15th October 2012 will prove to be a significant date in the evolution of Newfrontiers. It marked the beginning of our first international gathering following the closure of Together On a Mission in Brighton, which had previously been our annual international conference.
Now pruned back from 4500 to approximately 450 senior leaders from many nations, gathered to a hotel in Turkey. Wendy and I arrived a little early and I had the joy and pleasure of speaking at the Newfrontiers church in Izmir, LightHouse Church
, now gathering apporximately 220 people. Among the first people that I met were two men from Mongolia, who were there because they had travelled to Turkey for our Newfrontiers Leaders Conference. Mongolia! Who would have dreamed when we started planting churches in Sussex, in the mid '70s, that we would be drawing men from Mongolia to our Leaders Conference!
Following an excellent time with the church in Izmir, we went to the hotel where hundreds of very dear friends of mine, had travelled many miles, some from the Americas, some from Australasia, many from the UK and European nations; indeed 46 nations of the 60 which we have penetrated were represented. It proved to be a remarkable time.
Simply to be with so many friends was a joy and delight in itself. We hardly needed to have meetings in order to be blessed. As it is, we had a program which gave us two full morning sessions, a relaxed early afternoon, a late afternoon session, and plenty of time for eating and relaxing together and most of all talking as friends and sharing news. Edward Buria started the preaching program with a word exhorting us to proceed into the future with faith. He was followed by the incomparable Bob Roberts from Dallas, Texas, a truly remarkable man with an amazing vision and extraordinary fruit to back up what he has to say. We had heard him before but to be honest, I had never heard him better! He was electric and the timing of his coming could not have been better as we press forward into international mission.
The preaching program was interspersed with brilliant interviews with people on the cutting edge of our gospel outreach into the many nations of the world, some too secret to comment on here. How proud we were of our friends: husbands and wives with little children pressing out to the regions beyond in the name of Jesus. The interviews were superb.
Four alternative training tracks covered very diverse programs, all of which were profoundly appreciated.
I personally gave a talk based on John 20:21 'as the Father sent me, so send I you'. I was stirred by the wonder of the incarnation and the breathtaking sending of the Son of God Himself. How could we be sent like Him? I found that God directed me to Jesus' words; 'I send you as sheep to wolves, be wise as serpents, innocent as doves'. Wolves hardly look like subjects for conversion and if one had aspirations to see them converted, one would hardly send sheep for the task, (in Luke, 'lambs'). Yet Jesus sees His disciples going in this manner.
What are they armed with? Jesus says we advance with wisdom, that is a wisdom foreign to this world, that comes down from heaven and is revealed through a cross. He also says 'be innocent as doves'. God sends us out with the mighty weapon of innocence. Paul stood before Agrippa claiming to have always walked with a good conscience. Stephen, as the wolves devour him, has the face of an angel and his wisdom could not be withstood. As he is devoured, I am reminded of the phenomenal words of Jim Elliot; 'he is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose'. This is truly wisdom from heaven.
Jesus then blows upon them and says 'receive the holy spirit'. How we need to know His constant infilling, empowering and impartation of ability.
David Devenish gave a superb word about the relevance of contextualisation of the gospel, as we break into many diverse nations. It was a grown-up word for a movement that continues to grow up! Finally, PJ Smythe gave a magnificent teaching based on the opening verses of Colossians 1. He explicitly taught from the text, giving full weight to every word, phrase and apostolic expression. He spoke with awesome authority and gave me a huge sense of peace and joy as I look to the next generation emerging to take forward the work of Newfrontiers into the future.
It was an awesome conference and I rarely use the word 'awesome'. How I thank God for His breathtaking kindness to us now over decades, and how excited I am about the future that lies before us. To meet with men from Bolivia to Mongolia, from Seattle to Sydney was a joy and delight, and to know them as my personal friends adds a pleasure hard to be descried. I can't wait for the next time that we are called together, but I continue to pray that God will make us a witness to the glories of Christ, to the nations of the earth.