Personal impressions of IBCM7, Roma 24-28/29 June 2019 “There we found brethren!”

Such was the title of Fares Marzone’s talk in the concluding session of IBCM7. The words are lifted from Acts 28:14 reflecting Paul’s (and writer Luke’s) joy at meeting fellow believers who had made a special journey to meet them on their Rome-ward way.

Such joy was truly present as we gathered as a united company of nearly 900 fellow disciples from 122 countries that I often found myself weeping tears of joy as we sang.  Whilst there are many differences not only of culture and language but also of local church practices in the spectrum of churches represented at the conference, there was a clear and overwhelming intention on the part of all to focus on the gospel that unites us and how we can communicate it to a desperately needy world. And they were not at all ashamed to be part of the brethren movement, which is clearly alive and well and being used by God in so many countries of the world. I wish our ‘brethren-sceptic’ brothers and sisters could have experienced this conference!

A short report cannot hope to do the conference justice, but may I say that the administration which has occupied Neil Summerton, Ian Burness and others (to whom immense thanks!) in so many days and hours of labour not only bore fruit in the way it was run but also in what is now available for ongoing use. So please go to https://new.ibcm.net/live-streaming-of-ibcm-2019/ for access to video recordings of the main conference talks, the highlight of which was (for me, anyway!) John Lennox’s series on ‘Engaging with the world for the gospel’ My impression of these sessions was a bit like having an Acts 20:17-35 experience each day! [I’ve inserted the verse numbers so nobody links it with Eutychus!].

Of immense value was the corridor time, during which deep conversations took place with people from a vast range of countries, sometimes assisted in remarkable ways (I recall a conversation with 2 non-English speaking Angolans which we attempted via my limited Spanish, only to have a Bemba speaking Zambian [a rarity!] called in to assist). I probably managed meaningful conversations with people from about 30 of the nations represented.  In some there was the possibility of sharing difficult pastoral problems for advice knowing that sensitive information would not ‘leak’ across international boundaries!

I am well over my requested words limit, and apologise with the Queen of Sheba’s words to King Solomon, “The half has not been told!” But I’m sure anyone who attended (eg board members Neil Summerton, Neil Walker, Philip Miles, Mark Davies and their wives, as well as me) will happily tell you more or point you in the direction of someone else who can.  In the meantime, don’t forget to click on https://new.ibcm.net/live-streaming-of-ibcm-2019/ !!

How great is our God!

Steve Bedford

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