'Keep the main thing, the main thing'
Steve Lock reports on Connect 2020, the recent youth and children's conference of the European Baptist Federation, which took place in Estonia (16-20 Jan)
The European Baptist Federation is comprised of approximately 800,000 members in 60 member bodies in 52 countries. The youth and children’s department exists to Envision, Encourage and Equip people to find their God given vision to lead and manage this work and support them.
Erki Tamm, the President of the Estonian Baptist Union welcomed us using - John 21:22 “You must follow me”. Before we can be sent out, we need to become disciples ourselves. He reminded us that we want to be a Jesus following movement, asking the question, what does God want us to do in our own countries?
Einike Pilli, the rector of the Estonian Baptist Seminary, where the conference was held, then pointed us to three ‘Never stops’
Never stop Dreaming
Never stop Praying
Never stop Playing
“There is always something more” is the seminary’s motto. God has that extra something, for us and our countries.
The vision of the EBF is to unite Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia and to share encouragement across borders, and the theme of this year’s youth conference was to connect that vision.
The opening worship was in various languages and we were all encouraged to attempt to join in!
Meego Remmel, the EBF president then spoke about the “disconnect.” We live in a disconnected world despite 24/7 communication – social media etc.
It is vital that we connect: - Connect with God; Connect with people; in order to Connect with the world. We need to share space and time (relationship) a prophetic voice being, don’t waste time and you will see miracles.
How do we reach people outside our churches? Dream BIG – Cast Vision – & Plan Well. We need to go to their spaces not expect them to come to us... plant churches where they are and grow church.
The evening finished with more worship and reflection, and prayer was made available, offered by the seminary students.
A major focus of this year's assembly was Messy Church, the emphasis being on the importance of creating sacred space for people to connect. Lucy Moore was the keynote speaker. While Messy Church is well known in the UK, it is not in most of our European neighbours. The three Messy Church sessions went down really well with a lot of interest to start local plants in a number of countries. Watch this space.
The second session was a ‘hands on’, creative Messy Church experience. One of the most significant sessions was the sharing and caring session where those on my table were willing to be open and vulnerable as to real situations they were facing allowing for significant prayer.
There is a genuine disappointment that the UK is leaving the EU, and they expressed the importance of strengthening the connection with us. It was also requested that we connect on a deeper level with them. Some of the other nations had six or more delegates adding to the discussion, most of these being young leaders or interns.
There was a poignant memorial time for our friend Bob Morris who has played a massive part on the EBF Youth and Children's executive committee and who passed away last year. Bob lived a wonderful life and demonstrated to us how to love people and Jesus.
There was lots of laughter and cake, as was his delight. A number of delegates were asked to say a few words, myself included, and I was also able to pass on comments and greetings I had received ahead of the conference. This short time of memorandum finished with Bob’s own words reminding us to “keep the main thing the main thing.”
We are thankful for the great legacy he’s left. There were many other testimonies and seminar sessions focussing on the importance of keeping connections open and building relationships across the borders.
On the final day we visited a local Baptist church in the suburbs of Tallinn to experience a typical Estonian Sunday morning service. I was personally encouraged by the challenge of this service. The format was similar to a typical UK Baptist service but the openness and dependence on the Holy Spirit was one I’ve not experienced, with ‘this happened this week' testimonies, and ‘this is what God did…’ preaching.
The service lasted about two hours but seemed like minutes, followed by such generous hospitality by the local congregation – more of a family meal, celebration than coffee and biscuits.
It was also very encouraging to see the church in Estonia involved with outreach events such as the Alpha course.
Steve Lock is Associate Pastor of Gilgal Baptist Church. He participated in the conference at the request of the Children, Young People and Families Round Table
Future diary dates: EBF Youth and Children’s leaders Conference 14 – 19 January 2021, Sofia, Bulgaria
EBF Mission Summit 21 – 25 July 2021 in Stavanger, Norway. A chance for the EBF family to meet, celebrate, pray and plan for mission across Europe.