Days of Prayer
I have recently had a chance to join yet another apostolic sphere of Newfrontiers, this time for a couple of days of prayer. What a joy! This pattern of prayer for leaders was established in the ’80s by Terry Virgo and has been the engine room of much of the blessing that has been enjoyed both in and through the family of Newfrontiers churches for decades.
I also took the opportunity to interview Guy Miller – see below.
Around 120 leaders gathered in Bournemouth under Guy Miller’s leadership including leaders from Serbia, the Philippines and the Middle East. We were also joined on Skype by Mike Shore from Portugal who led us for a whole session in prayer for Portugal and Spain. It was exciting to hear of and pray for the six churches and church plants that are taking place there, some having arisen through ministry with the poor. Praise God for being able to use current technology to enjoy ‘family-live’ across the nations.
The first session was given over to worship and the sense of God’s sovereignty was almost tangible. Mark Landreth-Smith, currently church planting in Newbury, reported of an extraordinary surge of salvations in The Gate in Reading with a reported 1000+ being prayed for with many receiving Christ on the streets in less than two weeks. It seems there is something quite special going on among many Baptist churches in the UK.
Guy then shared his personal story within the context of his time in Newfrontiers’ churches as a way of sharing his vision for Commission for 2020 and beyond.
Planting in other nations
I always get excited to hear of fresh initiatives in other nations. Stories were told of effective ministry in India, Nepal, the Middle East, Portugal and Brazil. Miro Fic, a leader from Serbia also held our attention as we heard of his energetic ministry into eight Balkan nations, building networks, publishing 80 titles of books in 10 years (previously there had been only three!), feeding 200 weekly for 3 months from a church of only 12 people and describing some remarkable healings which had opened up families to receive the gospel. It was a privilege then to join in prayer for the various ministries and churches he is involved with.
The final session was given to praying for Westpoint, the long established Commission Bible Festival held annually at the end of August. There was great faith for this event with its exciting and interesting programme. Earlier in the two days one leader had described how God had called him to church plant in another nation at a previous Westpoint and was now on the verge of relocating with his family after a season of preparation. That is what it is all about – worshipping and listening to God and then responding in obedience. I shall certainly be visiting!
While with these leaders I took the opportunity to interview Guy. I hope you enjoy hearing from his perspective what is going on and is planned.
Footnote about the poor
Commission churches are very active in their ministries with the poor. I encourage you to visit their website to read and watch videos about some of the exciting things they are doing.
PJ Smyth was one of the men at the Together on a Mission conference in 2011 for whom Terry Virgo prayed as he passed over the baton of leadership of Newfrontiers to men who had already demonstrated apostolic ministries.
Recently PJ convened a conference in the UK for the leaders of his sphere, Advance. As well as those churches in the UK who look to PJ for oversight, participants came from across five continents including the USA, Africa and Australia.
PJ and his wife, Ashleigh, will shortly be relocating from Godfirst Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, where they have been pioneering for the past 11 years, to lead Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, close by Washington DC. In this interview PJ shares some of his story and vision.
When Sam Amara, a lecturer in Hebrew and Greek languages in the Pentecostal International Bible Seminary in Nigeria, met Simon Pettit from Jubilee Church, Cape town in 1997 he gained a new understanding of the doctrine and practice of grace. As a result he planted a church, Riches of Grace, in Lagos.
Recently I had the joy of hosting him in my home having last visited him in 2010. I was greatly encouraged to learn of the progress made in both the church and the school which he and his wife started, now numbering 70 children from 3-15. This interview will allow you to be as envisioned and informed as I have become over these days including some insights on some of the challenges faced by the church in that culturally challenging nation.
Due to the growth that has taken place since Newfrontiers was re-expressed in 2011 as several apostolic spheres it has been difficult to keep in touch with the blessing of news from across the movement. When, from time to time I have published occasional news as I have become aware of it, this seems to have been appreciated. Now seems a good time to do so again since, at this time of year, several of the UK-based apostolic teams have events during a short school holiday.
Click on the logo to see this short review video.
Personally I was at the Norfolk Showground where Steve Oliver, who has recently relocated from Dubai, launched Fusion 2016.This is the first Regions Beyond event for all UK-based churches and I commend the organisers for all the thorough planning. Gathering over 1100 it was a very encouraging launch of a new initiative.
On the opening evening Trevor Payne, who is based at Hope Church in Orpington, welcomed us by reminding us that fusion is a process for combining different elements together through the application of heat. I think he had the Holy Spirit in mind rather than the chilly wind outside! Then Steve shared with us a prophetic word brought by Rob Rufus 20+ years ago that we were entering a season when time would be speeded up – 7 years would become like 7 months, 7 months like 7 weeks and 7 weeks like 7 days. Steve felt that that season was now near.
