The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
740 evangelical leaders connected for mission in Wisla (Poland). Ramez Atallah led the Bible expositions on 2 Corinthians. Seminars, thematic networks, and resources were available at the annual gathering.
Around 740 Christian leaders gathered in the small town of Wisla (Poland) for the 2019 European Leadership Forum (17-23 May).
The annual conference has become a key meeting point for evangelical Christians from across Europe who come together to listen to each other, be reminded of the common mission vision and receive training from international speakers. The ELF is “a movement throughout the year” which aims to evangelise Europe and renew the Biblical church.
This year’s Bible expositions were based on 2 Corinthians. Ramez Atallah, Director of the Bible Society Egypt, preached every morning about the example of Paul as he served God and the first Christians in the midst of personal suffering.
In contrast with a culture that pursues wellbeing and comfort, “suffering is God’s divine tool to shape us into His image”, Atallah said. The experience of the Apostle Paul shows that “suffering equips us to comfort others, produces endurance, obliges us to rely on God, gives credibility to our ministry, and strengthens us in our weakness”. The speaker illustrated these realities with testimonies of Egyptian Christians who have impacted their Muslim-majority culture with resilience in adversity, forgiveness and love.
“There is no point in getting excited about Jesus and running after your gifts, if you are not persevering”, Atallah said especially to young Christian leaders. “The persevering leader is transparent, resilient, hopeful, and inwardly renewed”, as seen in the letter to the Corinthians.
The speaker also underlined that the message of reconciliation, so needed in today’s Europe, is at the centre of the gospel. “We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God makes his appeal through us: Be reconciled to God. When we speak, we speak in the authority of Jesus Christ. It is no little thing to be an ambassador”. But “a reconciler who is not reconciled with his team and fellow Christians, is hurting the message”, he warned.
In his messages, Atallah also addressed the “wounds of the Christian leader”. When there is conflict, he said, “let us not use the weapons of the world”, because “we don’t run Christian organisations like business organisations”. The relationships with other Christians – not the achievements in our career - are the biggest capital one will take away from the time serving in a certain Christian ministry, Atallah stressed.
The Egyptian Bible expositor encouraged the participants to make sure they “finish well”, always remembering that “it’s not your ministry, but God’s”, and therefore Christians are called “to be faithful disciples in our daily life”. This includes “listening to your spouse, trusted friends and colleagues who can give you honest feedback” and “not taking the credit for something that is of God”.
— FOCL | ELF (@FOCLOnline) 20 de maig de 2019
EVENING PLENARIES: CURRENT ISSUES AND THE BIBLE
“Why are we evangelicals?” was the topic of the first evening plenary session. British theologian Michael Reeves unpacked the historic meaning of the word and called to maintain the biblical essence, “letting the gospel shape our hearts” and avoiding “two opposite dangers in the future: fragmenting and blurring”.
Hungarian counsellor Emoke Tapolyai spoke on the second evening about the “struggle to maintain hope and help others in a dark world”. She addressed the consequences of fear and concluded from the Bible that thankfulness, contentment and the hope of eternal salvation make the difference.
London-based Apologist Jay Smith spoke on the latest archaeological evidence that points to the errors in the Quran, and why Muslims can find the truth and a better hope in the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ.
On the last night, Welsh evangelist Lindsay Brown listed a number of encouraging trends happening in Europe in terms of mission, and called the participants to respond to the reality of a secularised continent with “courage, conviction, faithfulness and perseverance”. After emphasizing the beauty of the gospel and how it transforms lives, he closed by calling all participants to “never, never, never give up”.
NETWORKS, SEMINARS, ‘EXPO’ AND BOOKS
Throughout the week, 22 parallel networks brought together participants of a certain field of work, including Politics and society, Science, Church planters, Media communicators, Artists, or Academics.
Dozens of speakers also connected the gospel to missional and cultural challenges in the afternoon seminars. The ELF offers year-round mentorings to further deepen in some issues and train young leaders.
A classical music concert was offered on Monday evening. An arts exhibition in the main hall was organised by participants one of the afternoons. A screening of a science documentary and other informal meetings were organised as well.
At the Forum Expo, more than 20 organisations shared their work and offered all kind of resources to support the work of churches and Christian leaders. During the exhibition, Evangelical Focus conducted a series of short interviews on Facebook Live.
Volunteers serving at the conference (many of them, from the US) and other participants raised more than 5’000 Euro throughout the week in Wisla to make sure other Christian leaders could acquire quality Christian literature available at the conference’s bookstore.
National lunches and other initiatives made space for personal connections, and partnership initiatives were presented.
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