The South England Conference (SEC) annual Evangelism Expo took place at Newbold College on Sunday, 8th January 2023, returning as a live in-person event after its virtual-only presence during the covid lockdown.
SEC President, Dr Emmanuel Osei outlined the Conference's Strategic focus and departmental directors shared their plans for the year with over 800 local church officers and members in attendance.
The event began with a welcome by Newbold College Principal, Dr Stephen Currow, followed by a devotional by SEC Property Development Director, Pastor Stephen McKenzie. In his message, based on Ezra Chapter 3, McKenzie's likened the church post-covid to the children of Israel rebuilding the temple after 70 years of captivity, faced with a new way of worshipping, witnessing and spreading the gospel. He challenged the attendees saying, "Let's not cry and weep about the past and shout too much about the future. Stay poised in the midst of the noise. Learn from the past, look to the future, but be active right now."
In his main address, Osei began by reviewing and highlighting the successes of local evangelism and discipleship during the pandemic, noting that "during this difficult time" the number of baptisms have increased because "the children of God have risen up and engaged in ministry." Osei invited representatives from different churches across the territory to share their stories.
Taunton Church Pastor Robis DaSilva enthusicatically reported examples of God's work in Somerset through implimenting a range projects, from evangelism dinners and youth activities, to nursing home visitations.
Chiswick Church Youth Leader, Chingy Yuen shared their "5 C's" approach of, Camaraderie, Consistency, Communication, Commitment, and Courage. She was also join by newly baptised Chiswick member, Sasha Raftery, who gave her testimony of how she came to Adventism.
Pastor Jude Jeanville, and his team from Tottenham Lighthouse Community Church, spoke on their various community outreach programmes. They also highlighed an initiative held the previous day, featured on ITV news, where over £9000 donated by church members was distributed to over 300 local people struggling through the cost of living crisis that regularly visit the Church's weekly food bank.
In outlining "Where do we go in 2023?" Osei confirmed the SEC's commitment to developing its "Making disciples, Building Communities" theme to reflect the "challenges and opportunities" of the post-covid era. He identified 7 broad strategies that include traditional practices and new techniques. Continuing practices include, evangelistic meetings, the discipleship programme and Discovery Bible Reading, engagement with communities, church planting, and the SEC Health Fest Extravaganza. Osei revealed that additional focus would be placed upon communicating the Gospel through "Digital Evangelism" and the institution of conference-wide "Community Sabbaths". Expounding on the latter, Osei continued, "We will be recommending special Sabbaths where across the Conference, we go out and minister to the needs of the community. This requires a cultural change where we go out and do ministry instead of spending Sabbath morning listening to a sermon."
After Osei's presentation, the audience separated for lunch and to attend the departmental workshops held across the Newbold campus. Among the most popular workshops were the sessions by SEC Youth Director Anthony Fuller on Youth Retention; SEC Health Ministries Director, Edith Samambwa on Creating Community Health Partnerships; and Newbold College Guest Lecturer, Daryl Gungadoo on The Digital Discipleship Programme. Highlights also included a joint workshop by SEC Church Growth and Mission Director, Pastor Wayne Erasmus, and Trans-European Division (TED), Evangelism and Mission Director, Anthony Wagener Smith titled, "Mission in the 21st Century: Challenges & Opportunities".
Following the conclusion of the workshops, attendees returned to the gymnasium for the closing session in which Dr Osei invited church members to ask questions, raise concerns, and give comments and feedback on the Conference and its plans for evangelism in 2023. One of the attendees commented, "This has been my first experience of evangelism expo. It's been fantastic! Our church truly has such a wealth of tools, materials and resources. I'm really excited to go back to my home church to implement what I've learnt and help further God's mission".