David Stroud explained that he would not be preaching as such this session but instead sharing his heart for the future of Newfrontiers here in the UK. You can download the audio or read my notes here:
He began by saying how grateful he was to be part of this family of churches. We left churches because of nostalgia. So we don’t want to do that. But, there is a difference between nostalgia and gratitude. He explained that he went to one week at the Downs Bible week had totally changed his life. The thing that struck him was the extraordinary sense of destiny those men had. God seemed to have persuaded them that he was going to use them.
When God grips a people he does the same in all of our hearts. Hearing one of the speakers talk about all that God had done in the past in this nation in revival. The following year, Terry preaching on Nehemiah stuck him with the passion for the Church.
It has been deeply personal. Moments over the decades that have been deep impact. He remembers when his wife was bleeding and a third miscarriage was threatened. Dave Devenish came and prayed with authority, the bleeding stopped and the answer to that prayer is now 6 foot tall!
Change to individuals is critical. Heart relationships are also key. We want to go further, faster, deeper but keep the love and intimacy. How do we keep apostolic ministry and make the most of all the blessings?
1. Continue to work together while also recognizing antonymous apostolic spheres.
We believe the Lord has asked us to start 1000 churches in this nation. That would be more than either of the Pentecostal denominations in the UK. We are not impressed with humans. But together we can do something. If we were simply to release spheres we would decentralize to smallness. We would loose the capacity to pack a punch. We’d loose the confidence and faith. Wesleyian revival saw the first generation saw few new churches. About 30,000 were effected by the end of that generation (which would be less than Newfrontiers churches in the UK now). In the second generation there was exponential growth. Generation one clarified identity, and the second one rode on that wave. It was the third generation that was the Wilbeforce and Shaftsbury generation. The whole nation marked its impact. It is not all downhill from now on! Our first generation might be almost over, but we do have a role to play!
As China rises and Europe falls, one is getting into Christianity and the other is loosing it. We have a job to do. We must do it together.
Plurality is the best way to release apostolic ministry, anyway. In the OT it is all about the individual. In the NT Jesus doesn’t pick one he picks twelve. Paul had a team. There was always a plurality, without debunking the anointing on the individual.
We want to multiply into apostolic spheres. So for example, Guy Miller, Mike Betts, and Jeremy Simpkins are no longer working on behalf of David Stroud, or Terry or the UK team. They are distinct. They have similar values. But they have their own promises, their own characteristics. They are going into different nations. There is commonality but distinct elements.
For every church to be engaged in an apostolic sphere is important. Others like Dave Holden, Colin Baron and others will available also. Some will work across the spheres, a bit like Barnabas in the NT.
This is like a rocket about to take off. The energy will move from the center. The UK team will no longer be the ones to give the energy. The energy will come from the spheres. There will be a sense of ownership that will develop. The rockets fire it, but it needs to be kept on course too.
How will we hold together?
If we don’t do something that causes to ask that question we have not gone far enough. We don’t want to just belong to Newfrontiers for historical reasons. We want to be joined by heart, know that God has called us, and be benefiting from charismatic anointing.
As life gets busy and tensions occur, how are we going to do this? We are convicted that we can do more together than we can apart. We are convinced of this. We have a depth of relationship. We have been together for this long so there is love, turst, accountability, and a covering of each others backs.
David Stroud will be leading in a very different way. This isn’t his team. It is just that he will be gathering the spheres. They will be mutually responsible to each other.
There are a number of unanswered questions. How will we handle money? Websites? Team names? These are such key issues that we want to give the next 12 months to seeking the Lord on these things. Next year there will be no together on a mission. Elders and wives will gather in April.
How should I respond?
1. Give yourself to the Lord and to an apostolic team if you have one you are connected to one. Some of you will feel that maybe you are not connected to one. If so, be patient. Character is very important at these periods of change. When you don’t know the answer to the question, what does this mean for me, it is a challenge. Don’t rush here and there. God is in control. The Lord has built this so far, and will continue to build it. We wait patiently for him. Lets talk lots. Keep talking.
2. Pray for the leaders. Ask the Lord for wisdom for them. Jesus was marveled about, where did he get that wisdom from? Pray for the leaders that they too will have wisdom that is supernatural in origin.
