Moderator’s Address at the 2023 General Assembly

Rev. Bob Akroyd’s Moderatorial Address.

Rev Prof Bob Akroyd, who oversees Systematic Theology and Practical Theology at Edinburgh Theological Seminary, will serve as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland in 2023-24.

This morning he has delivered his Moderator’s Address to commissioners and guests.

He said: “My theme this morning is evangelism – proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ – his life, his death, and his resurrection. There has never been a time when the need for the gospel has been greater nor a time when the prospects for evangelism has been greater.”

During his address, Bob paid tribute to the late Professor Donald Macleod who passed away on Sunday evening. He said: “I want to add my own words of tribute as we mark the passing of Professor Donald Macleod. Donald preached the first sermon that I ever heard. It was on Psalm 14:1, ‘the fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Psalm 14.1. Shortly after being converted, I sat in on Donald’s lectures. I began to understand how the Christian message fit together. When I was a student at the Free Church College, I completed a dissertation on, ‘The Free Offer of the Gospel’ under Donald’s supervision. This dissertation changed my life.”

Bob went on to share that one of Donald’s recent books Compel them to Come In took its title from a sermon by Spurgeon on the parable of the great banquet. Professor Macleod described it as ‘The most striking sermon I have ever read.’

Bob added: “Many of us feel ill-equipped for presenting the gospel. We do not do it that well. Donald Macleod often quoted this aphorism, ‘If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.’ Whether eloquent or not, articulate or not, passionate or not, we proclaim the gospel – even if we do it badly. George Whitefield said, ‘Other men may preach the gospel better than I, but no man can preach a better gospel.’

“Let me continue by quoting the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

“Jesus begins with an indicative and then proceeds to an imperative. Jesus says what he sees. There is a plentiful harvest and a dearth of workers. Jesus sees helpless and harassed people –  sheep without a shepherd. I think we would see the problems but I seriously doubt whether we would conclude there was a plentiful harvest.

“Jesus commands us to pray – to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. The Lord of the Harvest is not reluctant to answer. In 1886, Hudson Taylor called for 100 new workers for China. By the end of that year 102 new workers were on their way to China. When we ask, the Lord of the Harvest answers. Taylor said, “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” 

“Our vision is, A Healthy Gospel Church for Every Community in Scotland. This work is impossible.  Do we see a plentiful harvest? We surely need more workers. We have also set a goal, namely 30 by 30. Thirty new churches planted by 2030. We need more preachers, pastors, and planters. I would suggest that our greatest need is more evangelists.”

He added: “We have average talents. We are ordinary in so many regards. Do we have a confidence in the gospel we preach? Do we have a confidence in the Jesus we proclaim? God tends to use people who take him at his word.”

Bob went on to share how God uses ordinary people to see extraordinary results. God does this so that we can see how extraordinary he is.

He quoted William Faulkner who said: “They are not monuments, but footprints. A monument only says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.’”

Bob said: “I love monuments, statues, and plaques. Faulkner is right – these physical commemorations are static. Footprints are dynamic. They are transient because those who made them are moving.”

He spoke about Christians who have stepped out in faith to share the gospel and he spoke about how we are commanded and implored to share the gospel:

“In 2 Corinthians 5:20 – 21, We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

He said: “The message of the gospel is come. You are welcome. Jesus says come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

“Whatever care we have for the lost, Jesus cares more; Whatever effort we make to reach the lost, Jesus does more; Whatever cost we experience in proclaiming the gospel, Jesus incurs more – much more.

“Our message is come. I fear that many within our wider audience feel like the message is go, as in go away. We need to make every effort to warmly welcome people to the good news of Jesus Christ to assure them the welcome mat is out.”

“We are in the marketplace. We must try harder to capture the attention of potential customers. We need to make sure our voice is being heard.”

“Let me close with the final invitation of the Bible – Revelation 22:17, The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

The assembly runs until Thursday. The livestream is available to view.