Edinburgh Conference, 16-19 March 2010

Eighty delegates attended the third European conference. Three papers were presented: Richard Pratt spoke on ‘Reformed Evangelism in Europe’ and ‘Theological Education and Reformed Evangelism in Europe, and David Meredith on ‘Can Conservative Churches Grow?’ Reports were presented on co-operation in evangelism in Europe, Reformed theological education, cross-cultural and multi-ethnic church planting and a diaconal approach to evangelism.

European Conference of Reformed Churches Proceedings

Session 1 - Tuesday afternoon, 16 March

1. Opening

Rev. Han Schenau welcomed delegates and opened the third European Conference. Eighty delegates were registered. He introduced the organizing committee: Rev. James Maciver, (FCS), Rev. Brian Norton (EPCEW), Mr Theo Karelse (RCN) and himself (CRCN). The chairman expressed appreciation for the help given by the ladies of the Free Church's office. He also noted that Rev. Brian Norton, who had taken Rev. Dr John Scott's place, would be replaced at this conference by a member from Ireland.

2. Opening Devotions

Rev. Dr David McKay led the conference in worship.


Singing: Psalm 100.

Reading: Philippians 2: 1-4.

Paul, in prison, was not thinking about himself but had a concern for the believers in Philippi and the wider church. The issue of unity occupied his attention. Disunity destroys the effectiveness of any army, and this is especially true in the case of spiritual warfare. 1. He first presented the incentives that promote unity (v.1). 'Encouragement in Christ.' To be in union with Christ is a privilege and it surely encourages us to seek visible expressions of that union. 'Any comfort from love.' The Lord's love for us kindles a responding love to him and one another that gives us comfort and strength. 'Participation or fellowship in the Spirit.' The Holy Spirit is the bond that unites the Lord's people. Fellowship in the Spirit entails fellowship in the church. We recognize who is in them and long to be closer to them. 'Affection and sympathy', tenderness and compassion. Col. 3: 12. There is no room for a harsh, condemning spirit. 2. Attitudes that express unity (v.2). Disunity should grieve us. Being likeminded. Not that we are clones but we focus together on the truth. Being humble. No ambition or conceit, not motivated by desire for prominence and praise, but rather serving and seeking the Lord's glory (1 Cor. 4: 7). By being concerned with others practically and spiritually. Is this what we are like? Our churches?


3. Opening Address

Rev. Han Schenau introduced the theme of the conference as 'REACHING OUT UNITEDLY TO EUROPE.' It was significant to meet in Edinburgh in 2010, 100 years after the world missionary conference here in 1910. From around the year 1800, Europe felt a strong desire for mission. Carey was a father of this movement. His motto was: 'Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.' So in the 19th century, missionary societies sprang up all over Europe. The downside of this was the accompanying sense of western superiority and the exporting of confessional divisions. But that created a desire for unity and hence the first world missionary conference was held here in Edinburgh in 1910 to prepare a strategy for mission. Our conference today is different in three ways. 1. We aim at different field of mission, home mission: we now need to welcome missionaries from abroad rather than send them as we once did. 2. A difference in scale. Then 1,200 delegates met. Now we have just eight member churches and 80 delegates. There is more work than we can do. 3. The greater clarity of our unity based on our confessions. It was not so in 1910 nor in 1948 when the World Council of Churches was formed and their confessional disagreement was covered up with the social gospel. This year is also a celebration of 450 years of Christianity in Scotland. How can we be missionary? Is it the case that 'Reformed' and 'missionary' are incompatible?

Singing: Psalm 90, O God our help in ages past

Rev. James Maciver informed the conference that the addresses are being recorded and that CDs can be ordered. It is also hoped that the addresses can be made available on the ICRC's main website and that possibility will be explored.

4. Introduction of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe(RPCCEE)

Rev. Imre Skoke introduced the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe in Hungary. He explained how the church originated in 1997 when several theological students found that their church, the Hungarian Reformed Church, was not in agreement with them over six points, These students believed in Scripture's inerrancy and infallibility, the five points of Calvinism, the need for church discipline over the membership, rejected the ordination of women, the hierarchical office of bishop, and the ecumenical agenda. Faced with strong opposition, they were compelled to leave, suffering also the charge of schismatic sectarianism. They are organized in three presbyteries with churches in five areas in Hungary, Transylvania, the Ukraine, Slovakia, and with prospects in Romania. The local churches are small but growing. They are planting churches and training elders. They have a small seminary where they can train their own ministers. They currently have 60 pastors. They have publication projects. They are committed to inter church relations and hope to join the ICRC.

The Chairman thanked Rev. Imre Szoke for his report.

5. Prayer

Rev. Brian Norton and Mr Theo Karelse led the conference in a time of prayer.

Session 2 - Tuesday evening, 16 March

6. Opening devotions

Rev. Bill Schweitzer read Luke 14: 15-24 and prayed.

7. Lecture 1: Reformed Evangelism in Europe

The Chairman introduced and welcomed Rev. Dr Richard Pratt.

Brief Notes of the Lecture

The USA is now experiencing what has already happened in Europe. The Reformed branch of the church has something to offer that the other branches do not have but it is a well-kept secret.

1. Our situation.

The disintegration of Christian culture has left us in an unfriendly and uninterested context. We are on the fringe due to demographic and religious trends. Non-European immigration has brought with it changes in religion. Christians tend to have few children but immigrants have lots of children. The ratio in the USA is 0.25 : 2.25. The family is the centrepiece of religious education. In a generation and a half the Christian faith will disappear from Europe. There is declines within our own churches. The liberal denial of sola scriptura has produced theological and numerical decline! Last year the PCA lost more people than it gained. They have enormous enthusiasm for starting new churches but for 15 years they have barely broken even! We are closing more churches than we are opening. It is difficult to find people enthusiastic about reaching the lost. If teachers don't have broken hearts over the lost, how can the students? Our responses to this situation? A tendency towards fatalism. 'God has not chosen to bless this part of the world right now!' How did you approach your dinner tonight? Did you ask, 'I wonder how many bites of food God wants me to eat tonight?' If you wait to find out, it will be none. You find out by taking bites. Yet we don't approach evangelism as we approach eating dinner! A tendency towards arrogance.

