This was an interesting day. For a Christian conference it puzzles me a wee bit that the Lord’s Day is exactly like every other day. I guess with preaching and worship every day its like every day is a Sunday! Because I had mentoring meetings and was speaking at 10am, I did not make it to the first plenary meeting with Ajith Fernando. Indeed I doubt I will be able to get to any of the main morning sessions.
I am in something called the Advanced Apologetics Network, Al is in Media, Phil in Evangelism, Tom in Evangelism and Dave in Administration networks. I had the honour of doing the first talk in my own network. 30 minutes to speak about evangelism in Europe today, followed by 20 minute group work and 20 minutes questions. It was good to be with old friends like Giorgios from Greece and new ones from any other countries.
The best thing about ELF is the people. I loved meeting a Finn who was converted in Dundee, a Spaniard who had been a student at Abertay, mentoring an Italian who is looking to do outreach in Bologna, and a Dane who is setting up an apologetics institute in Aarhuus. Its hard to miss John Stevens, who I keep bumping into. John is the head of FIEC and he stands literally head and shoulders above everyone else here. He’s so tall he could be Dutch. The man in the next room to me is Mike Reeves – he is a personal hero of mine – I love his books and talks and its wonderful to find that what he is in public, he is in private.
We are launching Solas magazine here at ELF. Not officially (we were not allowed to do that) but unofficially we have been giving it away to people who are interested and in each of our networks. So far the response has been tremendous. Some people doubt our sanity in launching a new print magazine, but so far everyone loves it! People are already asking about getting it printed in their own language.
I do think that ELF does a wonderful job, especially in bringing people together and providing some excellent resources. However it would be wrong to pretend that everything is rosy in the garden. There are aspects of ELF that are concerning and we must be truthful. One minor aspect is that I was a wee bit annoyed to see that we were all given a leaflet with information about the ‘Museum of the Bible’ which is based in Philadelphia. I’m sure it is excellent and my annoyance was not at that but at the fact we were not allowed to have Solas distributed, even though we are a European magazine intended as a resource for the European church. Is a Philadelphia Bible museum really a better resource for the European church than a European Christian news magazine? I know that there are probably issues I do not see, such as sponsorship etc, but the question still stands.
Something else happened that I found a little disturbing. I was in my Advanced Apologetics Network when someone came in to give us an advert for training in Persuasive Evangelism for European church leaders, in Scotland, in October. I was thrilled that our Solas Connect training was being promoted – until I discovered that it was not our Solas Connect training. It was the week before, 15 miles away from Dundee (in Arbroath). Yet it is exactly the same – the same target group, the same subject, the same purpose in virtually the same area at the same time, yet five times more expensive. I was quite shocked and disappointed. Not because I am interested in any kind of ‘turf war’ or the stupid politics and personal agendas that go along with ‘networks’, (I am sick to my stomach of these) but because it is such a waste of kingdom resources. I will reflect on this a wee bit before I write anything more, but suffice it to say, we are not ‘chuffed’.
On to the evening event. The place was packed, Diane Lundberg gave a powerful talk about the impact of trauma on people. I was particularly taken with the illustration of her visiting a dungeon where torture victims and slaves were held, and there was a chapel above where people were worshipping. I also liked her phrase ‘Auschwitz is a death camp because of the death camps in our heart’.
One of the good things about having been here several times is that you bump into people that you have come to know. For me its actually the best part. It was good to catch up with Jonny Woodrow from Acts 29. Nola Leech from CARE and a couple of our Slovak brothers last night. We have really good connections there – Tom has done a good job in developing and encouraging those relationships.
Before I went to bed I switched on the TV and watched 5 minutes of Midsomer Murders in German – hilarious. Almost as hilarious as the German MC in the main session trying to tell a joke in a French accent!
So the end of an interesting, encouraging, amusing and also somewhat disappointing and discouraging day. I realise that its not considered ‘good form’ in some circles to write anything other than glowing reviews of any conference you are part of, but to me that leads to banality, dishonesty and things discussed behind closed doors. These are my honest reflections. We have to openly face the truth of our own faults and disappointments. Conferences like rulers, should be painted ‘warts and all’. Whats the point of speaking ’truth into the culture’ if we can’t speak truth into the church? Otherwise we are reduced to politics, gossip and innuendo. I will take some time to think through some of these issues a bit more.