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Confident Christianity conferences and the local church. Two pastors talk about their experience

Gavin Matthews spoke to Gordy Mackay, Community Pastor of Perth Baptist Church and Jim Crooks, Pastor of Tayside Christian Fellowship

Solas: Why did you decide to hold a Confident Christianity conference in Perth?

Jim Crooks – Pastor of Tayside Christian Fellowship: For me and Tayside Christian Fellowship, we were very much at the stage of asking ourselves, “how effective are we in personal evangelism?” We identified that fear was a barrier that we needed to address. Our church members are confident themselves in the scriptures, and they’re confident in the faith but maybe not confident in communicating it. So we really wanted to think about the “how-to” of communicating faith. And the necessity of being absolutely persuaded of the essential truths of Christianity. So that is why we were very interested in the Confident Christianity conference.

Gordy Mackay – Community Pastor of Perth Baptist Church: So, from Perth Baptist’s point of view, we are increasingly outward-looking, and my role in the church is engaging with the wider community. So it is something on my heart to equip people in our church to do that well. The Solas event was a really helpful opportunity for us to actually do that in a very practical way. We wanted to address the question ‘how do we share’, as people from the outside come into the church and as we as Christians make the most of the opportunities outside the church. So this is a really helpful way to give folks the practical tools to do that well.

Solas: Where did you first come across the Confident Christianity conferences?

Jim Crooks: Well, I first attended a Solas conference quite a number of years ago when it was in Dundee, and I was in fellowship in a church in Dundee – and also I’d got to know David Robertson on a personal basis through involvement with the European Leadership Forum (ELF) and their apologetics network, so I guess I’d been very aware of that. Then heard very good feedback from the Dundee conference in 2018 – although I personally didn’t attend that, but I was well aware of the Solas ministry.

Gordy Mackay: My knowledge came second hand, from Stewart one of the church leadership team. He’d came back from the Dundee conference, and was just beaming with enthusiasm about it. He was so enthusiastic, that I knew there was something there. Then, talking to Jim Turrent the pastor at Central Baptist Church in Dundee who had hosted that event – he was really convinced that this was a really positive thing for his church and for the city of Dundee. So trusting these folks, I knew this was something we could get involved with.

Solas: What did you hope to achieve, and how does a one-day conference relate to the ongoing work of the church?

Jim Crooks: What I was hoping we would achieve in Tayside Christian Fellowship was that people would be much more intentional in personal evangelism. That it wasn’t something that was going to ‘happen to them’ – they had to be thinking about ‘how do I communicate?’ and ‘What can I learn from other people who are doing it?’ So the Confident Christianity conference seemed like an ideal vehicle for letting people discover that for themselves. And in the event, we had significant numbers at the conference in Perth, around 30 of our members attended. That gives us a really good nucleus of people who have been exposed to “How-to” do personal evangelism just that bit better and be a little bit more confident and intentional in witnessing.

Gordy Mackay: Actually I think that “intentional” would be the key word for me. You know, equipping people to be confident and actually looking for opportunities. Again it’s been fascinating – you asked about the ongoing life of the church; in the weeks since the conference I’ve had two different people commenting on quotes from the conference. One quote was from Michael Ots who said, “Jesus didn’t call us to be hunters of men, but fishers of men”, that is throwing out little bits of bait throughout our conversations. So, someone proactively came to me and said “You know, I’ve been thinking about that ever since” and there’s been really helpful dialogue there. Then, the other one was “don’t pray for opportunities, God gives us the opportunities, rather pray for the courage to take these opportunities to speak about Him.” So these are two independent conversations I’ve had since the conference which I’ve have had the chance to follow up and say, “right, so how are you doing that?”. So for me that’s been a real excitement actually – people are talking about everyday evangelism now and there’s a real confidence.

Jim Crooks: That’s really useful, because I’ve also had conversations about those exact same throwaway remarks, which were obviously meant to get a point over and it has really captured the imagination.

Solas: For any pastors/ministers who are considering hosting a Confident Christianity conference, from your local church perspective, how was working with Solas?

Jim Crooks: Working with Solas was great, working with Solas was very easy. One because Solas are absolutely committed to working in partnership with churches. Actually, it never felt as if it was a “Solas” conference! It was a conference that was primarily led by the local churches but getting all the benefit from the Solas ministry, infrastructure and so on. It felt like a genuine partnership. It was good.

Gordy Mackay: Yes, and it was good to be able to tap into the speakers that Solas have access to. I’ve had overwhelming feedback about how good the speakers were. As local churches we couldn’t have sourced them ourselves. So actually Solas having these contacts, and putting together the right mix of speakers and subjects – and facilitating them getting to Perth was hugely beneficial.

Solas: So, what would you say to a church leader who was contemplating the idea of doing something like a Confident Christianity conference in their town?

Jim Crooks: Just do it!  You’ve got to think about practicalities, obviously – but it’s well worth while. Take the plunge, you’ve got people who in Solas are very experienced in this kind of thing and it will ‘scratch where it itches’ with a lot of your serious minded church members.

Gordy Mackay: And if you can work with other local gospel-centred churches then all the better. For us, that was the beauty of it, right from the start the inter-church working was great! That’s been one of the most positive dynamics of the whole thing – bringing churches together. So, where there are other pastors and churches involved, all the better.

Jim Crooks: That was probably a highlight for me – the way that we worked together as partner-churches in genuine unity, with a clear focus about what we were hoping to achieve and a deep sense of brotherliness, in working for the kingdom. That – and to see the responses from my own brothers and sisters in Tayside Christian Fellowship. In particular, the response from one group of who were absolutely enthralled with the talks, even though it took them well out of their comfort zone. They were enthusiastically talking about it on the Sunday and since- and that has been wonderful, it’s had an impact on the church. People are discussing personal evangelism, and how to do things better. Recalling those quotes from the talks has given them something to hang their own thoughts on as well.

Gordy Makay: It was also such a joy for me to see people from so many different churches, which created a real excitement that God is at work in the city of Perth. We encouraged people to come, and they did, they responded! Good foundations were laid, and many good seeds sown and so we are excited about what God might do in the future.