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Edifying the church of God

January 2009 | by Tiago Santos

Edifying the church of God

 

The FIEL conferences for pastors and leaders (in Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique) represent the culmination of our mission objectives. FIEL’s ministry consists of serving God by serving the church, in co-operation with the church, for the edification of the church. We seek to reach this goal, by God’s grace, through the publication and distribution of sound biblical literature, together with various projects aimed at helping pastors and our magazine and web site.

 

In the Brazilian conference we experience something of every aspect of the overall ministry of Evangelical Literary Mission (FIEL). We have opportunity to hear some of the authors of books we have published — pastors, professors and speakers whose labours for the Kingdom have benefited multitudes and whose lives bear witness to their godliness and willingness to serve him.

     Blessed, edifying, instructive and comforting messages characterise the conference. Besides the messages, thousands of books from FIEL and other publishers are carefully selected and made available at bargain prices to conferees.

     Last but not least is the benefit of fellowship with other servants of the Lord from different regions of Brazil who work in different contexts and denominations. Sharing experiences builds lasting bonds of friendship and mutual encouragement.

 

We stand amazed

 

When we think of how God uses such fragile and limited means to accomplish his work, and when we think of the work itself, we stand amazed. The apostle Paul had a similar feeling when he wrote about God’s grace being poured out upon Jews and Gentiles alike in Romans 11.

     A sudden burst of emotion and enthusiasm interrupted his thoughts, and in verses 33-36 he began celebrating the riches of God’s grace and wisdom — leaving us the legacy of one of the most beautiful texts in all Scripture.

     The apostle’s emotion is understandable. After all, for some reason we cannot comprehend, the Lord God Almighty; Creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them; God most holy and just; eternal in majesty, wisdom and power; perfect in his attributes; inhabiting light inaccessible; surrounded by a glory that our minds can never imagine — this God resolved to pour out his grace upon his enemies, namely, rebellious sinners like ourselves.

     To us he granted salvation in his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He called us, unworthy as we are, to come into his banqueting house. He adopts us as children, making us members of his celestial and blessed family, and gives us eternal life.

     Beyond this unmerited and incomprehensible gift, he also resolved to share his glory with this unworthy people whom he redeemed from death, made alive and transformed. He made a new covenant with his people, promising to take up residence in each one of them, transforming their character, instructing them, illuminating them, leading them, and producing fruit in them.

     He gave them his Word, his revelation. He made them his flock by the witness of the gospel — which is the foundation of their communion, called the church, the bride of his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Ambassadors

 

For us, it is an immense privilege to be entrusted as ambassadors of this sublime Kingdom. And we, as a mission and publishing house, can exercise this noble office by coming alongside the church, offering it our encouragement like an armour bearer rendering service.

     We like to see ourselves in this light — serving God by serving his church. This is the spirit that imbues FIEL. This is our vision.

     It was with this in mind and heart that an enormous group of saints assembled in the city of Águas de Lindóia 6-10 October 2008 for the 24th annual FIEL conference for pastors and leaders in Brazil.

     Approximately 1,300 people came from nearly every state. Together we sang in praise and adoration to God, under the adept leadership of Valdir Santos, who conscientiously co-ordinated words and music.

     Together we prayed. Together we worshipped God as we heard the Word preached by the speakers, who offered us much solid food, pertinent to the conference theme ‘Edifying the church of God’.

     The preaching, music, testimonies and other messages blended to encourage and stimulate us to meditate upon and labour for the edification of this great institution, the church of God.

     What a joy it is to participate in a project born in the very heart of the Savior who said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my church’. He also called her the pillar and ground of the truth, the guardian of the faith,his body.

     He entrusted to her both gifts and duties. He blessed her, organised her, distinguished her by visible characteristics — the ministry of the Word and the ordinances by which an individual identifies with the church. Christ, who is the cornerstone, is indeed building his church.

 

Twelve thousand books

 

All this becomes even more pertinent in view of the sad deterioration of the evangelical church in Brazil and in the world. With concern and consternation we have seen grace being discounted and unbiblical novelty embraced.

     Among those who identify themselves as members of Christ’s grand edifice, we see the so-called ’emerging church’ whose famous leaders make little distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. Their vision aligns with the post-Christian world rather than ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’.

     So being on the ‘mountain top’ in Águas de Lindóia was just as important as our coming back down to the realities of our homes. Now we are better prepared, better equipped, freshly encouraged.

     Speakers this year were Dr Joel Beeke, Dr Phil Newton, Dr Samuel Waldron, all of the USA; Pastor Stuart Olyott of the UK; Pastor João Nunes of Portugal; and in workshops on ecclesiology, Matt Schmucker and Jonathan Leemann represented the ‘9 Marks’ ministry.

     More than 12,000 carefully selected books were sold during those four days.

     A competent staff of 75 people, mostly volunteers, dedicated their time, effort and talents to serve in the various areas that make up the conference — reception, bookstore, nursery, children’s ministry, worship, audio/visual, etc. To Grace Baptist Church, the Baptist Church of Parque Industrial and others that sent members to help us, our heartfelt thanks!

     The absence of the one who created this ministry, Mr Richard Denham and his wife Pearl, was deeply felt. For health reasons they were not able to come from the USA to be with us this year, Mr Denham’s first absence in 24 years. But his dream and vision for this ministry were present and, God willing, they will be able to taste and see these things again next year.

 

Other conferences

 

FIEL also sponsors an annual conference (already in its sixth year) for college-age young people along the same lines as the conference for pastors and leaders.

     Young people from various churches and locations come to sit under the teaching of the Word and learn to apply it to the challenges, questions and trials peculiar to youth.

     Beyond Brazil, FIEL holds conferences and distributes books to pastors and leaders in Mozambique and Portugal. This ministry fulfills an important role in the encouragement of God’s people and the edification of his church in these other Portuguese-speaking countries.

     We want to invite you to be part of this ministry. Join us for the 25th anniversary conference to be held 5-9 October 2009. We anticipate the presence of Dr Mark Dever, author of the book Nine marks of a healthy church, and other speakers will be Dr D. A. Carson, author of several books (some of them published in Portuguese) and well-known professor of the New Testament; Pastor Gilson Santos; and Professor Adauto Lourenço.

Tiago Santos

 

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