16 April 2010

Nottingham - Newforms pre-conference

Sean and I travelled up to Nottingham for the day to join Peter and Marsha Farmer and other simple church leaders for the Newforms Conference pre-meeting. From Tony Dale's Facebook pageWe didn't plan to stay for the main conference on Saturday and Sunday, but we were able to stay for the opening session on Friday evening.

We began by going around the room and saying a little about ourselves by way of introduction. There were, I think, eighteen of us. We came from all around the UK but mainly England. Peter Farmer then spoke for a while on the interesting topic of church planting movements and we spent some time in open prayer and sharing. Mim reminded us that Jesus is the King, Marsha prayed for emotional healing, especially for women who have so often been hurt by being overlooked or even at worst despised in church life and particularly in church leadership. I shared some things about the sheer privilege of being disciples and about Jesus' call to Peter to 'feed my sheep'.

Tony Dale joined us a little late due to some travelling difficulties, but we were glad to know that he made it into the UK before volcanic ash closed the airports. Felicity was unable to come due to an unexpected family commitment and although it was disappointing not to see her, at least we had one Dale with us!

Tony began by asking us what books and authors had particularly impacted our views on church life. Wolfgang Simson, Neil Cole, the Dale's own books, George Barna, Frank Viola, and Rad Zdero were mentioned, I added Paul Vieira and Bruxy Cavey to the list. many of these and more are listed on the House2House 'Books' page.

Tony then told us something of the background to their move to the USA and some of the events that had shaped their journey. He mention big and little church working in harmony, he described how the Lord has a destiny in mind for his people, and he pointed out that it is clear he's preparing us for something big.

He stressed that movements start rather small and multiplication is very slow to begin with. Tony also mentioned that we need expressions of church that are relevant to each culture and people group that we can identify.

Next, he considered the requirements for a movement to begin in Western Society. God has chosen to work through people, but we must choose to co-operate. Some kind of infrastructure is necessary too, to provide useful tools. Online social networks like Twitter play a very important part here. Ideas are essential and stories are a great way of getting them across. We need to 'tell a new story'. We also need to consider the language we use, for example 'Christian' carries various kinds of baggage for most non-believers.

We should think of church as a new way of life, not an event. Also it is imperative to ask Jesus and then do what we hear him say. We are meant to to be followers, a disciple is someone who recognises Jesus and does what he says (John 10:1-4). This is very significant in terms of mission! The Holy Spirit will lead us to the person of peace. We can teach anyone to listen and do.

Jesus always released people back into their sphere of influence (for example the Samaritan woman). Movements don't grow and divide, but they grow and send out again and again. Tony illustrated this by telling us a story from an Asian country in which great moves of the Lord were happening regularly. We need to dare to let our best people go if there to be any chance of a movement beginning.

Tony also touched on spiritual warfare, we need to 'be not ignorant of the Evil One's devices'. Something that had helped Tony and Felicity was to pray through the Psalms. At one point they had read that they should pray until the enemy was unable even to lift up his head, and in that way they found victory in a particularly difficult and trying time.

Another topic he covered was the place of women in ministry. This is a very important battleground and he and Felicity always minister together if possible. There is another principle that he mentioned, one that seems to me to be true and worth remembering. Tony said, 'What God did last tends to persecute what he does next. We need to forgive.'

What I've written above are just highlights here and there, things I wanted to jot down to keep. There was much, much more, it was a wonderful day!

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