Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.
As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:
Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference:
- Bible Teaching. A distinctive of the conference, and Ligonier Ministries in general, is the consistently strong, biblical teaching that you get at the conference. Over the years, I’ve been introduced to dozens of speakers at the conference that I had not previously been aware of. You can watch all of the 26 teaching sessions from the conference My favorite sessions were “The Priority of Worship” by Sinclair Ferguson, “The Non-Negotiable Gospel” by John MacArthur, and “I Will Build My Church” by Alistair Begg.
- Congregational Singing. It is always wonderful to hear more than 4,000 people singing some of the great hymns of the faith accompanied by a beautiful pipe organ. Randall Van Meggelen again directed the singing, accompanied by the Westminster Brass and Ligonier Sinfonia.
- Return of the Westminster Brass. For years, the Westminster Brass were regulars at the conference. I was pleased to see them back for the 30th National Conference. They also played a mini-concert Thursday evening.
- Jeff Lippencott’s Mini Concert. Jeff Lippencott partnered with R.C. Sproul on the 2015 music release of sacred hymns Glory to the Holy One. A follow-up album will be released this summer. On Friday evening, Lippencott debuted a new work, Post Tenebras Lux, with a 45-piece orchestra. This inspiring piece takes the listener on a musical journey of the highlights of Martin Luther’s life. Written in three movements, this piece moves from the coldness of the Middle Ages and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church to the glory of Luther’s rediscovery of the gospel and the spread of the Reformation throughout Europe. The symphonic work celebrates the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. It is presented with the hopes that God would use it to encourage listeners that even in the midst of darkness, the light has come. Post Tenebras Lux is available on iTunes and other music outlets.
After the performance of Post Tenebras Lux, a 30-member choir joined the orchestra to perform one of the songs from the upcoming album as well as lead the attendees in singing “These Great Things” from Glory to the Holy One, one of my highlights from the conference.
- Burk Parsons was named a new Ligonier Teaching Fellow. Parsons has served with R.C. Sproul for years at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida, now in the capacity of Co-Pastor. You can read about his being named a new Ligonier Teaching Fellow here.
International Flavor. This year’s conference added an international flavor, with three international speakers and an International Panel Discussion. My takeaway from these sessions was a greater understanding of all that is being done internationally for the Kingdom. Too often I focus only on what is going on in the United States.
- Bookstore/Bookstore Tour. One of my highlights each year is to visit the conference bookstore, where there are more than 1,000 resources available. One of the purchases I’m most excited about is the new Luther documentary, which was previewed at the conference. In addition, on Friday evening, after a long day at the conference, Sinclair Ferguson continued his “Bookstore Tour” tradition, in which he recommended books from the conference bookstore written by the conference speakers while we all enjoyed some ice cream.
- R.C. Sproul’s Health. Over the past several years, R.C. Sproul has suffered from a number of different health issues. It was amazing to see him teach at the 2016 conference after having had a very difficult year. He was scheduled to close this year’s conference as usual, but had a problem with his diabetes which kept that from happening. Dr. Sproul, who recently turned 78, only appeared in the Thursday “Questions and Answer” session and in the short session announcing Burk Parsons as a new Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I’ll always be grateful for how the Lord has used Dr. Sproul in my life, and I know he would appreciate your prayers.
- Singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. A Ligonier National Conference tradition is to end the conference with dozens, if not hundreds, of conference participants on the platform singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. It’s a wonderful way to complete three long days of teaching and singing.
The 2018 Ligonier National Conference will again be held at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida. The theme will be “Awakening”. Speakers will include Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, Albert Mohler, Rosaria Butterfield, Joni Eareckson Tada, R.C. Sproul and many others. To read more about the conference and find out how to register (remember the 2017 conference sold out months in advance), go here.