Solas has been on the road again with our Confident Christianity conferences, which are increasingly taking us all over the UK. This time, Andy Bannister and the team went northward, where Hebron Evangelical Church were our hosts in Aberdeen. The conference was a great collaboration between Hebron, Aberdeen Christian Fellowship, Gerrard Street Baptist, Gilcomston Church, and Deeside Christian Fellowship.
All Confident Christianity conferences have on thing in common; they are designed to excite and equip Christians in local churches for evangelism. That means both direct training in helpful ways to talk about Jesus in today’s world; but also some great ways in which to thoughtfully and respectfully engage with people’s objections and questions to Christian belief. Solas draws upon a range of expert speakers from across the UK and each conference features three or four of these speakers and no two Confident Christianity conferences are identical.
Aberdeen’s Confident Christianity conference kicked off with a short devotional message from Duncan Ryan from Hebron Evangelical. He welcomed delegates by reminding them that evangelism is primarily God’s role, and we enjoy the privilege of God inviting us to participate in His work of reaching people.
Andy Bannister led the first session of the day which was a very practical look at wise (and biblical!) ways of handing the questions that our non-Christian friends and colleagues ask us about our faith. So many Christians tell us that they would love to be better at explaining their faith in Jesus to others, but are afraid to do so. Andy encouraged the folks in Aberdeen not to let fear of failure put them off evangelism, but to discover that fear isn’t anything to be afraid of! Andy also looked at the ways that Jesus in the gospels responded to the questions people asked him – some of which were pretty hostile. Jesus’ method, and approach is something we can all learn from, and something which is liberating and empowering: and it basically involves learning to ask really good questions.
Mark Stirling lead the second session of the day, entitled “Unmasking the hidden faith commitments of our sceptical friends”. In this talk, Mark drew on both his academic work, and his experience working in the NHS to show that secularists frequently try to exclude Christian views, by trying to position themselves as ‘neutral’, but Christians are trying to impose their belief-system or agenda. Mark demonstrated that behind such claims are beliefs which are every bit as much as exclusive as ours! He suggested that exposing these hidden agendas is a good way of showing that Christians too have valid contributions to make to conversations about values, and beliefs. Later in the day Mark talked about “How to disagree without being disagreeable”. In this insightful talk which explored contemporary culture, he examined why people find Christian beliefs so offensive today (or portray Christians as hateful or harmful), and how can respond. Drawing on his own personal experiences of sharing the gospel with many people, he talked about loving and relational ways of sharing hard truths with a sceptical world.
Our third speaker, David Galloway, is a medical scientist who is convinced that universe we observe cannot be the result of blind chance alone. He is convinced that the physical evidence (as revealed by the tools of science) point powerfully to design and intention and that this in turn points us towards God. In his first talk, David explained some of his reasoning, and encouraged the folks in Aberdeen not to capitulate to the atheist claims that the claims of science nullify faith in God. Rather, he encouraged them to be confident in talking to friends, family and colleagues about the creator behind the creation. In his second talk, David explored the myths of “Scientism”, the idea that the scientific method is all that is required to understand, and explain the universe – and just as significantly teach us how we ought to act within it. Popular atheist assaults on theology and philosophy are grounded on the idea that science is the universal tool for explaining both what is and what ought to be; yet it actually fails adequately achieve either. (Our latest Short Answers video explored the same theme: “Has Science Explained Everything?” — check it out here).
Max Baker-Hytch from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), was our fourth speaker. His first topic was “What historians can tell us about Jesus”. From popular writing to internet bloggers and social media pundits, the world is full of people who decry the reliability of the gospels and the portrait of Christ that they contain. Max looked at the actual historical evidence, and showed that the New Testament documents are extraordinarily accurate about every fact which can be historically demonstrated, and were written far more soon after the events they depict than most popular critics suggest. A critic on Solas’s Facebook post recently claimed that Everyone knows that the gospels were written centuries after the events’. If only they had heard Max’s talk and realised just how weak a position that is! Later in his second talk, Max addressed the ‘Hiddenness of God’ and was able to take the folks in Aberdeen through some great material relating to Jesus, his uniqueness and the revelation of God.
Finally, Andy Bannister wrapped up the formal sessions with a talk entitled, “Are We Matter or We Matter?” which examined the Christian claim that humanity is valuable and precious. While our atheist friends want to reduce humans to just atoms and particles and stuff, Andy showed the beauty of the uniquely biblical claim that humanity alone both bears the image of God, and is the main object of God’s redeeming love in Christ. As such, the claim that we are merely atoms and particles, is reductionist, tragic and rather bleak. The Christian gospel’s view of the dignity of humanity, and our worth to God is a profoundly hopeful apologetic in our increasingly cynical and hope-less world.
At the end of the conference, delegates had the opportunity to quiz the speakers in fascinating Q&A session which was chaired by Matthew Henderson, pastor of Gerrard Street Baptist Church. Questions were sent in by text and included everything from how Christians should respond to LGBTQI+ friends to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Mark Brown, Hebron Evangelical’s Community Worker said, “I think the talks were absolutely spot-on, and covered a wide spectrum of topics. What they had in common was to get us to be a bit more proactive and intentional about evangelism. The church needs to be engaging and build bridges from where we are to where our secular and atheistic friends are. I think the theme of ‘Confident Christianity’ is a really important one. It was also really encouraging to see Christians from across the churches in Aberdeen coming together to think about this. I hope that conference will have an overflow-effect so that this won’t be just a one-off fun event for a Saturday, but actually begins to change the way we engage with our colleagues in a day-to-day life.”
“We could not have put on an event like this without the help of Solas. Your team made everything very easy from start to finish. Significantly it felt like a partnership and collaboration between SOLAS and the local churches involved.” – Mark Brown, Hebron Evangelical Church, Aberdeen.
Our hope and prayer at Solas, is that with every Confident Christianity conference that we do, Christians in different parts of the country will be inspired to talk more naturally and persuasively about Jesus.
We could bring a Confident Christianity conference to your town or city. Please contact us to talk through how it works—it’s much easier than you think, and we’d love to help the churches in your town reach your community for Christ.