I was there live. :-)
It was an interesting conference. So... here are some notes I scrawled as a conference review.
The Pastorum conference is brutal in its brevity and pace. I have attended other conferences which are focused on the authority of scripture and none of them have been light in content. This conference was certainly not light in content. Neither was it heavier in content than some I've been to, but it was certainly more brutal in its relentless schedule.
Every speaker was given thirty minutes. A large digital clock visible to them counted down the minutes. Several of the speakers felt that pressure and commented about the press of time, in some cases repeatedly. The benefit of this format is that it forced out, or at least attempted to force out the less important information or pointless introductions. Nevertheless, introductions often still happened, but they all felt much more tightly integrated with the talk being offered.
While the format worked both against and for the speakers; it did the same for the listeners. By forcing out extraneous illustrations for lack of time, we were treated to the meat right up front without much waffling around. I prefer that format. I generally eschew long introductions and prefer to jump right into the text. That being said, I must note that the quantity of quality teachers combined with the quality of teaching in rapid fire worked against itself.
I found myself sitting in silence at the few breaks trying relentlessly and somewhat uselessly to quickly filter through the last three or four sessions. I am not really complaining - but I am commenting that it was a serious strain on my tendency to drift. That was positive though, because I was forced to "stay present" just to keep up.
A major issue I encountered more than once, when a speaker finished a session I found particularly moving is that I was not invited to join a congregation in praise to the God of the scripture. Worship was missing. I view it as a glaring omission. I’ll comment more about this later perhaps, but worship is a rational response to the revelation of God and I missed the corporate worship which should have flowed from some of the sessions. Case in point, the last session with Daniel Block made me want to stand and proclaim, “My God how great thou art!” but alas, we simply dismissed in prayer. I praised God in my car anyway.
I know there is a “problem” with worship being part of the conference. You have to secure a worship leader, probably a band, and spend time planning worship songs that might mesh with the speaker’s message. I know, I know. But the hardest problem is time. The sessions were packed with content, and as mentioned, relentless in their pace. Where would the worship time fit? I would suggest a few songs to start the day, a few more before the lunch break, after lunch and at least after the closing session. Too much? Sorry, I like to worship God.
Wow. Perhaps not every speaker thrilled my soul, but they all challenged my mind. Such a stack of excellent scholars ought not to be ignored. It was a truly head stretching experience. Again, the fact that so many tremendous scholars were lined up meant that I needed to hear them again. Toward the close of the second day I heard another pastor asking the Logos Presenter Bobby Moss (Great job Bobby!) if the sessions would be offered on CD. Exactly.
Session recordings are a major component of the conference that ought to be considered for the future. There are a few of the speakers in particular that I would have liked to have an option of obtaining an MP3 of their talk for a second listen. The rapid fire sequence of speakers virtually guarantees that "stuff" would be missed. This is true in every teaching situation; but the compounding of the multiple excellent speakers, and the rapid turnover between sessions means that more and more "good stuff" was lost in my failing endeavors to keep up.
Back to the speakers list. Every one of them was on target to their topic and appeared to have diligently labored at keeping their talks in line with the time allotment. Only once did I look at my own watch during the sessions - that was because I was hoping the speaker had more time. He didn’t.
The sessions were divided into six conversation blocks:
Bible backgrounds - expressing the value of knowing the geopolitical/historical context. This really meshed with me as I’m often hammering away on context. Craig Evans, Craig Keener and Eckhard Schnabel poured out their hearts here.
The Old Testament - Michael Heiser, Mark Futato, John Walton and Richard Briggs. By emphasizing whole-scale structure of the redemptive story the Old Testament stories find their meanings flow into our lives more honestly. - unfortunately I took many notes during this section and then promptly lost them due to internet connectivity/cloud storage issues.
The New Testament - Wednesday morning launched us into Scot McKnight dealing with the sermon on the mount as gospel, Warren Carter followed with another incredible cultural connection of the cross in the Roman Empire. Mark Strauss, Bob Yarbrough and Nick Perrin followed up connecting Greek linguistic studies and a look at the kingdom.
Reading and Studying - Sean McDonough and Mike Goheen jumped back into Greek emphasizing its power and encouraging our growth towards reading in the Greek for maximum impact. Roy Ciampa spoke on Hermeneutics.
Application - often the weak point in the sermon, Jonathan Pennington, David garland, and Dan Doriani dealt with this crucial, but too often lighthanded area in preaching.
Connecting The Dots - Last of all Te-Li Lau took us to the NT book of Ephesians as a manifesto for the church, Peter Enns spoke on the Exodus and ANE and Christological concepts; while Dan Block rocked the house with his exposition of Deuteronomy 10:12-11:1.
I did not agree with every speaker. But I came to be challenged and challenged I was. The list of speakers lived up to the hype. 21 top scholars did pour out their best for us.
Conclusion: Do it again