How are the Baptists doing? Fairly well! The Charismatics? Well! Why not us? 'We are holier and closer to God and that is why people can't accept us.' That is contrary to the Bible.

A temptation to retreat and find solace in our small group, build community, not engage the unbelievers and ethnic groups etc., form an enclave (by definition, an enclave is something that is going to disappear). The root of evangelism goes back to creation - the image of God is to multiply - forming an enclave is not possible.

2. Paul's guidance.

Cultures change, so that even if we live in the same place, the world around us changes. We face the cultural challenge whether we move abroad or not. In 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 Paul is committed to overcoming obstacles. The first is the obstacle of maximizing personal freedom. He was free but he made himself a slave to all. People in Europe today idealize the notion of freedom. Paul voluntarily rejected that. The obstacle of an inappropriate message. He addresses different audiences in different ways (compare Acts 17 with addresses to the Jews). He lived as he did before he became a Christian. There were limits. The rule was not what was convenient, nor what he could tolerate, his likes and preferences. His flexibility to work with opposite groups was limited by God's Word. When first I became a Calvinist, I thought that the only way to stand for the truth was to become inflexible. What kind of tree can survive a tornado? Not the oak but the pine So we must be flexible enough to meet the changes taking place. The obstacle of losing the vision. Paul's vision was to win people. Numbers are important. It is a simple business principle: you have to have a critical mass, sufficient numbers to get a job done.

3. Implications for church leaders today.

We must have the attitude of a servant, an appropriate message, and unwavering vision. I am not convinced that Europe is not ripe for the gospel. Take Jesus' serving. He served to the point of death. He was a model servant: no manse, no car, salary. He succeeded where Adam, Israel and we, fail. Appropriate message.

The good news of the kingdom of God. He said all kinds of different things to different kinds of people. He never said it the same way twice. He did not major on one pet theological issue. He looked in their eyes. Saving gospel message is not one theme; it's broad and multifaceted The prostitute and the Muslim need to hear a very different message, because what is appropriate to them is not the same. What do we do as Reformed people? We want to talk about Reformed distinctive (Sovereignty, predestination, total depravity). Those are the things we want to talk about all the time and it doesn't matter who is in front of us. We have not one single martyr among our alumni or faculty. What does that tell you about us? We are not getting the vision, not compelled by this. Who among us is willing to be inconvenienced for the gospel? Europe will not be won for Christ without lots of us dying! It has always been that way. Jesus' parable of the feast and the unwilling guests shows his vision: go out into the highways and byways. Compel them to come in.


8. Plenary Discussion

Discussion covered a range of topics. 1. What is the minimum necessary to know to be a Christian? 2. In what respects are we to accommodate? At the personal level, not the religious? 3. Reaching out. We are unwilling to be inconvenienced. 4. What place does revival have? Preparatory factors: extensive fasting and prayer; willing to talk about the faith openly; repentance on the part of the church. 5. Our culture is an opportunity and we should not despair. We are simply seeing the reality of the world behind the old façade. The church is usually a minority; that is normal. 6. Turkey is an example of a place where the church was removed. 7. Is there a time when we can say the job is done, we go elsewhere? 8. Highways and byways people are coming to us. 9. The gospel hasn't lost its power, but we have lost the zeal to repent. 10. Jesus and Paul were not settled pastors in a local church. How does the examples relate to the local pastor? Culture around you changes.

9. Closing Devotions

Rev. Philip Coster (Belgium) led the conference in closing devotions.

Singing: Psalm 96

Reading: John 8: 12-20.

People naturally desire light. Jesus is the spiritual light of the world, as prophesied by Isaiah (e.g. 49: 6). In him we do not simply see light, we have it (v. 12). We break our shady practices and walk in the light. The Pharisees in John 8 weren't planning for this. Many today also reject Jesus. We are the light (Matthew 5: 14-16). May the conference help us to do this.


Session 3 - Wednesday morning, 17 March

9. Opening devotions

Rev. David Bergman led opening devotions

Reading: Matthew 7: 24 - 8: 4.


Singing: 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation'.

There is something wrong with the world and we feel it within. After a great sermon, the people were astonished. The first person he meets is a leper, living death, outcast. Unexpectedly, Jesus touches him, and does not become unclean! The leper was a living parable, sin walking around. Jesus' amazing capacity to bear our sin and show mercy to us.


10. Presentation 1. Co-operation in Evangelism in Europe

In Soest, 2008, the closing statement asked that we look at co-operation in evangelism in major cities of Europe. Rev. David Miller presented a report. It contained a summary of the church planting work of ICRC member churches. It did not yet include the Free Church Continuing which had just been accepted as a member in October 2009. It was probably incomplete about member churches' work and did not have information about other churches with which ICRC churches were in contact. Thanks to contributors. Number of matters need to be added to it. Handle the information sensitively as people have been open in it. Our objective is to prepare a united plan to plant churches especially in the cities of Europe.

11 Presentation 2. Consultation of Reformed Theological Education

This was also required by Soest 2008 (closing statement). Dr Wolter Rose reported that a committee had been formed: Rev. Jos Colijn, Prof. John Macintosh, and himself. But they have to offer apologies because they have barely started and need more time. They have arranged a conference for this purpose (to apply results of mission committee to theological education committee) 22-24 March 2011, probably in Kampen in the Netherlands. It is for those who are involved in theological education. Email Wolter at international@tukampen.nl with suggestions as to people who might be invited to this. The tasks in view are:

  • to organize a website and put resources (texts) available on it.
  • to provide a list of teachers available to study the question of accreditation. There are four possibilities for accreditation: through a university, directly by the state, individual program, through sister institutions. If you know anyone who is knowledgeable about accreditation, let the committee know.

Rev. Jos Colijn (Kiev) gave two examples of initiatives being taken here. The Reformed University in Zwolle is developing an international missions track with several participating institutions, (Aix-en-Provence, Dordt College etc.) Students to come to Zwolle to study topics of pastoral care and similar subjects. In two weeks time, there will be a conference in Kiev to explore what is already in place and how we can help one another.

