Wednesday, 20 May 2015

AMEN Conference 2015 Day 3 - Wednesday

An early start, because this is our day away.  Piet drives the minibus from Cornhill, and we head for the Elim Conference Centre and Regents College Campus in West Malvern.  Mick has arranged the day, thanks to his friend Nigel Tween, who spoke at a Leaders Day event a couple of years ago before moving on from his role as Director of Training. 

We're fortunate to be hosted by John Glass, Elim's General Superintendent.  He 'retires' next year after 16 years, to take up the chair of the UK Evangelical Alliance.  However, it's apparent from the start that titles and status mean little to him.  Elim has churches in some forty countries, and the Malvern complex, set in beautiful countryside, became their headquarters about five years ago.

John explained the hundred-year history of the movement, and how they have experienced growth, impending decline and then recovery.  The story is narrated in their centenary book 'Defining Moments'.  It includes many examples of God's leading and many dedicated folks' sacrifice.  In response to our questions, he unpacked the challenges that Elim faces today.  "we're not in a post-Christian culture, but a pre-Christian one, because most people haven't experienced real faith."  

When we break for lunch, we share the facilities with the students and members of staff.  Then we head into the grounds and around the main buildings to get some flavour of the whole operation.  John's role is distinctly spiritual direction: he leaves the substantial 'structural' supervision to his able team. 

In the afternoon, John speaks of Elim's DNA - the way they select and train people, uphold pastoral standards, keep vital values alive and release initiative.  A 'platinum' system of pastoral care - Refuel - supports their 600 UK ministers, and John speaks of their warm partnership with Assembles of God (AOG).  He lectures in the final-year Ministry track of their degree course, and gives us a sample of the content from his own book 'Growing Bigger People'. 

Huw asks about changing church cultures, and John speaks of the blessing Jacob spoke to his son Joseph (Genesis chapter 49): resilience and vitality despite opposition, with an account of his own experience.     We're very grateful for the exclusive attention we have received.  The day has not disappointed, and we bless John for his own challenges ahead.

Returning on the minibus we are thoughtful.  Desmond has a lot of things to share with us tomorrow, arising from the guys' get-together yesterday.  Today has created a bigger perspective for our discussions.  On Friday I have arranged two meetings to progress the planned international visits.  Walking back from Cornhill, I call in at the marquee, getting set up for the Weekend Festival.  John's words stay with me: "No weapon formed against you can prosper.  But if you're enthusiastic for victory, you have to be equally prepared for battle".

Off to the seaside

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