. of view

Earl Marshall


Monday through Wednesday of this week I was able to attend the Dwell Conference in New York city.  The focus of the conference was on urban church planting. 

Here are some of the things I really enjoyed:

  • The diversity in the presenters at the conference and the balance between the pragmatic and theological.   
  • The appreciation that each of these unique personalities had for one another.  In particular I was taken by how Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll interacted with one another.  I can’t imagine two people as different as these two and yet both showed a humility in their consideration of the other.
  • Keller’s presentation on the gospel.  He was able to say things that I have been thinking about succinctly.  I will have more on this in another blog in the near future.
  • The passion of the many at the conference for starting new missional communities.  I consider it a great privilege to be able to interact with men and women who have a heart for Jesus, others, and the gospel.  If this conference is any indication the future of the North American church may indeed be a good one even while being a different one.

What I learned . . .

I am convinced that if you can walk away with one thing from a conference it has been a success.  I walked away with a couple of things.

  • CJ Mahaney spoke the first day on "keeping watch over ourselves" (from 1 Timothy 4:15-16).  The learning point for me was that you can’t keep watch over yourself without others in your life.  This reaffirmed my commitment to biblical community and in particular among the leaders in the church.  This is something I am going to give greater thougth to – the development of our staff and elders in this area is so vitally important.  Note Paul’s words at the end of these verses – eternity depends on it.
  • Tim Keller spoke of the nature of the gospel – one gospel but various biblical forms.  There is great theological reflection ahead for me on this but I have for a number of years lamented the simplistic systematic presentations of the gospel of the past and the unwillingness of many today to embrace a diverse biblical theology of gospel (in other words more than just the "red letters" of the synoptics). Keller’s presentation was succinct, thoughtful, and made my heart rejoice.  The challenging learning point will be in how we train people in our churches to a greater understanding of one gospel but multiple presentations of this one. 

Anything else learned at this conference will have to wait for another conference.  I have enough to think about.


  1. Strangest moments in NYC

    I’m back in Toronto. Before I tell you what I learned I have to share some of the oddest moments of the past few days: Trying to hail a cab, but having a black Mercedes pull up with tinted windows…

  2. I saw some notes from a talk that Tim Smith, worship pastor of Mars Hill, did and he had some incredible stuff to say. From all reports it was a pretty awesome conference.

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