Thrilled, Encouraged & Praying
Many of us are experiencing that back-to-school feeling with ministries and activities restarting after the summer break. John Stevens, our National Director, shares his biggest FIEC encouragements at the start of a new term.
As I have returned to work after the summer holiday to embark on my fifth year as FIEC National Director, I am deeply thankful to God for all the blessings that we have enjoyed and excited by all that is planned for the next few months.
New churches & new relationships
I continue to be thrilled that new churches are choosing to affiliate to FIEC because they share our vision to work together to see the good news about Jesus proclaimed in every community of the nation. Two churches are currently in the final stage of affiliation, and since coming back from holiday I have already visited another two churches that are considering affiliating; one in Carlisle and another in Coventry.
It is also very encouraging that at least four church plants initiated by FIEC churches have started meeting since the beginning of September, including congregations in Manchester, Birmingham and Cambridge. We are currently working to support 26 recent or planned church plants, and have established a new fund to provide small start-up loans to church plants. We hope to introduce an online assessment tool for church planters, which will compliment other assessment processes that are already available.
Across the UK we are also trying to build relationships with the many immigrant and ethnically diverse churches that share our gospel convictions, and which are already such an important part of the evangelical community. We long that we can be blessed by greater fellowship with them.
Training & supporting gospel workers
In God’s goodness we received another generous donation of £250,000 over the summer for our Training Fund. This is enabling us to support 11 men and women training for gospel ministry and to help 28 churches appoint additional workers to a training post. Over the past 3 years we have been able to invest almost £750,000 in training the next generation of Independent pastors and women’s workers, helping 60 gifted men and women gain the training they need for a lifetime of service.
Bookings have already started for The Hub Conference 2015 (16th-18th Jan), where the main speaker will be Ray Evans of Grace Community Church, Bedford. Please do encourage members of your church to come to this conference if they are considering the possibility of full-time ministry in the future. They will find it both inspiring and informative.
We have almost come to the end of this years’ series of ten Pastors’ Network conferences, with the final one in Looe next Wednesday. These have been a great encouragement to pastors and their wives, and we are looking forward to planning next year’s programme.
A gifted – and growing – team
I am very pleased to welcome David Shaw to the FIEC staff team. A generous external gift has enabled David to join us as our part-time Theological Adviser, and he will be helping to equip our pastors and churches to understand and meet the challenges of the contemporary world. He is based at Oak Hill Theological College, where he is Tutor in New Testament, working alongside Graham Beynon who has just taken up his new post as Director of Free Church Training.
As a national gospel movement we are pleased to be able to support the work of the gospel in Scotland, and have been very encouraged by all that Andy Hunter, our Scotland Director, has accomplished in the last year. FIEC is better known and understood, and has been involved in developing wider gospel unity with like-minded evangelicals. It has helped to start Gospel Partnerships in the East and West of Scotland, and we are working with others to establish a new conference called ‘Pathways’ for men and women considering the possibility of Bible-centred ministry in Scotland (30th Jan – 1st Feb).
As some staff are moving on, we are looking to recruit a new Events Coordinator to organise our growing programme of conferences, and we hope to be able to appoint a Head of Communications in the next few months to help us improve the way we communicate about the great work that is being done by FIEC churches both across the family and more widely.
Our big event
I am especially looking forward to the FIEC Leaders’ Conference in November, which is the most important event in our year. It is an opportunity for our churches to come together to be envisioned, equipped, and encouraged in their gospel work, and to build deeper relationships of mutual support. Many local initiatives have been generated by the connections facilitated by the conference.
This year the FIEC Directors team will be sharing our plans to take the vision of the Fellowship forwards over the next few years, preaching from God’s word and calling us to be dependent on Jesus, Prayer, Generous Giving and God’s Promises.
Robert Strivens, Principal of London Theological Seminary, will be helping us to understand our convictions and history as Independent churches. We are delighted to welcome Tope Koleoso, leader of Jubilee Church in Enfield which is part of the New Frontiers family of churches. He will be preaching from John and also stimulating us to think about issues of church leadership, including how to lead a growing church, a praying church and a multicultural church. Steve Levy and Martin Salter will be preaching for our spiritual refreshment in the evenings.
Glynn Harrison will also be leading seminars on ‘Sex after the Revolution,’ helping us to recover confidence in the biblical vision for sexuality; Greg and Harriet Strain will be speaking on ‘Marriage and Ministry’; Neal Patterson from FIEC Practical Services will be leading a session on identifying and treating signs of church stagnation and decay; and Jonathan Bennett, our Digital Strategist, will be giving guidance on digital culture and Christian communications.
Over 300 delegates have already booked, and I hope that you and your church leaders will be able to join us. It’s now only six weeks away! You can find out more details about the conference here.
A massive gospel need
Despite all these encouragements it is vital that we remain focused on the massive gospel need of our nation, and on the task that Jesus has given us to make disciples. Only 3% or so of the UK population have a saving relationship with Christ, churches in general are declining and evangelicalism as a whole is not seeing any growth.
We need to keep praying, beseeching our Lord to have mercy upon our nation, to keep seeking and searching for the lost, and to keep preaching the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Please be encouraged that the FIEC Directors and staff are regularly praying for you and for your churches as you labour in the harvest field.