12. Lecture 2. Theological Education and Reformed Evangelism in Europe

Rev. Dr Richard Pratt

Some Brief Notes

We must give the appropriate message to people. So we must prepare candidates for the ministry to do this.

1. The Situation. We face the challenge of the generation gap, caused by technological advances, immigration; economic challenges (the global economy will affect church's finances); ethnic challenges and the language barriers; ecclesiastical challenge (a church and government cartel that does not favour us). In response we have stuck with traditional methods, continued to carry high costs, and ignored ethnic needs. We send men to universities to train and then wonder why we lose people. We maintain traditional colleges that don't react to the times.

2. Apostolic guidance: Titus. Church leadership is important to the future of evangelism in Europe. If we don't bring the right men into the next generation of ministry, we are planning the demise of the church. Training of future leaders was vital to Paul. See the demanding requirements of Titus 1: 5-9, which cover much more than academic preparation. Notice the mentoring relationship pattern: Jesus and his disciples. Titus was left at Crete after having had many years of experience with Paul. Our future ministers need to show the scars of being a Christian. Have they been with someone who is dying? What teaching methods should we develop and use? Mentoring, not simply lecturing. We are preparing a people for war. How does the army train its leaders? Not by a book and a lecture. They simulate warfare for them.

With the availability of technology, we can move the focus away from the imparting of information in the classroom. Training should be multimedia, multilingual, multi ethnic, scalable, and inexpensive.


13. Business Meeting

This meeting was announced as for member churches but open to all.

1. Inquiry into missionary activities. Rev. David Miller: map shows gaps in information and we cannot make a plan without knowledge of the situation. Each church needs to appoint a reporter to provide information to be collated.

2. Theological co-operation. Work to be done; suggestions already received.

3. World Reformed Fellowship. Proposal submitted from Rev. Ruud ter Beek circulated.

Rev. David McKay is chairman of WRF Europe. He gave a brief report. The steering group's work to develop the WRF is incomplete and it is questioned whether the ERF is needed since the ECRC is becoming more effective.

Wait to see what developments take place at WRF.

The WRF meeting at Doorn drew about 50 attenders. Purpose of WRF: is for the strong to help the weak.

4. Organizing Committee's composition: each conference is to appoint a convening committee to prepare the next conference. It was agreed to keep the committee as it is plus one from Ukraine. Rev. David McKay is replacing Brian Norton.

5. Website, with Lux Mundi - not dealt with.

6. Next Conference in Eastern Europe. Ukraine. Jos Colijn: they need two months to investigate if there is an affordable and suitable venue. Would it be a problem if it were simpler than here? Agreed it could be simpler than the Edinburgh venue.

7. Finances - not dealt with

8. Closing statement - not dealt with.

Points 5, 7, 8 left till Friday.

Session 4 - Wednesday afternoon, 17 March

14. Plenary Discussion of Lecture 2

1. If we change the media for presenting the gospel, are we in danger of abandoning a book based characteristic of our heritage? The printing press changed us into a book based approach. Using multi-media can help students who are not ready to read substantially. Not a rejection of books: the two go hand in hand. 2. Is there reformed evangelism and what are its characteristics? Our distinctive is that we understand who converts men - the Holy Spirit. Other groups do not understand this. This leads to activities that we don't usually associate with evangelism. We sit back and wait for someone to be regenerated. It should stir us up to prayer and fasting. A day of prayer is unthinkable in our background. Sovereignty is twisted into fatalism. When was the last time that your pastor spent three days praying for the church? Evangelicals do that. Are they doing Reformed evangelism? 3. What must we change in the tradition? Balance of conserving the past and reaching the new. What is culture and what is truth. It is about an attitude of humility. 'A man sits as many risks as he runs!' 4. High academic study is justified. Influence of professors in seminaries. So, he must be qualified as an elder.

Marry love and the academy.

Chairman thanked Dr Richard Pratt.

15. Plenary Dialogue: Missionary implications of Reformed Theology, Rev. David Robertson and Mr Stefan Pass

Rev. Iver Martin moderated this discussion.


The question: How can we be effective with Reformed Faith in a world that has changed much in the last few years?

Brief Notes of the Discussion

Stefan Pass. Is Reformed Theology a source of inspiration for mission in Europe? Does it help us? We must learn to cope with being a minority. Historically reformed churches have flourished in areas where they were given governmental support. This has affected Reformed evangelism. Its aim has been to shape Christian societies. The old Calvinists sought theocracy, neo Calvinists view Christians as citizens. It is time to reconsider silent assumptions because it is now 'Post Christendom'. Our method of evangelism: there is an almost exclusive use of educational methods, a huge emphasis on knowledge and doctrine.

We must focus on gospel, not load people with information. Our default mode is pastoral, not missionary. This is seen in the training of pastors. Reformed mission seems better suited to a society where folk religion is the norm rather than secularism. We are used to re-forming ideas. Confessions debate with other positions but not secular world views or Islam. We need Christians from other traditions. Reconsider our Reformed identity: (a) accept our minority position and rejoice in it, because by it we learn the cross of Jesus; (b). we have a hidden anthropology of man as rational. But modern anthropology has a strong sense of mystery.

Reformed theology explains everything. Of course we need clarity.

Rev. David Robertson. Calvin was responsible for planting 7,000 churches. If today we planted 7,000 churches with 100 people in each, we would only return to church attendance figures of just 25 years ago (in Scotland). We need to wake up. I doubt that we will plant a single church in the next ten years. If you are going to have a biblical church with male eldership, you need about 100 members. The Dutch situation is more numerous. Growth came through holding on to young people. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York will plant more churches than us in the next three years, as will Calvary Chapel (Arminian). New Frontiers (Charismatic-reformed) aim for 1,200 new churches and so far have 700 churches.

