David Stroud leads ChristChurch, London, and the Newfrontiers UK team. He has been involved in leading churches for over fifteen years, and ChristChurch is the third church that he has planted. He is married to Philippa, who works as an adviser on issues of social justice in Westminster, and they have three children.
See also Andrew Fountain’s notes from this talk: Being Sure of Who We Are as a People.
Dave Stroud spoke to us today about the identity markers of Newfrontiers.
We must be very clear on who God is and who he has made us to be. If we forget who we are, then we will not be able to handle the things that happen. Dave wanted to spend his session reminding us what holds us together as a movement. What underlines our confidence? What enables to respond with boldness? Dave took us to the first few verses of Acts 13 and the church of Antioch. At its height, one in three people of Antioch were believers. It was a church that sent people out for a century after these events.
FIVE THINGS THAT TIE US TOGETHER
There were prophets in the church at Antioch. This happens when the Spirit is poured out. They know something of the closeness of God. When Paul and Barnabas went, if asked, they would have said, “God said to us!” We have experienced something of the presence of God that has drawn us together. We don’t make decisions on the basis of strategic planning as in businesses. Big decisions in the NT church, and in our churches, are made because God spoke. For example, “The Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them” go somewhere. We as Newfrontiers have always sought to be led by the Spirit of God. For example, a couple were considering moving to Dublin to start a Newfrontiers church. They believed that God was speaking to them and prayed that God would speak to their kids. The next morning their daughter came down and said, “Are we moving?” Their ten-year old daughter had a dream of a sundial in the garden, a porthole, and windows that were not windows in the roof. The parents said nothing, but took their children on a weekend trip to Dublin. They were walking and looked in the window of one estate agent, whereupon their daughter suddenly said, “Thats the house I saw in my dream!” Sure enough, they ended up buying that house, and it was exactly as their daughter described. John Wimber felt God say when he arrived in London, “Give me back MY church!” It doesn’t belong to us. When the Spirit speaks, people go and become those they never thought they could be.
It wasn’t just prophets, but teachers also. We bow to God’s Word. We give ourselves to it and develop a habit. The world tells us to set ourselves free by deciding what is right. In some cultures people treat their neighbours with respect; in others they eat them, and it’s all done on the basis of feelings. We cannot just take the Holy Spirit bit. We must let the Word get to us. We must submit to the Word. Teachers lift the Word for us corporately. We can’t just make it up. We must keep coming back to being shaped by Scripture. We shape ourselves individually and corporately by The Book. Prophets and teachers work together. Two sides of the same coin. Word and Spirit together.
In Antioch they were living for an outbreak of the Spirit, globally not just locally. We need to take salvation to the ends of the earth. We cannot simply be focused on the nation where we live. We need a heart for the nations. Paul and Barnabas knew that at some point they had to go — there was a timing with God. They built a strong sending base where they were, and then they went and started churches. That is the biblical model for going to the nations. Churches are something that can reach people in decades. It’s Spirit people founded on the Word going to the nations with clear annointed leadership.
The terms of Ephesians 4 are not just useful terms; rather they are uniquely fitted to get the mission done. The Church functions well with this leadership. Imagine if a general replaced your head teacher at a primary school and ran it like an army! Imagine the army going into battle and the general is replaced with a conductor. In the same way, it is ridiculous to try and fulfil the biblical vision without apostles and prophets. That is the sort of leadership God has given. What Paul did is needed today. Apostles give to churches a sense of identity. Apostles will aggressively see the big picture and want to see nations filled with churches.
Why were Paul and Barnabus ready to take such a big step? It was because they knew that God would succeed. God will give us all we need so we can go. God will have a bride for himself. Even though that doesn’t mean that everything we touch will succeed, knowing the eventual triumph of God’s Word will strengthen our resolve, even when things are tough. As someone said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” We have the privilege of cooperating with God.
HOW DO WE RESPOND TO THIS?
The world is too big! Sometimes a promotion from God requires us to physically move. For example, Elijah passed on the call of God to anoint a king to Elisha who himself handed it on. We have to hand on the promises we have for an area and pass them on. The vision is bigger than what we can accomplish. We must be open to the Lord. We must trust him to help those who are left behind.
Following anointed leadership gives benefits to ourselves. Leaders shape us and give us impetus. Apostles and prophets are given by God and have anointing given by him. Apostles create spheres and an anointing goes with it. Word and Spirit churches are not built by one leader. We are a family of Word and Spirit churches going to the nations under anointed leadership and full of confidence that God will fulfil his mission.