So our annual Acts 29 Australia & New Zealand Conference has finished and once again I have returned more encouraged by our network and that our church is a part of it. Below are a few reasons for my optimism.
1. Gospel Centrality – If you ever attend an Acts29 Conference I can guarantee you will hear about Jesus. Sure, you’ll most likely hear about Jesus at every Christian conference. The difference for me is the centrality of the gospel. The gospel is not an add on or a launching pad, the gospel is central to everything that is sung and taught.
2. Diversity – This year we had 5 speakers from 5 different contexts with very different churches and ministry approaches. This is a great strength to our network. It is really refreshing to see churches seeking God’s leading in where they plant their churches and how they approach gospel ministry in their context, rather than trying to copy and paste another churches approach. This fleshed itself out in the conference by the 5 different talks.
- Mike Beck kicked off the conference. He and his GraceNet team are from Wellington NZ. They are a reformed baptist church which is clearly evident when Beck preaches. You’re never going to get a 5 point sermon from Beck, unless it’s 5 points of calvinism, even then he’d probably find away to deliver it with a solid Biblical Theology. This is what Mike delivered, taking us back to the first covenant community in Genesis and helping us see the mission of God through his people from Genesis to Revelation. “It’s to our shame that Pepsi and Coca Cola would be distributed more widely than the gospel. Let’s be a people who call upon the name, trust the name, preach the name, and by the Spirit’s power we will drill deeper and reach wider for the cause of Christ”
- Adam Ramsey, Pastors Liberti Church on the Gold Coast. Liberti’s team hosted us again and did an incredible job. Thank you Liberti. Mr Ramsey is a good friend so I may be a little biased here but the boy has got some serious lungs and can preach. If backed into a corner, like me, Adam would most likely say he’s a reformed continuationist. He encouraged us that “The risk is costly, but the mission is worth it”. He reminded us that while we are called to the mission, it is God’s mission and he is the one who is sovereign. Therefore we rest.
- Ryan Kwon flew in from the Bay Area of California with his wife Jenni and they blessed us immensely. 10 minutes with this couple and you know they are genuinely some of the most loving people you will ever meet. Love oozes from everything they do and speak. This is exactly what came through with Ryan’s session. He preached a clear gospel message encouraging us to not leave God’s love. It is easy to get busy doing ministry and over time forget about ministering to our own hearts and minds. What we need is to be reminded of God’s great love for us. “On the cross God treated Jesus as if He lived our lives, and now God treats us as if we have lived Jesus life.”
- Sam Swadling leads Gospel Church in Newcastle. Sam is a big country guy and has no interest in trying to pretty it up. I love this about him. There’s no pretence. Ever. This is the first time I had ever heard my friend preach and man he didn’t pretty it up and pull no punches. His topic was about cultural engagement. Rather than give us a bunch of strategies on how to engage culture he got to the heart of the matter – love. His main point was that if we don’t get the love part, our strategies, plans and ideas are worthless – “It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s a lack of love”.
- Guy Mason leads City on a Hill Church in Melbourne. This was probably the best I’ve heard Guy speak. Vulnerable, motivating, funny and his usual clear and concise message. Guy challenged us about being dangerous leaders and reminding us of our need for God. “Leaders – Are you leading with your chest out or your knees bent” . It was a great way to round out the conference.
3. Joyfulness – The picture above illustrates one of my favourite things about our network. While we are very serious about doctrine and mission, we also don’t take ourselves too seriously. We enjoy each other and more “australianly” (that’s a word right?) we enjoy having a bit of banter with one another. There is so much to ministry, church and family that tends to steal our joy and make us take life a little too serious. But every time we come together as a network I find myself laughing and enjoying my time with great friends. Even Citizens and Saints, a band from Seattle that lead us in song throughout the conference, were constantly on stage smiling. Filled with joyfulness as they gathered with God’s saints from the other side of the world to sing about and to God. They represented our Network well.
Our Life Centre Team had an absolute blast and I’m so thankful to all who came and joined us as a church down at conference. I’m proud of being the Lead Pastor of such a great church. Every conference I receive incredible feedback from others about our team. I too think we reflect the network as we are gospel centred, diverse and man we love having a good time. Thanks team. I love and appreciate you all so much.
If you missed conference this year be sure to be on the look out for our Regional Gatherings throughout the year ahead. It’ll also be a good idea to book out the 30th Feb – 1st of March 2018. That’ll be our next Acts29 Australia New Zealand Conference and it’s going to be another cracker.