In 1979 the first Downs Bible Week was launched at Plumpton Racecourse in Sussex, UK. There were 2900 who camped there on that occasion. Over the next ten years this grew to 8,500 until, in 1988, God told us to close the Bible Week and ‘take the Downs to the nation’. This resulted in the Enjoying God’s Grace tour (fondly called the EGG tour!) with a weekend conference in 16 cities. Meanwhile, for two years a youth event was held at Plumpton, More than Conquerors, the forerunner of Newday.
In 1991 the Stoneleigh Bible Week was launched in the heart of the UK, near Coventry. Starting with 8,500 this grew to 28,000 over eleven years. Then God told us to ‘Go!’, a commission that has taken us from 250 churches in about 40 nations to nearly 1000 churches in at least 70 nations.
Last weekend I visited Westpoint, the Bible Weekend organised by Guy Miller and his team from the Newfrontiers sphere known as Commission. Just over 3000 attended. As I walked around the site seeing people enjoying fellowship outside their tents and joined the enthusiastic worship in the main venue, followed by outstanding preaching, I reflected on what God had done in the past 3+ decades. Much was similar to Downs – a field of campers, marquees for the children to meet in, straw bails as seats in front of a second stage on which bands performed – and the inevitable sign warning people of boggy conditions underfoot! And yet this was a gathering of people from only one of fifteen similar spheres around the world. Indeed, two other Bible Weekends were taking place at the same time in other parts of the UK, and others had happened earlier in the year. Meanwhile I was hearing good reports of the huge blessings from Newday attended by 7000 people, of the Together on a Mission leaders conference that had just been held in Kenya with Peter Brooks from Australia as one of the speakers, and I had spoken recently with Terry Virgo who had just returned from speaking at Celebration North East in the USA, one region of John Lanferman’s sphere. Just a few examples of multiplied occasions for people to gather to worship, receive teaching, and be refreshed and reminded of the worldwide vision we have been given to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
My main reason for visiting Westpoint was to renew fellowship with leaders from India whom I have come to know and love over many years. They were an example of what God has been doing worldwide and continues to do through Newfrontiers churches, talking about significant church growth (several churches now hold multiple meetings to accommodate the numbers attending), church planting, ministry with the poor and so on. God is on the move and the kingdom is advancing.
If God can take the family of Newfrontiers churches from one to fifteen spheres in about 35 years, influencing hundreds of thousands of people in more than one third of the world’s nations, just think what can happen over the next 35 years! We serve an awesome God. Let’s acknowledge and thank him for what he is doing and what he has allowed us to be part of in our generation.
One of Mark Altrogge’s worship songs comes to mind: ‘I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation’. Let’s keep running!
Finally, listen and be blessed!
At the recent Newday God gave Stef Liston a remarkable poem giving a sweep of scripture. I have listened twice and will do so again. It touched me deeply and drew me out in worship of our wonderful Saviour. I urge you to download it and bask in the truth contained. Jesus – who was, and is, and is to come