to c dubbs "The more things change the more they stay the same"

Kay said...

That's gone on the watch-list then.

$20 already.

LeeC said...

Screaming Pirate,

I couldn't attend this year, but my church had the priveledge of having Dr. Lawson preach last Sunday. He spoke on Psalm 90 and it was a true blessing to us.

Thanks for the loan, the Lord has been gracious to you in giving you such a pastor.

We will be returning the favor soon I hear as our Pastor Jack Hughes will be standing in for Dr. Lawson for you guys also.

Man I love Christs church!

FX Turk said...

I'm still processing that the TFG posse reads this blog. I feel like my agent just called to tell me that Liza has phoned one in and I'm going to headline tonight on Broadway.

Dan Sudfeld said...

I had the privilege of attending your seminar on the "Emergent Church Movement." I wanted to ask you (but was too chicken) about DA Carson's book on that subject. I haven't read it yet, but seeing it was just one of our may gifts, I wanted to get your impressions of it.

I'm with you on Dr, MacArthur's message on Luke 15. That was the best treatment of that parable I have ever heard. Loved how he opened up the Near Eastern culture and told the story from the vantage point of the Pharisees and scribes - the original audience.

Challies make sme proud to be a Canadian

FX Turk said...

And I have the first week of Mach, 2007 blocked off, but I am not coming unless Phil does fewer seminars and we can take a day or two to take my kids to Disney.

translation: if I'm going to put my job on the line, Phil, you have to also. :-)

Anonymous said...

The problem with refrigerator magnets is you can't light up a cigar with one.

puritanicoal said...

Phil, I am looking for the transcripts of Pastor MacArthur's series on the Prodigal Son. I can only find three sermon transcripts- "Tale of Two Sons" listed as parts 1, 2 & 3. Were the last two in the series named something else?


Phil Johnson said...


Good question. The original five-part series included a lot of review material that John covered repeatedly as he preached the series from week to week. It was therefore edited into a three-part series for radio, without so much review.

(Nothing but review material was removed from the abridgment.)

All five messages are included in the verse-by-verse messges from our series covering all of Luke, and you can also get tapes or CDs of those iundividual messages. But if you order the series on the Prodigal, you will get the three-part series that was broadcast on the radio.

Away From The Brink said...

"Man,you people love your John MacArthur...I think he's a good teacher, but seems to be turning into an angry old man who doesn't like change."

Well, I have only had a few occasions to chat with John personally, but I can testify he is anything BUT an "angry old man."

A couple of years ago he spoke to my fellowship group and graciously chatted with all who wanted to speak with him. Then he probably went half blind from all the flashes from those that wanted pictures taken with him.

Take a look at this "angry old man."

Hmm...doesn't look too angry to me.

4given said...

Okay... like it or not, you do have females reading this blog... and I for one, would like a magnet for my fridge!

John MacArthur...An angry old man that doen't like change? Okay... that's just... stupid. I am being nice. I am being nice. I am being nice.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Pettegrew's bread and butter class at TMS is on the history of evangelicalism. He would be a great resource for future conferences.

Frank, I was going to get some good pictures of Phil but didn't get any because he was on his best behavior - I didn't see him pick his nose once!

Kent Brandenburg said...

I would think that the two biggest problems that Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, and Mark Minnick have with you, Phil, and your brand of separation are: (1) Your music. They would believe the contemporary Christian music is false worship. (2) Your circles of fellowship. They would not fellowship with Southern Baptists because of liberalism and the cooperative program, so no Dr. Mohler. I'm sure that these two problsm are how they believe that your circle contributed to causing the deterioration of modern evangelicalism/Christianity, that is, the lack of separation. However, their view of separation is to choose a group, the "fundamentalist" one, which essentially orbits Bob Jones University. A way to quickly become in disfavor is to criticize Bob Jones.

Those three, which you mention in your thing on fundamentalism, would have a comraderie, however, with your reformed theology, expository preaching, and textual criticism. They are drawn toward the intellectualism of your circle and are attracted by the association with Spurgeon, the Puritans, and the mutual dislike of King James Version supporters. I perceive that they think that by connecting with you, they will not be confused with the Jack Hyles/Sword of the Lord faction of professing fundamentalism. They feel small (because of separation) and they like how big you feel. A few of them might wish they were the John MacArthurs of fundamentalism.

IB Dubbya said...

...ookaaayy, back to the friendly banter...

Phil: I hope that last slight turn hasn't caused you to stop reading this thread (prolly just the opposite), because I have this to say to you:

We met just before service one sunday about 2 months ago (remember, the tall skinny light-brown fellah?), during which time you asked me to say 'hi' next time I stopped by the blog (and after which you, and moments before kindly endowing me with one of the now much-coveted Pyro Decals (...Fooorty-do-I-hear-$40!).

Phil, I just want to express to you here and now that, though my knowledge of you and your ministry is heretofore limited to your virtual writings, I have a profound respect and deep appreciation for the Ministry our Lord is and has been conducting through you ~ both at Grace Church and beyond.

