Yesterday, I returned from a trip to Inverness. I was there at the Kingsview Centre on behalf of the EPCEW to speak to the assembly of the Associated Presbyterian Church and bring our greetings to our sister church on Wednesday evening. This event happens once a year following one of their daytime presbytery meetings, and the evening is then given over to worship and words of encouragement from other churches.
The evening began with the outgoing moderator, John Ross, preaching on Jeremiah 9:23,24 where he focussed on the key clause, “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD“. This a key element in our mission because in bringing the gospel we are calling people to know God.
Fletcher Matandika then spoke of the work at New Westminster Chapel in Vancouver, an APC church. With typical African enthusiasm, he spoke of the encouragements of the work not only in Canada, but in his ministry in his homeland of Malawi and neighbouring Uganda. Wonderful!
Malcolm Maclean, representing the Free Church, then spoke of the situation in the Free Church and in Scotland generally. This was a slightly gloomy review. The recent debates over worship in the FCS had been difficult. However, he felt that now that that was past there is a sense of togetherness once more. On the broader picture in Scotland, there is no doubt that it is complicated. There are several Westminster Confessional churches in Scotland, sometimes seeming to be in competition in some places. Dr Maclean, drawing on Phil 3:13,14, felt that it was right for churches to be running as athletes in order to win, but not in competition with each other. I was still left with the feeling that it is a big looming issue in Scotland that will not go away, and for all the words of commitment to effort to spread the gospel, a lot of energy is spent looking over their shoulders at the other sister denominations.
I then spoke about the EPCEW’s work in England and Wales. Our situation is very different from Scotland. We don’t have the ecclesiastical complications north of the border. Our field is open. As I was preparing to speak, and reviewing our progress, I was encouraged at what God has done. We are tiny. Yes, tiny. Yet our churches, though small, are generally growing. We are planting new churches (recently Gateshead, Sheffield) and are actively looking at three new opportunities in England and Sweden. My word of exhortation was from Acts 17:1-8 where the angry people of Thessalonica complained that “these men … have turned the world upside down”. My point was that the ministry of the word is powerful, but the method is very simple: teach the scriptures (17:2) and proclaim Christ (17:3).
However, for all that, the highlight of the evening was the ministry of the word from Dr. Steven Lawson of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Dr Lawson had been over for the Scottish Reformed Conference in Hamilton. I think he was due to preach at Kingsview Centre for Rev Dr John Ferguson this coming Sunday (you will find the sermons popping up here eventually, I guess).
Dr Lawson spoke from Hebrews 4:12,13 on (a) what the word of God is (of God, living, sharp), and (b) what the word does (pierces, judges). You would think that after all this speaking, one would be a little jaded listening to this. Not a bit of it! Dr Lawson’s sermon was powerful, incisive, insightful and encouraging at the same time. We have a powerful weapon which needs to be unsheathed and used because it comes with the prophetic words, “Thus says the Lord…”
It was a great evening. The brotherly love was palpable. I was very glad I went.