The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
More than 350 attended the first Wales Leadership Forum conference. Chris Street: “Current generations know very little or nothing about the Bible and who Jesus is”.
Wales is known for the spiritual revival through which tens of thousands became Christians about one hundred years ago.
Statistics now show that churches are losing members on a higher rate than the rest of the United Kingdom.
In this context, several evangelical churches have seen “the opportunity to work alongside other organisations to help equip not just paid Christian workers but also volunteers who increasingly are responsible for a variety of different ministries in the local church”.
Christ Street is a former businessman and elder of a church in Wales. He has been involved in helping organize the first “Equip” conference of the Wales Leadership Forum. On September 15-16, more than 350 people gathered in Newport. Speakers included Lindsay Brown, Os Guiness, Michael Green and John Lennox.
Question. What are the challenges and opportunities for the church in Wales now?
Answer. Wales is a land of revival where large numbers of individuals became Christians. The revival in 1904 started in a small town in south west Wales but spread across the Western world, 150,000 people were converted.
Now, the number that say they are Christians in Wales is reducing faster than in any other parts of the UK. So, the opportunity is to work alongside other organisations to help equip not just paid Christian workers but also volunteers who increasingly are responsible for a variety of different ministries in the local church.
Q. How would you describe the reality of evangelical churches in Wales?
A. The reality is that whilst a large number of churches are gospel focused and experiencing blessing and seeing individuals becoming Christians, overall there is a 22% decline in those attending church and a reduction of 5% in the number of churches in the last 10 years.
In a 2011 government survey the number that said they were Christian in England and Wales had reduced by 4 million over a 10 year period.
In my generation, the parents sent their children to Sunday school (even if they did not go themselves) and schools spent more time on stories from the Bible and singing hymns in school assemblies.
Recent generations no longer send their children to church and schools focus on educating children on all faiths. The net result is that current generations know very little or nothing about the bible and who Jesus is. One youth worker said to me that increasingly he feels like he is working with “unreached people groups”.
Q. What did you see at the European Leadership Forum (ELF) that inspired you to start your own initiative in Wales?
A. A number of us have been to ELF and have been encouraged by their vision to unite, equip and resource Christians throughout Europe by providing a year round programme using experienced speakers.
The model is having a real impact with a significant number of individuals implementing the model in their country. As Christianity declines in Wales we want to help equip Christian workers so that they are more able to share the gospel.
Q. What were some of the highlights of this first conference in Newport?
A. We were encouraged by the number who attended. We originally planned for around 250 and 360 registered from a number of evangelical backgrounds.
A very high percentage have signed up for the year round programme which is particularly encouraging.
The feedback from a survey was very positive and below are some examples of comments. These are two examples: “The conference was absolutely outstanding (one of the best conferences I have been to) and I am looking forward to see how the groups develop over the coming year”. And: “Those that came from my church were lifted and inspired”.
Q. Looking ahead, what kind of connections and networking are you hoping to see after the first conference?
A. As different groups start to meet and network we are praying that Christian workers will develop relationships with like-minded individuals and create support networks.
During the conference some youth workers met and agreed to organise two outreach missions in October.
Long term, our prayer is that, as a result of the year round programme, individuals will be better equipped to share the gospel and as a result an increasing number will come to a personal faith in Jesus.
ABOUT CHRIS STREET
Chris Street is an elder in a large evangelical church in Cardiff. He was brought up in a non-Christian home and became a Christian when he was 17 years old. He worked as a global vice president in a telecommunications company in the USA, Belgium, and the UK. He felt called by God at the age of 50 in order to serve and support local churches.
In 2016, he and a group of other Christians were inspired by the European leadership Forum to implement their model to unite, equip and resource Christian leaders in Wales.