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From confusion to clarity in the modern evangelical scene

January 2020

John Palmer, Matthew Cox, Stephen Rees
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October is the time when russet-coloured leaves detach themselves and waft gently to the ground.

Yes, but for me (and a fair few others), it is the time of year when we journey to Warrington for the annual ‘God’s Glory, Our Joy’ conference.

Themed ‘From Confusion to Clarity’, the speakers were Stephen Rees (Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport), Matthew Cox (Pastor of Union Chapel, Bethersden) and John Palmer (Pastor of Bethany Evangelical Church, Leigh), who preached the conference sermon.

Through distinctive contributions, each man thoughtfully and convincingly modelled what the conference strapline had promised: clarity of thought and expression; nuanced biblical exegesis; and razor-sharp application. It was an oasis of clarity amid a wider evangelical sea of confusion.

And confusion it certainly is. Stephen Rees presented a diagnostic showing how far adrift from Scripture much of evangelical Christendom is.

He informed the conference that The Shack — a blasphemous, theologically-disastrous book with universalist tendencies — has been the best-selling title in Christian bookshops for the last 15 years.

That so many notable Christian writers and publications should warmly welcome The Shack was, for us, ‘The Shock’. We were powerfully reminded that biblical truth matters.

In his second address, Pastor Rees showed how a failure to carefully apply biblical truth to personal conduct leads to unsound ethical and moral practice.

Proper use of God’s commandments to inform behaviour has often been cast aside when faced with apparently superior claims of personal revelation, fanciful reinterpretation of Scripture or an outbreak of false tolerance towards sinful behaviour.

Matthew Cox spoke with clarity and wisdom as he answered three deceptively simple questions: What is the church? How should we build the church? How can we be sure we are building correctly?

The careful, biblical case that Pastor Cox made to answer his questions was unanswerable.

Pastor Palmer preached from Isaiah 66:1-6. He highlighted verse 5, which more than any other verse lies behind the conference name.

What does ‘God’s glory, our joy’ mean? We should do what pleases God and rejoice when he is glorified. If you agree with that, perhaps you should come to next year’s conference.

A follow-up meeting for pastors and church leaders on the following Friday involved further grappling with the many issues raised. It was altogether a profitable time.

Chris Hand