The 26th Annual Evangelical Ministers Assembly (EMA) was held at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, from 24-26th June. This is the key annual conference for evangelical ministers in the UK and has a fine tradition of excellent Bible teaching from a range of UK-based and international speakers. Entitled “Engaged in Mission: the power of a praying church” this year’s conference focussed on the biblical grounds for Christians to gather together in praying for God’s mission. The stated aim being: “to acknowledge our dependence on God for the outpouring of spiritual renewal that is so desperately needed in our nation.” Next year, a nationwide evangelistic campaign (called “A Passion for Life”) is being planned across the UK so it was important to be reminded of the essential role that prayer plays in any evangelistic endeavour.

The keynote addresses were delivered by Don Carson and, drawing on a wide range of passages, he established a theology for prayer in the context of mission. These talks were certainly stretching but one came away with a higher view of the sovereignty of God and a greater desire to pray to Him. That is Carson’s genius – he can teach about God’s sovereignty (whether it be over our suffering or in answering our prayers) in such a way that it does not result in any form of apathetic fatalism. It’s also great to hear such a giant of a theologian joyfully acknowledge that there are aspects of God’s character that, this side of heaven, will (and should) remain a mystery to us.

David Jackman (in his final year at the Proclamation Trust) opened each day with some fine expositions from the Psalms – focussing again on prayer but with some real encouragement for struggling gospel workers.

Richard Coekin, one of the main organisers of the Passion for Life campaign, delivered two sermons from Jonah – unlocking its key message and drawing out the principles for mission from this marvellous (and often misunderstood) book. The central message – that we are engaged in God’s mission on God’s terms was passionately preached and powerfully applied to the UK church scene as they prepare for next year.

John Dickson, the well known Sydney-based evangelist and author, spoke on strategy for mission through the local church. These talks were drawn primarily from John’s excellent book “Promoting the Gospel” (available at CBD, I am told) and offered a number of practical strategies and pointers that are easily applied to the South African context.

Vaughn Roberts closed the conference with some reflections on the life and ministry of Charles Simeon. He drew some important parallels with the present day and helpfully showed how Simeon’s gospel-shaped strategic thinking could have such an impact on the contemporary evangelical scene.

As always, there was more to the conference than just the talks. It is always helpful to mix with evangelical brothers and sisters who, though they may work in a different context, face problems and stresses that are not dissimilar to our own. It was also great to see such a mix of different evangelical organisations and denominations preparing for a co-ordinated outreach effort in 2010. The bookshop was also excellent and some of the more talked about titles included:

  • John Dickson’s “Promoting the Gospel”
  • Carson and Beale’s “Commentary on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament”
  • David Peterson’s commentary on Acts (in the Pillar Series)

Of course, every conference has its weaknesses. If there was one to note (and learn from) at this year’s EMA, it was perhaps a slight lack of cohesion in the programme. It seemed as if the morning sessions were a conference on prayer and then (in light of the upcoming mission) the afternoon sessions a conference on evangelism. Is that major problem? Probably not – it was all pretty good stuff.

The talks are now available from the Proclamation Trust website (www.proctrust.org.uk). When next you are planning a mission or an outreach I strongly recommend you give them a listen….they will hopefully drive you to your knees.

Murray Anderson