It is always hugely enjoyable to attend our annual American leaders’ conference, entitled “Equipped for Mission”. As we enter the foyer of the hotel we use, crowds are milling about, some of whom have driven six, eight, even ten or twelve hours to be there. Others have flown in from Mexico or Seattle in the Northwest, or Boston in the Northeast. There are cries of joy, lots of hugs and excited exchanges as people greet each other. Small groups form and go off to eat together, and this year it was warm enough to sit outside in the big plaza where several restaurants are situated. It is hard to carry on a coherent conversation because so many friends are passing and stop to say hello.
The first session starts with a vibrant song led by Jordan Dillon and his excellent band, and hearts and hands are lifted in worship. Over the next three days, the presence of God is wonderfully intimate as we declare eternal truths and welcome the King among us.
John Lanferman, David Devenish, Bryan Mowrey and Terry all bring superb messages which edify, inform, challenge, direct, affirm, inspire. There are amazing stories of conversions, healings and encounters with God. Yet when the prayer times come, many divulge that the battles are hard and demanding as they labour to advance the Kingdom. We are proud of our warriors!
One of the highlights of the conference is the banquet evening. There is good food, a great band, dancing, and lots of conversations: that is if you can sustain the effort of talking in competition with the band!
On the last evening I was having dinner with my friend Mary Chambers, and she told me of a conversation she had had with a waitress at the banquet. As Mary thanked her for clearing the table, the woman said, “It’s a pleasure serving this crowd! You all seem to know each other, and have fun. You are like one big family”.
Mary explained that we all belong to a group of churches called Newfrontiers.
“A church group!” the waitress exclaimed. But some of you are dancing, some are drinking wine!” She paused, and observed, “But no-one is getting drunk; there’s no arguing or quarrelling, and everyone is happy. And you are all polite and appreciative. It makes a nice change!”
What was happening there in St Louis is not unique. It happens in other venues and contexts where our churches meet. It is good to know that we are exhibiting a different life-style even when we are unaware of it simply by our conversation and behaviour.
Its Kingdom life.