So here I am in Brighton for Newfrontiers' Together on a Mission conference. On the way from the car park to the lobby I met several people I knew from around the country and around the globe. Thousands dressed like in holiday gear but armed with Bibles and other Christian paraphernalia.
11.30 and we kick off with worship led by Kate Simmonds from Australia. I'm not convinced of the point of the choir but the worship was tremendous. Thousands instantly focused on Jesus, glorifying him with exuberant, joyful, loud, vibrant worship. I've got to say I absolutely loved it.
Stu Gibbs reads out a list of nations represented (there's a lot) and it's clear that this is an international conference and we are an international family of churches together on a mission. That's good.
Terry Virgo introduces 'Bones' Mbonisi Malaba from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Personally I was delighted that a young black man from Zimbabwe opened the conference. Its no good being an international family of churches if we only ever hear from white, english middle aged men.
Bones speaks on Jonah. And it was all going so well. So the Old Testament character count is underway. 1 session 1 OT character related to our vision. In this case 'reaching the nations'.
I'll give fuller details later but to summarise the talk - God has a global heart for the nations and big cities of this world. Example Nineveh. The final third looked at Paul from Acts 18 and used the fact that he tentmaked in Corinth, stayed long enough (18 months) and influenced the city to challenge us to do just that. A lot of city talk in evidence early on. Fair enough I guess. Bones was balanced enough to say God loves people wherever they are.
It ended with a list of the 50 largest cities and their populations being read out. Those who felt called to church plant in these major cities were invited to come to the front for prayer. 1 Session 1 response to the front for prayer.
It reminded me of a friend of mine who lives in Karachi. I gave him 60 seconds to pitch to me why I should consider moving to Karachi. He gave me the best pitch in 10 seconds. '18 million people who don't know Jesus'. That's the most compelling reason to move.
So we're off to a good start. I'm excited about world missions, we need to be on it, Jesus calls us to it, we mustn't duck it. Bones served us well with his passion, energy and faith.
Session 2 - Stef Liston.