Everyone has their own language they use to describe context and church is no different. Some of these words are better than others, some have history, some find their roots in more contemporary society. ‘Denomination’ is a good example of the former and ‘network’an example of the latter.
When I talk of the connections Grace Church has, I try and use the language of family. We do not belong to an organisation and we pay no subscription fee. We are not bound by a confession, we are not connected by virtue of our geography to a bishop. Nor are we simply dipping in and out of a network for training or conferences.
Instead we are connected by relationship and through relationship we share common history, common DNA or values and we share a common destiny or mission. We are part of a family.
This past weekend, churches across the Relational Mission family of churches prayed together at the same time for similar things. It’s an attempt to put meaning behind the idea of being a ‘family of churches together on a mission’. Here in Stockholm amongst other things we connected by video and prayed with people serving in Turkey, planting a church in Riga and in Göteborg (Gothenberg), Sweden.
The future of Newfrontiers globally looks really bright on one basis: relationship. Relationship is the thing which holds us together. This was clearly on display at the global Newfrontiers conference held in Turkey a few weeks ago. Sphere leaders from across the globe gathered for four days of fellowship, worship, teaching and discussion. It was clear that no one wants to fragment or to go into isolation; at gatherings such as this one in Turkey, no one is missing.
I think we need to find better language, sphere leaders is gibberish to anyone else, but if you call them ‘heads of the families’ it makes us sound like we’re the Mafia. Still, in a season where people thought Newfrontiers had multiplied into irrelevance, it seems the outcome has instead been what we hoped for- growth.
Newfrontiers has now grown to around 1500 churches around the world – the family has grown and continues to grow. Real efforts are made to invest in relationship and mission together across cultural, ethnic and languages
Andrew Wilson, who was recently at another conference in Turkey says,
There’s nothing like being surrounded by brothers and sisters working in the Islamic world, and hearing people pray in Albanian, Arabic, Assyrian, English, Farsi, Kurdish, Lebanese, Russian, Tajik, Turkish, Ukrainian and Urdu (not to mention those from Dagestan, Georgia, Oman, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Morocco, Bulgaria and probably some places I’ve forgotten). I doubt I will ever forget the few minutes we spent praying for one brother whose biggest issue, as he explained, was the challenge posed by ISIS in making ministry more difficult.
For me one of the hallmarks of being a part of Newfrontiers the last twenty years or so would be this: prayer & friendship. For all our weaknesses and faults, these two things have been such a privilege and blessing.
It require commitment, we’re some distance from our nearest church, it requires effort and extra journeys but I’m convinced it is worth it. Dave Holden also has a good article on the opportunities and challenges of multiplication that Newfrontiers has faced.
Like a family there is room for growth through birth or adoption, like a family there is maturing and growing. Like a family there are differences, difficulties and sometimes discipline. Discipline is never enjoyable but to receive it is bearable if you know that the ones seeking to help you, love you and are family to you. It makes it more painful but also more possible. But like a family there should be succeeding generations that in turn have their own families. A healthy family passes on an inheritance from one generation to the next.
Now it’s always possible for a family member to strike off on their own, to say that our differences have become so great that like Lot we must go our own way. To leave a network is relatively painless, a denomination complicated, but to leave a family should have the weight of a son taking his share of the father’s estate before it’s time. It must bear more weight than a shift in standing order but nor should it be so heavy that courts of law are needed to deal with the separation.
Our hope and prayer was that our church family in Sweden and beyond would grow, would give life, would have an inheritance and a legacy to pass on to future generations.