Who would go to a Reformed church? Four types would. (1) People who ethnic, social and cultural background is there. (2) Purists and perfectionists (no modern versions, no guitars, 'we are not...'). (3) Eccentrics. (4) Those converted by the Gospel who want to learn about Christ. In this fourth area, we are largely failing. Apologetics. Are people interested? In Basingstoke 300 people paid £5 a head to hear DR speak! Local press were there. Most there were not Christians. Early fathers were mostly apologists. Calvin's Institutes are apologetic. Tim Keller is. We are not connecting because we are not answering the questions that people have. We are not in a rational world. We ask, 'Did Jesus rise?' They say, 'So what?' Reformed Church as a whole is moving away from apologetics. We have no chance to grow unless we are more flexible. It is not easy to give individual churches freedom. We are playing a game: the fantasy church. Our aim should be the faithful church.

SP Underline the need for flexibility in church structure. Church plants can develop innovative practices. Older churches risk forgetting their original purpose.

DR The need to work with other churches. Be Reformed in theology but flexible in matters of tradition and in the area of ecclesiology.

IM Why do you say that Reformed churches do better where the country has a background of folk religion?

SP Historical evidence: that is where the Reformed became strong. But today the most secularized parts of Europe are the Protestant parts.

DR Disagreeing: France; Spain is most secular; sex scandals in Germany. Protestantism leads to secularization. Reformed Theology is not as individualistic as SP was saying.

Europeans are more communitarian than Americans. The Holy Spirit is at work changing people's lives. We have a unique situation in Western Europe: it was pagan, then Christian, Secular, Post Christian, and now Post Secular, an open marketplace for ideas (under 48s will know this).

IM What questions are people asking?

DR Does God exist? It is irrelevant to go to church! Most have not rejected the gospel: they haven't heard it. The Reformed world view is the only one that fits them all. Probably a highland spirituality plus mind and intellect is really the most appropriate form to fit this society.

SP. A combination of lucid thought and deep feeling. We need more emphasis on practices. For example, we are running a short course of five sessions exploring basic Christian faith, followed by five sessions when we practise certain things, such as prayer, fasting (in the form of not using the car for a week, or having periods of silence). It works. The early church used a similar approach to its catechumens.

DR. Not sure. Because of an influx the situation at the communion table is confused: the unbaptized and the unbelieving are there. Fencing the table needed again. When we speak people hear something different. If someone says to me, 'I won't go to your church', I ask, 'Why are you so intolerant?' If someone says, 'I don't believe in God', I say, 'Tell me what is this God you don't believe in.' It is pointless these days to argue for God's existence (not the right approach for the present times.)

SP People believe what they want to believe. Most atheists have a deep longing for autonomy. Most Christians have a deep longing for connectedness.

DR We must ask questions before we give answers.

SP 'I don't believe in God.' Only ask questions about God when convinced about self.

Plenary discussion

1. Preaching Word of God is essential. The way it is done will vary considerably; e.g., take 20 minutes of questions at the end. If it is a three point sermon, sing a hymn between the points. We tighten up on worship style to protect ourselves and young people leave. People think we are misogynists because we have no women elders: make sure that women are involved in leadership in other ways. Is it the case that traditional church types don't flourish in Europe? There is a lot of church planting in Holland but most are replicas of existing churches What is the point of that? We need room to experiment. 2. The eldership model is based on rural or small time church life but in these days our elders are money rich and time poor. Their meetings become business meetings and the church becomes a corporation. How should we do eldership? 3. Redeemer NY is traditional but has a feel for the culture. The evening service is losing support in Scotland. We may need to adapt and put everything into a Sunday morning. 4. Is our community closed? Can people find a way in? 5. Change emphasis from Preaching to Friendship? Some think: invite to belong and then they will believe. No, they won't belong until they believe. It's not Reformed preaching until people are going out excited. Preaching. Must be at the heart of worship. How bridge gap from text to situation?

We try to preach whole Bible books. Always try some cultural relevance. We don't need to make it relevant. Never preach about people, but to people.

16. Presentation 3. Cross-cultural and Multi-ethnic Church Planting

Singing: Psalm 113.

Rev. Ten Brinke described his work of four years in a church plant in Amsterdam north among non Dutch people, many of whom are Muslims. An old church there had declined from 250 to 30 people, with an average age 75 years. Five years ago they decided to ask for the help of a church planter but then they could not accept the changes it would bring. Therefore the new work began there at times when they don't meet (they only meet on Sunday mornings). They are dying and we are building up. The mother church that adopted us is now doing the same thing. Developed into a cluster of church plants.


Our highest goal is Jesus Christ present in the life of individuals. We aim to be together as a multicultural community and not an ethnic community. We use several languages: Dutch, English and Parsi. Home groups use their own language. Other activities: for children and youth, a public debate two or three times a year about love, science etc.; four parties a year for Muslims, invited through people we know. A lot of food! Christmas walk through the neighbourhood, telling the story of Christmas. Non Christians come to personal faith in Jesus and gather as a new congregation. Older people couldn't deal with the changes.

Missionary concept within the Netherlands. Recognizing traditions and let the older people do their way and the Lord is working among them. Being an accessible church. People can come in and not feel unsure - every gathering, everything we do we explain.

Focus on a target group.

Church planting is a way of evangelism. We are mow 140 persons and cohesive as a group.

Why multi ethnic? Everything in society is multi-ethnic. The promise of God was to every tribe etc. The movement of the world to the Word God has his hand in the migration. Heaven is not ethnic. Remedy against secularism. Dutch people don't want to come to church any more. Evangelism in the direction of their homelands (Iran). We cannot go there. We have an Iranian group. Some were sent back to Iran (knowing Jesus) and now there are house church groups there.

There are five issues of diversity in our church: 1. Children are baptized but Baptists are welcome. 2. Gifts of Spirit - we have an idea but some think another way. 3. The Millennium. 4. Free will and predestination. 5. Church government.

There are not the most important issues where evangelism is being done.

Our position in Christ. We bring him to people. We are light and salt.

Do we really believe that knowing Jesus is the best thing that can happen to a person?

17. Plenary Discussion

1. Ethnic clashes within the congregation? 2. School of discipleship - takes time to teach because they do not know have Christian basics in their daily habits.

