Over 200 adults and children gathered at the De Vere Staverton Estate Hotel, Northampton for the first ever Counties Planting Network Connect Conference between 21st and 23rd February. The conference drew attendees from across the generations, from across a wide range of churches and from all corners of the British Isles. Worship was ably led by Rosie Jones and the team from Forest Community Church, plus Nathan Davies from Cardiff. Aderyn Taylor-Roberts did a brilliant job of chairing the main sessions and introducing the various speakers.
Dietrich Schindler spoke at the four main sessions, drawing on his many years’ experience as a church planter and discipler, and demonstrating an amazing understanding of the UK culture. His gentle and unassuming style was easy to listen to, but his unpacking of God’s Word, and God’s Heart, never-the-less came with one clear challenge after another.
On the Friday night we were reminded that God does not want to be invited into our little box that makes up our life; on the Saturday we were reminded from Matt 9:35-38 that God does not want to be invited into our Kingdom but wants to invite us into His; on the Sunday morning we were taken back to Matthew 28:16-20 and to the great commission. The call was to engage with God in his mission, his disciple making mission. On the Saturday night Dietrich gave us a fascinating introduction to the “My Life Workshop”, a tool that he has developed and is using to great effect to reach the secular world.
A phrase oft repeated throughout the weekend, harking back to Matthew 9, was that “The future of the church lies not in the barn, but in the harvest field”.
Dietrich, and the topics he covered in the main sessions, were supported by four seminar steams, each consisting of three sessions The streams covered the topic of Ordinary People (Ordinary people pursuing Kingdom advancement); Church as God’s Mission Agency (How do we reshape local church to be truly missional?); What is the Gospel? (It is all too easy to think of the gospel as only the way of salvation) and Disciple-making (Being people and churches that make disciples) These seminars were facilitated by Beverley Bedford, Mark Davies, Alistair Hornal and Tim Cracknell, plus others in support. They proved to be stimulating and thought provoking and gave an excellent opportunity for discussion and Q&A sessions. The only downside…we were limited to one stream only. I would have loved have gone to them all.
Each day Martin Erwin showcased the M4 Church Planting Process and introduced the conference to Craig Dowling and family who have just taken up post at Henry Street in Ross-on-Wye as part of the church replant there.
Steve Brain from 10ofthose did a fantastic job running the bookshop, as did Church Growth Trust, Opel Trust, Counties, First Serve, Partnership, BES and GLO-Europe, all of which were represented by display stands.
All in all, a brilliant weekend spent in delightful surroundings.
If you missed it, keep an ear open, rumour has it that recordings of the main session will be made available at some point.
John Jenkins – Partnership Regional Co-Ordinator for London and S E England