Friday, 10 May 2013

Reports from Cwmbran

Two people I trust have been to Cwmbran and I am delighted to read their experiences.

Click their names to see their reviews.

Graham Pyman leads Jubilee Church in Derby.

Andy Robinson leads Kings Church Horsham.

My list of things I want to look out for as I approach stories of God being at move...

1) Lots of talk about Jesus - using the bible to explain the good news
2) Lots of emphasis on personal salvation
3) No-one trying to push me over
4) No heavy sell on "sowing into the revival"
5) Little emphasis on outward manifestations

It sounds like what is happening in Cwmbran is genuine and exciting.

I can't wait to go and see it for myself.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Another year, Another outpouring...

I have been hearing a few things about Victory Church in Cwmbran over the years.

Their Pastor Richard Taylor came to do an outreach event for us, and so I was able to meet him personally.

He seemed like a genuine bloke - he is obviously quite a strong character, but I trusted him.  I think he is straight.

He used to be part of Renewal Centre in Solihull.  He places a high priority on the preaching of the word.  He says the right things about it being about Jesus not people.

What I find quite interesting was that he was one of the most outspoken critics of the "Lakeland Outpouring", of Todd Bentley and of what was happening in Dudley.  He took to youtube to publically lambast what was happening and call people to not get caught up in the daftness.  With hindsight, he was right in many ways.

News of "another" outpouring no longer excites me, but rather makes me feel a little twitchy.  "Here we go again" is in the back of my mind, and yet the fact he is in the middle of it makes me particularly interested.  Not because of anything special about him,  but because I think he calls a spade a spade and the fact it is in his Church, given his previous views on similar claims by others, well it is just too intruiging to let go.

The week after next I will be fairly close to Cwmbran and so am thinking of swinging by and taking a look.  If God is at work I am up for seeing what is happening.  I don't want the excess or the nonsense of the past rob me of the blessing of the day.

So I go there very alert, yet to be convinced, and hopeful of being blessed.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

There is another skywalker

There is some amazing news in the Matthias household.

The kind of mind blowingly, amazingly large news which makes me really happy.

It has not all been plain sailing

And reading back that post I realised I used the "Not all plain sailing" line before.  Well it wasn't!

And this bit sounds daft, but I am actually really blessed by 227 "likes" on facebook for that photo.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

"Newfrontiers" now

Our Church website is about to be updated.

Where we were "part of Newfrontiers, member of the Evangelical Alliance and a charitable company number..."

We are now "A ChristCentral Church, part of Newfrontiers, members of the Evangelical Alliance and a charitable company..."

Imagine a father had several sons.  Those sons went on to have families of their own.  Each new family has its own identity, but they still bear the family name.  A new identity and a historic loyalty.  Both exist.

I have my own family, and I still bear my Father's name.  My family is my family, but we are all "Matthias".

So the new movements which have been released out of newfrontiers still bear the name "Newfrontiers" alongside their new identity.

In the UK the scene is still very organic, but we see (In no particular order):

ChristCentral led by Jeremy Simpkins

New Ground led by Dave Holden

Catalyst led by Dave Devenish

Relational Mission led by Mike Betts

Commission led by Guy Miller

Regions Beyond led by Steve Oliver

When I say "led by" and then a single name this is in fact a misrepresentation because each situation described is a strong team representing several different Churches and bringing different gifts.  So the ChristCentral team Jeremy leads includes Church leaders of significant stature in their own right from Leeds, Cockermouth, Huddersfield and Derby who bring different gifts to the table and provide accountability for Jeremy.

What has been fascinating to watch has been the way this has been led by relationships, rather than geography.

So for example churches in the UK with long standing friendship with Steve Oliver in Dubai relate to him.  And then all these groups already extend into other nations.  ChristCentral is working in Canada, Relational Mission into Scandinavia, Regions Beyond is someone from Dubai working into the UK.  Towns / cities next to each other in the UK may find themselves working in completely different networks, while also loving one another locally.

So we planted a Church in North Shrewsbury.  The leader went to plant a Church in Stockholm.  We now find ourselves working within different networks - ChristCentral and Relational Mission.  Next month he is coming to us to preach.  In the Lord he is my brother, and in Church terms he is probably now my cousin.  Not that I am too bothered by any of that because ultimately he is our friend.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Are you in a denomination?

This is a question I regularly get asked.

In a recent post I considered that newfrontiers was not a denomination and this was challenged by commenters.

Firstly - please consider my previous comments about Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists before being concerned I am having a dig at anyone.

Secondly - several friends of mine from university days are Church leaders - Newfrontiers, Vineyard, Anglican etc.  I have seen those go the "denominational" route, and those within church movements, and have witnessed a difference in structure.

Thirdly - I was pointed to Webster's definition of a denomination in respect of newfrontiers

a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices
And I guess it is the "religious organisation" bit which is where people consider differences.  What is the actual organisation? The whole discussion always comes back to definitions.

