All I can say after yesterday is wow!
A group of us from our church have come to the New Wine Leadership Conference in the lovely town of Harrogate in Yorkshire. We’re here for three days of learning, sharing and networking with around 2,000 fellow church leaders from throughout the UK and further afield.
Well, we’ve only been here for one day and already I have a head so full of information and new ideas that I’m awake before 6am and having to dump it all somewhere!
This would seem to be a good place…
John Coles, the Chair of New Wine, started proceedings off with a real wake-up call for us as leaders to live lives of discipline. More importantly, he called on us to build a network of prayer around our church leaders in order to protect them. In this spiritual battle, the enemy wants to take out those in leadership roles in his effort to weaken the body as a whole. It’s easy for us to see church leaders as somehow stronger than the rest of us, as more immune from the attacks of the enemy. Yet in many ways they, we, are more vulnerable. John’s sensitive and powerful call to prayer was a well needed reminder for everyone.
Nicky Gumbel from Holy Trinity Brompton probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, particularly to anyone that’s been involved in the Alpha Course. As the day’s second speaker, he delivered a rousing call to the conference to dream big dreams. Dreams so big that they are bound to fail unless God is in them! He then spoke, using Abraham as an example, about the need to be patient and to trust God in the time between Him making a promise and it being fulfilled.
Interestingly, when talking about the fear which can hold us back, Nicky shared that he personally has a fear of speaking in public. Now he really is a very good speaker, you’d never believe for a moment that it’s something that frightens him, and this is such a powerful testimony to the way God enables the people He’s chosen to do His work.
The final speaker of the day (and the main speaker at the conference) was Mark Batterson from National Community Church in Washington DC. I’d not heard of Mark before and have to confess that I was somewhat uncertain about the same speaker doing four sessions throughout the event. Having seen his first talk however, all I can say is being the rest of them on!
Mark spoke well with masses of humour and energy about his experience as a church planter and the need for us to surround ourselves with a circle of prayer. Above all of the preaching, teaching and various other ministries in church, it’s prayer that will have the biggest impact as we step into the plans God has for us. Of particular importance for me personally was his message about the need to be intentional in our prayer lives; setting a time and place and then meeting God there regularly. It’s the way we’d conduct any other relationship so why not our most important one?
I’m very much looking forward to what else Mark has to share during the next couple of days.
We were also blessed with some wonderful times of worship during which the Holy Spirit was clearly at work among the delegates. Testimonies were given about the way that God is blessing leaders and their churches through the support of organisations like New Wine.
For instance, a lady from Halifax spoke about a church plant which began at their local food bank with only a handful of people. Three years later, it now has 150 members and they have baptised 92 new believers in the last two years alone! Now that is the power of God on the move! I’d love to see the same in our church. I trust and believe that through prayer, we will.
It’s been a great conference so far – very professionally set up and run – and we’ve only been here for one day so far! There are more great speakers lined up today and tomorrow, among them Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I’m particularly looking forward to seeing.
So I’m waiting expectantly to find out what God in his graciousness is going to bless us with (and do among us) here in Harrogate today.
I just hope that there’s room in my head for it all!