I am finding it rather hard to believe that I am writing this blog post on the Monday after the ELIM100 Scotland event. For the first time in eighteen months I will not be sending and responding to emails associated with this event, except to say “Thank you” and tie up any loose ends.
I have learnt a lot from the experience. “Thirty things I learnt from ELIM100 Scotland” might be a more appropriate – and accurate – title than the one I have chosen. However, on this occasion, I will limit myself to three. I also hope you will take it as read that without the grace of God, ELIM100 Scotland would never have happened!
One thing that came over very powerfully on Saturday was the sense of family.
Throughout its history, Elim has seen itself as a family. In its earliest days, probably up until the 70s, the sense of family and the feeling of belonging to a wider church family, was very strong within Elim. A combination of conventions and crusades, with national rallies, most notably in the Royal Albert Hall, both reinforced and promoted the sense of family belonging that was at the core of Elim’s identity.
Society inevitably changes over time. The church has to remain true to its call and yet adapt to change at one and the same time. What brought the family together a generation ago, or almost a century ago, did not always prove to have the same cohesive power in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. However, like any family, the difficulty of getting together “the way we always did” has not meant that we have ceased to be a family.
For me, Saturday not only confirmed my impression that the Elim family is still just that, a family, but revealed a new hunger for the family to be together. In the last forty-eight hours I have heard the term “Elim family” used on more occasions than I have heard for a long, long time. And not just from leaders, but from a broad spectrum of people throughout the churches.
Perhaps, like the person who decides to research the family tree, we have discovered a new desire to interact with the wider family circle. It feels as though there is a new hunger for fellowship within the family of Elim Churches that extends beyond our own local churches.
Secondly, I was reminded of the power of making an unusual effort.
I hesitate to use the term sacrifice. When one considers the huge sacrifices that Christians in places like Syria are making for their faith, it puts into perspective anything we might be tempted to call a sacrifice. Nevertheless, many people made huge efforts to make ELIM100 Scotland a success. Too many to mention. Both volunteers on the day and churches who travelled for many hours to be there. Huge efforts were made by many people in many different ways to make the event possible.
Two comments are necessary. Firstly, the kinds of unusual efforts put into making the event on Saturday possible might not be sustainable on an ongoing basis. However, secondly, if we are more open to making unusual efforts more often, we might be more surprised by what God will do.
The third thing I learnt is that every occasion is a gospel opportunity.
It would have been very easy for our General Superintendent, John Glass, to conclude that his audience was made up of Christians and therefore ditch any evangelistic appeal. In the event, he still made an appeal and people responded. What he did not know, what most of us did not know, was that one person was there who had met some Christians from Glasgow Elim just a week before. They had invited him to the “birthday bash” at the SECC. He came along. When John made the appeal, he stood up to indicate his desire to follow Jesus.
You just never know who is in the audience. You never know when God will use a church family gathering to add a new member to His family. Every occasion is a gospel opportunity.
Those of us who were at the SECC on Saturday will, no doubt, remember that day for many years to come. Only in the life to come will we fully realise all that was accomplished as we gathered together to celebrate one hundred years of God’s faithfulness to Elim.