I got back yesterday from Together at Westpoint, which is a four day Bible week for the churches in the south & south west region of newfrontiers. (It’s the fourth time we’ve been – here’s my reports from 2008, 2009, 2010). After surviving the treacherous driving conditions on the way due to the flash flooding in Bournemouth, we enjoyed surprisingly good weather while we were there. The journeys there and back did allow me to listen to several of the talks from this year’s newday conference, which despite being aimed at teenagers will benefit listeners of any age.
A disappointment this year was not being able to persuade anyone from our church to come with us, so we joined up with The Family Church, Christchurch, who had been so welcoming of us last year when we camped next to them. One benefit was that I got to play in their church football team. We somehow or other made it to the final before being comprehensively beaten by Grace Church, Chichester. My eldest son, Ben, also was in the winning team in the children’s football tournament and hasn’t taken his medal off since.
I got to hear three of the main talks, first from John Groves, who drew out some lessons from Ex 23:20-30 about the way God is leading his people through conquest and conflict. Next I heard Terry Virgo speak from Ezra 1:1-7 and Isaiah 1:7-9 on our identity as “Survivors” whose judgment is past, “Seers” with a vision for the future and “Supporters” whose commitment is in the present. Finally I heard Jeremy Simpkins unpacking Gen 49:22 about a fruitful vine, near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall – a prophetic promise fulfilled in Christ, but with relevance for us also as those who are in Christ. All three talks reminded us of the greatness of God and inspired fresh faith for mission.
The remaining three sessions I spent helping out in the kids work. An amazing amount of planning, prayer, and hard work was put in by the superb team that led the work and it was a privilege to be a small part of it and see God at work in the lives of the children. In some ways that was the highlight of the week for me, and I was moved by the dedication and love shown by the team. The theme of the kids work was “mission is possible”, and featured stories of various missionaries past and present.
The Saturday night saw us take up an offering, and Guy Miller declared that he felt we should go for the rather audacious target of £100,000 to fund various projects planned next year. I missed the announcement of the total, so was delighted to read on Matt Hosier’s blog that we managed to raise £101,000, not bad for just under 2000 people, many of whom are children. More exciting than knowing that we hit our target is seeing the progress of church plants we heard about last year, and hearing about new ones in their early stages. My good friend Mark Mould was there who will soon be joining up with the new Junction 13 church plant in Eastleigh. I also got to hear from some friends at Life Church Southampton about the exciting developments in their plans to plant an Southampton “eastside” congregation.
Whilst the scale and scope of the “Together at” Bible weeks is more modest than events such as New Wine or Stoneleigh, I love the church planting and mission focus of these events, and think it is vitally important for whole churches to catch a wider vision of what God is doing in our nation and around the world. Hopefully next year I’ll manage to persuade some people from KCC to come along.