It was a real blessing to have Tim Challies over with us in Ballygomartin Baptist Church, all the way from Ontario, Canada.
The well known author, blogger and pastor kindly accepted an invitation to come over and speak at our ﬁrst ‘Treasuring Christ’ conference last November. Although his schedule was tight, he was keen to come over to Northern Ireland and see how the gospel is bearing fruit in our culture.
Unfortunately, it meant his visit would be short, so we decided to try to pack as much as possible in over the three days he was here. First, we had a failed visit to The Titanic Quarter, then a mural tour around Belfast (when Mr Challies concluded that eight degrees in Northern Ireland is colder than -30 in Canada). We finished off with an Ulster Fry!
His official programme began with a ‘meet the author’ event in the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast, where he spoke about the need to read broadly and well, and ﬁelded a few tough questions on various subjects related to theology and the local church.
After this, Mr Challies took some time to recuperate and prepare for the Youth night we had planned at the church. It was great to see the church ﬁlled with young people eager to hear and know more about their Saviour. His subject was very relevant, ‘Treasuring Christ in a digital age’. Mr Challies showed how modern technology is both dangerous and yet ﬁlled with opportunities to share the gospel.
We also had the CEF youth choir singing for us and, of course, lots of treats (Mr Challies wasn’t so keen; apparently, an Ulster Fry means ‘You really only require one meal a day’!).
After the Friday youth event, Mr Challies was looking forward to the conference next morning. We had given him two topics. The first was ‘Treasuring Christ in a culture of compromise’. In this session, he spoke from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, where he exhorted us to be counter-cultural in our love for Christ and each other. He showed us it was only by treasuring and loving Christ more that we can impact our culture with the gospel.
It was a radical call to holiness and a radical call to love Christ, and, by extension, his church. He ﬁnished with a call to ‘stand ﬁrm for the truth of the gospel,’ even if it is at personal cost.
After a hearty lunch, we began our second session: ‘Treasuring Christ by guarding our churches from false teaching’. In this session, he spoke from Acts 20:17-38, where the apostle Paul warns the Ephesian church elders about false teachers who try to corrupt the teaching of the gospel and seek to divide the people of God.
We were encouraged to labour for the true faith, as we live out the gospel together. We were given descriptions of those who divide, and these were contrasted to true teachers and shepherds of the ﬂock.
After another quick cup of tea, we had time to do a quick Q&A. Those attending had been texting their questions all morning. Some of the questions were difﬁcult to answer, but these reﬂected the practical, Christ-exalting teaching we had received.
In all, Mr Challies’ teaching was great and the feedback from those who came to the conference encouraging. It was great to see people from near and far and to see brothers and sisters from other evangelical denominations join together to treasure Christ, so that his truth, his gospel and his glory might be seen in our communities.
We are grateful to abcinsight (www.baptistsin Ireland.org) for permission to use this report from their Feb-Mar 2017 edition.