I'm not usually a fan of confessional blogging but this kind of goes that way. I've had a rough last week. Something happened last Friday that kinda smashed me up. Or rather it upset something I'd not being trusting God with enough and exposed my unbelief about it. It took me to Tuesday afternoon and three fairly sleepless nights to realise that this was the case. Even then, I think I only really acknowledged the problem of my unbelief and didn't actually swap it for belief in God. Meanwhile I've wrestled hopelessly with John 14 which is at least in part about the disicples unbelief.
Tuesday 10pm I discovered I could get a ticket to TOAM and so planned an early start to get to Brighton. Lack of sleep eventually delayed my departure by a couple of hours but I got down to the beach by about 1015 and picked up a ticket. I caught a glance of Adrian Warnock out of the corner of my eye, and then Luke Wood but was unable to speak to either.
First up was Mbonisi Malaba ('Bones') on leadership. Like me, he is 28 years old. He spoke on the challenges of producing a sequel. The transition from Paul to Timothy, which clearly newfrontiers is feeling as part of it's life as it moves from being a first generation church into it's next generation. His main point was 'fan into flame to gift God has given you'. And take serious action towards it - starting with the classic 'leaders are readers'. It was a breath of fresh air to my tired body and a wake up call to my heart.
From their to the beach and what ought to become an infamous swim by Sean Green, Tim Pinkstone and Nicola Abram. After lunch to Rob Rufus. Three friends had said 'I'd be interested to see what you make of him'. The comment worries me cos I think was meant in a slightly 'theology thoughtpolice' style, which I hope isn't me. Let's be clear, Rob Rufus is no expositor - or at least he wasn't yesterday. But, this is a man who loves the word more than me, knows the word more than me and believes the word more than me. He takes what God says seriously. And God used him to impart faith to me through the word of God. And I really, really needed that. We also sung our hearts out in praise to God which was great. Behold!
From there to Pizza with the guys from Reading Family Church whom I love deeply in the Lord. And then to the overflow venue for more worship and a talk from David Devonish. Kate Simmonds led us in worship and it was song after song on the beauty and wonder of the cross including a new song by Matt Weedall. Bob Kauflin is right we draw near to God when our hearts are captivated by the cross.
Devonish spoke from Acts 19. A pattern for mission. He recommended Chris Wright's The Mission of God and I will read that as soon as I get my copy back. I know some are cautious about apply Acts today. Is it descriptive or normative? What I know is that Devonish is going into unreached people groups and doing Acts 19 stuff - getting people well founded on an apostoic foundation of the gospel and the whole counsel of God. We could stand around debating whether these unusual miracles will happen, or we can go gospel-preaching... and he really saw culure-transformation through evangelism as the idolmaking silversmiths were bankrupted by changed lives! For Devonish doing Acts 19 seems to include teaching the gospel and teaching God's plans from Genesis to Revelation. He described apostolic ministry is "laying foundations, training leaders and moving on". That rings bells in my heart. Not alarm bells. Those are the things I love to do.
Above all it was another evening of faith-building. God's word producing faith in my heart. Bones reminded me to be fanning into flame what God has given when I've been worrying about something not yet given. Rufus was like a lightning strike into those embers. And Devonish set my heart back where it should have been fixed, on God's big promise that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God - and I think we can say that equates to Jesus (2 Cor 4v4-6). Down in Brighton and across Newfrontiers they really believe that, and they are being mobilised together for mission.
I walked up to Brighton station deeply encouraged in the Biblical sense of the word. Three hours later I got home for ten and a half hours of sleep that I really needed. God is God and the gospel actually is true. I knew that, but this morning I believe it afresh.
Adrian interviews Tom Shaw, 29, senior pastor at City Church Canterbury
David Stroud on the destinctives of Newfrontiers
Ed Goode was at TOAM on Tuesday
On Wednesday we sang the old song... "Father, we love You; we worship and adore You." strikingly on the verse addressed to the Holy Spirit Rob Rufus changed the words to be "Glorify His name" noting than the Spirit doesn't draw attention himself but to Jesus.