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Ministry Monday: some highlights from JAEC 2016

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Posted by Ian Somasundram, 17 Jul 2017

Ian Somasundram reflects on the highlights from last year's JAEC conference. This is a slightly abridged version of an article from Crossway, Autumn 2016.

Young Anglican Evangelical men and women from all over the country gathered from 30th August to 1st September, 2016, in Northampton for the 6th Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference (JAEC). Delegates held various views on secondary issues, and were at various stages of ministry (some considering ordination, others at college, others in curacy, and some post-curacy). Yet all came to JAEC keen to see the Church of England flourish and play their part. The theme was a pattern for ministry of ‘Reach, Build, Send’ in seeking to win the nation for Christ through the C of E.

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Reach
Evangelist Glen Scrivener took us to 1 Thessalonians to see that despite appearances,the Church is the definitive move of God in the world. Our churches are not simply located in villages, towns, and cities up and down the land, but are a theological reality located in Christ. So although our Church appears weak,we were encouraged that God brings success in the ordinary and we must reach out to the world by church being church. Instead of relying on various programmes and courses we were exhorted towards preaching, prayer, and pastoral care, starting with our own congregations. We will struggle to evangelise and pastor non-Christians if we cannot do it with each other.

Build
Mark Burkill (Chair of Reform and Latimer Trust,and vicar of Christ Church Leyton) spoke of how church leaders must build Christian community. We were encouraged from Titus to build with Christ’s teaching in a way that impacts people’s lives, and so in turn have an impact on the watching world. Mark further shared with us what this looks like in a parish church, namely biblical teaching that goes beyond sermons – from the way we conduct services, small groups, right through to one-to-one discipleship – all so that people are eager to do what is good.

Send
Paul Williams, of Christ Church Fulwood, challenged us to be ministers who send people out from our churches to minster elsewhere, be they ordinands, cross-cultural missionaries, or other gospel workers. Instead of neglecting this task due to busyness and the priority of reaching and building (made harder when our leading people leave), we ought to prioritise it as Paul models in 2 Timothy 2:2. We were shown the dangers of allowing a church to fill up and get lazy, and shown that sending people out helps people see the need to reach out and equip new converts to replenish the local church. And just as we thought this could only happen in large churches, we were challenged to at least identify and train one person to send.

Wider Anglican perspectives
The conference was punctuated by further talks by those with wider perspectives on the present state of the Church of England. We were joined by Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone, who taught from Matthew 28:16–20 that Jesus’ claim to have all authority must be our motivation to go and make disciples. We were reminded that the Church of England is best placed to fulfil this command because we are at the forefront of defending the gospel (since we are where it is clearly under attack); we have an ecclesiology that balances power between bishops, incumbents, and PCCs; we have a presence in every community; and we can welcome everyone of any background. Rod spoke of how this is a hard slog that requires risks in church planting and causing some upset, but Jesus is with us to the very end of the age.

We were also joined by another Paul Williams, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, who spoke from Acts 20:17–38. We were exhorted to be responsible and diligent in ministry by remembering how much is at stake. Our characters are to be upright, we are to watch ourselves and be humble enough to ask for help, as well as be disciplined in prayer.

Lee Gatiss spoke from 2 Timothy 2 about the need for us to be strong, ensuring that we are training up those who can train others. These must be faithful people, trustworthy, with a firm grasp of the gospel, as well as able to teach others. Moreover, we were challenged to suffer and persevere in ministry for the sake of the kingdom, not giving up, because God is faithful and his word unstoppable.

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Resilience
Many of us know the stress of gospel ministry first-hand. Kirsty Birkett from Oak Hill College gave a terrific presentation based on her study of secular research into what makes people resilient in stressful conditions.Studies show experience of suffering, hope and optimism, altruism, forgiveness, building community, and thankfulness all help build resilience. In short, secular research shows that the best way to deal with stress is to not be secular! This was of great encouragement as we seek to be resilient despite the challenges of fighting for the Church of England.

We were also encouraged to support eachother as we heard from those in various parts of the country ministering in different contexts at different stages of ministry, inspired by what God is doing and praying for the work to be fruitful. Existing relationships were strengthened and new relationships formed. The hope is that at JAEC we see the building of partnerships that will lead to the flourishing of our church for decades to come. The overall sense at JAEC is that we want to be equipped for gospel ministry throughout a lifetime of ministry. Good conversations were had throughout about the nature of ordained ministry in the Church of England. DelegatesI spoke with found the conference helpful in different ways. Some considering ordination were encouraged forward in exploring their calling. Those at college were drawn to prepare deeply for what lies ahead. Those already at the coalface of parish ministry found themselves reinvigorated to persist in faithful service. May all of us who, God-willing, have many decades of ministry ahead of us, reach our nation with the gospel, build disciples of Christ and send out more workers to bring in the Lord’s harvest.

Book now for JAEC 2017!

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Ian Somasundram is the Curate at St. John’s Church, Hebburn in North Tyneside.

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