The Solas team had a very early start as we went down to Galashiels for our first ever conference in the beautiful Scottish Borders. The half-day conference, was designed to help the church grow in its evangelistic confidence; both in terms of having confidence in the gospel, developing good practical tools for having fruitful conversations about faith, as well as learning about our culture today and the people we are seeking to reach for Jesus.
Euan Johnson has been the the pastor at Galashiels Baptist Church since 2021, and he was the driving force on bringing the Confident Christianity conference to the Borders. Euan is well known to many people around Scotland from his days studying theology in St Andrews, and his time in youth work in Perth. While the Baptist Church were the organisers, the event took place at the Church of Scotland, Trinity Parish Church on Galashiels High Street. Folks were on hand from the church to welcome us, and the people attending the conference with coffee and coissants!
Eaun kicked the conference off by welcoming everyone, and leading us in prayer and praise – pointing us first towards God, before we began to think about the practical business of evangelism.
It was a significant day for us at Solas too. Our new speaker, Steve Osmond was addressing a Confident Christianity confernce for the first time as a member of staff. (He had actually spoken at one before – when he was visiting is for an interview and Andy Bannister was losing his voice!). These events are always anchored around the idea of developing our ability to speak confidently and graciously about Jesus in everyday conversation. So Steve kicked off the morning with his version of this essential part of our training. Like Andy Bannister’s “How to talk about Jesus without looking like an idiot” talk, Steve’s talk on conversational evangelism looked at the ways in which Jesus used questions to steer spiritual conversations.
Andy Bannister spoke next and looked at the growth of Islam in the UK, and how the church should respond. He suggested that fear, retreat or disengagement were poor responses to the presence of Muslims; but so is syncretism; the idea that we can merge our faiths together as if they were essentially the same thing. Andy compared four key characteristics of God (as described by the Bible) and Allah (as described by the Qur’an) and showed how different they are. This was furnished with the encouragement to welcome and befriend Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues.
Our bookshop for the day was supplied by 10ofThose, who supplied a great range of books on the topics for the day, as well as a good selection of Biblical studies materials and biographies. Adam from 10ofThose brought us a lively presentation about some of the books, and an encouragement to use evangelistic literature, such as tracts, in our outreach efforts.
After a coffee break, during which more pastries and coissants were served by the local church – Steve Osmond took session three. He looked at the great question of God and Suffering, and the way that is a stumbling block to faith for so many people. As suffering is a universal human experience, Steve looked at the explanatory power of the Christian story (compared to that of other worldviews) and the way in which God can help us through the experience before He finally triumphs over it.
Andy brought the formal sessions to a close with session on contemporary culture. He examined the effect of technology on culture, and our current lonliness epidemic. While our innate longing to be fully known and fully loved is a profound apologetic for the Biblical understanding of humanity in itself, Andy challenged us to develop real relationships in the real world through which we can share Christ. That doesn’t mean being technological ‘Luddites’ though, new technology must be embraced and used for the gospel, but can’t be allowed to dominate us.
Q&A sessions are an essential part of our conferences – and it is always fascinating to see what comes up as it varies from location to location. At Galashiels, our speakers were asked to reflect on Artificial Intelligence, several aspects of Islam, more on suffering, the evidence for the resurrection especially the stories of the apostles martyrdom and Halloween.
Euan Johnson, the hosting pastor from Galashiels Baptist wrote afterwards:
“The conference went well! We were encouraged by the mix of denominations/churches present from across Gala and the Borders, with some travelling in for the day. There was a good buzz as people connected in fellowship with one another and engaged with the topics. People certainly felt encouraged and informed by the end of the day, so the talks were well-received. We are aware of a growing Muslim population in our area so I think that was the reason for the strong interest in that topic. I also particularly appreciated the pastoral sensitivity in the talks when dealing with some heavier subjects.”
All of us at Solas were hugely grateful to Euan and the team who welcomed us to Galashiels as well as the highly articulate and engaged audience who came rto wrestle with these issues with us. We pray that the church in Galashiels and the surrounding towns will be encouraged as they share the gospel across the The Borders.