I had the privilege of attending the New Frontiers Brighton leadership conference for the day on Wednesday. I arrived just in time to sneak into Ian Stackhouse’s seminar on preaching. I chose the seminar because I had never heard him before and I was hoping that he might discuss some of the issues in his new book (that I haven’t read) – the Gospel Driven Church. However, the main point of the seminar was that preaching is still relevant and that we should stick to the Biblical text and let it speak. He seemed to disapprove of using lots of illustrations or preaching on topics and current events without explicitly saying that you shouldn’t. I was annoyed I hadn’t chosen Philip Greenslade’s seminar instead.
Anyway, things greatly improved for me when I got to the bookshop. I noticed a man buying 10 volumes of the Word Biblical Commentary series. I knew immediately that this meant it was on special offer and so I ran to make sure I grabbed the 2 volume Hebrews commentary by William Lane. This means I now own my first choice commentary on each book in the New Testament.
The first main session of the day was a sermon by Dave Holden, and as usual he was outstanding. His main point was encouraging those who build churches to build them well. I had lunch with a doctor and two pastors, who discussed how to help people with terminal illnesses (the balance between praying for healing and preparing people for death). It was a subject that I felt way out of my depth on, but for these guys, its part of their job.
The afternoon was a seminar by PJ Smyth, one of New Frontiers up and coming new leaders. His style is very dynamic, and he likes his audience to participate with various noises and actions. My preference is for preachers to be a bit more boring and academic, but I guess I’m in the minority there as lots of people really appreciated his style. His sermon also brought up the interesting issue of how we treat contemporary prophecy as compared to the Bible. Much of the sermon was based around significant prophectic words spoken about New Frontiers. His main point was that New Frontiers needs to be getting into the major world cities and building big (‘juggernaut’) churches from which to plant smaller (‘fiat uno’) churches.
I had dinner with a bunch of Ukranians who didn’t speak any English, but I did also get to speak to someone who has just got back from an extended visit to Zimbabwe. Sounds like things are really bad there – she told us about beheadings of people who voted the wrong way in the recent elections.
The evening was CJ Mahaney. I explained to someone beforehand that CJ was a very dynamic and amusing speaker, and most likely to speak on subjects such as humility, suffering or the cross. I got it exactly right. He did one of his typical extended introductions where he waxes lyrical about his gratefulness, love and admiration for New Frontiers. Finally, he preached a very solemn and passionate sermon on Christ’s gethsemane experience – where he looked into the cup. It was an unashamed advocation of the penal substitution theory of the atonement, which it looks like New Frontiers are underlining their commitment to in light of Steve Chalke’s book, which Dave Holden had subtly alluded to in his talk.
Another great blessing of the conference was that it gave me an opportunity to finally meet Andrew Fountain, who I have been in email contact with for some time now. (In fact we met up just before the conference as well). I’m hoping to get him round to my house to tell me all about New Covenant Theology before he heads back off to Canada.