In January 2013, in Douglasville, Georgia a conference was born. Now there were many other conferences that one could attend in Reformed circles. At the time there was T4G, Shepherds’ Conference, Bethlehem Conference, and Ligonier. Those were (and still are) all fine conferences, and truth be told, G3 was never formed to compete with them. It was formed with the purpose of having a solid, theologically rich conference in the southeast which hoped to strengthen the local church. I first heard about the conference while attending the Ligonier Conference in 2012. At that time I was on staff at a Baptist church in the Atlanta area, and when I saw that there was going to be a conference this close to me, I knew that I wanted to attend. When January rolled around, two friends and I descended on the little town just west of Atlanta and my life has forever been changed because of it.
When I think of G3, I always think of it with fond memories. I have yet to miss a single conference in the last seven years and Lord willing, I will continue on with that trajectory. With the 8th annual conference beginning this week, I wanted to express why I think G3 is special and why I love G3 so much. And like any good Reformed guy, I have 5 points or reasons why.
I have heard many people say that meeting each year at G3 is like having an annual family reunion. Getting to see old friends in the vendor hall or meeting someone new while waiting in line for lunch and talking about the glories of God is just one of the benefits of the conference. This conference provides a place of genuine love, genuine friendship, and genuine worship all in one place. It is where so many of the “one another” passages are able to be applied. One of the reasons I love G3 is simply because of the fellowship of both the local church and the church universal. It is indeed a sweet fellowship shared by all.
One of the first things that struck me at the very first conference in 2013 was the singing. I have been to a lot of concerts and special church singings in my life, but there was just something different about the singing that first year. There were 700 voices lifted as one. The music was good, but it was the voices of the congregation that carried the songs. It was a mix of old and new hymnody, but every song was dripping with theological truth. Every year it is the same . . . Christ-centered, robust singing. This year we are expecting over 5,000 in attendance. What a joy it will be to sing with so many, lifting praise and making melody in our heart to the Lord.
One of the unique things about G3 is that there is no fencing of the speakers. At many conferences, the preacher often stays in the green room while they are not speaking. The attendees do not really get a chance to interact with the speakers. This is not the case at this conference. It is common to see many of the speakers out and about roaming the vendor hall, or sitting in the back of the conference center listening to one of the other speakers. Many will stand and talk to conference-goers after their sessions or during the break. The speakers are human. They are not superhuman and untouchable. At G3, one is able to speak with a Tim Challies or a Paul Washer just like you would your own pastor after the morning service. It is a unique feature that I am thankful for.
Long before I became an elder at Pray’s Mill Baptist Church I was attending the conference. There has always been a heavy emphasis placed on the local church. It is always stated each year, “This conference is not a reality. This is a taste of heaven where every one of like-mind gathers to worship.” These words are true. We gather to be encouraged, but then scatter to go back to our own local place of worship. The hope is that when you leave you will be encouraged to go back to serve the Lord through your local church. Pray’s Mill members love to serve the attendees of the conference. Over half of our congregation helps serve in some capacity. The very genesis of this conference was by a local church with the purpose of strengthening the local church and you can see how the Lord has done just that over the years. If you look over the audience you will find young and old, black and white, yellow and red, pastor and janitor, men and women. This is the church. I love the emphasis on the local church while gathered with the church universal. This is just another reason that I love G3.
By far the best part of the conference is the preaching. There is a wide diversity of preachers who stand in the pulpit each year, but one thing that has always remained consistent is the quality of the preaching. In my 7 years of attending this conference, I have to say that I cannot remember a “bad sermon.” Richard Baxter has famously said, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” This is what it seems like is being done sermon after sermon at the conference. The Lord is magnified. The Scriptures are held high and exposited. The listeners have no choice but to respond to the heralded. Over the years I have wept, laughed, been deeply moved by my own sin, and rejoiced in the truths of the gospel, all of this because of the Spirit’s work in me through the preaching of the Word. Bar none, the preaching at G3 is at the top of the list of why I love G3.
I don’t love G3 just because the Lord used it to move my family to Douglasville, Georgia. Long before I ever became a pastor at Pray’s Mill I loved this conference. I have long called this week in January “my second Christmas.” Now I get the pleasure of working alongside an amazing church that is made up of some amazing people to help put on the conference. What a joy and a blessing. I love G3 because for three days I get to worship the Lord through the preached Word and sing gospel-rich songs with some of my most favorite people on the planet. The Lord has used this conference to enrich my soul over the years. I have no doubt that he will do the same this week. I have made many friends because of this conference. I have many memories because of it as well. Yet more than that, I have grown to love the Lord more because of it . . . and that is truly why I can say, “I love the G3 Conference.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell