I had the privilege of being involved with the European Leadership Forum for the second time this year. The purpose of the forum is "To unite, equip, and resource evangelical leaders to renew the biblical church and evangelise Europe."
This is not just about "church leaders", but evangelical leaders in all spheres of life: academics, politicians, artists, scientists (to name just a few). Due to Covid-19 the conference was moved online this year, but that allowed over 5,000 Christian leaders from 116 countries to join, with over 800 meetings and sessions taking place. Here are some reflections on my time.
Peter Mead was doing the Bible readings over the week. He took us through the letter to the Hebrews, encouraging us to keep moving forward by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. My heart was particularly warmed by the session where Peter showed us that Jesus is praying for us. When we're frustrated with lockdown, he is praying for us. When we're struggling with sin, he is praying for us. When we're talking to someone about Jesus, he is praying for us. What an encouragement for leaders in difficult situations, who need the reminder that they don't face them alone, but with King Jesus praying on their behalf.
A highlight of the evening plenary sessions was Sarah Breuel's "Laying Down Idols in Our Hearts", where she spoke on God's call for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I was particularly challenged by how she unpacked the Hebrew word 'hin.neh' - translated as "Here I am!" It is a total submission of ourselves to God and his will, a humility to listen to him, and an eagerness to do as he calls us. I have been using it to open my prayer times each morning to ask how God is calling me to serve him today.
Most of my time in the week was invested in the artists network, one of the 24 network tracks. It was a great encouragement to see friends from last year, hearing how God is working in and through the arts. There was a particular emphasis this year on the need for art in times of crisis. Network leader Charles Kelley shared how artists have historically responded to crisis, and how artists are responding now. Art matters in crisis: it feeds our hunger for beauty, it gives voice to our lament, and it gives shape to our hope. The Holy Spirit can change us through art: even during this pandemic I have been powerfully challenged by films like Harriet and Just Mercy.
In Tim Basselin's session 'Crisis and the Poetic', he made use of Walter Brueggemann's idea that we get from orientation (how we're living now) to reorientation (how God wants us to live) by going through disorientation (times of crisis). For the arts to help us imagine a better world, they must disrupt our unquestioned rhythms of "normal life". The coronavirus pandemic is an example of disorientation - so it presents us an opportunity to seek God's will and be reorientated to seek him. How can the coronavirus teach us to live better for Christ, rather than returning to apathetic patterns of life?
Go and Make Disciples!
The week was a time of great blessing for all involved. It is so exciting to see the broad spectrum of Christian leaders serving Europe, witnessing to Christ. Be praying that all those involved will have been equipped, and be better prepared to go and serve Christ this year.