More than 190 Independent churches were represented at the annual leaders’ conference, organised by the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) in November.
The theme of ‘Ready, Eager, Devoted’ was taken from the book of Titus and encouraged leaders to think about discipleship — both their own and the way they disciple people in their churches.
FIEC National Director John Stevens spoke from Paul’s epistle, explaining that Titus was to teach everyone sound doctrine and that the fruit of this teaching should be godliness. In the last of his four talks, he said that the great challenge for Christian leaders is to be those who model this godliness to others.
The seminar streams followed the discipleship theme, focusing on the different needs in our churches. Dave Patty from Josiah Venture — a youth ministry in Europe — led sessions on discipling children and young people, while Kathleen Nielson — director of women’s initiatives at the Gospel Coalition — looked at how churches can best disciple women.
Steve Midgley, from Christ Church Cambridge, led sessions looking at the theme of biblical counselling, while Jeremy McQuoid from Deeside Christian Fellowship in Aberdeen looked at the theme of leading a church of disciple-makers.
The FIEC leaders’ conference is designed to encourage those in ministry in Independent churches. This year it was completely sold out, with more than 550 men and women gathered at Seacroft Holiday Village in Hemsby, Norfolk. As well as pastors and elders from Independent churches there were, among others, pastors’ wives, women workers, pastoral workers and youth and children’s workers.
The conference provided an opportunity for leaders to be ministered to, and to gather with other pastors and leaders sharing their gospel convictions. John Stevens says he was really encouraged to gather so many leaders together for the conference: ‘It was a wonderful encouragement and tangible evidence of the growth we have enjoyed over recent years. There were churches represented from every part of Britain, of all different sizes, seeking to share the same saving gospel in very different social and economic contexts.
‘The age profile continues to drop and it is thrilling to see so many younger men and women in church leadership attending the conference. We were challenged to remember the great spiritual need of our nation, but encouraged to trust in the gospel and our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
‘A wide range of seminars helped to equip us to make disciples, and God spoke to us through powerful preaching of his Word in the evenings, reminding us of his grace to leaders who are weak and discouraged.
‘A highlight was the opportunity for the delegates to build deeper friendships with each other and to strengthen our common identity and unity, and to hear from Independent churches that are working together to grow gospel-driven churches in every community’.
The evening sessions took the theme ‘Grace under pressure’. This year, Paul Gamston from South Craven Evangelical Church in Yorkshire and John Risbridger from Above Bar Church in Southampton preached, along with Jeremy McQuoid, taking different passages from John’s Gospel.
Throughout the week, and as they headed home, people shared their encouragements from the conference and its ministry on Twitter, using the #FIECLC hashtag.
Lewis Allen, pastor of Hope Church in Huddersfield said, ‘Great joy in the Lord, in each other and in ministry — what’s not to have been edified by? Heartfelt thanks, FIEC family.’
Mike Kendall from St Neots Evangelical Church added: ‘Very thankful for a super time at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference this week. Such an encouraging time, with a real sense of partnership in the gospel.’
While Mike Sohn from the Globe Church in London reflected: ‘Great time at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference — richly fed, deeply challenged and feeling “ready, eager, devoted”.’
The 2016 leaders’ conference will have an evangelism theme and run from Monday 31 October to Thursday 3 November. Bookings will open in March.