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How I Spent Spring Break: 9 Reflections on the 2017 Ligonier National Conference

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:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference: Continue reading


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Reflections from the 2016 Ligonier Ministries National Conference

The GospelFor 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.

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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:

  • IMG_0430The 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.

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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.

LigonierThe 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!


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2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference

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Nearly every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have experienced a taste of Heaven each February or March as we make the trek from the frigid Midwest to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the Ligonier Ministries National Conference. It is the home of the “Happiest Place on Earth” after all. For the second year in a row we enjoyed the conference with fellow elder Don Lusk and his wife Angela.

First Baptist Church of Orlando, the usual host of the conference, was not available due to renovation work (though the 2016 conference will return there February 25-27). As a result, the conference was held this year at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, a beautiful location, where we enjoyed the beauty of the lakes, landscaping, wildlife and several walks during the five days we stayed there.Reformation Study Bible

The conference was highlighted by the release of the newly revised and updated Reformation Study Bible, which R. C. Sproul served as the General Editor. Go to http://reformationstudybible.com/ to find out more about this important new resource.

Glory to the Holy OneAnother highlight of the conference was the release of the new album of sacred hymns Glory to the Holy One from Jeff Lippencott (music) and R.C. Sproul (lyrics). Lippencott is an Emmy-nominated composer. See http://www.scphilharmonic.org/aboutjeff.html to find out more about Jeff and his accomplishments.

The album was presented in full at Saint Andrews Chapel the night before the conference with full orchestra and choir. In addition, four songs from the album were performed at the conference on Friday evening. Go to http://www.ligonier.org/blog/glory-holy-one-announcing-rc-sprouls-new-sacred-hymns-project/ to find out more about this powerful new release. The album includes R.C.’s song “Clothed in Righteousness”, which has become one of my favorite hymns sung at Ligonier National Conferences and Saint Andrews Chapel the past few years.  The hymn singing with such a huge crowd of believers is a highlight for my wife, only topped by the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of the conference.

This year’s conference began with a pre-conference event, kicked off by Tim Challies, who spoke on “Purity in the Digital Age”, a very helpful message that everyone needs to listen to. All conference messages can be watched free at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/after-darkness-light-2015-national-conference/.

Tim’s message was followed by the inspirational story of Rosaria Butterfield, as she detailed her journey as a lesbian professor in the English Department and Women Studies Program at Syracuse University. Her academic interest was focused on feminist theory, queer theory and 19th century British literature. She achieved tenure in 1999, the same year that she converted to Christianity and ultimately became a pastor’s wife. I picked up Rosaria’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and will be reading it shortly. She recommended the book, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Jay Pathak. She said that the GLBT community values hospitality and applies it with skill, sacrifice, and integrity; something the Christian community could learn from. Peter Jones gave the final message in the pre-conference, and a “Question and Answer” session (always among my favorite sessions) closed out the pre-conference.

Sinclair Ferguson, one of today’s most respected Reformed theologians, opened the formal conference with “Christ’s Message to the Church”, from Revelation 2:1-7, the message that most impacted me. This is a message that all church leaders should listen to. This was such a powerful message, Tammy and I listened to it again on the way to Saint Andrews for worship the day after the conference ended.

Other highlights for me were Alistair Begg’s “No Place for Truth”, “Whatever Happened to Sin?” from Russell Moore and Do Not Love the World” from Kevin DeYoung. Other conference speakers were Steven Lawson, R.C. Sproul Jr., Robert Godfrey, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul. Another highlight was a session we attended Friday night in the conference bookstore in which Sinclair Ferguson described a number of books that he recommended we read.

All of the messages were strong. The messages and the question and answer sessions challenged and encouraged me. I left the conference with a greater desire to read and study the Bible and to pray.

Below are the daily recaps of the conference from Ligonier.org:

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-1/
http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-2/
http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-3/Saint Andrew's Chapel

We ended our conference experience by attending Sunday worship at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, where we sang hymns accompanied by their beautiful pipe organ.  Sinclair Ferguson filled the pulpit and preached (in his Scottish brogue) on “The Gospel in Four Propositions” from Galatians 2:20 in the morning and evening services.
Aaaahhh…. Another taste of Heaven.

If you get an opportunity to attend the 2016 Ligonier National Conference I would highly recommend it.