Last year the Principal at Wales Evangelical School of Theology had an article printed in Evangelicals now and also on the Gospel Coalition blog. We are re-blogging this article to inform people about the partnerships between Gospel works in Wales and Korea that has helped start Valley Commandos. You can find the article from TGC Website here, or read it below.
“Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) is a comparatively small institution, whose alumni nevertheless serve in some of the most influential pastoral and academic venues around the world. Students come from many nations, not least from the United States, to study under internationally acclaimed scholars like Robert Letham and Tom Holland.
Reformed, interdenominational, and contemporary in outlook, WEST is the only remaining independent seminary to offer a full spectrum of UK-accredited theological degrees in a country that for its size has perhaps done more than any other to export the gospel to the world.
No bigger than Massachusetts, and with a population of fewer than 3 million, Wales has disproportionately affected the world in many ways. At least four American Presidents and 16 signatories of the Declaration of Independence (including Thomas Jefferson, who drafted it) were of Welsh descent. But when it comes to the things that matter most, Wales has given even more. Just for starters, arguably the most influential theologians on both sides of the Atlantic, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, both share Welsh names and ancestry.
One of the four distinct nations that make up the United Kingdom, Wales is a land of spectacular mountain and coastal scenery, containing more castles per square mile than any other country in Western Europe. With their Celtic roots, the Welsh were among the original inhabitants of the British Isles, long pre-dating the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. And while all know English today, their ancient language is still alive and well, spoken by around 20 percent of the people.
Christianity came early to Wales, brought by the soldiers and traders of the Roman Empire. Just a few miles along the coast from the present site of WEST, St. Patrick attended the College of Theodosius, founded in the fourth century as a center of theological and philosophical learning. Rebuilt by St. Illtud in AD 508, it became the foremost theological institution in Britain, with at one time as many as 2,000 students attending from all over Europe—including David, the patron saint of Wales.
Essential differences in politics, culture, and language have resulted in a distinct history of the gospel in Wales compared to its dominant neighbor, England. For example, John Wesley’s inability to speak Welsh meant that he largely delegated evangelism of the country to native speakers. As a result, the 18th-century Methodist Revival in Wales, under the preaching of men like Daniel Rowland and Howell Harris, took on a far more Calvinistic flavor than in England.
Indeed, Calvinistic Methodism largely underpinned the remarkable history of spiritual awakenings from 1735 to 1905 that led to Wales being dubbed the Land of Revival. So “reformed” theology in Wales, unlike elsewhere in the British Isles, never generally adopted a cessationist position regarding spiritual gifts. So Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, though widely held to be the greatest Welsh (and British) preacher of the 20th century, was often considered “quirky” in his views on the Holy Spirit from an English reformed perspective—but not so in Wales. (Incidentally, like St. Illtud, Martyn Lloyd-Jones first ministered the gospel just a few miles down the coast from WEST—though in the opposite direction, at Sandfields, Port Talbot).
Today, of course, the Christian heritage of Wales and the rest of the UK has been almost completely overlain with secularism. With ever increasing speed, and apparently breathtaking ease, the major formative influence on our culture over the past two millennia has being virtually airbrushed from our history. With Christian values constantly being undermined by government legislation, it is hardly surprising that true believers often feel themselves to be a very small and persecuted minority.
Good Amid Gloom
But there is good news amid the gloom! Since 2000, evangelical church attendance in the UK has steadily risen, with many congregations thriving and growing. Moreover, Bible-centered believers in Jesus Christ increasingly recognize that the situation is too grim to allow non-essential issues to divide them. As a result, new gospel church partnerships are springing up, with training and church planting high on their agenda.
This, in turn, has fueled a large and ever-growing demand for gifted preacher-pastors and other leaders, capable under God of reviving failing congregations and establishing new ones. WEST is determined to rise to the challenge and foster sound and godly scholarship together with warm and persuasive gospel preaching. To that end, WEST is currently developing working partnerships with like-minded church groupings and other specialist Christian organizations in order to establish a base of operations from which gospel church planting may flow.
There is a genuine sense of urgency among us, because we have a strong sense of being on the world’s spiritual front line, and we’re convinced that the destiny of the gospel in the UK and Western Europe will have ramifications elsewhere. Now, if never before, the time has come for raising up a great band of spiritual warriors who, like the men of Issachar, understand the times and know what Israel must do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
But the main purpose of this testimony is to record, to God’s glory, the way in which by far the most significant of WEST’s gospel partnerships to date came about.
Five years ago, one of our PhD students, Sungho Choi, was helping out at a large international prayer meeting for revival in a very rural part of South West Wales. To his astonishment he found himself sitting next to a woman whose face he instantly recognized from the Korean media.