Five challenges for courageous leadership
1. Courageous “everything” leadership. The mission of God started because God created this incredible world. It was perfect. Man and woman were the high point of this creation. We disobeyed God and fell. Every part of life was affected. Everything was cursed. God’s call on Abraham is to reverse the curse and bless in every area. Colossians 1 says Jesus died to reconcile all things. The story of the Bible is that God intends to renew and remake the whole of creation. We are his partners in this great plan to restore all things. Central to all that is that there was one who expressed the kingdom like no one else, and died a substitutionary sacrifice for the atoning of sins. But our job isn’t just to win men and women, it isn’t just 1000 churches. We want 1000 churches that will bless this nation. We want to change the nation not just plant churches! This requires courage because we are nervous that if we give ourselves to “everything” we will loose the atonement or evangelism. Our call is both and, not either or. Either or is often about a shrinking heart. We must handle each dimension of the mission of Christ. We must evangelize, care for the poor, think how we can be salt and light at every level of society. We must think about the streets we live in, the parks that are nearby. We care for the environment we live in. We might get involved in Neighborhood Watch, Street Pastors, mentoring teenagers. How can we make a difference in our jobs? How do we engage in the conversation in the media. We cant let our neighbours and children breath poisoned air.
The times are genuinely desperate. 30,000 people every week stopped going to church in the Anglican church in recent years. Situation is desperate. We cannot simply enjoy what God is doing for us so far. We have to allow his mission to shape us. We need to see growth. We must have faith that we can lead people to Christ in large numbers. There are a lot of barren wombs in this room. Apostolic ministry has a lot to do with evangelism in the Bible. When Paul went into a town it wasn’t because he gathered a few Christians who were looking for his kind of church! We have to learn that kind of ministry again that turns people into disciples.
We must consider what kind of language we use on a Sunday. So for example explain the theological terms you use. Unbelievers should be coming to your Sunday meetings. We must keep all that is important to us, but make it intelligible and understandable. We don’t have to stop the charismatic. We need the presence of God. Proper use, not no use.
3. Affirming Leadership Ensure that our churches are environments that are equally liberating for both men and women. We must not change our theology. But we must live consistent to it. We are complementarian which means we believe that men and women are equal but different. We must make sure that we do not stress the difference more than the equal. We must make sure that we recognize male and female gifts, and that we train women as well as men. Keller says “The real challenge is to do things in such a way that even a radical feminist if she was to come into our churches would feel the freedom of the Kingdom of God.” The Apostle Paul speaks of his fellow workers and around half of them are women. How many of us can say the same? We do need to help men to be men.
4. Self consciously think of ourselves as part of the center ground of evangelicalism more than we have before. We have ended up on the edge. But we are evangelicals. The reason we are charismatic is because it is in the Book. We are more evangelical than the other evangelicals! We do genuinely love the whole body of Chrsit. We are not sectarians. Thirty years or so ago we were being asked to leave churches. If we want to influence we must be close to it. You can impress from a distance. If you want to change things you do so from just off center. It is not a sell-out. It requires courage. We will be nervous of loosing our prophetic identity. But we are meant to not shift on who God has made us to be. We are to be close to them. Watch our attitudes. We must not have superiority or exclusivity. You can love someone without agreeing with the,. Love them and let them close enough to see the grace on our lives. We don’t have to convert the whole body of Christ to our way of thinking. Unity is about relationships not projects. Pray Jesus prayer, “that they may all be one.”
5. To continue to develop naturally supernatural leadership. Spirit fell on some of us in an unlooked-for way. We had to build churches to contain the work of the Spirit. We must engage with the charismatic but do it in a non-crazy way! You are most effective as a leader when you are the person God has made you to be. Don’t have to imitate someone else’s style to get their anointing. You have to go after your own anointing. Impartation is real. But you don’t have to be like others. We must develop a style that reflects a reformed theology and a pneumatology that is deeply powerful and effective, but enables us to be ourselves. The Spirit comes on us to equip us to do things. If we focus on “bless me” moments, it can be self indulging. Spirit comes on us so we can evangelise, pray, lead, etc. The experience is not the point. Are we getting the job done is the point.
Change is inevitable. Our message is the message of the Kingdom. God is here and wants to shape our churches for the mission.