After running for 28 years as the ‘North of England church officers’ conference’, we met at Dewsbury Evangelical Church on Saturday 4 March, under a new name — ‘Connected’ — with the strap-line, ‘Serving together in the local church’.
The Friday evening session of previous years was cut to accommodate busy schedules. This, and a concerted effort by church leaders to get members along, contributed to a full house of about 125 people.
The conference is aimed at leaders, prospective leaders and key workers (men and women) from evangelical churches, to attend together as a team to learn and catch the vision for the future of the churches.
It was heartening to see a number of new people present, many of them young, as well as veterans from previous years. Although both the name and the length of the conference were reduced, there was no reduction in the quality of the fellowship, teaching, reports, seminars — and food!
Dr Ray Evans, 35 years’ pastor of Grace Community Church, Bedford, brought a wealth of mature experience and biblical insight as he spoke on the subject of building for the future. He addressed this theme in three sessions: Growing ourselves (Philippians 3:7-21); Growing others (Hebrews 10:19-25), and Growing leaders (Acts 15:36-16:5), applying Scripture to these areas with warmth, wit and wisdom.
Seven short reports from churches in West and South Yorkshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire, were given. These were a mixture of encouragement, challenge, opportunity and heart-ache. Cumbria, especially, was shown to be a place of great need and a focus for concern and prayer, with few evangelical churches to reach out with the gospel in a beautiful but spiritually barren area.
Seven stimulating seminars were on offer, including: ‘Running better small groups’; ‘Helping new Christians grow’; and ‘Godly confrontation — giving and receiving’. In these we could share our experiences and get help from each other on how to serve the Lord more faithfully and effectively in our northern churches. Noone could have failed to benefit from this conference. We will be sure to stay connected and encourage others for the next one in 2018.