Notes from John Stevens’ presentation at the FIEC AGM on God’s Faithfulness to FIEC in the Time of Coronavirus.
1. This year has been an incredibly challenging year for us all. No-one expected coronavirus with lockdowns and all the restrictions with no end in sight. Yet God has been faithful to us in FIEC and among our churches. It has also shown us the importance and benefit of FIEC’s vision of Independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ.
2. FIEC exists to support independent evangelical churches which hold to the biblical gospel, and have sought to do this by giving up to date information to help them make their own decisions. FIEC churches have proved resilient during the crisis because of their priority to a Word-based ministry as primary means of making disciples (opposed to sacramental or social action). Though not ideal or a replacement for the physical gathering, online services have meant that the Word has continued to go out.
3. Independence does not mean isolation, and COVID has highlighted why this is important. It has spurred more churches and pastors to connect with one another to pray for and encourage one another. FIEC Webinars have provided help and support for churches and their leaders. Working together has given opportunity to make representation to government on behalf of the churches. New affiliations have strengthened our collective gospel work, and the mission fund has given away £850,000 to churches around the country.
4. Our nation remains in a desperate spiritual state. People lack hope in the face of death, and in this crisis they have not turned to the church. The church is small, declining and marginalised. What the government values from the church is not its spiritual ministry but social support. Church in the broader sense will be smaller post-COVID due to the decline of liberal and folk Christianity, but the evangelical church is growing. There have been conversions and new churches have been planted. But if we are to reach the whole nation we need to be diverse and reach all communities. FIEC is committed to greater diversity especially at leadership level and there is much to do at both board level and local church eldership level, but this won’t happen overnight.
5. It is dangerous to think we know what the future holds. Plans are in place for physical conferences with Leaders’ Conference from 8-10 November. There will be resources available for mission and training. We want to celebrate our 100th Anniversary by focusing on the reaching the nation with the gospel and by standing for core doctrines. Yet it is likely there will also be greater threats to gospel freedom coming down the line. Because our God is unchanging and He is faithful and the gospel is true we can face the future with confidence and resolve.
6. The apostle Paul experienced the ultimate lockdown, hut could say from prison, “that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel,” and so urges the Philippians Christians to rejoice. Can we see ways in the church and in the nation COVID has advanced the gospel, even though we may not see the full fruit of this?
7. Pray for FIEC staff.
– For energy to keep going. Like us all they are tired and exhausted by the relentless grind.
– For godliness. When tired and frustrated it is harder to fight temptation and sin.
– For wisdom when speaking to churches and government.
– For wisdom to speak to whole of FIEC where there is a variety of views about how to navigate the COVID crisis.
– For gospel vision. To keep the main thing, the main thing and not lose focus on what is most important.