Two sets of lines merging as one and rising like the majestic Burj Khalifa stirred anticipation in my spirit as I studied the Regions Beyond Convergence logo for a gathering in Dubai. Surely we can advance the gospel much further together, pool gifts, share resources, urge each other to go, then gather, grow and go again.
Our team of six from Durham in England and the Gulf arrived at the newly renovated Citygates premises. Warm smiles greeted us along with gift bags and the hubbub of happy chatter. Hugging old friends and quickly making new connections, we entered the main auditorium and multi-cultural worship surged. To say that Convergence brought hearts, minds, styles, tastes, languages, churches and nations together is not an over-statement in my view.
From the get-go, prophetic voices extended God’s invitation to go deeper for longer, to abide and bear lasting fruit and to expect sudden breakthroughs in these unprecedented times. My faith level rose like a fountain bursting out of a water table. ‘Come alive in the name of Jesus’ we sang, ‘bring everything to the feet of Jesus, this is the house of miracles.’ And even if I couldn’t understand the language of all the songs, the Holy Spirit spurred me to dance and praise.
Most of the preaching centred on the dynamic book of Acts. Rodney, a British prophet teacher, kicked off on Paul’s second missionary journey with a stunning message of being ‘Shaped by the Prophetic’, taking open and closed doors as helpful pointers and being willing to let God sling-shoot us away from our own agendas. ‘Are we ready for that?’ he challenged. ‘Are we positioned correctly or putting too much time and energy into wrong areas for sentimental reasons?’ It’s in our DNA as a movement. It’s in our name. During an interview, Smile from the Philippines brought a challenge: ‘This is God’s world and he has a plan. Are we asking how we fit into his plan or thinking about how we fit his plan into our lives?’ Together we repeatedly sang the question: ‘Who has the final say?’ with it’s resounding answer: ‘Jehovah has the final say.’ We need to listen carefully, keep in step with the Holy Spirit and press on to live up to our name.
Franco, an Indian apostle, artfully outlined in ‘Discover, Develop, Deploy’, our urgent need to find new apostolic gifts. God’s desire is to seek and save the lost and not just strengthen the saved. Accelerating church planting amongst the unreached absolutely needs Ephesians 4 ministries and every growing church must look for these within them. Paul became an apostle as he went on mission, grew in confidence and courage and clearly knew his calling. Let’s humbly play our parts, converge and together we will make Jesus famous.
Over platefuls of sumptuous Tikka Masala or Jollof rice, Kelewele and beef stew, coffee and doughnuts, I heard stories of trekking mountains to establish new churches in Nepal, getting stuck in rivers on outreach to the Temne of Sierra Leone, the loss of family members, health problems, marriages and births. I shared the needs of isolated believers in neighbouring countries, the questions of who to support and where to focus, the excitements of what our children are up to. Prayers ascended like incense. The one-anothering was palpable.
In three training track seminars, Steve from England taught on current Kingdom initiatives, John from Mexico on sending apostolic bands and the one I attended, Nicki from Citygates, spoke on being intentional about diversity. She explained how God’s creative heart has always been for diversity, so we need to foster and display that in our sphere. We discussed how to really listen to each other, bring opportunities for influence and give everyone a voice. I sensed a compulsion to repent and walk in greater humility. Much thought is required here as we seek to develop new gifts.
Wesley, a South African with Caribbean, Indonesian, Indian, German, Dutch and Khoisan roots told us we were ‘Destined for Trouble’, yes, common troubles that face us all in this fallen world, but also troubles of the Christ- follower. He spoke openly from personal experience and encouraged us to be prepared. ‘Fear no evil’, he said, ‘Hold on to Jesus’. I personally found this talk deeply moving as we go to the ‘Unreached’ in Regions Beyond. These people groups are unreached for a reason. They are not easy to reach. Opposition will come and any advance will be heavily contested, but suffering develops character and in it we learn to be content in every situation. We’re called to bear one another’s burdens. So how do we adequately support as we go? I actually heard most of this talk later from one of my team mates, as Nicki drew me out of the meeting to help lead a lady from a different faith to Jesus. That’s another eternal destiny changed and we’re told that all the troubles of this world will one day seem like momentary afflictions. How cool does that get?
One of our hosts, Fusi, insightfully brought six distinctives of the Antioch church model to us: cross-culturally aiming at the unreached, Ephesians 4 bands working together who ‘can only do it well together with other gifts’, sending and receiving, Word and Spirit, contextualised and resource-based. We pray for many such Antioch bases to arise in Regions Beyond and rejoice in the significant coming together of Citygates under Fusi’s leadership.
Finally, dressed in national costumes ranging from elaborate batik prints, traditional Masai outfits and Nepalese caps to Indian saris, Chinese silks and British pyjamas (but what else is there apart from a kilt or a bowler hat?) and after a phenomenal worship time followed by exuberant traditional and some not so traditional dances from around the world, we heard our leader Steve talk about ‘A Time to Scatter’ from Acts 8. The gospel thrives in uncertain times so we had better get ready. He incited us to faithfully activate our gifts and serve one another in healing communities. ‘Consider your uniqueness in God’s hand,’ he encouraged. I loved his tiny key in a huge castle door illustration. We are all created for specific purpose, each one a co-equal partner in the mandate of seeing nations reached for Jesus, no matter our gender, what our bank account says, what school we went to or the colour of our skin.
To make a perfect cake, we stir all the ingredients into the mix without forgetting any, leaving no clumps of baking powder or butter on the edge of the bowl, adding just the right amount of flour, salt and sugar. Every voice in Regions Beyond is needed in the mix so that we fulfil everything God has in mind for us. ‘Con’ means ‘with’ and ‘verge’ means ‘edge, margin, incline and turn together’. All are indispensable. Togetherness reaches further. Convergence is truly good and pleasant. Everyone at the feet of Jesus.
Written by Helen Freeman for the Regions Beyond blog