Posted by: stpowen | February 7, 2013

Peninsular Gospel Partnership

Peninsular Gospel Partnership Meeting, 25th jan, 2013.

2 Chron. 20:4. ‘So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.’

On January 25th, I was privileged to attend a meeting of the Peninsular Gospel Partnership held at Grace Community Church, Looe. It is now ten years since Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney visited Britain and urged Bible-believing Christians to start thinking regionally and strategically, and to be praying and aiming for the conversion of 10% of the population. The Gospel Partnerships are the fruit of his ministry at that time, being loose associations of churches that come together on the basis of a shared belief in the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To put it mildly, we are a long way away from the Archbishop’s goal. What we are seeing however, and it is certainly reflected in the P.G.P., is increasing numbers of churches leaving the broad, wishy-washy evangelicalism that was the norm in the 1990s for something rather more masculine and Biblical. The evidence is in the steady flow of churches into the FIEC and in the number of Anglican churches attending the meeting. We may certainly wish there were more, but ‘Who despises the day of small things?’ The longest journey starts with the first step, and I for one was encouraged by the meeting at a time when there is not much, humanly speaking, to cheer the people of God.

The two main talks were taken by William Taylor, who is the successor to Dick Lucas at St. Helens, Bishopsgate in the City of London. He spoke first on Luke 4:42-5:11, which he termed the ‘manifesto of Jesus.’ The previous ten verses cover the Sabbath Day ministry of our Lord in Capernaum, which had been hugely successful. Yet, despite the pleading of the crowd for Him to stay (v.42), He leaves the scene of His triumph to teach and to preach. Here we see the priority of preaching in the Christian ministry. The power and authority of the word of Christ are seen in 4:32,36,39, as well as in 5:1-6. ‘Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’ There is a temptation to rely on derivatives- music, art, drama- but, Taylor asked, do we believe that the power lies in experience derived from the word or in the word itself? Does power lie in the Christian community or in the word that alone creates such a community? Does power lie in activity created by the word, or in the word that creates activity?
The Lord Jesus has come as Lord and Saviour to proclaim forgiveness of sins. Christian experience must begin with fear and conviction (5:10-11) that comes from the word. Taylor spent some time showing that the ‘Good news to the poor’ of Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61 does not refer to the financially challenged but to God’s people afflicted, and the ‘recovery of sight to the blind’ refers to those whose eyes are opened to see Jesus as He really is (Isaiah 6:5).

In his second address, Mr. Taylor spoke on the ‘Ministry of Christ’ from Luke 9:51-10:15. The disciples were sent ‘Before his face,’ that is, in advance of His personal appearance, just as Malachi had said (Mal. 4:5). We are to go out with all the authority of Elijah when we speak in our Lord’s name, but the time for judgement is not yet (9:55). In vs. 57-62 we see the terms and conditions of discipleship: an unswerving and persevering commitment to Christ. Nothing less will suffice.

In 10:1 we learn that our mission is to the whole world. When the Lord Jesus returns, ‘Every eye shall see Him.’ Verbal proclamation of the Gospel is the mission of Christ. When we announce, “Peace to this house,” we are proclaiming the Good News of sins forgiven in Christ. Mr. Taylor spent a little time showing that ‘Peace’ means, throughout the New Testament and in Luke in particular, the content of the Gospel (cf. Luke 1:79; 2:14; 7:48-50; Eph. 6:15 etc. Compare Luke 10:19 with Gen. 3:15 & Rom. 16:20).

In between these two addresses, we had a talk on Evangelism in a Rural Setting from Steve Wookey, the Vicar at Moreton-in-the-Marsh. He spoke from Acts 20:17-21, concentrating on the need for Godly living ( v.18. People soon get to know what you’re like in a small town or village) and faithful teaching (v.20), both public and private. Mr. Wookey spoke of the ‘Gospel Essentials’ which were, he said, Man’s need of the Gospel (Rom. 3:23), the heart of the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:2), sharing the Gospel (1 Thes. 1:5) and the demands of the Gospel (Mark 1:15).

Mr. Wookey related that most conversions came from the regular weekly ministry, but he believed that regular outreaches were important to
1. Raise the profile of the church.
2. Unite the church around mission.
3. Sow seeds. Bring people under the sound of the Gospel.
4. Reap fruit. Entice some folk to attend church and get them under the ministry.

Some of Mr. Wookey’s Gospel opportunities are Anglican-specific, such as the taking of christenings and funerals of non-Christians, but others can be imitated by any church- taking assemblies at the local Primary School, reaching out to the elderly and also to ‘mums and tots.’ We must make the most of every opportunity to reach the lost (Col. 4:5).

There was also a talk by Russell Davies, a radiologist who heads up evangelism at St. Leonards Church, Exeter. He spoke of the various ways that his church had tried to reach men, who are an increasingly rare species in churches today. Having tried various methods, he has found that the Men’s Bible Study Group is most effective. Once it is set up with men from the church, outsiders can be invited. The St. Leonards group takes place between 7-00 and 8-00am on a weekday. He also suggested that another church service beside the Lord’s Day morning service is necessary to catch unconverted men who may be out either doing sport themselves or taking their children to sporting activities at that time.

Finally, the audience divided into small regional groups to discuss three questions:
1. What can we do together that we can’t do separately?
2. How can we help each other?
3. What other churches could be contacted and invited to join us?

All in all, I felt this was a blessed and useful event. I was slightly concerned that all the speakers were Anglicans and I hope that this is corrected next time, but all the people with whom I spoke appeared to be godly folk with a passion to see Christ glorified in Devon and Cornwall. It certainly seemed to me that there were folk from the denominations who were looking for fellowship amongst true evangelicals. I believe that this is a healthy sign and something to be encouraged.

More information about Gospel Partnerships can be found at http://www.thegospelpartnerships.co.uk

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Responses

  1. Great to hear of a cosmopolitan group in the 21st century that still believe in the supremecy of scripture in mission.


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