I had the privilege yesterday of attending the newfrontiers Together on a Mission 2008 conference as a day visitor. Sadly I couldn’t attend the whole week, but it was great to get a taste of what has been going on this week in Brighton.
First up was a talk on “The Messiah of God” by Andrew Wilson. This addressed the way in which Matthew makes use of the Old Testament, which can pose a problem for some evangelicals as his exegesis appears to be somewhat unconventional. Andrew’s approach was to highlight the theme of Jesus as the “true Israel” and demonstrate how Matthew deliberately draws our attentions to parallels between the story of Israel and that of Jesus. He seemed to be drawing in a number of places from N T Wright’s excellent “Jesus and the Victory of God” and also recommended Tim Keller’s sermons as exemplary demonstrations of how to preach Christ from the Old Testament. It was an excellent seminar, and it is encouraging to see someone so theologically astute emerging from within newfrontiers. Andrew has already published two excellent books (Incomparable, Deluded by Dawkins), and I was pleased to hear that another is imminent. You can listen to some of his sermons at the King’s Church Eastbourne website.
Second was a talk by P-J Smyth on The Army of God. I felt this was the best sermon I have heard from him. Adrian Warnock has written some detailed notes. For me the highlights were his emphasis on the importance of respecting people’s consciences and the end section where he used a cricketing analogy to show how a leader defends, steadily advances, and breaks new ground. He also made some interesting points about church structure. Just as some people didn’t quite fit into David’s “thirty” or “three” mighty men, so there may be people in our churches who don’t quite fit neatly into our leadership categories yet still need to be utilised in their gifting.
Third was Mark Driscoll, speaking about Movements. Again, Adrian Warnock has blogged his sermon notes. I had been looking forward to hearing Mark and he didn’t disappoint, although I don’t think anyone was quite expecting what we got. He addressed some pertinent issues of how newfrontiers must adapt if it is to survive beyond its first and second generation and avoid becoming an institution. He very gently put his finger on an area in which he felt we were at risk. Will we be able to survive the transition when Terry Virgo hands over to the next generation? I personally feel that Vineyard has struggled with its self-identity as a movement since John Wimber’s death, and it was interesting to hear Mark Driscoll cite them as an example of a movement that has lost its way (although his reasoning is different – no prizes for guessing where he lays the blame!) At the end of the sermon, Mark was given a standing ovation. There was a real sense that his message had come as a timely prophetic word to us. The gentle spirit in which it was brought also blew away a lot of people’s stereotyped impression that Mark is always a headstrong outspoken bull in a china shop kind of preacher.
Finally, in the evening it was prayer meeting night led by Dave Holden. Evan Rogers was there leading us in the now traditional South African singing and dancing. Apparently he is moving to Dubai, so we expect next year to be singing in Arabic and doing some middle eastern dancing. It was great to hear news of the church planting that is going on, as well as pray into Mark Driscoll’s challenge to our movement to plant faster! Terry Virgo preached a short message encouraging us to emulate the lavish generosity of Mary as she anointed Jesus’ feet in John 12. Then followed the offering, but sadly we had to head home before the celebration got fully underway.
I am delighted that newfrontiers are continuing their policy of allowing free sermon downloads this year. They have already got a good number of sermons from the conference up and ready to download. This is a great way of ensuring that those who could not make it to the conference get to benefit from some of the excellent teaching we have enjoyed.