Together at Accelerate 09

I got back today from the Newfrontiers “Together at Accelerate” conference, which is a mini-Bible week running over the bank holiday weekend for the churches in the “Wessex” region. Here’s a few miscellaneous thoughts about what was a great holiday for our family.

First the bad. The less said about the football tournament the better. We crashed out in the first round, and I drew the short straw to play in goal so didn’t even get a proper game.

There was a better layout to the site this year, with tents surrounding the big top rather than all at one end, which made us a lot closer to the action than last year. And like last year, it was a very well run event – a superb effort from the organizational team.

Evan Rogers led worship for the opening meetings which those who have heard him before will know means lots of silly dancing. While his style not to everyone’s taste, you had to be impressed at the way he managed to get everyone joining in, and it gave a good kick-start to the weekend.

John Groves preached on the first night, and the remainder of the talks were shared between Guy Miller and a visiting Indian speaker Vinu Paul. I only heard one of Vinu’s talks, in which he gave a very Pentecostal style reminder of the vital need of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.

He warned us against low-risk Christianity which revolves around cake and coffee. I thought Guy Miller’s messages were well targeted and challenging. At the Brighton leaders conference, many of the talks revolve around how to be an inspiring visionary leader, but Guy made it very applicable to the whole church by tackling issues such as the importance of family, of sexual purity, submission to authority, and of how we behave in the workplace. If we are to be a ‘kingdom’ people, we need this kind of practical teaching on what it means to live under the rule of King Jesus.

One slightly interesting thing about this weekend is that it featured churches in the “apostolic sphere” of Guy Miller and his apostolic team. This was why we had the visiting speaker from India, and also why there were a good number from a church plant in Portugal. But the fact remained that for the British churches, we were simply carved up by region.

I still think newfrontiers need to wrestle with how they deal with the inevitable tendency for apostolic movements to tend towards a structure with regional apostles over time. If we say that “apostolic spheres” are built on relationship (particularly through an apostle being involved in the planting of the churches in his ‘sphere’), rather than on geography, do we not set ourselves up for tension in the future where churches are in the region of an apostolic leader but do not particularly consider themselves have a close relationship with him? I guess I am saying that the mechanics of a future for newfrontiers of “interconnected apostolic spheres” is a little unclear to me. This is a particular problem for established churches who may not really consider themselves to be in anyone’s “apostolic sphere”.

Although these smaller and shorter gatherings don’t quite reach the same heights that the old Stoneleigh Bible weeks did, I am glad to see they are becoming a regular fixture in the church calendar. Whilst the Brighton Leaders Conference and Mobilise serve as something of a replacement for envisioning church leaders and students, I always felt that the ‘ordinary’ church members were missing out, so it was great so see many families and grandparents on site – people who would never make it to the Brighton conference. It was also good to see many people still very new and immature in their faith, or not even Christians come along. Smoking, swearing and heated family arguments may not be the ‘nice Christian behaviour’ we try to encourage, but it does at least show that some our churches really are beginning to reach the “unchurched” and “urban poor” of their communities and experiencing the ‘messiness’ that brings with it.

Which brings me on to the subject of church planting. If in newfrontiers we are serious about spreading the gospel through church planting then we need everyone to catch the vision, from the youngest to the oldest. So I was very pleased to see that church planting was very much on the agenda, with a well attended seminar outlining some of the opportunities and practicalities of church planting, and a call to commit to church planting on the final night which many responded to.

5 thoughts on “Together at Accelerate 09

  1. You’re obviously very keen, attending all these festivals, Mark. Vinu Paul has been in the UK since early July (a long visit!). I find the shouting from Newfrontiers preachers off-putting. How well, do you think, do Newfrontiers congregations work with other local churches together on mission?

  2. Hi cndo, just the two for me this summer. Why do you say that newfrontiers preachers shout? They are perhaps more animated than preachers I have heard from more traditional denominations, but I don’t think excessively so.

    As for working with other local churches on mission, what exactly did you have in mind? Maybe if you were running a very large-scale event, you could join with other churches, but a missional view of evangelism is more about individuals or small groups of people finding ways to serve and bless their community. Trying to do that as a big coordinated scheme that all churches are happy to sign up to is probably an unneccessary organizational overhead.

    BTW are you local to Southampton?

  3. You managed to resist Greenbelt, then, despite your love of CCM?! Newfrontiers, New Wine, Wessex … I make it three festivals!
    See p. 43 of ‘All One in Christ Jesus’ by David Coffey (pub. Authentic). Maybe in Wesley Owen, if you don’t want to buy it?!
    I’ve been to two different Newfrontiers congregations, and each time the preacher shouted (including Vinu). Perhaps you don’t mind it, or have become accustomed to it.
    I am somewhat local to Southampton, yes.

  4. I’ve never been to Greenbelt. To be honest, my knowledge of CCM was dreadful until I started using Spotify earlier this year.

    Will perhaps check out that book once I’m back onto ecclesiology books.

    I’m preaching at my church on Sunday. There won’t be any shouting 😉

  5. Good for you, Mark! I think it’s the unrestrained use of shouting that I’ve found off-putting, like playing ‘power’ ‘chords’ (diads) with maximum distortion all the way through a rock song.

    I’m glad you’re thinking of checking out David’s new book. I know he wouldn’t mind if you read excerpts in the shop, but I don’t think I can do justice to the message by citing a few soundbites (and by doing so leave out the contexts). Nevertheless:

    C is suspicious of D because D has been to a conference on the dangers of Open Theism theology and finds it intellectually stimulating to debate the classic differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.

    D is suspicious of C and refutes the charge he is stuck in a sixteenth century time warp. He doubts C should even call himself an evangelical and his annual attendance at Greenbelt and his love of Iona music confirm his place is outside the evangelical camp.

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