Day 1: Dreams
Leadership Conference 2016
As we round off day 1 of the 2016 Leadership Conference it feels as though the theme that’s been emerging is one of dreams. This has run like a thread
throughout the sessions, from the message spoken out by Nicky Gumbel this afternoon — “it’s never too late to dream a new dream or to get a new vision for your life” — to a prophetic word given in worship this evening — that God wants to restore dreams in this place over these coming days.
We are gathered in Harrogate this year as a family of over 1,700 leaders within the New Wine network, to learn from each other and to encounter God afresh. John Coles opened the conference by challenging us all to live as ‘undefended leaders’, just as Jesus lived undefended; paying as much attention to our backstage as to our front-stage lives. One delegate commented on the brilliant way in which he set a tone of honesty and vulnerability, which will make room for the Spirit to move during our time here.
And by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit did move, and God met with people across the conference hall during the afternoon. Jo, a leader from South London, reflected on the ministry time following Nicky Gumbel’s message, saying, “It felt powerful when people were invited forward for ‘a quickening’ and a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. I was praying for people and there was a real sense of excitement for the future. We might often say that God is doing a new thing but it genuinely felt different on this occasion.”
Amid the buzz of leaders connecting and catching up in the breaks, there was also an exciting gathering taking place at which a group of leaders under the age of 30 had an opportunity to quiz Nicky Gumbel about his experience of leadership. Over dinner, he shared what one young leader called “jewels of wisdom” which are more than likely to inspire new dreams and vision for the future among the next generation, grounded in the wisdom of those who have gone before.
The speaker at the evening session was Mark Batterson, author of the bestselling book ‘The Circle Maker’ which itself focuses on praying big prayers and dreaming big dreams. Working through the biblical story of Cornelius, and sharing the journey of his church in Washington DC, he appealed with us to go to a deeper level of prayer. He challenged us that “the only thing that separates us from the miracle we’re looking for is that we’re not willing to lose. But if we lose a battle with God, we win!” And finally, he and Pete Hughes (with a little help from Martin Luther King Jr!) called us to “dream dreams which are destined to fail without God’s intervention.”
Inspiring stories of church planting shared from the stage confirmed that God has even more to say to us about holding greater faith for our dreams, despite the five tests that Nicky identified in the waiting time: uncertainty, fear, disappointment, delay and blessing.
“Prepare the nets.” This word was given by Nicky this afternoon, and echoed by Mark in the evening. We pray that all of us here would be both prepared and preparing over the course of this conference. Prepared to do real business with God and to be open to transformation while we’re here; and preparing to go back to our churches with revitalised dreams and refreshed vision. John’s impassioned call on us at the start of the day now rings out as we leave this evening, not to forget the primary mission — the primary dream — to which we are all called: making Jesus known to those who do not yet know him.