(This first appeared in the November edition of our church magazine called the Grapevine)
At the start of November I was at the FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) Leader’s conference. It was a million miles from anything, or at least is felt that way, in Hemsby in Norfolk!
The theme of the conference was evangelism. Yes, the “e” word that often makes Christians shudder.
I can’t recount the whole conference to you, although I’d love to, so I thought I’d share some memorable and helpful quotes with you to give you a flavour of the things I heard.
We heard from Ed Stetzer on Luke 5 where Jesus calls Levi and one of Ed’s points was that we live in a world with less and less personal contact. There is much less face to face interaction. And so he challenged us that:
“We need to be people of the neighbourhood if we are going to be people of mission”
We need to get out and about where people are and build relationships if we are going to do mission well, if we are going to evangelize a world that so desperately needs Jesus.
He went on to say that we need to be “culturally relevant and biblically sound” as churches.
Later in the week Ed took us through Matthew 9:35-38. There Jesus tells the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest and that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. And yet, in a few verses time, it is the disciples themselves who are the workers sent out by Jesus into the harvest field.
We need to realise that. Hardwick is a harvest field. We pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers, but do we see that we are those workers?
Another huge challenge to me from the same sermon was with regard to prayer. Ed pointed out that the logical biblical progression is this: the more I pray for people, the more compassion I have for them and that will lead me to action.
We should pray for a burden from the Lord to reach our neighbours and to reach the people who live in Hardwick. Maybe a specific group of people or a specific street, but we should pray for a burden, a deep desire, to see those people saved.
In the final session Ed led, he began by summing up the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and its counterparts in the other gospels like this: “We are sent to all kinds of people with a message empowered by the Spirit.”
One of my favourite sound-bites from that sermon was this:
“Don’t let your church become a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.”
We need to be going out and moving forward with the good news of Jesus and “news needs a herald and herald proclaims.”
Finally he used this quote from C H Spurgeon on a few occasions, and as with is Spurgeon’s style, he pulls no punches. I’ll leave it with you to mull over:
“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”