Session 5 - Wednesday evening, 17 March

Thanksgiving and Prayer Service followed by a Psalmody Recital at Buccleuch Free Church, Edinburgh

Session 6 - Thursday morning, 18 March

18. Opening devotions

Dr William Traub led the opening devotions.


Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31.

Two alternatives to the gospel of Christ crucified were sought in Paul's day: human wisdom and signs. Leviticus 1: 3-9. If you made this sacrifice, you would have to skin and cut up the bull, and you would be covered in blood from head to toe. This is Paul's point: we need the cross. We must preach this, but also show it in our lives e.g., by mortification of sins. That will draw people to him.

Singing: A mighty fortress is our God.

19. Lecture 3. Can Conservative Churches Grow? Rev. David Meredith

Brief Notes

What is growth? Definition of conservatism is complex. Conservative is a strict subscription to a confession with integrity. But there is also social conservatism, how we dress, how our church is set up (e.g., everything is formal) - the things that others see in us. The church is crying out for greater conservatism. In G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, there is a chapter entitled 'Internal Revolution.' He says that if you leave a thing alone, it doesn't stay as it was. If you want a white gate post, you have to keep re-painting it white. If a church is committed to the status quo - a pristine past - it cannot grow. It is not a biblical church. But change needs definition - it can be good, or bad. If our churches are not growing there is something wrong with that church, What it is is open to debate. God may have a controversy with the nation, the church, or the preacher.

The gospel is living and brings life, raises the dead. You have to try hard to be a boring preacher because you are handling incendiary material, the most radical force in the entire universe, the greatest change agent mankind has ever known. You can stop alcoholism, turn people away from homosexuality, smash pride, convict of gossip. There should be a palpable sense of excitement as you walk through the doors of the church, a sense of wonder, of danger. Someone said we should wear crash helmets in church. Can a church be conservative by definition? No.

The early Christians were people with a Christ obsession. They were accused of all sorts of things: cannibals, atheists. They say that a carpenter's son was the climax for Israel. They say the first shall be last, and the way up is the way down. They were laughed at. The early church was a radical force. This movement grew.

I assume every one of us wants to see growth in our church. Lack of concern about numbers often masks a deeper malaise, an excuse for a deficiency. It is essential that we are dissastisfied when growth does not happen. John Angell James was constantly looking for new ideas, new entries into his culture. M'Cheyne said that he would rather beg for bread than preach without success.

Biblical basis for this address: Acts 11, the experience of the church in Antioch. Acts 1-10 is dominated by Jerusalem, 11 ownards by Antioch. The Antioch church moved into untouched people groups. We are looking for converts where there is no gospel background, not transfers from other churches. Acts does show the reluctance of the apostles to move out towards the Gentiles. Wht do you do with a Gentile who really likes his pork? Jerusalem faded. It reached out to its own people but not beyond. If you just preach to the people in front of you on the Lord's Day, your church will clearly not grow.

Why did Antioch move on? Four main factors.

1. Grass roots evangelism (11: 19, 20). We must cultivate a culture of evangelistic passion, an organic sense and spontaneous movement to gossip the gospel. Preaching centres do not have this. Niagara Falls is fed by hundreds of streams - we need a Niagara, not a reservoir.

We have leading men, such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, but they would say that it is their people who evangelize. We must steer away from the personality cult.

We are released from the bondage of sin: we also need release from the bondage of believers. We must free them up to exercise their gifts. They are not nobodies, but people of destiny.

'Just walk across the room!' Have any of us engaged with the staff here? The Son of God crossed the room - from heaven to this sin filled earth.

The disciples were persecuted and dispossessed and so people could see what it cost to follow Jesus. Yet they spoke of Jesus and the effect was remarkable. No programmes. People just tell their story. The battle for gaining their significance before men was over. They were consumed with a passion for Jesus. They found themselves in Antioch.

Cities were strategic in God's plan of redemption. Antioch had one half a million people, the third largest city of that time. Today the biggest city in the world is Mombai (Bombay), then Karachi, and third Shanghai. In Europe, Moscow, London, Berlin. In Europe, 212 million people, 29% of the population, live in cities. If faced with a choice where to put your resources, the larger place should have a priority - a pluralistic urban environment. In Acts, some played safe, but other went into new places. The folk brought up in that atmosphere went there. The Lord's Hand was on them: it was a supernatural enterprise. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it.

On the question, Revivalists versus strategists, don't divorce these two. We need a synthesis between programmes and prayer (as seen in Nehemiah).

So 1. the missional significance of cities, the early church went for cities; our lot is cast there. Cultures are forged by / in cities. Cities are also centres of immorality. What does this do? It gives the church a challenge. He who sits in heaven shall laugh! The more depraved, the more glorious the gospel appears. And 2. The missional significance of the people. The testimony of ordinary believers.

2. Leaders who lead.

They sent Barnabas. The people who attend your church give it a feel. Whoever you are, you will find someone like you there! When people unlike us start joining, the church will change. Celebrate diversity. If your preaching is directed to a group, that group will come, as sure as night follows day. Leaders are sometimes the frowners, the people who always say No. Reckless abandoned love, a consuming passion for Jesus, lives changed = the signs of God at work. Leaders led by encouragement. Some may not have liked mixed table fellowship.

Invest more time in your leaders than your people- enthusing. Lead by example. Get your leaders passionate. Crack their frowns. Give them Yes Faces, make them smile. Hold a Christianity Explored meeting in a pub or school. Forms don't matter.

A message that connects with people where they are. I am frightened by presbyteries sometimes. Austere and overbearing control freaks. Barnabas, Simeon Niger Black, Lucius, Manaen, Saul. Are your elders a culturally diverse group. All open to Gentile evangelism.

Men of prayer. A leadership that encouraged evangelism.

3. Teaching with quality.

Team ministry. Barnabas got Paul. The gifts for growing a church are never found in one individual. Redeemer will struggle when Tim K goes. His exit strategy is to get a team together. Why so many missionary casualties? They are on their own and struggling. The film Avatar is an advert for pantheism Hinduism. People aren't atheists.

