Thoughts on the Desiring God National Conference

I had the privilege of speaking at the Desiring God National Conference last Saturday morning. It was a whirlwind trip that I made with my daughter (and assistant) Chelsea. We got there for dinner on Friday and caught a 7 PM flight out on Saturday. It came at the end of our two week beach vacation, and I decided not to try that again. Too distracting.

Chuck Steddom, a good friend from John Piper’s church, led the singing along with a team from his church. It was encouraging to hear them introduce “Praise the Lord,” a song from our recent Psalms CD. Sinclair Ferguson gave a message the first night called “The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Blessing,” based on James 3:1-12. It was vintage Sinclair – biblical, compelling, and gospel-saturated. You can download a copy of my notes here.

I spoke the next morning on “Why Does God Want Us to Sing?” These were my main points, and the implications I drew from them:

1.    Singing can help us remember words.

In the church we should use melodies that are effective.
We should sing words that God wants us to remember.
The lyrics to our songs should reflect the broad themes of Scripture.
We should use seek to memorize songs.

2.    Singing can help us engage emotionally with words.

We must differentiate between being emotionally moved and spiritually enlightened.
Singing should be an emotional event.
We need a broad emotional range in our songs.

3.    Singing can help us use words to demonstrate and express our unity.

Every voice in the church matters.
We should seek to sing songs that unite, rather than divide, the church.
Musical creativity in the church has functional limits.
We must be clear that it is the gospel, not music, that unites us.

You can download the message or read some more extensive notes at the Desiring God blog.

Mark Driscoll shared later that morning on Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words. Mark acknowledged in his message that he’s made some mistakes in the area of knowing how far to go in the areas of sarcasm and “cutting words,” and expressed gratefulness for the input of men like John Piper and C.J. Mahaney who are seeking to help him grow.

Later that afternoon I was on a panel with Dan Taylor, Paul Tripp, and John Piper. Justin Taylor moderated, and began by asking me to share about the “dark night of the soul” I went through in the mid-90s. I also shared thoughts on physical expressiveness in worship, and giving and receiving encouragement. John Piper shared some great thoughts on pursuing “self-forgetfulness.” You can listen to or download the panel discussion here.

Desiring God excels at serving others and this conference was no exception. All the messages are available for free as downloads, transcripts, or videos at the Desiring God blog.

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9 Responses to Thoughts on the Desiring God National Conference

  1. Jimmy Buehler September 30, 2008 at 6:41 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    I was at the conference and your talk was so helpful. I’ve recently started leading worship for a ministry at my school called Campus Outreach which is under Bethlehem Baptist Church. Hopefully I will be playing worship at Bethlehem soon as well! Your talk really inspired me to dig in the scriptures to develop a “theology” of worship. Thank you so much! Your ministry has helped me grow as a worship leader.

    P.S. I met you, but it was really short, you signed your book for me. I feel nerdy saying this. But again…thank you!


  2. don gale September 30, 2008 at 8:12 PM #

    I was at the conference and greatly helped by your message. It was challenging and encouraging in many ways (I won’t get into the here). I was also very blessed that you led us in a song at the end. The whole time I was thinking how much I wanted to sing and praise the Lord when your talk was done. So I was glad you gave us the chance. Your talk drove me to the cross and drove me to worship. Thanks.

  3. Brendan Beale September 30, 2008 at 9:48 PM #

    I’m a regular reader of your blog and I want to tell you how encouraged I am by your consistent, Biblical, cross-centered approach to worship and how it relates to all of life.
    I have a question that you might consider for a future blog post, one I’ve been wrestling with a lot the last couple weeks. My fiancee and I are planning our honeymoon and are struggling to consider how to best glorify God with how we spend money for this trip. In the process we’ve sort of been hammering out a “theology of vacation”- searching for what the Bible has to say about leisure, relaxation, refreshment, family, ministry, etc. Considering that you just got back from the beach with your family, how would you relate vacation to God’s glory and the gospel’s call on our lives?

    In His peace,
    Brendan Beale

  4. Andrew Randazzo September 30, 2008 at 11:47 PM #

    Thank you so much for speaking at the conference. Your topic was so helpful.

  5. Jeremy Killian October 1, 2008 at 12:49 PM #

    It’s a great connection that you’ve made between worship and its near-opposite–sarcasm. Sarcasm is the use of our voices for self-serving and self-centered purposes instead of using our voices for self-humbling under God’s hand. Sounds like a great time!

  6. Bob Kauflin October 1, 2008 at 1:30 PM #


    You have to help me out here. I wasn’t aware I was making a connection between worship and sarcasm. Also, sarcasm simply describes a type of language that isn’t necessarily connected with sinful motivation. Scriptural examples include Elijah with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27), Isaiah with the idol-makers (Is. 44:15-17), and Paul with the Judaizers (Gal. 5:12). Is that helpful?

  7. Jared October 1, 2008 at 1:47 PM #


    I was T4G this year and just found an MP3 of you singing “How Sweet and Awful” Your version at the conference was beautiful! I was wondering where I could get my hands on some sheet music/chord charts.


  8. r4nd0m1z October 3, 2008 at 1:34 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    I listened to the mp3 of your message while painting my deck. When you sang “Crown Him with Many Crowns” at the end, God’s presence was so strong, I nearly fell off my ladder. It was an amazing message…thanks much (and thanks to the DG folks who made it available so quickly. I was unable to attend and am sincerely thankful to have been able to participate via the live blog and the mp3s). I can’t wait to read Worship Matters.


  1. » Desiring God National Conference - October 1, 2008

    […] Kauflin, author of Worship Matters, shares some thoughts on last weekend’s Desiring God National Conference. Bob spoke Saturday morning on Words of […]

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