New New Ground

O, to be in England, when it’s winter there. We flew from (relatively, temporarily) sunny Scotland to the chill and cheerless monochrome of snow-covered Gatwick and the M25. The pilgrimage was for New Ground’s first event for the leadership couples of its churches.

A brief bit of explanation. I’m part of a family of churches called Newfrontiers, which has recently gone through a change process from being a single unit to multiple groups of churches, a bit like how families grow. The group that my church has chosen to be part of is led by Dave Holden and called New Ground. We’re still Newfrontiers, as are all the other churches in all the other groups, and we’re also New Ground now. Clear?

As you might expect of an event that had a priority of everyone getting to know each other, it was a busy 24 hours. We worshiped together, being united by Christ like nothing else, of course. We spoke to people we hadn’t met before and started to form new connections and friendships. And we looked at what we’re called to do and be together.

This began with Dave talking about the importance of leaders demonstrating what we say our churches are about. If we don’t live these things out, our churches won’t either:

  • Grace-filled community
  • Focused on Jesus’ mission
  • Empowered by the Holy Spirit
  • Enabling diversity
  • Releasing creativity

There’s nothing especially novel there, but it does feel new at the same time. This is part of the deal when you follow the God who is unchanging and loves doing new things. Living and leading through that is strange and exciting.

Two sessions focused on marriage. One of the most consistent and damaging problems in church life is marriages failing, and leaders mustn’t take theirs for granted. Again the principle of modelling godly living was emphasised. We were warned that public disasters are preceded by private mistakes. The temptation to put more time and effort into ministry than marriage was addressed and challenged. Several couples shared, with incredible frankness for a new gathering, about the difficulties and the joys they’d experienced. It was encouraging and sobering stuff.

The final talk was by Phil Moore, who described four areas of new ground (get it?) that we’re going to take. They’re not unique to us but we’re going for them:

  • The Word: remembering what's been forgotten and applying it to the present day, without enshrining our past.
  • The Spirit: trusting in Him and not human gifting or our own preferences.
  • Where we are: the gospel is necessary to everyone, all the time, everywhere. It should be noticeable that churches are where they are.
  • Nations: Europe has special difficulties and importance.

Phil also gave us another way of seeing the development of Newfrontiers, paralleling our situation with that of God’s people when they entered the Promised Land. They identified themselves as both Israel and their particular tribe. Israel was not dismantled when each tribe started to take its own land as they had been allotted and called to do.

Finally, we talked about money. We will be giving to this project, like the first investors in an enterprise, to kick-start new churches and everything else that’s required. That word “new” again.

So we’re up and running. Clear about what we’re doing, getting to know our team mates, and leaning fully on God.

As we finished up, Dave reminded of why all this was happening: millions of people don’t know Jesus, so thousands of churches need to be planted and grown. “Expect lots of surprises,” he said. It was 24 hours that made perfect sense of our full name: “New Ground, part of Newfrontiers.”