I would consider denominations to include the Church of England, Methodists & URC amongst others.

I would consider Church movements to include Newfrontiers, Vineyard, Salt & Light, Ground Level, Plumbline and NCMI.

Wikipedia has a surprisingly interesting piece on this which says
"Nondenominational" (or "Non-denominational") Christian institutions are those not formally aligned with an established religious denomination, but are historically Protestant, or that remain otherwise officially autonomous. This, however, does not preclude an identifiable standard among such congregations. Nondenominational church congregations may establish a functional denomination by means of mutual recognition of or accountability to other congregations and leaders with commonly held doctrine, policy and worship without formalizing external direction or oversight in such matters. Some nondenominational churches explicitly reject the idea of a formalized denominational structure as a matter of principle, holding that each congregation is better off being autonomous.
 And guess what, Newfrontiers & Vineyard appear in the list of such groups.

The definition of formal denomination and functional denomination is probably most helpful.  Because when I say "we are not formally a denomination" others say "yes, but you are by function", and perhaps we are both right.

I have a few questions (not an exhaustive list, just where I see differences between me and some of my friends) regarding a Churches legal framework which would certainly help to decide how "formal" a denomination was.

1) Who owns the property / assets?
2) What legal rights / legal roles does the central organisation have and how are these enforced?

3) Does money have to be given centrally?
4) Who pays ministers?  Who provides pensions?
5) Does the central body own: property, educational establishments etc?
6) Is there a designated HQ?
7) Who sets policies and procedures for Churches?

8) How is church oversight apportioned?  Geography etc?

So if I answer those for my own Church the answers are

1) Our local charity
2) None
3) No
4) Our local charity, a private pension provider
5) No
6) No
7) No-one - likeminded Churches have affiliated
8) Relationally, voluntarily.  Often this links to geography because you get to know people locally

Friends of mine in other Churches reply in very different terms to almost all those questions.  There are strengths and weaknesses both models.  This is not a "look who is best" but rather a genuine attempt to show what I mean.

The mission of my independent Church is gathered into a bigger mission, with other similar Churches, which functionally looks like a denomination, but if we left newfrontiers (or ChristCentral) tomorrow all we would do in reality is change the logo on our literature, lose some valuable spiritual input, and miss many friends.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Me and the UCCF

I have found myself in quite an interesting position recently, defending the UCCF.

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that must show quite a journey.

And I found my freedom to forgive and make my heart attitude right because of relationship.

Which is why my views on unity are ever evolving.

As I read back some of the things I said originally when discussing my own experiences, I genuinely now know my heart is clear.  They don't have any hold over me.

Receiving forgiveness is such a rich, rich blessing.

Sometimes we underplay the amazing gift of being imparted the grace to give it!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Reflecting on Christmas

It seems a long time ago now, but I am still trying to work out quite what happened this last Christmas.

We had two carol services on the Sunday before Christmas, 4.30pm & 7pm.

I knew something was up when guests started arriving 45 minutes early.

And they kept coming.

Not sure what your Church is like, but even though our start time is pretty consistent at 10am, we have people arriving well into the beginning of the service.

Well this was different.

By the time we were ten minutes to go, we are basically looking full.

The next 20 minutes are a blur, as the stewarding team managed to move our entire refreshment set up and fit in an extra 80 seats.

And so they kept coming.  We started just ten minutes late, surfing a tidal wave of visitors.

The second meeting felt a little bit small in comparison, which is a bit odd as it was larger than a usual service.

So we ended up with 540 people there.  Actually it was 570, but about 30 came to both including the choir.  540 unique visitors breaks our previous record for any day by a neat 123.

The vast majority of extra people were guests.  Some invited.  Some completely out of the blue.

There is not a marketing strategy, or a prayer strategy, or a guest speaker, or anything really that I can put my finger on, which explains why so many people seemed to show up.

I am pleased about that, because it must have been a God thing!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Christ Central on the web

I posted recently about being part of ChristCentral Churches.

One commenter of a previous post about the transition within newfrontiers was so incensed at a lack of web presence he wrote "If this is a master plan for a great way to move forward and be Church in the 21st century then someone has a great sense of humour."

To me that probably takes the biscuit for the strange path some of our detractors will take to find things to criticise, but it did make me hope the new website would go live soon.

Up until that point you could "like" ChristCentral Churches on Facebook and connect with lots of people.

You could follow ChristCentral Churches on twitter and keep up to speed with events etc.

Yesterday the website went live.  I like it.  Clean and crisp in design.  Very clearly part of the wider newfrontiers family while also having its own new identity.

There will be lots of new content in due course, but for now the platform is in place to build a useful resource for people within, and outside, to see what we are about.