I thank you for being obedient to the High & Holy Priest And King, and can't wait to sit down with you and have sweet, unrushed fellowship (and with each of the other Shepherds at our church) one day beyond the Chilly Jordan. (Not that we might not catch a moment or two on this side...)


stauf46 said...

What did I do with myself before blogs? This is all too entertaining, that includes following a new 'watched' item on EBay. Fun post, Phil


P.S. My confirmation is 'snkpeuk.' Do I need a filter for that too? I don't want to plug my drains.

IB Dubbya said...

...Oh (and I know this shameless, and you wouldn't dare respond to this via on this blog, but) PLEASE come pastor us Mainstream when our beloved...choke...Carey...sniff, sniff...moves on?!?!

[Sorry, folks; just had to get that shameless request in there...]

Dave said...


I didn't attend the Dead Right 2 seminar, but nothing personal about it. Just figured I would let it rest after our exchanges last year. Sorry I couldn't claim that lunch you promised me. Maybe another time.

As for the comments by Mr. Brandenburg; you have now heard from an officer of the cruise ship pictured at SI.

Nuff said.

Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul said...

I would appreciate that. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Lawson for just a few minutes this week, and was able to help one of the TMS students proof read a chapter in the book he is currently working on. This was quite an honor for me. Ever since what he went through at the last church I have had a profound respect for him. He has had a large impact on this young brother.


Sharon said...

Bidding for the autographed Pyro bumper sticker is up to $36 now. Phil, will you autograph mine? I need some summer vacation funds. . . .

Phil Johnson said...

Sharon: What I have written, I have written. The eBay decal is the only one I ever signed. In fairness to the high bidder, I'm going to keep it that way. Now watch the price go through the roof.

But, since I already owe you several favors, if you like, I'll autograph a copy of my book on Jonah (What's Eating Jonah?), which was published only in India, and is something of a collector's item in the rest of the world.

Kent: You're pushing the list guidelines. See rule 2. I've deleted your comment. Dave Doran is a pastor and seminary president, and your remarks about him were uncalled for. If you want to answer him here, you're going to have to do it in a way that doesn't question his salvation or compare him to a Nazi.

If you insist on saying such things about someone like Dr. Doran, please take it elsewhere. May I suggest SharperIron.org? There are some fundamentalists there who have a pretty good idea how to deal with your brand of fundyism.

Kent Brandenburg said...


To be honest, I don't understand what you wrote to me. He broadbrushed me into the SS 1-2-3 cruise ship, which I'm not. I answered it, and then you go and do the same thing, except more so. You have the right to do anything you want here; it's your blog, but you're wrong. The adjective, I used, which I won't repeat, simply made light of the broadbrushing technique, to put it lightly. I think you are suavy enough to catch that, but I will have to assume you didn't. I did not think I broke any of your rules; still don't. Not even close.

I guess I wouldn't have thought in this room that someone could do that kind of broadbrushing (there are other names for what that is) and also get away with it. Neither did I question his salvation, or even come close to it. That too is a false accusation. I made substantive points in my comments, that fit the topic at hand, and he came in with something entirely uncalled for, and you defend him.

I logged on very late here, just finishing up a late night counseling situation with a man. I too am a pastor for 18 years of a church planted in SF Bay Area. I am not a fundy, as you would say it (and disrespectfully). I do get your message though. Perhaps I'm just learning what this is all about.

donsands said...

I heard that John MacArthur and C. J. are good friends. Now that is very encouraging. I love both these guys, and yet they do sit at the opposite end of the theology table on some things.
In fact, I may be going to the "Together for the Gospel" Conference, which ought to be a heart changing experience.
Truth with unity on the essentials, and able to love one another and worship and serve the Lord together, must be very pleasing to our heavenly Father.

Sharon said...

But, since I already owe you several favors, if you like, I'll autograph a copy of my book on Jonah (What's Eating Jonah?), which was published only in India, and is something of a collector's item in the rest of the world.

Sold! Er, yes, of course it would be an honor to possess such a tome. I might even be able to arrange for a couple of Parkening tickets to sweeten the deal! Let's talk.

Momo said...

Frank wrote: I'm still processing that the TFG posse reads this blog. I feel like my agent just called to tell me that Liza has phoned one in and I'm going to headline tonight on Broadway.

Yeah, that was pretty unsettling to me too.

I felt like maybe Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach just walked into my Little Dribblers practice to watch me coach the boys. Ouch.

Mike said...

Decal is selling at $52 currently! Just a hair above 15cents.

a simple blogTRotter said...

This is not an attempt to stir up anything, but... I think I just read a favorable review of Pyro's "Emergent Critique" given at the T.R.-fest that I would have given much to attend (The Shepherds Conference 06). To top this off, the iMonk linked to Emergent No (though he states that he did not like to do so, and I believe him) to allow readers the full text of the seminar.


A Simple blogTRotter

Abouttime said...

I also attended the Shepherd's Conference and was wondering about further reflections on the panel's comments about "Together for the Gospel." I had the impression that the leaders were proposing a "95 Thesis" type document to be ascribed to... was that your understanding?

Austin said...

I was blessed to be in attendance during Dr. Sproul's sermon. Hopefully next year I will be able to attend them all. I'm a Shepherds' Conference junkie now!