The Baptist Assembly 2004 held at Cardiff finally came to an end yesterday in victory. Nearly 3000 people representing Baptist churches across the country attended the event; the number even exceeded the all-time record set last year which reached 2700.
Respectable speakers and experienced ministers were invited to give seminars on the occasion. The speech delivered by the General Director of the Evangelical Alliance UK has definitely set the framework of discussion throughout the assembly. In a speech entitled “The Challenges of the Church”, Rev Joel Edwards explained to the Baptists the crisis today’s churches are facing, punctuated with anecdotes, statistics and the scripture on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. The topic has awakened the Baptists and encouraged them to reform.
Rev. Edwards analyzed the situation of today's churches. Not only are the prevalent materialistic values a nuisance to the spreading of Christian heritage, but also the internal conflicts between denominations or even congregations are factors discouraging the growth of faith of people.
As reported previously, more than one of the big churches in the UK have reported about the declining number of churchgoers. Rev Edwards’s arguments were well-supported by the factual statistical research that points to a projected decline in church membership over the next 40 years. He warned that internal fighting and complicating issues can make us lose our focus on Christ.
"There are sections of the Church, whose primary duty is to fight theological battles with the world on the basis that this is still a Christian country. This is a misnomer. We must not hold onto a glorified past or be obnoxious." Rev Edwards is one of the voices of the evangelicals warning people to save Christian Britain.
Though Britain is one of the most prominent Christian countries in the world, Rev Edwards wanted the congregation to realize that this is no longer true. He highlighted ways in which society views the Church today. "For a small number of people in society the Christian Church has become an obnoxious presence. For many people we are irrelevant - an odorless presence of which they gain a faint whiff during times of national or personal crises.
Therefore, Rev Edwards asked Baptists to treasure and reveal the privilege of being fragrant - the knowledge of Christ inside the one who has received salvation.
"God has called us to be spread the fragrance of his knowledge to everyone everywhere - what an awesome responsibility!" said Rev Edwards, referring to the scripture.
“We must look at how we position ourselves as hosts amongst other faiths; to be hosting without boasting!" he said. The real position of Christians is to bring good news and hope to this sinful world.
Sharing his personal experience, Rev. Edwards said that part of our mission should be to display, with humility and ordinariness, the sin and fallenness of the scriptures, and to promote the need for forgiveness. "We need to be people of hope; to show that Christian hope only comes through Christ's actions on the cross. I believe that hope is to make people know that there is a tomorrow."
At last, Rev Edwards concluded by acknowledging that this is a key time for re-imagining the Church.
On the same occasion, delegates also saw the induction of the Rev. Peter Manson and the Rev. Martin Hodson as President of the Baptist Union and BMS World Mission respectively.