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Renew Conference 2018 blog

Where has Rob been hiding?

On Sunday evening I went to Leeds for the Renew Conference 2018, a gathering of just under 500 Anglican Evangelical ministers from Kent to Carlisle and Cornwall to Tyneside. The commitment of Renew is to work together to Pioneer, Establish and Secure healthy local Anglican churches, and the particular focus of this year’s conference was how for that vision to become a reality it needs every member ministry to teach and encourage the biblical idea that every believer is in some way or another involved in gospel ministry. A couple of pictures of this were very helpful for us to think about.

The first was that of a Sports Stadium. In recent weeks I’ve been with Sam to the Oval Cricket ground and to The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, so this picture connected with me: The first idea of the stadium is of the church assembling in the stands to watch some expensive professionals (the church staff) provide the action on the pitch. After the final whistle we all, cheering, booing, perhaps discussing some of the moments we saw and debating whether or not we might be coming next week, disperse back into the world outside who are oblivious to what has been going on in the stadium. The second idea was to see the church all playing the match on the pitch, the coach (vicar?) in the technical area giving guidance and direction from his coaching manual (the Bible). This time the stadium is full of a watching world before whom the church is living out her life – some in the stands inspired by what they see and wanting to get onto the pitch and join in the action.

The second comparison was between two types of boat. The first a luxury cruise liner where the vast majority are passengers sampling the various activities that suit their particular tastes, with a very small minority doing all the hard graft to keep the ship going and everything on board running. The second type was a coastal lifeboat, on board of which everyone is crew, gathering from the mess of their daily lives and united with their very different roles in the single task of rescuing the lost.

Both of these are simple but helpful pictures making a similar point, and they highlight that we need to be equipping and mobilising every member of the church to play their role for the maturity of the church and the saving of the lost (Ephesians 4.11-16). There are no spectators nor passengers in God’s church, he graciously calls and equips every one of us to be playing our part in his eternal purposes. The challenge for us as ministers was how we can teach, model and encourage this in all our churches.

We also had one session in which we had a sober consideration of the state of the Church of England and its increasing distance from the vast majority of the Global Anglican Communion in its equivocation of the Bible’s teaching on matters of human sexuality. Things may possibly come to a head in the General Synod of 2020. We must pray for orthodox bishops such as our own Bishop Martyn in the huge pressures they face towards cultural accommodation from both within and without the church.

At a personal level it was a huge encouragement and blessing to be reunited with brothers and sisters, some from almost 40 years ago as students together at university, others more recent acquaintances, who still share the commitment that as we prayerfully teach God’s Word, then by the power of the Holy Spirit he will do his work in bringing sinners to new life and grow his church.

by Rob Gladstone, 19th September 2018

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