A quick shout out to Catalyst, Relational Mission,  and the events hosted by New Ground, and Co-mission

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

High Chairs, and the road to Christian Unity

We recently changed the high chairs that we use, to stackable ones, because of reduced storage space.

So we had 13 folding ones we no longer needed.  All in reasonable, used condition.

We had thought of ebaying them, but actually, why not use our opportunity to renew stuff as an opportunity to bless others?

So I emailed a few mates and asked if they needed any?

2 are making their way to a local Anglican Church, whose toddler group I attend, and 2 to our local United Reformed Church just around the corner who have a thriving "Messy Church".

2 are off to the Baptists, the Church out of which we were planted, and three to a more rural Anglican Church several miles away who have hosted many of our Alpha Course away days in their lovely facilities.

2 are off to members of our local Newfrontiers Church here in Shrewsbury, and 2 are going to members of our congregation who responded to an offer on our Church facebook page.

So there we have it.

High chairs.

A blessing shared.

Several different Churches.

Many friends.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

We are Christ Central

Carrying on the discussion about the future of Newfrontiers, comes my own Church.

We are overseen by Jeremy Simpkins who provides friendship, encouragement and challenge to us as an eldership team.

In the past different people have looked after our Church and in a transient movement like newfrontiers this tended to change as people became involved in new things, both here and abroad.

Now we are in a really fruitful place relationally and receiving lots of gifts from a network of Churches, and hopefully being in some small way a blessing to others.

So when Jeremy was recognised to develop his ministry nothing really changed for us.  "Christ Central" is the name given to this work, part of the newfrontiers global family.

I am looking forward to their website going live at soon, and will try to make a regional celebration meeting in Derby next month

More locally we relate to other churches within our Borderlands region, Shropshire, Staffordhsire and North Wales, through a fortnightly prayer meeting and working together in different ways on the ground, with a camp coming up this summer called the Borderlands Camp.

I don't know how this journey will all end, but back in 2009 Dave Bish had a lot of this nailed in this post, and with that in mind fair play to Terry Virgo, he did what he said he would do.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Future of Newfrontiers in the UK

Terry Virgo did a very good job of explaining what was happening within Newfrontiers in this blog series here

The Future of Newfrontiers

And as Andrew Wilson expresses well, it is really important to counter the myths and explain that Newfrontiers is not breaking up

Yet there are big challenges ahead.  The challenges I forsee are numerous, and four of specific concern to me are:

1) What about Churches who don't feel they "fit" into the new teams being developed?  As in, if your primary relationships were with people who are no longer in a driving seat, how do you transition?

2) What happens when there is missional / theological divergence amongst teams?

3) How does a family co-ordinate its independent lives?  What bits do we still do together?

4) What does it mean for some of the massive Churches who may feel they have lots of gifts within themselves and are therefore less reliant on external relationships?

This whole process is going to require a lot of prayer, a lot of grace and a lot of humility from people as they seek to find where they fit into the future.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Farewell, Newfrontiers UK

At the turn of the year, Newfrontiers UK, the UK part of the "apostolic sphere" of Terry Virgo, formally ceased to exist in it's previous form.  While the relationships and future plans had been under development for a couple of years, that was the moment, when something really final happened.

"Newfrontiers" is now a collection of "apostolic spheres" all over the world, of which there are six relating in the UK, around familiar (within newfrontiers) names of Jeremy Simpkins, Mike Betts, Guy Miller, Dave Devenish, David Holden and Steve Oliver.

Names for these new church groupings have sprung up: "Relational Mission", "Catalyst",  "Christ Central".

Many of these spheres involve Churches all over the world; USA, Dubai, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, France, the list goes on.

Other places in the world have seen apostolic teams released: such as John Kpipi in Ghana, Edwards Buria in Kenya and PJ Smyth in South Africa, and several more.

Out of these come new conferences, new Church planting, new Ephesians 4 ministries.

But what impresses me most of all, is what it actually says about newfrontiers.

So often people accused newfrontiers of being a denomination by any other name.  Which it wasn't.  And isn't.  And now a myriad of new Church movements spin off from what we were together, it proves it once and for all.  Instead of the legal, the bureaucratic, the centralised, all that is left is the relationships.
(EDIT: I am not saying this is a fair reflection of what a denomination is!)

Out of one person's ministry comes tenfold of what he started 40 years ago.  That is real fruit.

He could have appointed the next "pope" to rule over the whole thing.  That is what many people thought would happen when he handed over to a "successor".  But he didn't.  He released his children to forge their own future.

But what now?  It reminds me of the moment when parents stop hosting the family Christmas, and the children become the hosts.  In this case spiritual children held together by common ancestry and identity, but forging their own lives and destinies, while still occasionally meeting up and carrying the family name.

I am not sure many Church movements have ever done it this way before.  I don't know what will happen.  I can see challenges ahead.

But ultimately, I think it's a really, really exciting time.