Join the 3D experience. Paul knew the secular world and he connected. When Constantinople fell to Islam, theologians were debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

It's like that today. Europe is going to hell, We are debating minutiae. Unity and Partnership (Acts 13).

20. Plenary Discussion

The following areas were touched on.

1. Preaching outside the church context? E.g., Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In a Jazz venue in London. Starbucks ministry. Displaying jewels.

2. The pattern from Jerusalem to Antioch, can it be a model for today? We cannot just copy NT periods in 21 st century. Antioch was mixed, pagan, pantheism, Jewish sector, etc.

3. Why did Jerusalem disappear from the scene? Was it the model conservative church. I wouldn't push it.

4. Conservative churches are difficult to say what they are, what need we change?

5. What is the effect of change? Doctrine is the same. The form, that can be changed. The Faith once for all delivered must never be changed but our church culture should be, formed by an insistence on non-essentials: 'You must wear a suit etc'. - holiness is then linked to the dress code. Puts people off. The only barrier should be the cross. The way we proclaim. The welcome at the door. A complimentarian approach involving women in ministry in legitimate ways. In our staff we have a women engaged in legitimate ministry. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt.

Was M'Cheyne who never lacked success qualified to speak to pastors today who have not enjoyed that blessing? Tease out, what is success? Some men have a ministry of sowing, not as visible as a reaping ministry.

What is the danger of a personality cult forming around a gifted minister? In NT church a spectrum. Team ministry.

This desire for change in order to reach out, can it go too far? When people come under conviction of sin, they will have to come to people who stand for the true gospel. There is more danger in not moving at all. It is dishonouring to God and it takes the church down.

Chairman thanked David Meredith.

Singing: Rejoice, the Lord is king!

21. Introduction to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ukraine.

Mr Ivan Bespalov brought greetings from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ukraine. We hope to become member of ICRC. Reformed tradition in Ukraine is not very old but Christianity was brought there very early. We believe that the Apostle Andrew came in the 1st century. Later, Byzantine missionaries came. The Mongols conquered most of the Ukraine in the 12th century. Christians hid and the faith survived. The communists came to power in 1917 and we passed through 70 dark years for the Christian faith. Pastors were imprisoned and church buildings destroyed. With the collapse of communism in 1991, a window of opportunity opened. The people felt a void in their hearts: they were not satisfied with communist ideology. A church was started in Odessa at a time of hunger for the gospel.

Reformed doctrine was very systematic and gave joy in security of our salvation. We have planted 12 churches, 3 are established, and a presbytery. 8 mission churches. Started from South and moved to centre - Kiev a citadel of the Orthodox Church. Two congregations there. The authorities prohibited missionaries from preaching in our church. 95% of congregation are from atheist communist background. Membership is about 250. They knew nothing of eternal life. Life was only the 70 years we have here! Ukraine has a dramatic history. People are interested because they see some hope. Older people became bitter because they were deceived for 70 years. They are suspicious because told lies before. We try to minister to them in deeds as well as words. If you know the picture of the soviet soldier planting the red flag in Berlin: he died but his wife is with us. We took her food and medication. She came to the church, heard about Jesus Christ, and became saved. Each of the 12 churches has its own character. There is also a publishing house and a drug rehabilitation centre. We are excited about what God is doing in the Ukraine and about the wider fellowship of reformed churches.

22. Introduction to the Reformed Church in Slovakia

Mr Lasko Fazekas Reformed Church in Slovakia.

Our congregations are clustered along the south: 210 established congregations and 107 daughter churches. We have nine seminaries, seven speaking Hungarian and two Slovakian. Together our meetings are bilingual. We have 237 pastors and a bishop. Our theological library was built in 1998. We have six schools, annual youth camps, and diaconal ministries for care of the elderly, a childcare centre and a scholars' centre.

Session 7 - Thursday afternoon, 18 March

23. Opening devotion

Rev. David Miller.

John 3: 16,17. 'The world' (four times) - hostile to Jesus - yet God loved and sent his own Son. Then 1 John 3: 11-18.

Singing: Psalm 25 verse 2.


24. Presentation 4. The Diaconal Approach to Evangelism

Rev. Michael Mulder.


Video 23 minutes (Amsterdam)

The church has the words of Lord and the love of Lord to show to people in their misery. This approach combines sharing the gospel with diaconal help. The Lausanne Covenant 1974 kept the two in different compartments. Ten years later in Grand Rapids, the two were placed together and it was said they could not be separated. Love of God is the foundation of both. Four examples of how to combine social action and evangelization given. Discussion covered four matters. 1. Kerugma and diakonia go hand in hand. Doesn't the gospel include both in it? i.e., the gospel without diakonia is not the gospel. 2. Is this model applicable in all our situations? 3. An example from Scotland: the road to recovery from alcoholism. 4. Sustainability? It is labour intensive and the examples are short lived so far - four years, ten years.

25. Presentation 5. Eastern Europe and Southern Europe

Rev. Jos Colijn on Evangelical Reformed Church in the Ukraine. Our role is to support. We are co-operating with other denominations or groups as we can. First, we are coaching congregations and church leaders in what it is to be Reformed Church in basics. We have two church plants already functioning. We only work with locals. One pastor has a particular access to poor people, released prisoners, and young families. Our main website is in Russian - huge language group (200 million).

www.reformed.org.ua. Youth conferences are very important for us. This may be a difference between East and West Europe. These are very popular and make an impact on people. (Young people often feel alone. They want a boy or girl friend.) We had a theological conference to mark the 500th anniversary of John Calvin and about 80 people came together, half Reformed, half Baptist or Charismatic. Calvin's world view was news to them. In Eastern Europe people still read books. Many members have read the whole of Calvin's Institutes. It makes sense to translate and publish books.

Social projects: a centre for the prevention of addiction,

Dr Clay Quarterman on Theological Education in the Ukraine. We are committed to church planting. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands were doing the same thing too. We have drawn together to co-operate in forming a seminary. We have welcomed participation of men from various other Reformed backgrounds.

