One sign of this was the striking popularity of two recent conferences in Switzerland and Germany with input from the Gospel Coalition from the USA.
Gathering in Geneva
First, a francophone conference, took place at the Bible Institute in Geneva from May 10-12. The main speakers were Don Carson, of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois (who spoke in French), John Piper, of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis (translated) and Henri Blocher from the Vaux-sur-Seine Bible Seminary in France.
The theme was Gospel-Centred Ministry — that the most important priority for the churches is making known the gospel of Christ as taught by the apostles. The attendance of 750 people was remarkable. Denominations can be suspicious of one another, but this conference drew pastors and leaders from all over France, Belgium and Switzerland, and from many church groups, including Brethren, Baptists, Eglise Libre, France Mission and more. Most encouraging for the future was the large number of young men attending and enjoying the conference.
The main sessions were based around 2 Timothy and were complemented by workshops on urban church planting, evangelising Muslims and many other subjects. One of the attendees told EN: ‘It was a wonderful time. People were very enthusiastic and had access to a level of teaching they just don’t have in France’.
Call to coalition
At the close of the conference Dr. Carson gave a call for Christians in French-speaking Europe to start a network similar to the Gospel Coalition in the USA — but with its leadership very much in French-speaking hands. There has been a significant growth for the gospel in France in recent years from an extremely barren situation 30 years ago, but it would be good to pray that this conference would lead to a consolidation, a uniting of different groups and a clarity of vision for the future.
Reformation in Hamburg
Immediately afterwards Piper and Carson addressed the Evangelium21 conference in Hamburg, Germany. It was in Hamburg that Johann Gerhard Oncken planted, in April 1834, the first German Baptist church after he had been converted, trained and commissioned in England. Back then the German Baptists had clearly Reformed convictions. Today the Reformed faith is very weak in mainland Europe.
For this reason, a small group of pastors and theologians came together in 2009 to pray and talk about ways to strengthen gospel-centred, theologically sound ministry in German-speaking Europe. Both John Piper and Don Carson played an important role in the preliminary discussions regarding the formation of a German Gospel Partnership that led to the formation of Evangelium21 (http://www.Evangelium21.net).
Don Carson offered valuable insight, both by email and telephone, as he shared some very important lessons that he learned during the time that the ‘Gospel Coalition’ was being formed. And John Piper joined the initial meeting that took place in 2009 in Munich and shared some of his most valuable ministry experience.
Both of these men joined Evangelium21 for its second conference, which followed straight on from the one in Geneva. The conference was remarkable, with roughly 1,400 attendees joining the three-day event. The conference theme was ‘God speaks’. As well as very helpful lectures and sermons by John Piper and Don Carson, three men from the Evangelium21 leadership gave Bible expositions on the centrality and power of the gospel for the Christian life.
Kai Soltau spoke about the ‘The Old Testament and the story of God’s grace in the end’; Christian Wegert, the senior pastor of the host church, the Arche Church of Hamburg, spoke from 1 Corinthians 1.18-25 about ‘The Word of the Cross and its Power’; and Matthias Lohmann, the founder and leader of Evangelium21, spoke from 1 Peter 1 about ‘Living Hope through the Eternal Word’.
The quality and spirit of the conference exceeded all expectations. John Piper and Don Carson were a blessing to the attendees, among whom were several hundred pastors and preachers, and it was encouraging to hear some very good gospel-centred talks by the German speakers, too.
The attendees left encouraged and with new confidence in the power and trustworthiness of God’s holy and inerrant Word.
Evangelium21 will continue its mission to make contributions that will revive and strengthen churches and intends to create a network to bring like-minded people together and to be able to recommend helpful contacts and resources for one another. To this end, Evangelium21 has begun to translate and produce materials that emphasise the centrality of the gospel, not only for church life, but also for life in general.
The third Evangelium21 conference is planned for April 4-6 2013, and will focus on biblical theology.
Please pray that God would grow much fruit from the conferences and would use the efforts of Evangelium21 and similar national gospel networks to fan the Reformation flame in Europe!