Monday, 26 May 2008

Reflections from the ELF

Hello again from Hungary! I am currently sitting in the hotel lobby here at the Hotel Eger, where the European Leadership Forum is being held. As I write, we are in between seminars and it`s given me an opportunity to reflect on what has happened so far.

It`s clear that many people here have come from countries where the gospel is not bearing very much obvious fruit and where Christianity is in decline. There are some exceptions - evidently the church is growing in Romania and the Ukraine. In the UK there are encouragements. But, overall, the picture of Europe is one that is hard to the gospel.

Many of the sessions have spoken into this context. Stuart McAllister led a brilliant session on hope, in which he identified the different mindset that Christians should have to those around us, even when things are tough. He identified the overall mood of Europe as `europessimism´ or `comedic nihilism´. However, the Christian doctrine of creation and our eschatological convictions mean that we can have hope even in darkness. This ties in with my own recent thinking on the `theological optimism´ that Christians can have even in darkest times. In the same vein, Martin Haizmann reminded us that `Europe needs Jesus´ and this was accompanied by a honest and fresh session last night by Wayne Grudem on Scripture: this is where the freshness we need personally and the power to win Europe lies. I`ve been personally very encouraged by the exhortation to keep Scripture central as I know in my own experience that often when I`m feeling discouraged or nervous a lack of public commitment to Scripture is a great temptation. If Europe is to be won then our conviction that the Bible is God`s greatest tool in evangelism must remain steadfast.

My own seminar track, European Evangelists, has been very helpful. The highlights so far have been a session on Michael Ramsden on the need for integrity in the evangelist`s life, and Amy Orr-Ewing`s session this morning on God and violence. We had a very interesting discussion about the doctrine of penal substitution. Evidently Steve Chalke`s book The Lost Message of Jesus has just been translated into Romanian and many of our Romanian brothers and sisters are wrestling with its teaching. Amy gave a brilliant and winsome apologetic for the wrath-bearing sacrifice of Jesus at the cross, particularly defending it against the claim that God is blood-thirsty and violent.

Lots of food for thought then - I look forward to thinking about things more in the coming days plus also upon return to the UK.

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