Recent Visit of Baptist Leaders to NORTHERN IRELAND

Fifteen Regional Ministers from Wales, Scotland and England (members of the National Settlement Team -N S T) have recently visited Northern Ireland. . Each Regional Minister has pastoral care for some 60 -120 Churches and is responsible for encouraging the evangelism and missional ministries of those churches.  (Most Associations across GB would be about the size of our local Association of Baptist Churches). They had previously visited Scotland and had expressed the wish to come to Northern Ireland in order to hear first-hand some of the issues faced by Irish Baptists.

They were accompanied by David Mayne, Convenor of BUGB Council, and Derek Tidball (husband of Dianne who will be the BUGB President in 2017).
Pastor John Lewis and Portstewart Baptist Church were generous hosts for the visit over the weekend May 21 to 24. Some were able to arrive in time to be part of Sunday morning services and see something of local Baptist church life.  Stuart Davison was the speaker in Portstewart Baptist Church; Derek Tidball in Magherafelt Baptist Church and Dianne Tidball in Windsor Baptist Church. Three others visited Baptist Churches Richard Lewis (Coleraine), Adrian Argile (Holywood) and David Mayne (Dundonald.)

On Sunday evening the majority of the regional ministers were able to be part of an evening service in Portstewart Baptist Church. Derek Tidball was the preacher. Pastors Freddie McClaughlin and Leslie Hutchinson (President and Past-President of ABCI) and both brought a warm welcome and greetings to our visitors and prayed for God’s blessing on their work.

On Monday, May 23 the NST held their business session and then met Pastor Freddie McClaughlin (ABCI President) and learn about the distinctive issues that mark Baptist life and witness in both Northern and Southern Ireland. On Tuesday, May 24, a morning workshop was organised by Irish Baptist Networks on.... “The Gospel and Secularism-issues we face in our places of ministry across Great Britain and Northern Ireland today.”  Pastor

John Lewis chaired the forum and the discussion was triggered with a paper from Dr. Derek Tidball on the various forms of secularism in which he highlighted the challenges from militant secularisation and political secularisation and the need for prophetic national and international Christian voices to speak into these situations. It was a stimulating and engaging morning with key challenges and examples of good practice shared.
We are being closely watched by a fairly hostile society which sees through insincerity. We have a gospel that saves souls but also changes lives. It would seem that an emphasis on the former without convincing evidence of the latter rings hollow in our secular society whether we live in Bradford or Ballymena.
It was refreshing and instructive to observe and discuss our shared challenges in following Jesus where God has placed us! 

The weather was beautiful; the Portstewart Church hospitality was memorable; their Chalets were just great for this type of event. Some of our visitors are  considering returning for a holiday there!