On 19 February, Spring Road Evangelical Church hosted the Wessex Conference — ‘Vital concerns for today’s local church’.
Pastor Alec Taylor gave the afternoon paper, entitled ‘The need for discernment’, on the life and ministry of John Angell James. Mr James was a true example of zeal and gospel faithfulness. He prayed and preached earnestly and knew God’s blessing at Carrs Lane Congregational Church, Birmingham, with a full church until the end of his ministry.
He was willing to raise an alarm at the encroaching influence of Rome and cautioned his hearers about placing too implicit a belief in natural science where it appeared to be at variance with scriptural statements. This timely warning was given some 15 years before Darwin published his Origin of species.
However, even such a ‘spiritual giant’ could lack discernment. His desire for denominational and evangelical unity made him tolerant of questionable preachers, including Charles Finney. He also failed to take complaints about his co-pastor’s glaring heresy seriously, wanting instead to think the best of him. But we must test all things by Scripture.
Pastor Chris Hand spoke on ‘The need for true unity’. In today’s clamour for an outward physical unity, many forget that there is already a spiritual unity among all those who truly know Christ. This unity cannot be imposed or manufactured, but is particularly to be displayed in the local church — in prayer, practical care and empathy, patience and humility, and mutual encouragement in Christ.
We were challenged to examine our hearts to see if anything prevented us from realising this unity in our churches. One day all imperfections in the unity between believers on earth will give way to the perfect unity of heaven.