National Missions in 2020
There will be some significant evangelistic missions across Great Britain in 2020, including The Graham Tour and Advance 2020. So, how should FIEC churches respond to initiatives and events in their region?
1. Rejoice that the Gospel is preached
We may well have questions and concerns about some aspects of major missions. There will be elements of doctrine and methodology with which we might disagree. But provided that the Gospel is being proclaimed, we should rejoice.
In Philippians 1:15-18 Paul’s particular concern was the personal animosity of some towards him and his ministry and yet he still rejoiced that Christ was preached. Jesus warns us against a parochial attitude towards the initiatives of others in Mark 9:38-41. We don’t know who was exorcising demons, and the apostles might well have been concerned. Yet Jesus’ response suggests that if someone is doing good in his Name, then we should not oppose or prevent their work. The context suggests that Jesus is opposing a proud attitude that “the Spirit can only work through us.”
None of this is to suggest that we must endorse or approve of all the doctrines or methods of evangelistic missions, but we acknowledge that the Lord is able to use that which we might regard as defective for his glory. This is the testimony of church history, that the Holy Spirit does not confine his blessing to work which is exactly doctrinally correct.
During large missions in the UK in the second half of the last century, legitimate concerns were expressed about doctrine and methods; nevertheless, many in our own constituency would testify that they were converted through these missions. It is an encouragement to us in our own evangelism that the Lord uses imperfect vessels.
2. Make the most of the opportunity
These major initiatives may well create opportunities for the Gospel. It may be that neighbours and colleagues comment or ask questions about publicity, meetings and events going on in the area. We will want to be ready, as churches and as believers, to take advantage of these opportunities.
How we do this will be at the discretion of each local church and its membership. Some might encourage attendance at mission meetings, or organise additional activities at church alongside the mission events. Others may arrange their own evangelistic activities, picking up on interest in the local community. Some churches might choose not to engage at all. But we should be thinking and planning now how we relate to these missions.
Most of all we should pray that Gospel initiatives would be fruitful, and that many would be added to Christ’s kingdom.
3. Take care to avoid compromising the Gospel
A major concern with missions of the 20th Century was the ecumenical approach of the organisers. Church leaders of all theological stripes were invited to be involved to present a “common front” for the Gospel, with the hope that the mission would reach to all corners of the church and the country. This sometimes meant that Roman Catholic, or theologically liberal church leaders were given prominent positions in the meetings, and featured in the events.
The danger here is clear, that if our churches, or church leaders, take a formal role in organising or supporting a mission which is theologically over-inclusive, we may well end up in partnership with those who are proclaiming “another Gospel”.
Our FIEC statement on Gospel Unity is clear with regard to this matter and states that we cannot join in partnership in evangelism or activities of Christian fellowship with those who are unable to affirm the essential doctrines of the faith.
Our goal is to honour the Lord and he calls us to carefully avoid working with those who deny the Gospel (2 Timothy 3:5, 2 John 10-11). We need to be wary about being pragmatic. Love for the Lord, the wider body of Christ and the lost means we cannot compromise on the Gospel or be seen to do so.
May the Lord give us wisdom as we seek to apply these principles in our own local contexts.
Bill James and Greg Strain have provided this advice in agreement with the wider FIEC Trust Board and the National Director.