I managed to get down as a day visitor to Brighton for the final newfrontiers Together on a Mission conference on Wednesday. Though I never get to go for the whole week, attending the conference is always one of the highlights of the year for me. I have to commend newfrontiers for making the talks available for free allowing everyone to benefit from the teaching.
Session 1 – Matt Hatch – A Culture of Discipleship in the Local Church
I have always found Matt Hatch very helpful and provocative on the subject of accountability and developing a culture of discipleship within the church since I first heard him at TOAM a few years ago. This time he took us through John 4, highlighting the importance of communicating the acceptance of Jesus and moving people to a place of delighting in Jesus. Some of his church resources on accountability are available here, and his seminar certainly provoked some thought about being more proactive in seeking to disciple the men in my cell group.
Session 2 – Dave Stroud
Then came Dave Stroud with a main session in which he outlined some of the future plans for newfrontiers in the UK, which it seems will consist of several distinct “apostolic spheres” working together under his guidance. He picked out five challenges for courageous leadership. First was, everything leadership, which essentially is a call for the church to broaden her horizons and have a more holistic vision of the mission of God. Second, missional leadership, by which he means churches that are deliberately engaged with the communities they are located in. Third, affirming leadership, in which he reminded us that, though newfrontiers remains theologically complementarian, there needs to be a firm commitment to creating environments that are equally liberating for both women and men. Fourth, embracing leadership, in which he expressed the desire for newfrontiers to take up a more central role within evangelicalism, rather than watching from the sidelines. I found this very interesting, and perhaps more controversial than his third point in some ways. It will be interesting to see what comes of this. Finally, he called for naturally supernatural leadership, which seemed to be a gentle rebuke aimed in the direction of those who seem to assume that the mark of spirituality is strange behaviour.
Session 3 – Terry Virgo
In the afternoon, Terry Virgo spoke on Heb 12. As always, his amazing gift for teaching was a joy to receive. He spoke on the Lord’s discipline, and particularly applied his message to people struggling with bitterness. Adrian Warnock notes are here.
Worship was led by Kate Simmonds and Simon Brading. There was the usual mix of new songs along with well-loved classics. I love the atmosphere at TOAM – thousands of people, passionate about God and hungry to meet with him. It draws you in, even if you are feeling tired (which I was).
Session 4 – PJ Smyth on Sickness, Suffering and Healing
Finally, in the evening it was PJ Smyth. I must confess I wasn’t impressed at all with PJ Smyth when I first heard him at TOAM 2006, which with hindsight I realise was more a reflection of my own arrogance than any faults with PJ. In any case I have warmed to him over the years, and the message he brought was one of the most outstanding I have heard on the the subject of suffering, bringing a faith-filled, thoroughly biblical perspective to bear on the trial he has gone through in the last year as he has battled cancer.
I won’t attempt to outline his talk, because Adrian Warnock has already blogged a detailed outline, and you can download notes and listen to it online. But suffice to say, this is one well worth your time. It is the best treatment of the subject I have come across since I read Mark Stibbe’s Fire and Blood.
Another very powerful moment that evening was when John Groves got up to lead us in a kind of corporate promise-making ceremony (the day after I blogged about how little we emphasise promises in our movement). We rededicated ourselves as a movement to fulfilling the key prophetic exhortations that have shaped newfrontiers over the years. It was a holy moment as we answered “we will” to the various charges to remember. I would love to hear that cry of “we will” resound throughout all the individual churches too – it is not just the leaders, but every member who must play a part in seeing these promises come to fulfilment.