God’s glory, our joy
‘God’s glory, our joy’ is a Christian conference that has been running every autumn since 2000. Organised by churches in north-west England, its aim is to build biblical churches for the 21st century.
This year’s conference began with a session for church leaders, at which Chris Hand, pastor of Crich Baptist Church in Derbyshire, gave an informed paper entitled ‘The Charismatic legacy’.
Having himself spent some time in the Charismatic movement, he was able to chart with intelligence and insight the continuing influence of that movement on Reformed churches in the UK. Reformed reactions have encompassed a broad range, from complete acceptance, through cautious welcome, ambivalence, scepticism and unfocused antipathy, to principled opposition. Broadly, the Charismatic legacy to Reformed churches is one of division, confusion and numerical diminution.
Stephen Rees, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport, gave two addresses. He spoke first on Friday evening to about 70 people, and then to a much larger gathering on Saturday morning. The first address, on ‘Strength in weakness’, began with an extract from an autobiography by a well-known church leader, who used adjectives like ‘phenomenal’, ‘great’ and ‘wonderful’ to describe Christians he admires.
Rees contrasted this use of superlatives with Paul’s testimony. In 2 Corinthians 11-12, Paul compared his own ministry and experience to that of the ‘super-apostles’ in Corinth and we saw how unrealistic a triumphalistic view of Christian life and ministry is. Mr Rees commented: ‘It’s easy for us to call Paul a hero, but he looked like a failure. Every time he got on a ship, it sank!’
Love not the world
The address on ‘Triumph through weakness’ was similar, but looking at Jesus who trod the path of humiliation and weakness. The man on the cross is a figure of defeat, yet that ‘defeat’ won the victory.
Oliver Allmand-Smith, pastor of Ramsbottom Evangelical Church, spoke from 1 John to the title ‘Love not the world’. He identified the danger of separating belief from behaviour.
It is possible to get our doctrine technically straight and still have hearts full of love for this world rather than love for God. He said: ‘John calls the church to a remarriage of belief and behaviour. How we behave is not just our business, but the business of the whole church’.
Ian Higham, pastor of Belvidere Road Church, Liverpool, covered ‘The all-round Christian life’, taking as his anchor text Colossians 3:17: ‘Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus’. We were reminded that it is Christ who lives in us, that the Christian life encompasses all of life, and is ordered and busy.
Steve Wood, pastor of Free Grace Baptist Church, Ulverston, preached the closing sermon from Acts 12. He took us to Peter in prison, with James martyred, and showed us what the church did, what Peter did, and what God did.
He added: ‘I’ve never been good at golf, but I know not to take my eye off the ball, otherwise it travels two foot, rather than 200. We can’t afford to take our eyes off our God!’ (Addresses on www.ggoj.org.uk).