The theme of Fusion 2016 was Pioneers. Ray Lowe spoke challengingly, with current examples of those who, in our midst, are living radically and have taken non-conventional decisions for the gospel’s sake. He particularly cited Donna Bloomfield whom he had requested to send an answer to the question ‘Why do you go to Burundi?’ (which is one of the most dangerous countries to visit at present and is bottom of the UN’s poverty list of countries). He read her response which was both moving and challenging and resulted in many being prayed for that they would become more ‘sold out’ for the gospel.
Looking good but being ineffective
Later, Steve reminded us that we are here to change the world! He urged leaders to develop those who are rising up and to beware of getting distracted by pursuing excellence of meetings etc at the cost of making disciples. Beware looking good but being ineffective.
He also shared the purpose of the offering which reflected the need to break further into other nations, particularly helping to buy a piece of land in one ‘closed’ country.
Daniel Macleod from Orpington asked the question ‘Do you want to be a fire starter?’ Drawing from the story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush he urged us to see that we need the fire of God to be effective and radical. We are to start fires wherever we are.
There were seminars on ‘Taking the City’ and ‘Israel’ which, like all the ministry, can be found by clicking here. There was also excellent ministry for the children.
Sadly the weekend had to be closed early due to weather but despite this a very solid foundation was established on which to build in future years.
As I write, Mike Betts is holding his international leaders conference in Norwich at which Terry Virgo and Edward Buria are speaking. I was particularly pleased to have the chance to meet up with Edward and Fridah who arrived in Norwich while I was still in the area. We enjoyed catching up on the ‘missing’ four years since my last visit to Kenya.
As always it is inspiring and faith building to speak with Edward and Fridah, learning on this occasion of their on-going establishment of churches across Kenya and beyond, and the continued efforts to alleviate poverty and respond to the effects of drought.
Many churches are in touch with people who are ‘broken’ through addictions and life-controlling issues. I am impressed by Jim Harper’s vision to help them and the fruit of the last ten years. Maybe you know someone who could benefit? Here is some more about the Camp.
Some years ago, God spoke to Jim Harper (an elder of Hope Church, Worcester, UK) about gathering people together for supernatural breakthroughs. “In the Spirit I saw addicts getting healed and set free, broken people being made whole…” says Jim. It is out of this that Encounter began. Encounter is a five-day camp held in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside and has been running since 2006. People from all over the country attend; it is for adults who are connected to a Church or Christian project.
The aim of Encounter is to provide an environment for broken people to encounter God and be set free. During the five days Encounter delegates enjoy evening worship, teaching and ministry, and daily activities such as team games, drama and art workshops as shown on this video.
They have seen God’s power breakthrough in many people’s lives. This is just one of those stories:
“I was brought up in foster care from the age of 4 and got introduced to the occult when I was 14. That quickly became part of my everyday life. When I turned 21 social services dropped off and very shortly afterwards I was faced with the very real prospect of homelessness which is why I started using the soup run, staffed by a bunch of “goodie two-shoe Christians” (as I viewed it at that time).
On the Wednesday afternoon I pulled a leader aside and told him I wanted to become a Christian. I repented of my sins and gave my life to Christ. At that moment I got nothing. People said they had a sense of peace and felt a love they had never felt before. All I felt was disappointment.
In the evening, after worship & preach, anyone wanting baptism in Holy Spirit or a gift from God went to the back of the barn. I went and was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
The rest of the week was brilliant. I saw things in a totally different way. The Bible started to make sense. I began to pray. From that day I totally changed, and this change has continued ever since”
“Encounter Camp has become an essential part of the year’s plans. By being together, having fun and meeting with God, lives are changed. I know that when people go to Encounter a few months work can be done in a few days.” .
A developing vision
Over the years they have seen many great things, but there is so much more yet to see according to Jim’s vision. So they are looking to God for more of His presence, more breakthrough and more lives transformed. As well as this they aim to support and plant projects and Churches that are reaching some of society’s most broken and disadvantaged people. The camp is becoming the annual gathering of these groups.
Come and join us
This year’s camp is on 11th – 15th July. Why not take some people?
For more information about Encounter visit the website
Jubilee International School
JIS in Conakry, Guinea (West Africa) has well over 300 students ranging in age 3-26, the older ones being anxious to catch up with schooling lost when schools have been closed through war, ebola and civil unrest. To view a short video click on the picture.
