To Wales, then, for a couple of conferences on church planting. Waleswide is an initiative of a range of evangelical churches, to establish the idea of Wales as a 21st century mission field.
Those two sentences contain at least three ideas that should make us shake our heads in disbelief and wonder – and the reason they don’t is because some stunning shifts have been happening which are hardly noticed by those involved.
We have become used to the idea that church planting is a normal and healthy practice. Those of us with a few grey hairs, though, can probably remember that this wasn’t always the case, and many of us can remember the book, conference or talk that opened our eyes to it. But in a couple of decades, this has moved from being a novelty to an established norm.
We have become used to evangelicals co-operating across denominational boundaries. In England, this co-operation often flies under the banner of a ‘Gospel Partnership’, and elsewhere in the UK it has other names. But again, I can remember the first, tentative conversations in this direction, across the still-bleeding scars of 1966.
We have become used to these ideas coming into being simultaneously across the UK, not in one city or country.
So we are both delighted and completely unsurprised to see similar patterns appearing in both Cornwall and Glasgow. Maybe it’s just that we are better connected and are learning quickly from each other. Maybe both planting and partnerships are what Professor Dawkins would call ‘memes’: successfully self-propogating ideas. Or maybe God is at work.Rub your eyes in wonder at the change in twenty years.
And I have become used to hearing one city mentioned time and again as the originator of these ideas. Sydney? London? New York? No – Antioch, the church whose impact is described in Acts 11-20. The original world mission church. Of all the Biblical passages I looked at in writing my “Church’ book, it was these which had the most impact on me, and impressed upon me the imperative of planting (or, to be more biblically accurate, ‘establishing’) new churches with a planting DNA.
And tomorrow, I go back to Wales for the second conference. Because the Evangelicals there are stirring. Dissatisfied with a nostalgia that acts is if the glory days of the church are in the past and defined by it, they are on tiptoe with ambition to see God win new hearts and minds, change lives, and reach villages, towns and cities across their land.
The dragon is stirring.