I’m actually writing this now that I’m back home after the conference. Last night, I had such a headful of ideas and inspiration that I just needed to decompress and spend time with my family. Read: Collapse in front of the TV.
Day three started with a talk from Brother Edward, a vicar serving the people of Damascus in Syria. I’ll tell you what, for most of us, even on our toughest day when it seems like all is against us, we don’t come anywhere close to what Brother Edward and his colleagues have to deal with on a daily basis. His stories of suffering were heart-breaking, particularly for me (as a Dad) when he spoke about how the children of Syria are dying or being maimed for life by bombs. But his message of hope and the strength of the faith of our brothers and sisters in Syria was truly humbling and uplifting.
They live daily with the threats of bombing, snipers, death at the hands of Islamic terrorists and yet they are so hungry for Christ, so hungry for His Word and so fearless in declaring their faith in Jesus.
There is no other word for that than humbling.
Brother Edward used the very appropriate example of Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem to illustrate how and why he and his colleagues are so steadfast in the face of the threats they face. They trust in the Lord and trust Him to protect His workers and to provide for them.
On the spur of the moment a collection was taken up among the delegates for Brother Edward and his mission. When the offerings were counted later on, between the 1,700 people in attendance, we raised £107,000 in a matter of minutes! Now either there were some INCREDIBLY generous people at the conference, or we witnessed God multiplying our offerings there and then. Whichever way around, what an incredible blessing to send back to Syria with Brother Edward.
A truly remarkable man of Faith.
Thursday’s second speaker was Charlotte Gambill, who spoke with passion and eloquence about the need to pass on skills and experience to the next generation. Using the example of Elijah throwing his cloak over the young Elisha as a sign of the start of his mentorship, she asked us to consider who we should throw our cloaks over and who has thrown theirs over us.
As in the case of Elijah, this can inevitably lead to some awkward conversations but Charlotte encouraged us all to embrace the awkwardness and step out in courage.
Just as the young Elisha had responded by first going to kiss his parents goodbye and to burn his plough, we were urged to consider what we need to leave behind us to move forward in ministry. We need to “kiss goodbye” to some people and things such that they may be able to bless us in the future. Basically we shouldn’t burn our bridges, but in “burning our plough” we need to recognise that some things in our current lives will have to be left behind 100%.
A very inspiring and challenging lesson.
Mark Batterson came back to the stage for the final session and to close the conference. At this point, I was tired and had my head and heart stuffed full of new things to take back and sort out. However, for me, the most relevant teaching of the conference came in this last session.
Mark spoke about how when we start with a small act of faith (Jesus spoke of a mustard seed) it can have huge and unintended positive consequences. He explained that, in his experience, God does reward small acts of faith but that multiplication is not linear. Rather, it is a geometric progression. I’ll borrow his illustration:
When a domino is knocked over, it has sufficient energy to knock over another domino 1.5 times it’s own size. Then this domino is able to topple one 1.5 times its size. And so on… By the time 20 or 30 dominos have fallen in this way, something the size of the Empire State Building has been knocked down!
Now that is very thought provoking isn’t it? It left my mind buzzing with thoughts of the small dominos I can knock over for God, knowing that He will take that step of faith and lead it into larger and larger opportunities! And no matter who you are, there will always be something small you can do for God.
I guess that’s how faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. Amazing!
And so with ploughs to burn and dominos to knock over I have now come back home. Refreshed and renewed to step out in bolder ways for the Lord and to build his Kingdom.
As a relatively recent Christian (at least in a serious sense) I can honestly say I have never been to an event quite like that, or experienced God’s Spirit moving in such a powerful way as I did in Harrogate. The fact that this view was also reflected by people with many more years of ministry under their belt than me is very, very encouraging. I learned loads just by chatting to other delegates too, especially with people who have planted or adopted new churches as we hope to ourselves. Some truly God-guided conversations.
A massive thank you to the leaders and team at New Wine for organising such an incredible conference. I look forward to the next national one in two years and to see the ways the Lord is going to move in the meantime.
Now let’s get on with building His Kingdom!