Confident Christianity conference: Cowplain, Hampshire


public_110_mob_9The Solas conferences in Dundee have been tremendously popular over the years, in response to demand from churches we’re now delivering them all over the UK.
Cowplain Evangelical Church were our first conference hosts.  Confident Christianity conferences are designed to equip Christians with the skills and confidence needed to share their faith with their friends, family and colleagues. They feature a variety of speakers, talking both about evangelism directly and about how to address the issues that come up in our discussions about faith.


20190518_094220633_iOSConfident Christianity: Cowplain kicked off with Solas Director Dr. Andy Bannister on,  “How To Talk About Jesus Without Sounding Like An Idiot”, which outlined a sensitive, biblical and winsome way of speaking faithfully about Jesus to sceptical friends. At the heart of what Andy taught people was the power of asking really good questions—the very method that Jesus used in the gospels.
Andy from Cornerstone church in Portsmouth said that this session was the highlight of the day for him. “It’s been the most helpful thing that I’ll take away and try and chat with my friends and colleagues about” he said describing how he felt inspired to use questions to gently discuss faith questions with friends who are apathetic or disengaged. A delegate from Cowplain Church said: “It was a nice shift for me, because, if I’m trying to talk about Christ – I can go about it a different way getting closer to where people are, by asking good questions. So I found it really helpful.”


20190518_100729335_iOSDr. Ben Thomas delivered two talks during the day on the hugely important subjects of human sexuality and the Christian faith. He began with a talk entitled “Sex and Salvation: A Story of Personal Transformation.” Ben explains: “I told the story of how I became a Christian which was linked to the fact that I identified as a gay man who was always contemplating, as I explored my sexuality, what if Christianity is actually true? I had started to read the scriptures while at University, and was attracted to who Jesus was, but yet never felt that God would love me or accept me because of my sexuality. And it was the story of really reconciling the two together which lead me away from leading a life as an active gay man and becoming a Christian and living in that way ever since.”
Ben’s second talk looked at the most helpful approaches we can take in sharing the gospel of Christ with friends and family members who identify as LGBTQI+. He emphasised the need to think through the biblical Christian view on sexuality before engaging in conversations, so we avoid being incoherent, or ill prepared. However, Ben emphasised: “We don’t need to be on the defensive because we have the best, the one-and-only gospel and Jesus is adequate for everybody’s needs. But it is about demonstrating that in a persuasive way that doesn’t at all make the LGBT+ person feel like they are being persecuted or a second-class citizen.”
One local Christian, Cindy, was tremendously impressed with Ben’s approach. She said: “My brother is gay, lives abroad, and we haven’t been in touch much over the last few years. But today’s conference has brought me much more understanding of his situation and inspired me to try and restore my relationship with him and share Christ.”


20190518_111000952_iOSOur third speaker, David Hutchings, gave a cracking first talk on “God vs Science : A History”. It hugely impressed Tim Boxall from Portsmouth who said: “I was really interested in the origins of the science-versus-religion narrative (the mistaken idea that science and religion are at war), particularly its roots in the nineteenth writers who laid out a lot of the myths which are upheld today. I studied physics at university, and I thought it was really important to highlight that “science versus religion” is really a myth, they really are not incompatible.”
David Hutchings said afterwards: “Some people see the science/God friction as being a big enough stumbling block to prevent them coming to Jesus. So we want to try and explain to people that it is simply not true that you have to pick a side, God or Science. I’m a science teacher, and every single year I have students amazed to hear that I believe in God. They say: “But you’re a science teacher!” So the idea is ingrained very deeply in our society that it’s one or the other, and so Christians need to do something about pushing back on this.”
While David’s first talk emphasised the reasonableness of faith in general, his second talk focused on the unique claims of Jesus Christ in particular. He helped the audience see that all the various religions and beliefs in the world really just boil down to one of four basic worldviews: naturalistic materialism, secular humanism, pantheism and monotheism. David showed how monotheism by far the best-fit for the world we observe, which leads to the question which monotheism is true? David then showed how the evidence for Christianity and most especially for the character and identity of Jesus is overwhelming—and if Jesus’s unique claims are true, that means we’re able not just to know about God, but to know God, as he has revealed himself in space, time and history through Jesus.


Dr. Andy Bannister’s last session, “Jesus and the Failures of the Church”, took an honest look at the times in history when Christians, or the Church, have badly betrayed Christ in its actions (such as in the Crusades, or its failure to stand up to the Third Reich). Yet in stark contrast to this chequered history, there have been times when Christians and the Church have been at the forefront of tremendous advances in civil rights, healthcare, human rights and justice. So how do we decide whether Christianity is good or bad? Andy argued that just as you can only judge the quality of a piece of music by comparing a performance to what the composer intended, so with the Church, we need to look to its “best performances”, those times when Christians have truly measured up to the standards of Jesus, especially his command to love even our enemies.
But if that was all that Christianity was, just a moral exhortation to follow the self-sacrifice of Jesus, we’d be stuck, as all human beings go wrong in numerous ways. But thankfully, the message of Jesus is much more profound that that: offering not just a new moral code, but a means to actually deal with our brokenness, selfishness and pride, that is the root of the problem in the first place. The gospel doesn’t deny or paper over human evil, but honestly addresses it—and in the gospel, offers the only solution to the evil that dwells in every human heart.
Caroline from Cowplain Evangelical church said: “Learning about history was a surprise, learning about the history of the church not being that bad was a complete surprise! You’re lead to believe that the church was always the ‘big baddie’ but actually the things that it contributed to the world are much better than I imagined.”


20190518_144234987_iOSReactions to the Confident Christianity conference have been wonderfully positive.  Phill Brown, pastor of the host church, said: “I think people have found today so helpful because it was real, it was informative but also inspired people who are shy in talking about their faith to think ‘I can do this!’. The format was helpful too: short, 25 minute talks on a variety of subjects, evangelism, apologetics, testimony, was a really good way to approach it. People have been really positive and encouraged to be more confident.”
Andy from Portsmouth said “The conference was helpful for people with all different levels of understanding of Christianity, from the advanced to those who have never really heard of Jesus. My wife and I have signed up as supporters of Solas, because we think it I super-important that people hear about Jesus and Solas come across as having very loving and non-confrontational ways of speaking about him”.
Caroline said, “I found the whole day very helpful and very inspiring, it’s made me want to go away and really think about how I speak to people, not hold back so much but to be open with people, and to take the opportunities that I’m given. Christians need the support to be able to speak up, and that’s what Solas does. You give us that support!”


Forthcoming Confident Christianity conferences are booked for:
Salisbury: October 12th
Perth: October 26th
Dundee: March 21st 2020
Others are being planned after that and details will be published here as they are finalised.
If a Confident Christianity conference might help the churches in your town or city, please contact to Tim (office@solas-cpc-org) who would love to chat to you about how your church might host a conference.

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Dave Hutchings, Andy Bannister, Ben Thomas