2009: Conference Review

2009 Conference“God’s Glory, our Joy” is a conference for all Christians, organised by a group of churches in the North West of England. It has been running every autumn since 2000, and it runs for a reason: To build Biblical churches for the 21st century.

To that end, on the 9th and 10th of October this year, on the Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon, many Christians gathered to hear stimulating Biblical teaching, to hear reports from various churches, and to enjoy fellowship with one another.

(Some may also have come to buy books- one recurring feature of the conference over the years has been the very reasonably priced bookstall, which this year featured a bargain box full of books for 50p each)

The Charismatic Legacy

Chris HandThe conference began with a session for church leaders, Chris Hand, Pastor of Crich Baptist Church in Derbyshire, gave an intelligent and insightful paper entitled “The Charismatic Legacy”. Having spent some time in the Charismatic movement himself, he charted the influence of that movement- an influence which is still developing- on the Reformed churches in this country.

Reactions from different areas of the Reformed camp have encompassed a broad range, all the way from complete acceptance, through cautious welcome, ambivalence, scepticism, and unfocused antipathy, to principled opposition. The survey covered groups such as the Proclamation Trust, those who followed the lead of Lloyd-Jones, those who have allied themselves with the resurgent “new Calvinist” movement in the U.S.A., and many others.  We saw how some elements of the Charismatic package, notably the music, have entered the Reformed mainstream. Broadly, the Charismatic legacy to the Reformed churches was characterised as one of division, confusion, and numerical diminution.

  • “Largely, looking to the Charismatic movement for fruit is like looking for grapes on a thorn tree”
  • “Fear lurked under the surface that a negative reaction would be to reject the Spirit… It seemed churlish to question the provenance of the enthusiasm”
  • “Calvinism remains a tough sell in Charismatic circles. Mahaney, Piper, and others find more converts from Reformed than from Charismatic churches”
  • “The change of music alters other things- lighter sermons, more jokes and pop-culture references. The majesty of God is lost. Not all of that is due to the Charismatic legacy, but the envy of the Reformed for Charismatic success speeds it along”

Through Weakness

Stephen ReesStephen Rees, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport, then gave two addresses. He spoke first to a Friday evening crowd of some 70 people, and then to a much larger gathering on Saturday morning.

The first address, on “Strength in Weakness”, was begun by reading some extracts from a couple of books, one of them an autobiography, by a well-known church leader, whom Stephen was too diplomatic to name. The salient characteristic of these books was the persistent atmosphere of excitement and of being in the midst of great things taking place. Everything that happened to this man apparently deserved to be described with a string of superlatives. Nobody he met failed to be phenomenal.

Then we looked at chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Corinthians, where Paul contrasts his own ministry and Christian experience to those claimed by the “super-apostles” in Corinth. We saw how unrealistic a “triumphant” view of Christian life and ministry is. Paul rejoices in his weakness and his failures.

  • “I counted. In the first 124 pages: 16 ‘magnificents’. 14 ‘extraordinaries’. At least a dozen ‘powerfuls’. Also, electric, remarkable, formidable, phenomenal, great, majestic, awesome, explosive, breathtaking, dynamic, thrilling, wonderful, amazing, and brilliant. Used of meetings, songs, experiences, books, and people”
  • “You can’t imagine Luke writing in Acts, ‘So the magnificent Paul came to Ephesus’ or ‘Peter was at his majestic best’”
  • “The great preachers make the crowd fall on their knees and cry for mercy. Paul got stoned and left for dead.”
  • “Super-apostles simply pray in faith, and the cheque arrives just in time to buy food. Paul went hungry, despite praying for daily bread”

The address on “Triumph through Weakness” was in a similar vein, this time looking at Paul’s master, who had already trodden the path of humiliation and weakness. We took soundings of Jesus’ life as we see it in the Gospel according to Matthew. Jesus is, at various points, tempted, weary, frustrated, afraid, and bewildered. Yet he triumphs through his weakness. The man on the cross is a figure of defeat, yet that defeat won the victory.

Love NOT the World

Oliver Allmand-SmithOliver Allmand-Smith, Pastor of Ramsbottom Evangelical church, spoke from the first letter of John to the title “Love Not the World”. He identified one of the problems we face in the attempt to build Biblical churches as the separation of belief from behaviour.

It is possible for us to get our doctrine technically straight, and still to have hearts full of love for this world rather than love for God.

At the heart of the new life is love for the Father, and that works itself out in loving the things he loves- especially in loving our brothers.

“John calls the church to a remarriage of belief and behaviour. How we behave is not just our business- it is the business of the whole church”

(On all that is in the world, 1 John 2:16) “All this is selfish and enslaving. It is like Eve in Eden- the fruit appealed in all those ways. It is unlike Jesus in Gethsemane. He refused to love the world, but loved the Father.”

The all-round Christian Life

Ian HighamIan Higham, Pastor of Belvidere Road Church, Liverpool, covered “The all-round Christian life”. He took as his anchor text, Colossians 3:17, “Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus”.

We were reminded us that the Christian life encompasses all of life, that it is Christ who lives in us, that the Christian life is ordered, and that it is busy. We then considered what the Christian life looks like at home, at work, and at church.

“I’ve checked in the commentaries, and the word “all” here means, “all”.

