4 things we learned at an IFES conference in Germany
No sooner had the Word Alive Bookshop been packed away than our team were setting up in Aschaffenburg for a gathering of 1700 students from across Europe. Over 4000 books went out over the course of the conference. Here’s what we learned from our latest foray overseas…
1. We don’t know how good we’ve got it
So many people tell us they have more than enough books, and we visit plenty of church services or conferences where many people have no interest in Christian literature. In Europe, Christians are starved of good books, as they are either unavailable or overpriced. What a joy to see students with a hunger for books, and a delight at being able to browse a selection we often take for granted. I dare say a few of them threw baggage allowances out of the window! Could we be doing more to resource missionaries and partners overseas? How about sending them a book or two to spur them on, or partnering with a church or organisation to get good resources out?
2. Europe is tough
We complain about the public attitude towards Christianity in the UK – the decline in church attendance, the maligning comments, and the marginalisation of Christian views in the media and society in general. But here was a gathering with many people from places where to follow Jesus is to belong to a cult, and to be an evangelical is be an extremist. Praise God for their perseverance. Let’s pray that they’d fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.
3. Their mission is our mission
We can often feel disconnected from what’s happening in the world. We might focus instead on ‘our walk with God’, ‘our church’, and ‘our mission’, but God is concerned that all nations hear about him, and we should be too. We were encouraged by those who are already partnering across national borders, but praying for our brothers and sisters elsewhere isn’t just an optional extra – it’s part of our fellowship with them: it makes a difference, and it’s exciting that we really can be involved in what’s going on. Why not check out the IFES website, Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch and to fuel your prayer? We could also consider supporting them in practical ways, and ask God whether he might have us go ourselves to join in the hard work of reaching societies closed to the gospel.
4. God is using students
It was a privilege to hear of CUs with single figure membership reaching out to their universities, and often putting on large events at which people hear the gospel and put their trust in Christ. We can be so tempted to rely on numbers of people, organisational skills, and all sorts of other human factors for our events to be successful, but God can use even the least of us to bring people to himself, and he is doing just that in the universities of Europe. Will we let God take charge of our outreach as we speak of Jesus, and distribute literature in the prayerful hope that hearts would be changed?