For twenty years now beginning in February 1997, we have left the cold winter of Illinois (two of the past three years leaving home in blizzard conditions), and made our way to sunny and warm Orlando, Florida, to join more than 4,000 others to attend the Ligonier Ministries National Conference. It’s the week and event I most look forward to each year. Although it has occasionally been held elsewhere, the traditional home of the conference has been First Baptist Church of Orlando. Since it was not available last year as the church was undergoing renovations, we were treated to a beautiful new sanctuary which changed from pews to theater seating. Among many other nice changes, the sanctuary also has a more intimate feeling as the use of stadium seating was added on the ground level.
This year’s conference with a theme of “The Gospel”, did not include Ligonier Teaching Fellows Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul Jr. The remainder of the Teaching Fellows were there (Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Steven Nichols and newly named Teaching Fellows Albert Mohler and Derek Thomas), along with R.C. Sproul. In addition, Ian Hamilton and Michael Reeves, two wonderful speakers that I was not familiar with prior to seeing that they were going to be a part of this conference, were among the speakers. The conference also included a “Youth Seminar”, which I, many years from being a youth, greatly benefited from. In fact, I was so moved by Tim Keesee’s message, that I purchased and read his amazing book Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places before we arrived home from Orlando. Watch for my review soon.
One of my highlights each years is the conference Book Store which contained over 800 resources and where you can get your books signed by the authors. The major releases for Ligonier this year were:
- The revised and updated Reformation Study Bible (RSB) released in the New King James Version (NKJV). The RSB was released in the English Standard Version (ESV) at last year’s conference.
- Steven Lawson’s new book on Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
- R.C. Sproul’s 100th book; a children’s book dedicated to three of his grandsons, two of whom joined him on the platform and got a wonderful hug from grandpa.
Supplementing the Book Store were a number of exhibitor booths. I stopped by the Covenant Seminary booth and visited briefly with John Patton, Covenant’s Director of Admissions about some of the students currently at Covenant from our church. I also stopped by the booth of John Barros, and picked up a copy of the 2011 anti-abortion film 180 movie for my sister-in-law who leads a Pregnancy Resource Center.
We were pleasantly surprised to run into long-time friends Bill and Sarah who were attending the conference with friends. Bill is a fellow elder at our church. At the same time we missed, and were praying for, fellow elder Don and his wife Angela. We had attended the conference with them the two previous years, and they had planned to attend again, but Angela is now battling a recurrence of breast cancer and leukemia, and they had to change their plans to attend so that Angela could fight the cancers. Please pray for them in this battle.
If you have not attended a Ligonier National Conference, it can be an endurance test if you try to attend every one of the 25 sessions over two and a half days, in addition to the mini-concert with Jan Mulder and a prayer session led by Ian Hamilton. You get a tremendous amount of value and excellent teaching at a very reasonable price. I always purchase a copy of the messages to take back home with me and listen to multiple times. But here’s some good news! You can watch or listen to all of the 25 sessions from the conference free here.
Below are links to helpful recaps from Ligonier.org of each day of the conference:
Day 1 The conference started Thursday morning with a “Pre-Conference” looking at creation, the first Adam and God’s design for male and female. A highlight for me was the Book Store tour given by Derek Thomas, something that Sinclair Ferguson normally does, late Thursday evening after a long day of teaching. As hundreds enjoyed ice cream sandwiches, Thomas highlighted nine books from the Book Store that he would recommend everyone read, including Calvin’s Institutes, and Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray.
Day 2 This day began with the Ligonier Ministry Partners Annual Meeting, in which we got an update on the many worldwide initiatives the ministry is working on. Later, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul introduced the Ligonier Statement on Christology , a copy of which was given to all attendees. On this evening, R.C. Sproul was being inducted into the Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. We were able to watch his filmed acceptance speech about the same time it was being played at their event in Nashville.
Day 3 The conference ended early Saturday afternoon with R.C. Sproul delivering a powerful message on the transforming power of the Gospel. Sproul, who survived two strokes since the 2015 National Conference, received a moving standing ovation as he came to deliver his message. One quote that I found of interest was his belief that less than 5% of ordained ministers in America believe Romans 1:16, which states that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.
The conference ended with a Ligonier tradition, the singing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” by the attendees. Throughout the conference we were led in singing some of the great hymns of the faith by Randall Van Meggelen. I can’t do justice to what it is like to hear more than 4,000 singing these hymns accompanied by a beautiful pipe organ. Tammy loves to watch the hearing impaired section ‘sing’ the hymns ~ especially their signs for ‘crown Him Lord of all’ when we sang All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.
The 2017 National Conference will be held March 9-11, 2017. It will be Ligonier’s 30th National Conference, and it will also be on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The theme will be “The Next 500 Years: Reformation 500 and Beyond”. In addition to R.C. Sproul and the Ligonier Teaching Fellows, the speakers will include Alistair Begg, Michael Reeves and Michael Horton. Ligonier CEO Chris Larson indicated that he expects the conference, which is open now for registration, to sell out by August. Hope you can join us next year!