“There is always enough time to do God’s work. He never calls anybody to a work for which there’s not enough time. On the two occasions when he did, he stepped in to make the time stretch.”

“Juggling balls come in threes. Most of us need to juggle home, work, and church. They compete for time and energy.”

“You’ll never maintain a Christian walk in public if you can’t in private. If you don’t care when it’s just you and the Lord; then you don’t care.”

“In the workplace, be the most hardworking, diligent, honest, punctual, employee your boss has ever known”

“An all-round Christian is committed to, and understands his place in, his church”

Conference Sermon

Steve WoodSteve Wood, pastor of Free Grace Baptist Church, Ulverston, was warm and helpful as he preached the closing sermon from Acts 12.

He took us into the situation there- with Peter in prison and James already killed- and showed us what the church did, what Peter did, and what God did.

“I’ve never been good at golf, but I know not to take my eye off the ball. Because then it travels 2ft rather than 200ft. We can’t afford to take our eyes off our God. We need to be aware that he is sovereign, he is working his purpose out”

“Adversity should drive us to pray. Prayer is our acknowledging that we can do nothing and that God can do all things”

“Peter slept so soundly that the angel had to strike him to wake him. He knew he was in God’s hands, not Herod’s.”

All five of the conference addresses are freely available from the website. Also available here are the addresses from previous years, and, God willing, details of next year will be posted here when they become available. Subscribe for email updates!!

NB. All quotes have been supplied from scribbled notes, so they probably do not attain word-for-word accuracy.

James Goodman

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    Jim Inman wrote:

    This annual Reformed conference is rapidly becoming an eagerly anticipated feature of must see events in the North West. This is its fourth year at the ideally resourced Emmaus Church Centre in Warrington. Living the Christian Life was the stated theme though it could equally well have been Christian: Glory in your Weakness; Magnify Your Lord! The main conference comprised the following addresses:

    Strength in Weakness: Paul’s challenge to triumphalism (Stephen Rees)
    Triumph through Weakness: Christ’s victory won in human weakness (Stephen Rees)
    Love Not the World: Living for Christ in a pleasure-seeking society (Oliver Allmand-Smith)
    The All-Round Christian Life: Ordering our lives in a frantic society (Ian Higham)
    Conference Sermon (Steve Wood)

    The two sermons from Stephen Rees are really impossible to separate very helpfully since they essentially comprise parts a and b of a single message. In the first part we were presented with the real problem of ‘Christian perfectionism’ in its modern guise of ‘infallible Christian leadership’ and ‘hero worship’. This was in contradistinction to the Apostle Paul’s incessant sufferings and persecutions as portrayed in his second letter to the Corinthians. We were finally left hanging with the question, ‘Where is the victory for the Christian?’ The following morning the answer came, not too surprisingly in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ as we were confronted in a very fresh and stimulating manner with the Glory of God manifested in His humanity as found in the Gospel of Matthew.

    Next came a frontal assault on our brazen love of worldliness in our churches today. John’s clear challenge in his first letter regarding the absolute incompatibility of love for the world and love for God was presented so as to cause all who were listening to examine themselves and reassess our priorities.

    Then Ian Higham opened Paul’s challenge to the Colossians to live a life of distinction in a God-hating world in every area and department of our live, in private and in public, without exception.

    It fell to Steve Wood’s lot to apply the necessary salve to our gaping wounds. This came from Acts 12 and was a simple and gentle reminder that our Sovereign Lord sees and hears all and He intimately cares for His people with a love that expels all rivals. There can be no greater comfort to the believer than the fact that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God; who are the called according to His purpose…’ and who not only know this intellectually but daily experience its realities personally.

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    Tim Newton (North Preston Evangelical Church) wrote:

    9th and 10th October saw a good number of Christians from all over the North West of England gathering at the Emmaus Church Centre in Warrington for this year’s “God’s Glory – Our Joy” conference. The conference has been running each year since 2000, and is subtitled “Building Biblical Churches for the 21st Century”, which sums up the nature of the conference addresses. Each of the addresses covered an aspect of Christian living in the context of our changing society, with a particular emphasis on our individual and collective contributions to the life of our local churches. The conference is aimed as much at ordinary church members as at Church Leaders, apart from the first session on Friday afternoon, which was aimed specifically at Church leaders.

    This year saw addresses from Chris Hand (Crich), Ian Higham (Belvidere Rd, Liverpool), Oliver Allmand-Smith (Ramsbottom) and Stephen Rees (Stockport). The Conference Sermon was preached by Steve Wood (Ulverston).

    In each of the addresses we were challenged to live differently from those round about us, being obedient to Scripture, and in so doing to witness for Christ to those who need to know Him. The content of the addresses was not just Bible teaching, but very practical application of that teaching to everyday life, and in particular to our church lives. This is so needful in our present society where we are surrounded by challenges to our Christian faith. Our churches need to be our spiritual homes, where we gain strength, support, and fellowship, to enable us to go out into the world and live for Christ.

    As well as enjoying the ministry, it was good to renew fellowship with those from other churches around the North West, and to make new acquaintances while we browsed the bookstall or sat together at lunch. Many have been coming to the conference for several years, but it was good to see a number of new faces as well. Facilities for babies and children meant that whole families could come together, without one
    parent having to stay home to look after the children.

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