North of England Conference
On Friday evening 7 March at Mirfield, the North of England Church Officers’ Conference settled into its first session, ‘Seeing God’s vision for the church’. In this, Bill Dyer focused our attention on Philippians 2:1-11. Church leaders are to be meek and able to govern by Scripture, not tradition. They are to find appropriate ways to reach people with the unchanging gospel.
The speaker recognised we live in hostile days and need to help each other see how great our God is. God’s purposes cannot fail, because his people are bought with Christ’s own blood. We are to venture boldly on God; our greatest potential for failure lies in the arena of prayer, which must be constant and earnest.
John Benton spoke in the first Saturday session on ‘Ruining the vision’. As we surveyed Haggai’s prophecy, we were reminded how Joshua and Zerubbabel began their work enthusiastically but their pace slowed to a halt. Vision was stifled by selfish priorities, unhelpful comparisons, partial obedience and truncated theology.
John Benton then spoke on ‘Radiating the vision’. To implement the vision would mean costly change, and would often be hindered by people, sectarianism and complacency. Preaching Christ was the key to addressing these.
After lunch the conference heard reports from some of the churches represented. Then John Harris drew lessons for gospel vision from William Carey. He began with that momentous day, 2 October 1792, when the Particular Baptist Society for the Proclamation of the Gospel among the Heathen was formed. This forerunner of many other missionary societies was started by a few pastors, from a small group of marginalised churches mainly in villages of the Midlands.
In the closing address Erroll Hulse spoke on ‘Vision for a lost world’, with reference to Isaiah 2:1-5. We were encouraged to consider what is meant by ‘being lost’ and how we should view a lost world. He contrasted annihilationism with the biblical teaching on ‘perishing’.
We departed from this conference mindful that our vision for God must never slacken.