Questions. 1. Outreach further East? Requests from central Asia. Russia has become the lingua franca of that part of the world. Some no longer like the old connections with Russia (Georgia etc.) 2. Relationship between the two presentations? Yes, connected. The distinction is slight and we are registered with the state as one body. 3. Any relation with Eastern Orthodox Church? Many come from that background, which is very diverse. There are four Orthodox Church branches in Ukraine that do not agree with one another. Their theology is very vague and not clearly defined.

Manuel Lopez Franco on Spain. Statistics presented. Noted that the biggest evangelical church in Spain is the gypsy church (Pentecostal) with 150,000 members. The Reformed Church of Spain has only seven churches spread out with a total of 300 members. They are struggling at the moment with individualism and it is not a happy time. Methods of outreach and participation in theological training outlined. Support from European Missionary Fellowship, the Spanish Evangelical Mission from the Netherlands and the Spanish Brotherhood from the Netherlands.

Video presentation

Mr Eric Kayayan spoke briefly about missionary work in France. He heads a radio ministry in the French language. The work is based in South Africa and supported by North American Churches. They seek to reach out to French speaking Africa but also think it will extend into France. The massive departure from the Roman Catholic Church is recognized. Many Catholics are eager to find answers.

Questions to Manuel Franco. 1. How do the protestant immigrants 800,000 organize? They form their own churches. Most are Charismatics and Pentecostals. 2. Trouble with Presbyterian government. Is this a general trend, cultural mindset? No, a matter of learning how to work together and not tilt at windmills (Don Quixote).

Session 8 - Thursday evening, 18 March

27. Opening devotions

Rev. Ioan Botgros led devotions. John 14: 15-27.


28. Reformed Church of Russia

Rev Valerian Ten. Our church has grown since Soest from seven to ten congregations and we expect to reach 15 this year. Orthodox Priests have now replaced the Communists. Important therefore to evangelize. Orthodox Church opposes us and labels us as enemies of Russia. Calvinists have made an outstanding contribution to Russia, in science as well as in the church. The Reformed Church of Russia was the owner of many church buildings. Pray for our protection, successful registration of our church, and for our congregations.

29. Introduction to India Reformed Christian Mission

Rev. J. Y. Paulraj. I was a teacher of English. I was brought up as a protestant but when I was 25, I learned the Reformed faith when I visited a Reformed Church. I began to study at Dehradun, then Singapore. Since then our mission is to teach India the Reformed faith. Tamil Nadu is my home state. It is believed that the Apostle Thomas brought the gospel to India.

We have one city church and four house gatherings around Vellore. We have designed a Sola gratia Bible Study programme to introduce church leaders to the Reformed Faith - three hours of lectures on two evenings a week. We publish a quarterly newsletter in Tamil and English called 'Manathelivu'. We have translated the Heidelberg Catechism into Tamil. We use it to teach our new converts and young children. We are working on a translation of the Belgic Confession. We have opened the Grace Foster Home for orphans. India has a lot of need. The anti-conversion law was repealed but we still come under pressure from the Hindus.

30. Confessional Reformed Church in Heidelberg

Rev. Dr William Traub. On 18 April, this church's inaugural service will take place.

31. Closing Sermon

Rev. Dr Iain D. Campbell.

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 1-15.


Text: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4: 7).

Brief Notes

Paul had planted the church but Satan had come in and spoiled it - racked with division, misuses of the means of grace... Paul responded. 1 Corinthians. To the saints in Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus. The church needs to be reformed. When 2 Corinthians is written, God has done a great work there. They have repented. Satan now attacks in a different way by undermining the authority of the ministry and of the Word itself. They are now talking about Paul. This letter is very personal, almost autobiographical. He reminds them of his calling from the King and Head of the church. This letter is a reminder of the ongoing importance of the ministry of the Word of God. I suspect that Paul was reading Jeremiah at the time he wrote 2 Corinthians. An hypothesis!

1. We believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. Paul had discovered the remarkable providence of God. What a remarkable tapestry that providence was weaving. Jeremiah was in prison! He was the man who had the truth and knew what Judah needed. We would have thought that God would set him free, but not at that time. Paul knew that. Jeremiah is in prison and the Babylonians are at the gate. Paul uses that kind of imagery too. The false apostles were saying, Paul hasn't had the experiences that we've had. Paul says, I could talk about my experiences but I'd rather talk about my weaknesses. The third heaven, but no!, the thorn in the flesh. It's always the faithful preachers that are thrown into prison - sometimes a prison not with walls. We go home from here and are immediately hit by problems in our families and churches. Providences seem to hold us in. Sometimes most severe in the most useful servants of God. Yet, in this chapter, Paul says, We do not lose heart. How can he say that?

2. He has discovered the remarkable purpose of God. Recover the big picture and see what God is doing. Only then we can say that we don't lose heart. What was God doing? Preparing his people for exile. But Isaiah's message was that it wasn't exile forever. I will bring them back. See God's purpose: it is always redemptive. Why is it a redeeming purpose? Because I will make with them an everlasting covenant. That is the big picture, the meta-narrative. Only in that light can Jeremiah - and Paul - see his life in the right way. We are ministers of the new covenant. The covenant gives us hope. So we are saved through hope. Our salvation is full of hope. The farmer sows in hope - with a theology of resurrection. Every seed falls into the ground and new life appears. The law of resurrection is simply the law of the harvest.

All in the end will be harvested. He who raised Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. That is the big picture. At last we shall be released from our final captor, death itself. I will bring my people back. The programme that began in the Garden ends in the City. Our providences may be difficult but Paul is doing a computation, placing the worst experiences on one side and on the other side the 'great weight of glory'.

So we do not lose heart. We are not at the mercy of circumstances or the tyranny of the immediate. We are looking to the things that are unseen. This valley of tears will soon be over. The first thing the Lamb will do when his people cross the threshold is wipe away their tears.

