The conference was held at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, home to pastor Joshua Harris and his congregation. I was amazed at how large the church facilities are-- the 1600 people who attended this conference were easily accommodated in the huge sanctuary, very spacious lobby, and proliferation of rooms used for the various break-out sessions.
As usual for a Sovereign Grace event, it was extremely well-organized, with careful attention paid to small details and generous extras provided. The binders handed out at registration included, not only the expected schedule, list of one's assigned seminars and a map of the building, but also, thorough outlines and notes for all the seminars. Also included were copies of various articles for further reading, as well as blank, lined pages for note-taking. Free books, given away to all during the conference, included an ESV booklet of the Psalms, Thabiti Anyabwile's book, "What is a Healthy Church Member?," and "A Gospel Primer for Christians" by Milton Vincent. As if all this were not enough, during the main sessions Bob Kauflin presided over the giving out of many free gifts to certain individuals -- from books and CDs, to an 80 gig iPod. He made this into a game, but the emphasis was on giving these gifts as a way of saying thank you to those who have served their churches well; for example, giving a gift to the sound tech who has served longest at his church.
There was also much honoring of certain Sovereign Grace leaders for their many years of service-- but the honors were not presented in the form of trophies or anything formal but were simply heartfelt expressions of thanks and gratitude. Perhaps the most moving of these was when Bob Kauflin's two sons, Devon and Jordan, came to the stage and spoke of their father as a true man of God. This was particularly poignant because of the fact that one of these sons had for a time rebelled against his Dad and against the faith, but now was here as a worship leader, giving praise to God for his earthly dad.
There really is a sense at the Sovereign Grace conferences that the teams are working together to serve people. The ushers and the help desk people were always friendly and available to answer any questions you might have. The attention to quality and the humble, servant spirit that were manifest throughout the event provided fitting adornment to the conference theme of being a true worshiper of God in all of life.
Conferences such as these also give a nice opportunity to get to know and bond with others from one's church. With the ride to and from NY to Gaithersburg taking about six hours each way, there was lots of time in which to chat and take meals together, which provided enjoyable times of fellowship. I also roomed with a young man I hadn't known before, a summer intern at our church who is about to enter college. It was a delight to interact with a young man who was not only polite and well-spoken but certainly seemed to have a deeper understanding of his future course in life than I had at his age. To me this shows how valuable it is to grow up in a good Christian home, as this young man seems to have.
We are truly blessed as believers in this country to have such an abundance of quality resources. But at the same time, this is a challenge, for as Jesus said, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more (Luke 12:48)."
Finally, another great service to the community is that the main speaker sessions of this conference have been made available to listen to or download (see links below). You can listen right here (click the little arrow button to the left of the message title), or right-click to download the file to your computer.
Knowing God with the Psalmist (Craig Cabaniss)
Expressing Emotion with the Psalmist (Thabiti Anyabwile)
Glorifying Christ with the Psalmist (Mark Dever)
Enduring Hardship with the Psalmist (David Powlison)
Living Life with the Psalmist (Bob Kauflin)