Two inaugural meetings have been held on Saturday mornings in Cardiff and Swansea for men engaged in itinerant preaching.
More than 30 men attended these fledgling Itinerant Preachers Network (IPN) gatherings, which are designed to equip, support and connect those engaged in this ministry, and to encourage prayer for each other and Christ’s church in Wales.
Chapel buildings were erected in huge numbers following the 18th century revival, when thousands were converted to Christ through the ministries of preachers. Later, the nonconformist tradition underpinned the interpretation of faith in Wales and had a dramatic effect upon Welsh life.
But times have changed (see March 2014 ET on the Rhondda Valley). Fewer people attend church, leaving many denominations with far more buildings than they need and fewer pastors to minister in them. It is estimated that one chapel closes in Wales every week.
The purpose of the IPN meetings is not to save these potentially redundant buildings, but to support the small congregations that meet in them, through the co-ordination of the ministry of itinerant preachers.
It is not a glamorous ministry and does have its own unique challenges. But those involved can testify to some wonderfully heart-warming moments; especially to see, when ministering to a tiny congregation, some old saint’s eyes light up at the sound of the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The IPN seeks to support and link the men engaged in this ministry, whether they are established itinerant preachers, those training for the ministry, or retired ministers desiring to encourage and mentor younger men, as well as continue preaching themselves.
In their account of the 18th century revival in Wales, John Morgan Jones and William Morgan identified several things significant for the progress of the movement. One of these was, ‘the ministry of un-ordained men, if they possessed preaching skills’.
The IPN seeks to bring together ‘ordained’ and ‘un-ordained’ men, who possess the gift these preachers were writing about, and whose churches believe they have a potential that requires support and encouragement towards the preaching ministry.
The IPN is a part of Reformission Wales, a ministry of the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales (AECW). AECW is a network of about 60 evangelical churches. Involvement in IPN is not limited to AECW churches. What unites people in this ministry is the desire to proclaim the gospel.
(More information from Ian Parry, pastor of The Bay Church, Cardiff on 07956 895818, or www.reformissionwales.com).