Aberystwyth 2007 Around the Conference
This is the first of three articles1 reporting on the 2007 Annual Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales held in Aberystwyth 11-18 August, which Guy Davies attended with his family. It is an edited version of the post on his blog (exiledpreacher.blogspot.com) on 20 August 2007, and is used with permission.
The Evangelical Movement of Wales has been hosting the English-medium Aber Conferences for 50 years. The first one was held in Aberavon and the main preacher was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Over the years, the conference has grown, necessitating changes in location and venue. The growth has not been due to aggressive advertising or slick marketing. News of the conference has spread almost entirely by word of mouth testimony. This year almost 1,200 people attended the event. The conference offered a varied programme of meetings for children, young people, and adults. There were seminars, fellowship meetings, Q&A panels, historical trips, and the annual sports tournament. But the focus of the Aber Conference is the preaching of the Word of God in the University Great Hall.
The main addresses were given by Ted Donnelly of Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church, Northern Ireland. [In Parts 2 and 3, Geoff Thomas will report on these more fully.] The messages were fine examples of Donnelly’s preaching. They were characterised by considered exegesis, theological depth, telling illustration, and apt contemporary application.
This is just the kind of Christ-centred ministry that we need at the moment. The addresses were Bible-based, deeply relevant and movingly passionate.
A number of different men preached in the evening meeting, beginning with Derrick Adams on Monday evening. His text was Romans 1:14, which the preacher acknowledged he was using out of context. Such an admission always gets me a bit worried. A text used out of context is a pretext. Anyway, his theme was our indebtedness to the grace of God. Why not base such a message on Luke 7:40ff or some other appropriate passage? Having said all that, the message was thought-provoking and the preacher made some good practical points. How indebted we are to God’s amazing grace! But it would have been better if the sermon has flowed naturally from a text.
Andy Christofides preached on Tuesday on Luke 6:46-49, the wise and foolish builders. His style was imaginative and dramatic with not a little humour. He challenged us to build our lives upon Christ then we may be prepared for the coming storm of judgement.
On Wednesday night, the evangelist Roger Carswell proposed to preach on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2, part of which was going to form the basis of Ted Donnelly’s remaining addresses. He admitted that he had neglected to look at the conference programme when he prepared the message. But Ted needn’t have worried too much, as Carswell’s message bore only a passing relationship to that passage. His main points seemed to have been derived from Romans 1:14-17, Paul’s determination to preach the gospel in Rome. Carswell is a practised conference speaker. His style is lively and packed with stories and illustrations. The focus of the message was ‘Four things that God wants us to know’: 1) Who God is, 2) Who we are, 3) Who Jesus is, and 4) How we can be saved. He concluded his message with a heartfelt evangelistic appeal.
James Muldoon was the preacher on Thursday. His style was markedly different from the men of the two previous evenings. He gave us none of the homiletical fireworks of Christofides and Carswell. But his sermon, which was based on Hosea 5 & 6 had real substance. He warned us against Pathetic Penitence, Pitiful Passion and Paltry Praise. In a searching message we were urged to be real with God and passionate about serving and worshipping him. The remedy for a passionless Christian life is reflection upon Christ and his work for us. How can we offer thoughtless worship in the light of Calvary?
The conference was brought to a fitting conclusion by Philip Swann on Friday evening. In the original conference brochure, his father Derek was named as the preacher. Derek Swann preached on the Friday of the first Aber conference 50 years ago, but he was unable to preach this time due to ill health. A moving interview in which Derek reflected on God’s blessing upon the original Aber was broadcast during the meeting. Phil preached on John 11:25-26, Jesus as the resurrection and the life. The text and its context show us: 1) Who Jesus Really is, 2) How Jesus feels about sin, and 3) A Revelation of Jesus’ glory. The message was a good example of passionate, expositional evangelistic preaching. The congregation was faced with the challenge contained in the text, ‘Do you believe this?’
The evening meetings were meant to be evangelistic in orientation. Many of the messages were. But on a couple of occasions, whatever good the preacher may have done in terms of lively gospel preaching may have been undermined by the length of their messages. I will not name and shame. But I have to say that to my mind, 60 minutes or more is too long for an evangelistic sermon. We preachers do need to be a bit more self-disciplined when it comes to the length of our sermons.
I only attended one seminar. This was on the question, What on earth is spirituality? by Stuart Olyott
- Links to Part 2 and Part 3.
Guy Davies lives in Westbury, Wiltshire, and pastors two neighbouring Evangelical Churches.
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