Final Day

The last day of the Forum arrived. Today I was free of mentoring, so meal times were opportunities for less intense chatting with friends. There were Jonathan Stephen and Joel Morris from WEST, the evangelical college at Bridgend. Then there was a young pastor from Hungary, whose wife had really been helped last year in a workshop I led. Then there was Ellis Potter, who is a lovely man from America originally, but has been in Europe for years. He was once a Zen Buddhist monk, and travelled the world. Eventually he went to L’Abri in Switzerland. He had heard of Francis Schaeffer and went there to persuade him to become a Buddhist. However it was not Schaeffer who turned but Ellis, and since then he has been a pastor/evangelist with an exceptional understanding of those who follow Eastern religions.

In the first session Stefan Gustavsson in his last Bible Study with us led us to consider Thomas, the doubting disciple. What can be the sure ground of faith which we stand on to face life. Stefan suggested that the living, resurrected Jesus is the only place of security. He then went on to meditate upon the story of Thomas, and how he was turned from doubting Thomas, to the bold apostle who took the gospel all the way to India.

When we separated into our different networks, we were first led by Ellis Potter to consider what is the worldview which can explain life. Most people carry the idea that once everything was good, then something spoiled or polluted the goodness. Someday everything will return to simple goodness. Ellis suggested that there are three ways of looking at the world – Monism, Dualism and Trinitarianism. He showed how Trinitarianism is the only hopeful explanation, and how to use this in our evangelism.

Then David Robertson, who is a minister with the Free Church of Scotland, did a session with us. He often takes part in debates on subjects such as the New Atheism. Today he led us to consider how we can use the current controversy regarding gay marriage to present Christ to the world. He was wise, discreet, and very clear on our duty to reject homophobia at all times, without compromising the standard set by Scripture.

I did not go to any workshops this afternoon as I need to get up very early in the morning to catch my plane back home. I read some of Glynn Harrison’s book – The Big Ego Trip. I saw Glynn, and asked him whether it was safe to get him to sign the book, or would his Ego be damaged in some sense! He graciously signed my copy.

I also chatted to some, including Angelo, a friend from America who at present lives and works in Prague. He is working on translating works by two of my heroes – Jan Huss, the morning star of the Protestant Reformation, and Vaclav Havel, leader of the Velvet Revolution.

Our evening session was led by Becky Pippert who talked of God’s strength being perfected in our weakness. God the Father is our authority for evangelism. God the Son is our message – a message where he takes our weakness in dying on the cross; God the Spirit is our power form proclaiming or sharing the Gospel. But this Gospel is sent forth in jars of clay. Her honesty in confessing her own weakness is always helpful in giving her listeners confidence that they too could share Jesus with their friend.

This has been a good week, but I’ll be glad to get back home tomorrow. There will be time then to assess the value of the Forum.

The Call of Guiness

Tuesday at the Forum was a less intense day for me. The morning began with another mentoring session – A young pastor from Romania with a small church of 17 members in a small village. His needs are great and he does not seem to have much support, so it was good to share his burden. Then the morning session with Stefan Gustavsson was encouraging. He led us to look at the story of Asaph, by studying Psalm 73. Continue reading

Jacob wrestling, evolution and Al Capone’s cousin:

These were some of the highlights of Monday at ELF. The day began with mentoring a Pastor’s wife from Belgrade in Serbia. They planted a church three years ago, and there is much be glad about the work that is going on there. But there seems to be lack of wisdom in ordering the churches, with a reluctance among some pastors to work alongside others. We had an encouraging time in discussion and I will probably visit the situation within the next year to help them. Continue reading

Day 2 in Poland

Sunday was the first full day of the conference – and when I say full, that seems to be an appropriate word to use. Saturday evening’s plenary talk by Glynn Harrison on identity was both challenging and heart-warming. This was followed by a late night showing of the first couple of programmes in a series called The God Question. This looks at whether science leaves space for God. With contributions from people from all sides of the argument, it leaves the listener to make his mind up. For more information, and how to get the series, look up www.thegodquestion.tv .

Sunday began with meeting a man involved in ministry in Moldova at 7.00 for breakfast and an hour’s mentoring. Then we had the morning Bible Study with Stefan Gustavsson. His theme for the week is “Encounters with the living God”, and he led us through the story of Jesus calling the first disciples in John 1. Then we broke up into our different networks. In my network we had a session with Os Guiness: The Journey: A thinking person’s quest for meaning. It was an impressive talk, helping us to see how to engage non-believers in a serious quest for meaning in life. This was followed by a talk by Becky Pippert on Seeker Bible Studies.

After a quick lunch I led a workshop on “The Temptation of discouragement: Maintaining the passion of Christian Ministry”. Often these workshops are attended by about ten or less, but about sixty came. Obviously there are many who are struggling with discouragement and how to remain passionate about ministry in Europe. I led them to see how Paul faced these questions in his letter to the Philippians.

Then I attended a workshop led by Os Guiness, outlining how consumerism has affected the way we think. Evening dinner (with a brother who is working in St Andrews) was followed by an evening celebration. We were given a talk on church planting, and a very meaningful time of prayer followed at the end of the session.

The evening came to a close with sitting down quietly for a late informal conversation with Ann, a missionary in Belgium, Peter (warden of Tyndale House) and Martin (a Theologian and scholar from Germany).

This was a day of worshipful fellowship. We were given much to think about and to challenge us.

It is wonderful to enjoy the fellowship here with Christians from all over Europe and beyond. Many Americans are here as volunteers to be stewards and to run the conference. Their service (most of them give up their holidays to come and give tirelessly of their energy) is both gracious and loving. Meeting old friends from Albania, Serbia, Romania, Germany and many other countries gives great reason for gratitude.

A Word from Poland

I have arrived in Poland, at an enormous hotel in among the hills and forests near the border with the Czech Republic. I’m here for the European Leadership Forum (or E L F as we call it), where over 700 Christian Leaders from various fields gather for a week of teaching, fellowship and encouragement.
ELF1 Continue reading

Albania Day 14 – some thoughts on the way home

Some news was awaiting me when I got back to the hotel last night . I had an e-mail saying that my flights back home had been cancelled. There was no explanation, and no way of getting hold of anybody at that time of night. So after a sleepless night wondering how I would get home, in the morning I discovered that a strike was hitting Lufthansa flights. I would get another flight sometime! Continue reading

Albania Day 12

Today I spent the morning preparing for Sunday – I will be back home and will need to preach twice. This means that work done now will help later in the week.
Qendra Steffan where I am staying is run by Christians, and the atmosphere in the restaurant is always pleasant. The waiters depend very much on the tips they receive, and I have got to know one in particular who is always helpful. The hotel may not be as luxurious as some others, but I enjoy meeting some of the people who turn up in the restaurant. Many are missionaries who use the place. Continue reading

Albania Day 11

Not far from the hotel where I am staying there is a mosque. I am woken at five each morning by the call to prayer which sounds from the mosque tower through loudspeakers. Zef insists that for the majority of Albanian Muslims Islam is merely their traditional ancestry and has no religious meaning, and there are as many from the Christian Orthodox and Catholic traditions in the land. But this call to prayer reminds me that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is a spiritual battle to be won on our knees. Continue reading

Albania Day 10

Following the frustration of not being able to watch Wales beating England in the rugby on Saturday, Sunday arrived. In the morning I was speaking again at Emanuel Church. I took as my text Philippians 3:14 – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In an age where many feel that they can only live for the moment, Paul reminds us that God has an eternal purpose for our lives. Continue reading