So after a whirlwind couple of weeks I’ve finally managed to grab a bit of time and space to reflect on things, not least the Ignition conference I attended in Doncaster last week. In a nut-shell, Ignition was immense! I hesitate to use the phrase ‘life-changing’ as I’m well aware of my tendency to exaggerate, though in this instance, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration.
Here’s how it went down:
After a stupidly early start on Tuesday and travelling on 4 different trains, by the time I eventually arrived in Doncaster, I was utterly shattered (newborn twins and less than 3 hours sleep the night before hadn’t helped!) However, within minutes of getting off the train I bumped into my Scottish buddy Neil MacMillan (who I had done Acts 29 coach training with in January) and straight away I was enjoying celtic brotherhood. We then hooked up with Canadian Dan, Claus from Denmark and Kristoffer from Norway, and as we chatted together in the taxi, en route to Bawtry Hall, international brotherhood was already being forged.
To be honest, I reckon for many of us that was perhaps the most important element of the whole conference. Sure we had some warm, wise words from Steve Timmis and Richard Coekin dropped by to bless us with some helpful and insightful teaching. We ate good food, drank copious amounts of coffee and watched Man Utd beat Rangers down the local pub. But what blessed and affected me most of all was simply hanging out with, listening to and learning from brothers who are engaged in gospel warfare on the frontline of various cultures and contexts from right across Europe. There were nearly 40 of us there from all over Europe, so on the first evening when it was announced that we would ALL be sharing a bit about the work we were involved in, I must confess my initial thought was “this is gonna take chuffin’ ages!!”
With hindsight, however, it was a stroke of genius.
As man after man, from trench after trench stepped up and shared the story of how God had led them on a church planting adventure, often despite huge discouragement and considerable opposition – you could almost tangibly feel the respect, the love, the brotherhood developing amongst us. It’s seriously nuts how after just 2 days, every one of these men now feels like a brother to me – I feel like I could wage war alongside any and every one of them.
Another thing I loved about hanging out with the Acts29WE boys was the unity. We all worshipped the same Christ, loved the same gospel, shared the same theology (and had the same iPhone!!) One of the hardest things about planting a church is the loneliness that you can sometimes feel – the sense that while you’re surrounded by people, no one really gets what it feels like to be at the helm of pioneering a gospel community, or the reality what it’s cost you and your family to do so. The Acts29WE boys clearly do get it, and I value that immensely.
Another thing I really appreciated about Ignition was the way that it gave me a fresh sense of perspective. I so quickly forget that there is a world outside of Trevethin, and that there are other men out there who are slogging their guts out for the glory of King Jesus, who could also do with prayer, support and encouragement! Ignition stirred me up to remember that I’m engaged in a war that stretches far beyond my little trench here in the Welsh valleys!
Which leads me to my closing thought. It’s so easy to look at Europe as a secular continent, shrouded in darkness and vehemently opposed to the gospel. What I took from Ignition, however, was the encouragement that quietly, strategically, below the radar, God has been planting gospel communities right across Europe who are committed to illuminating the darkness with the irresistible light of Christ. He will build His church and the very gates of hell can’t stop what He’s doing!
God’s doing some epic stuff here in Europe.
I’m humbled and honoured to be part of it!
(Big thanks to Steve Timmis, Gary Aston and Naomi Johnson for organising it all!)