Revive is the Co-Mission Initiative annual weekend of Bible teaching and fellowship. It’s like New Word Alive in a weekend. Each year we have a theme; this year it was regeneration. We invite a gifted Bible teacher to address the issue from God’s word; this year it was Nigel Styles from Emmanuel Bramcote. We persuade the Co-Mission staff to write a chapter for a book; this year it was called ‘A Way In, Ideas To Get Conversations About Jesus Started’. We provide a Saturday night of evening entertainment; this year it was classic covers from Jim Kirkpatrick, fireworks and late night acoustic from Yvonne Lyon. We take over the Langstone Campus at Portsmouth University, erect our now iconic big top and settle in for the weekend.
Here’s a list of 10 things that I love about Revive, in no particular order
1. Listening to God’s word as its taught by others. I don’t get to hear other people preaching to me that often. It’s terrific to be on the receiving end of someone applying the scriptures to my situation. Nigel did a great job. It was hugely encouraging to think about God’s promise of regeneration in Ezekiel 36 & 37, the experience of regeneration in Titus 3 and the means of regeneration in 1 Peter 1. I think Nigel got the level about right. Sometimes these ‘conference-type’ talks can be so full of material that we end up thinking that we’ve been overwhelmed by the content of the material when in actual fact we’ve just been overwhelmed by the volume of the material! Hearing lots isn’t the same as understanding and applying lots. Nigel gave us just enough to chew on without giving us so much that we suffered from indigestion!
2. Working with a team of individuals dedicated to delivering a terrific weekend. I enjoy teams. That doesn’t necessarily make me a team player. As has been pointed out before; I like leading teams! But I love being a part of a group of staff, apprentices and volunteers who make Revive happen. There’s something immensely satisfying about providing something that people appreciate. And people really appreciated it this year, which is terrific.
3. Snatching relaxed time with our congregations. I usually spend most of Revive trying to rectify the fact that I’ve neglected to arrange something in the run up to the event. But occassionally I’m able to grab some time with people, sit on the grass and chew the spiritual fat. Sundays don’t often give us that chance; especially in All Age Church. But Revive provides the ‘down time’ that we need to pursue a conversation. The two lunchtimes picnics were great for that. And God was so kind with the weather He gave us.
4. Praising God as part of a large group. We had over 550 adults at Revive this year. As you would imagine, when we sang God’s praises, we made quite a noise. It was hugely encouraging to be part of group who agreed on God’s goodness and greatness and got the opportunity to express that without reservation. Our congregational bands do a great job week in week out. But there’s no substitute for the occasional mass gathering which gives us a taste of what it’ll be like in heaven when Jesus walks onto stage and we tell him how wonderful he is. The music was brilliant, though I’m not yet persuaded by the arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace’!
5. Discovering what God has been doing in and through our network. The first session on Sunday morning is when we get a chance to hear what’s been happening over the past year and what’s being proposed for the future. It’s just so exciting to discover what God has made possible in other churches, often through co-operation with others.In a growing movement we can quickly lose touch with what’s going on elsewhere. This is the time to catch up. The growing portfolio of ‘secondary’ mercy ministries is heartening. Working with and supporting organisations like Stop the Traffik, the Barnabas Fund, Options Pregnancy Resource Centre and Christian Against Poverty Debt Counselling Service is terrific.
6. Seeing our kids thrive in the context of a significantly larger children’s work. Two of our kids are amongst a tiny posse in Christ Church Kids. The third has a few more peers. At Revive they get to hang out with others kids their age from the other small church plants and from the larger congregations in Co-Mission. They remember each other. And they look forward to it. Ordinarily we give them breakfast and see them occasionally at mealtimes. The rest of teh time they’re being taught the Bible and hanging out with their mates. It’s fantastic. The quality of the children’s work at Revive is second to none. Ed Drew is brilliant at engagiong the kids with the gospel and he has a wonderful team of willing and able helpers.
7. Walking around the site on Saturday afternoon. A few always head off to Portsmouth for some site seeing and shopping. And some make the short trip to the beach. But in the last five years I’ve always stayed on site. I love seeing people chatting as they loaf on the grass, the kids playing impromptu games of footy or cricket and the young adults playing touch rugby and frisbee.
8. Catching up with old friends. We wonder what might have been if we hadn’t all been involved in church planting for the last 10 years. It’s sometimes hard imagining what life would look like if we’d just stayed put and seen our families grow up together. But then again, if we’d all done that, there’d be no Fairfield Kingston, no Christ Church Balham, no Christ Church Earlsfield and no Christ Church Worcester Park. And that wouldn’t be good for the gospel.
9. Being part of the All Age meeting. Ed teaches the Bible with characteristic clarity and fun. Andy leads the singing and even manages to look comfortable as we sing some children’s classics! Matt provides a strong lead and manages to keep both the kids and the adults onside. The introduction to the Lord’s Supper was masterful. Several people have commented how moving it was to hear the youth group pray. The elders from all the churches help us share the Lord’s Supper. It’s a terrific meeting as we all crowd in together and celebaret our unity in the Lord Jesus.
10 Appreciating the people with whom it’s my great privilege to work. I’m part of a fantastic staff team. And whilst church planting, especially in the early years, is hard and we often feel isolated, Revive is a time to play team. We’re a varied mix of characters. And that’s good. And it works. Pete Woodcock and Carrie Sandom are very different individuals, there’s not a lot of similarity between Andrew Nicholls and Pete Matthew, Rosie Dunn and Jonathan Wu are have their own personalities. But together we form a staff team that’s growing to know one another, enjoy one another and love one another.
It’s a year till Revive 2010. I can’t wait. The Lord was wonderfully generous to us this year. And for that I’m very grateful.
For photos of the weekend check out Stephen Smith’s blog here.