I’m not much of a conference professional. Aside from the last few years of the Bible Centred Youth Worker and working at Soul Survivor for the last ever, I can think of two conferences I’ve been to in the last eight years of my life (and one of those was pretending it wasn’t a conference anyway). I went to the first ever Word Alive conference, but I was nine at the time and more interested in the swimming pool than the conference. All that said will significantly reduce the impact of this statement, but this year’s Reaching the Unreached Conference was the most at home I’ve ever felt at a conference. Reaching the Unreached is an initiative and conference set up to explore how best to take the gospel and build churches in areas that the church in the UK isn’t currently reaching, because while the church is alright at reaching the middle classes, it’s not so good at reaching the council estates, the people on benefits, and the areas of deprivation. And yet the word of God is the power of salvation for all people, whether they are more familiar with the bookies and the laundrette than Starbucks and Terminal 5. And that makes me feel at home, much more than most conferences where people are working with the middle class.
And so I felt at home, because these are the groups of people we’re trying to reach here, but I think it was more than just that, because what struck me more was the acknowledgement that this was really hard work where fruit was slow in coming. To hear that was a real encouragement when work feels so hard and frustrating sometimes. And more so than even that, it was encouraging to hear people not coping out of these issues but faithfully engaging with these issues with the gospel. So often youth workers have gone to to work with harder to reach young people and they’ve not seen salvation and so settled for less or compromised the message. Instead of trusting and depending on Christ and His gospel for the fruit we’ve gone down the path of social transformation and justified it with liberation theology or universalism or a sloppy view of the image of God. But here were people who were taking seriously the idea to preach the gospel where it was hard work, and acknowledging that while it was very hard work the gospel was still powerful to save and we must be faithful. I’ll post notes as I work through them.