Wilberforce Academy Development Officer Ben John comments on the vision and encouragement of this year’s academy
“One of the most life changing experiences I have ever had – I won’t be able to express it in words.”
(Wilberforce Academy 2023 delegate)
From 3-9 September, Christian Concern hosted its 13th Wilberforce Academy, welcoming over 70 students, graduates and young professionals for a week of intensive training and fellowship.
The week laid out a positive vision for Christian cultural engagement: the why and the how. It is about transforming young Christians to have a bigger, and more biblical, vision for the cosmic scope of the Lordship of Christ.
We began on Sunday evening with a devotional talk from Luke 15, reminding us of our heart posture – are we modelling the Father heart of God in longing to see the world return to Christ? Or are we the older brother resentful at God’s grace and compassion? We know that the world is hostile to the Christian worldview, but we must guard our hearts to not be bitter and hard as the world is – we must remember that the broken world needs the gospel.
Central to the Wilberforce Academy is that Christ is Lord over all things; there is no neutrality. As C.S Lewis wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” There are only two categories: those who submit to Christ and his rule, and those who do not. Those who worship the Creator and those who worship the creation. (cf. Romans 1) The week then develops this theme, thinking through the implications for our lives, churches, communities, and yes for the world.
Have we restricted our “Christian” activities to just our Sunday worship? Do we engage in our work and politics and everyday life from a “neutral” perspective? Many in attendance felt challenged by how they had adopted secular humanist assumptions in their engagement with the world around them. Instead, we need to think Christianly (Joe Boot – Thinking Christianly). We cannot think of laws as simply morally neutral (Tim Dieppe – Legislating Morality) and we cannot separate the great commission from the cultural mandate (Dan Strange – Gospel and Culture). Instead, we walk as a redeemed people, made in the image of God (Andrew Marsh – In God’s Image).
The Lordship of Christ is attacked in many areas of today’s culture. The Academy addressed some of these, including the family and the rise of LGBT ideology (Andrea Williams – Contending for Family) and the sanctity of life at the beginning and end of life (Andrea Williams – Contending for Life).
Many are afraid to speak out on these topics today. But the Academy is rooted in a community of Christians who are full of joy and delight in God and his word. If this was just a socially conservative training programme there would be no hope. Our hope is not even in “winning”, it is in Jesus. He is the hope for the nations. He is the one who changes lives and hearts and societies. The hope of Jesus for the heart of society. We do not want to see society renewed by us; we want to see society renewed by Jesus. That gives us courage and hope to stand. As Andrea Williams shared – “standing is winning.”
As we see year in, year out, the delegates were inspired and encouraged. They felt encouraged to use their gifts, creativity and vocations to stand for Jesus in bold, biblical, and beautiful ways. Here is a small selection of the comments made by delegates at the end of the week:
“It was a unique and challenging experience that forced me to reckon with what it means to live out my faith in Jesus in today’s society. Amazing delegates and fantastic instructors. Honestly believe that it is the most important event I’ve ever been to in my life so far.”
“This week has been absolutely incredible. The teaching was so informative and inspirational, and I have left feeling more fired-up and convicted to stand boldly for Christ… I have not experienced another week like it and it has given me a fresh, more Christ-like perspective.”
“It was the most important and impactful week of my life. Your eyes will be opened to the truth as the scriptures come alive before your very eyes. It challenges you on how serious you take the faith and if you truly allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, you won’t question your identity anymore because you’ll know who you are in Christ. I now understand what it means and what it takes to be a true Christian!”
We are always humbled and heartened that God has invited us to participate in this work that he is doing. Please join with us in praying that he would continue to bless the work and we would see a generation called by Christ to go into all of culture for the glory of his name.