Your help is needed
In recent months we have collected resources for the school and church. A container of equipment for the church and school, from furniture to curricular, toys to microscopes, bicycles to wedding dresses, has been filling. We are now nearly there. But musical instruments, PA and other equipment are still needed. Specifically:
- Acoustic Guitars
- Bass guitars
- Electrical guitars
- Nine- or seven-piece drum set
- PA system – Amplifier, Microphones etc
- Projector screen
- Projectors light (light for filming)
Are you able to help us? This is urgent as we need to be shipping within a few weeks. Please contact me if you feel you can offer any items.
So far we have considered strategies for handling distractions related to technology and environment. Now I want to help you anticipate your reactions to distractions.
Recently I was reminded of a song we used to sing in the 80s ‘I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation’ written by Mark Altrogge (©1982 People of Destiny). Some of the stanzas are:
‘I want to give my life for something that will last for ever…’
‘I want to build with silver and gold…’
‘I want to see the Kingdom of God in my generation…’
This is an expression of our heart’s desire to make life count in answer to the question that Mark reiterates in the refrain:
‘What is on Your heart? Show me what to do.’
My own desire is that the priorities in my life contribute to the advance of the Kingdom of God on earth. To achieve this and line up with his will I need to be intentional about prioritising my time or else I will find it filled with ‘distractions’, things that come at me from outside and determine how I spend my days. How do I do this?
I believe that planning is a godly pursuit, provided we are in control and it does not take control of us. To be effective we need to do this attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As we use our God-given creativity to make plans while keeping an ear open to the Holy Spirit I believe we shall be following his will (Prov 16:3).
I have written extensively about diary planning, so will only skim the surface of this important activity here. The principle is that we should seek to ‘write our history in advance’. At the start of each day we have 16 or so hours ahead of us. How we use them will be a measure of our effectiveness in advancing the Father’s will. Some time may be spent with people, other on specific tasks. It is important that we also have times of relaxation, not being driven by the need to always be ‘doing’. (My booklet on Making the Best use of Time may help you – see side panel).
Rarely does a day actually work out precisely as planned – there is always the unknown that needs attention. But by prioritising the things that we feel are important (which is not necessarily the same as ‘urgent’) we have the opportunity to use our time in a productive and fruitful way.
If we take this approach we are well set to deflect distractions, in effect telling the distraction that it is not as important as the thing you have pre-determined to focus on.
So – do it!
Next time we will conclude this short series by considering how to ‘take every thought captive’.
Last time we looked at strategies for taking control of your technology. Now we will consider the environment.
Your normal environment, whether home of office, is full of things that are calling for your attention. Whether it is a photo of the family, a book you are reading, some unfinished piece of work or just the need to ‘tidy that shelf – it won’t take long’, you are surrounded by an environment that carries emotional and functional ties that shout for attention. As such, for focussed activity you are fighting a battle before you start. I urge you to find a different/neutral environment where this is possible and appropriate.
For years I have followed a practice that I have found particularly useful. When I have wanted some peace and quiet for a more prolonged period of prayer, or have had a piece of work, such as writing, that has demanded sustained concentration, I have gone to a neutral environment for a day. Usually this has been a friend’s house that has been vacant while they were out at work. Here I can just have the relevant ‘tools’ – books, laptop etc – to get the job done, although even having the laptop produces the temptation to look at emails etc. That can only be handled by self-discipline, which I consider below.
But going away for a day is appropriate only for a substantial piece of work. What about the day-to-day activities that can so easily get interrupted? Planning can achieve that. For instance I happen to be writing this part of the blog in a waiting room as I have arrived very early for an appointment. I knew I would have this time (several hours as it happens) so planned to use it productively. There is nothing in my view that I ‘own’ so I can just focus on this writing.
Removing yourself as far as possible from a distracting environment is something to be considered.
Is Tokyo the solution?
In the article on the website I referenced last time the writer tells of a man who went to extremes to put this principle into practice. He was writing a book and approaching a deadline. He could not see how to carve out sufficient undistracted time in his normal environment so purchased a ticket to fly from the USA to Tokyo and back in order to get substantial chunks of uninterrupted time. On arrival in Tokyo he went straight to the departure gate for his return flight! This seems a little extreme but demonstrates the value of making yourself inaccessible to interruptions.
Recently I watched a TED Talk on procrastination, the practice of putting off doing things. Distractions drove the speaker’s life. While amusingly presenting the topic Tim Urban showed how he personally lacked discipline and was trying to address it.
Self-discipline, which starts with self-awareness, is often the ‘bottom line’ to handling distractions. When you feel yourself reaching for something (smartphone?) while trying to attend to another matter discipline yourself to put it down and return to the matter in hand. Listen to that ‘inner prompting’ and pay attention to it. This takes time to learn and become a habit, and determination to implement, but it will repay you many-fold if you can stick at it.
