We invited Patrick and Robyn Johnstone, well known for their work on Operation World, to lead a conference at the church on 20 and 21 February, entitled God is King over all the earth. Patrick took three sessions on the Saturday and spoke at the Manse meeting for young people in the evening and a further session on Sunday afternoon; Robyn led a very helpful session on caring for missionaries, which led to a lot of discussion which the Missionary Committee is keen to follow up.
The very first session reviewed what has already been achieved in the past 2,000 years, which included insights into church history that most of us were unaware of. Many of us had not realized how widespread across Europe the Celtic church had penetrated, and most of us had simply not known of the Nestorian advance from the Middle East into China in what were in Europe the “Dark Ages”. Whereas we were acutely aware of the decline of the church in Britain and Europe, many of us had not become so aware of the great measure of Holy Spirit blessing in other parts of today’s world. He reckoned that there are now about 95 million Christians in China. In India there are regions where there is severe persecution, but in others much blessing – as our own pastor has been able to
confirm. The numerical strength of present day Evangelicals is no longer in the West and among English speaking people, but in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and the spiritual leadership may well come from there in the future.
In the second session, he dealt with the major challenges to evangelism in the 21st century. There are countries like Saudi Arabia, Somalia, North Korea where local believers struggle for survival and which missionaries have immense difficulty in entering. Then, there are ethnic groups in many countries of the world that need to be reached; he cited Tibet, for instance, in western China, and the smaller groups in sub-Saharan Africa which have no Bible translation. He reminded us that Mohammed had no Bible in Arabic; if only he had that to turn to! A reminder of the importance of
Bible translation. Then, there are the great urban sprawls, with huge populations in often great poverty, and childrenin dire need; people distressed by diseases, famine, civil war and natural disasters; pressures from resurgent forms of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other ideologies.
And finally, the all important strategy at our disposal: prayer. How concerted efforts in prayer opened the closed doors of Nepal; how a seven year campaign of prayer saw the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The promises of the Lord Jesus in John 14:12-14; the position we occupy with Him in the heavenly places – that we are co-workers with Him, through prayer as well as service. Thus, our responsibility to pray to see things happen.
There was an extra session on Sunday afternoon, where we reflected on the opposition of Islam to the Gospel. Islam was once the powerful world force and is now desperate not to lose any more ground; and yet, there is a harvest among Muslims greater now than ever before. One cause of
this is the reaction against Muslim dictatorships like that of Khomeini in Iran. Befriend the Muslim neighbour; don’t treat them as if they might be potential terrorists – they may be more open to Christian love than you think.
Steve Owens opened up Psalm 47 right at the beginning. Just as God is King over all over all the earth is central to that psalm, so should His sovereign power be central in our thinking, service and prayer.