Gail Reid is the Director of Communications for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
In just two years, the yearly conference sponsored by the renewal movements in the mainline churches doubled its audience, forcing a change of venue to Park Bible Church in Burlington, Ontario. On November 2, over 650 adults, 100 youths and 40 children gathered for a choice of 14 workshops and worship, compared to the almost 300 that attended the first event in 2000.
To a crowd battle-worn with the spiritual challenges of upholding the historic Christian faith within their denominations, both keynote speakers highlighted the "big picture" of the gospel in the event's theme of "Christ is Our Hope".
"Somewhere each of you promised to be faithful, but you failed," began Dr. Tony Campolo. "But don't let it throw you — God is faithful to you!" American sociologist and author Campolo challenged the audience to preach the Cross, surrender to the Holy Spirit, make the Bible part of who you are, and love the world into the kingdom. "The church will not be renewed unless we start to preach the cross and what Christ did for us there."
However, Campolo said it's not enough to just believe a certain theology, renewal in our historic churches will only happen with the "dynamite" of God. "Have you opened yourself up to the Holy Spirit?" he asked. "Surrender and let him invade you — let him love you — and no congregation will ever scare you again."
Campolo believes that one should feel the Holy Spirit's presence and pointed out that Jesus said that believers would do more miracles than he through the Spirit's power. Still Campolo warned that most people are not so impressed with "power" displays as they are with "love" displays. He claimed that the church is shrinking today because the laity is not loving people into the church. "Go out in the power of the Spirit and love them — bring them in one by one!"
The afternoon speaker put the commitment to church renewal and reformation into an historical framework. Presenting vignettes of church struggles throughout the centuries, Dr. George Sumner, principal of Wycliffe College, an evangelical seminary within the Anglican church, reminded the renewal crowd that their job was not to change their denomination but to love and minister for the sake of the larger church. "Do all that is in your power to keep fire in the fireplace," he said. Challenging them to a wider vision than the present conflicts, Sumner spoke of a goal that seeks massive transformation of the world through a spirituality that is rooted in patience, seeking the health of the whole universal church. "Let your watchword be: those who are not against us are for us," he said. And perhaps our most effective work will be to cry out to Jesus: "Revive your church!"
Pictured leading a communion service are Gordon Crossfield (United Church), Calvin Brown (Executive Director of the Renewal Fellowship), Andy Leroux (Anglican), and Martin Kreplin (Chair of the Renewal Fellowship Board).