There are yet more strategies we can adopt and we will consider these next time
So far we have considered what constitutes a distraction and have looked at some of the things that cause distractions. We could extend that list but there is little benefit. The important part of this series is to suggest solutions and strategies for handling distractions.
I am going to suggest several possible solutions for you to consider and apply in your own life; there is no ‘one size fits all’ but there are some principles that can be widely applied. You may also like to look at a website I recommend which has a fuller article on this subject, including drawing from various research papers which provide deeper understanding of why we behave how we do and how we can beneficially modify our behaviour.
We live in an age of bombardment, visual and auditory attention seekers attacking us from all directions. The result is that we lose focus.
Focus, like our physical bodies, needs intentional development if it is not to get lazy. To be honest I don’t find huge pleasure in attending a gym but I know that I feel better if I am disciplined and consistent at going through the routine my instructor has given me. That repetitiveness builds up muscle and stamina, and equips me better to meet the demands of everyday life.
Focus is similar; it requires self-discipline. What are some of the keys that can help us focus which, as we use them regularly, become a habit – the equivalent of a muscle made fit through regular usage.
One of my greatest battle-grounds comes at the start of the day when I set aside undisturbed time to read my Bible and to pray. Instantly my mind starts to wander. Then I think of something I should be doing that day and can’t get it off my mind. In order to remain focussed I have to be intentional, keeping a notepad beside me to jot down things that are distracting me so that I can return to them later.
The fact that I use a Bible reading scheme that is on my smart-phone is both helpful and unhelpful. Helpful as my ‘notepad’ is immediately to hand; unhelpful in that I can easily get distracted by other apps etc on my phone while turning to the notepad, which can take my mind in other directions. Once again, self discipline is called for!
2. Turn off the phone
It is important to differentiate between the vehicle and the content of communication. The vehicle, in this case the phone, can become all intrusive. How often have you been in conversation with someone and their mobile phone has rung? Without thinking they pick it up and answer it. If they had been away from their phone that person would surely have left a message or phoned back. Or they hear a text message arrive and reach for the phone? Meanwhile they have been distracted from the conversation they were having with you and typically restart it with ‘Now, where was I?’
Apart from being discourteous this is also inefficient. The train of thought of both of you has been interrupted by the distraction and intrusiveness of technology which seems to demand attention. Turn the phone off or put it on airplane mode! There are few things more irritating than talking with someone while being aware that they are not giving you their full attention. (We may consider listening skills on another occasion.)
Next time we shall continue to look at some other strategies to help you retain focus and handle distractions.
Last time we saw that we have the option of taking control when distractions might throw us off course. Now let’s look at what some of those distractions are.
1. Communication devices
There are many sources of potential distraction, but the main one nowadays seems to be so-called communication devices (which so often hinder quality face to face communication!). These are the biggest culprits ie the phone, for actual calls, and the tablet/smart phone, with all its alluring apps, text alerts etc. These in turn carry further distractions such as Facebook, Instagram etc – good ‘servants’ but over-bearing ‘masters’ if you allow them to dominate your life.
Then there are interruptions from outside which have the potential of becoming distractions – people who walk into your office unannounced, phone calls you had not expected to receive that appear to demand immediate response (but rarely do), and so on.
The result of all these distractions and interruptions can be huge frustration, a lack of achieving what is needed, resulting in the inclination to over-work to make up for lost time. This then invades family life and can tempt you to sleep fewer hours, which leads to diminished performance resulting in a spiral of tiredness > under-achievement > yet longer working hours > yet greater tiredness….
3. Social media
Many preachers reckon it takes one hour of preparation for every five minutes of a sermon. I was alarmed to be speaking to a preacher a few years ago who told me that he just did not have time for such preparation due to the demands of email, Facebook etc. Demands? To me this exemplified a lack of self-control. Where are his priorities?
This is another distracting principle that is often held up as a virtue. People like being thought of as ‘high capacity’ who get a lot done. And there is of course some truth in this. However, multi-tasking can also cause diminished performance on any particular task as your mind is not sufficiently focussed on the job in hand; one task distracts your thoughts from another.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure you have many more things that are personal to you which you could add to the list. Remember, in this context they are enemies to fulfilled and effective living!
I encourage you to be on the alert. Those things that interrupt or deflect your thinking– the thought that ‘comes to mind’ etc. – can so easily appear to demand immediate attention. Don’t be tempted! Be self-disciplined and ‘park it’ for future attention. You may even find it has gone away when you return to consider it!
Next time we will turn our attention to the core solution – ‘focus’.