I recently returned from a five-day ministry trip to England and would like to share a few observations on the spiritual condition of evangelicalism there. Since 2005 I have participated almost annually in the Life in the Spirit conference and have been blessed to serve on the leadership team with a number of like-minded believers. LITS was birthed over 30 years ago by a small group of men who had been greatly influenced by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, longtime senior pastor at Westminster Chapel in the heart of London. In fact, one of this year’s speakers was Greg Haslam, current lead pastor at the Chapel who succeeded R. T. Kendall in that role. LITS is not only a conference but an ever-growing, somewhat informal, network of Christians and churches who are committed to Reformed theology, complementarianism, and a continuationist view of spiritual gifts. There is also a strong emphasis on missional outreach and healthy relational accountability and mutual encouragement.
LITS is not a large conference, at least by American church standards, but it is every bit as vibrant and gospel-centered as anything on this side of the big pond. It meets during the last week of February and I strongly encourage anyone within reach of it to plan on attending in the future. The new website for LITS will be released in about a month for those of you who wish to learn more about it.
Here I would simply like to draw attention to the fact that, notwithstanding the overall weakened state of the church in England as a whole, there are numerous spiritually strong and vibrant leaders and local churches scattered throughout the U.K. These men have not capitulated to pressures from the larger culture nor do they ever intend to. They are grounded in the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word and are devoted to building gospel-centered local churches where Christ is supreme and central in the theology and affections of his people.
There is always at LITS a wide representation of church life present. There were Baptist pastors (from a variety of networks and associations), Presbyterians, independent and non-denominational leaders, a few from Elim (a denomination of a more classically Pentecostal orientation), some from New Frontiers, and even several who pastor within the Church of Scotland. And that is only a small smattering of streams within the larger body of Christ represented at the conference.
These men, together with their wives and a number of other women who attended, are committed to “holding fast to the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). As much as some would wonder how, they celebrate both the sovereignty of God in salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit as manifest in the full range of biblical charismata. In the early days of the conference, the tag line employed was: “Where Reformed Theology meets Charismatic Experience.” Although that phrase is no longer in use, the theological convictions that undergird it remain firmly in place.
It would be all too easy for us, whether in the U.S. or the U.K., to grow weary in well doing and to give up on the future prospects and broader influence of the Christian church. Culture decay, political corruption, and self-indulgent “spirituality” untethered to the Word of God, make for what could easily become a pessimistic and defeatist mentality among Bible-believing Christians. But Christ will build his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). My experience over time in the U.K., and especially at LITS, assures me that this is precisely what he is doing.