3. God works out his purpose with a remarkable plan. I am not going to bring my people home yet, but I will give them a guarantee of home. We have this treasure - what is it - God is our treasure! His sheer loveliness, magnificence, fatherly tenderness - makes him all the more precious. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ illumines the church. We have seen it already. And God's plan is that he has put the treasure in jars of clay. God told Jeremiah to buy property. What was the point in buying that field when the Babylonians were at the gate? Get the evidence of the purchase. Deposit the evidence in a jar of clay and leave it there. Let it stay there a long time. Nothing is too hard for you! You show covenant love to thousands, signs and wonders in Egypt, now into exile and yet, buy the field and get witnesses. My theology informs everything. How do I fit this in? I have told you to do this because one day the land will be restored to my people. The exile is not forever. Do now what will be the reality in future. The most amazing piece of inaugurated eschatology in the OT! This is a guarantee of what will be in the future. The open evidence encourages God's people to go into exile. The sealed evidence is the hope of their return. In that jar of clay is all that Jeremiah needs as the guarantee of what God will do in the future. Paul says this too: we have this treasure! We are already in the heavenly places - spacially here, spiritually in Christ Jesus (Ephesians). God takes the great treasure and deposits into jars of clay. Where are these jars of clay? Look around. Look in the mirror. God has put the evidence here. Heaven must enter into a man before the man can enter into heaven. It leaves him praising where once he blasphemed. John the Baptist reached the point where he wondered... Are you the Messiah? Tell John that things are not the way they were.

The blind once now see etc. We are ready to crumble. There is nothing in us. Here is the remarkable thing - the treasure has not diminished in value because of where God has placed, it. When you are tempted to despair, people once blind now see. Remind yourself that the future market has already been opened. One day fields will be purchased in the land. There is open testimony in the Bible and the inner anointing: the treasure is in jars of clay, so get on with it.

4. Jeremiah and Paul also knew that without God's remarkable power nothing could be accomplished. God does it this way so that the power of God is seen. The power belongs to God and not to us.

I will act... God will display his power in the life of his church so that it will be evident in the end of the day that God did it all and not we. The treasure and the vessel is his and he can do with it what he likes. He acts without us, despite us and through us so that Christ will have all the glory forever and ever. We have every reason to go back and continue our ministry because heaven is ours in Christ, God has showed us his glory, and caused us to bow the knee to Christ. Our sowing will not be in vain.


Singing. Great is thy faithfulness.

Session 9 - Friday morning, 19 March

32. Opening devotions

Rev. Todd Matocha led the conference in its worship.

Reading: 1 Samuel 20: 1-16.


David fled from Saul. At the point when David feels a step from death, the Lord brings Jonathan to strengthen David. Jonathan is sure that God has promised that David will be king and all his enemies will be subdued. Everything Jonathan does is governed by this conviction. We also have a covenant promise, a Saviour who is with us. God continues to build his church even in the midst of our lack of faith. That is our comfort.

Singing: Glory be to God the Father.

33. Business meeting

(voting delegates of member churches, others are free)

5. A website. Use ICRC website? It is fairly static at the moment. It needs a section for Europe with a reporting structure and direct access from here. The same approach could be taken by Africa and Asia. Committee to examine the possibilities.

8. Closing Statement

For the third time we as the eight European members of the International Conference of Reformed Churches gathered together. We rejoice that we have this opportunity to share our faith and mission with one another and with our sister churches and church and mission contacts in Europe. We thank the Lord that He has preserved a witness through the Reformed churches in Europe.

We deliberately chose Edinburgh as the location for our conference. Exactly one hundred years ago some 1200 delegates from 160 missionary organizations met in Edinburgh at the first World Missions Conference. They wanted to set a strategy to evangelize the still unreached parts of the world. The ECRC 2010 did not want to repeat the WMC 1910 nor improve it. The differences are clear:

In former times Europe was a missionary sending continent, nowadays it is a mission field. Therefore the theme of our conference was "ROUTE" - Reaching Out Unitedly to Europe.

The scale is much more limited and our ambitions more modest: we were some 80 participants from eight member churches, several theological institutions and a handful of friendly churches and missionary organizations.

We have a clear starting point: the Standards and Confessions of the Reformation. Still we want to spread the Christian faith with thanksgiving to God for what He gave us in the Reformed tradition.

In 2008 we decided to have a consultation on missionary works through the member churches all over Europe. We have an initial overview now and we will continue our consultation, refine it and make an interactive online map available so that the churches and others can see where work is carried out and by whom. We can pray for each other and ask for advice in similar projects.

In 2008 we also decided to have a consultation on the possibility of theological cooperation. This consultation will also continue. In 2011 an international theological conference will be held in the Netherlands. Initiatives have been taken to provide Reformed churches in Eastern Europe with theological education. The next conference will probably be held in the Ukraine, Lord willing, in March 2012.

Discussed and agreed.

The Ukraine next time? The Ukraine brothers are investigating the possibility and will decide in the next two months. The criteria are: (1) to meet across Europe (2) ease of travel (3) economical. The Committee will find an alternative if the Ukraine is not possible, using these criteria.

7. Finances. There was some ambiguity in the Heriot Watt University's invoice which will be reviewed with the head of the department responsible in two weeks' time.

34. Evaluation

The Chairman asked for reactions from the delegates.

Rev. Iver Martin. Appreciation. It has centred on the Word and I have been edified. It is encouraging to hear of God's work in Europe. Our sense of belonging in Europe must be developed in terms of the gospel.

Mr Robert Scholma. Encouraging that missions was the theme and the re-defining of our churches in the new context. Signs of hope for our Reformed Churches. Some suggestions. 1. Invite missionary organizations to be part of your conference. 2. I missed brief introductions - who are the churches. 3. Surprised and worried why so little discussion and debate. Working groups can be helpful in stirring up the minds. 4. Develop the two focuses from this time. 5. Google map - include the presence and activities of Reformed Churches around Europe.

Chairman. Why little debate?

Wolter Rose. Could there have been more balance in what was presented (e.g., there were two hours of presentation on the Netherlands)?

Chairman. Deliberately chosen to stimulate discussion.

Theo Karelse. Reaction to Robert Scholma. You are invited to give more details for the online interactive map.

35. Closing the Conference

Chairman. Thanks to the staff of the University, to technicians, to Sharon and Donna who did a lot of paper work.

Reading: Psalm 121.

Prayer: Rev Dr Peter Naylor

Singing: Psalm 121.