New Room Conference: Four Defining Themes

New Room Conference refers to a “new space” where brothers and sisters from across the various expressions of our movement (Wesleyans, Free Methodists, United Methodists, Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, etc.) gather for ministry, equipping, and fellowship. Our fourth gathering was held in Franklin, Tennessee and brought together over 1,500 pastors and leaders for three days.

New Room is a “new” space for those across the entire spectrum of Wesleyan/Holiness denominations to be encouraged to pursue four things: travailing prayer, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, banded discipleship, and church multiplication. This is exactly what happened at New Room. Unlike many evangelical conferences, we devoted hours and hours of time for prayer and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we are calling all members of our tribe to become part of a “band.” Finally, we had a closing day emphasis on the role of church planting in an increasingly post-Christian context. I am convinced that these four themes—travailing prayer, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, banded discipleship around the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and church planting, are the four elements necessary if we are to effectively “sow for a great awakening.”

I told those gathered at New Room that an examination of church history reveals that the church has faced a major crisis roughly every 500 years. The first was in connection with the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. and the struggle to eradicate Arianism from the church. It was the fight for high Christology and full-orbed Trinitarianism. That victory led to a massive growth in the church and the first signs that we were going to become a global movement.

A little over 500 years later the church had another major crisis known as The Great Schism (1054 A.D.) which tragically separated the Western and Eastern church. This crisis also led to a major new thrust in church planting and growth in the church.

The third crisis happened 500 years later in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg sparking the Protestant Reformation. Four new strands of Christianity emerged—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Radical—each spawning hundreds of thousands of new Christians and a massive new thrust in church planting. The Wesleyan revivals were an extension of that struggle.

We are now 500 years from the Reformation. The church is again in crisis. It is as if God has a yard sale every 500 years to shake the church free from various besetting attachments and cultural compromises and calls it back to the vibrancy of our beginnings: biblical fidelity, high Christology, Trinitarianism, discipled believers, devoted prayer, global mission; these are the themes which have re-emerged at every major great awakening. We believe we are on the cusp of another great move of God in our time. Let’s pray and cry out, “Come on!!” “Come on!!” “Lord, please deliver us, and make haste to help us!”

We Are Catholic Protestants

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, it is important that we remember our heritage in reclaiming historic faith from a church which had gone astray. The Reformers were, of course, denounced for “dividing the church.” Luther was famously referred to by Pope Leo X as “a wild boar loose in the Lord’s vineyard.”

Looking back, we recognize that Luther was not dividing the church, but calling it back to its deeper gospel unity—our deeper catholicity. The reformers were sparking a reformation which called the church back to its roots and the great biblical faith of Apostles and martyrs. The central theme of the Reformation; namely, that we are saved by grace through faith, was not a new doctrinal insertion, but a re-articulation of the plain teaching of Ephesians 2:8: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Recently, dozens of Christian leaders from across every part of the Protestant spectrum dreamed of a statement which might demonstrate our underlying unity as Protestants. In other words, is there a catholic faith which, despite our diversity, we all affirm? The result has been the Reforming Catholic Confession. It is not intended to be a maximal statement stating everything any one group believes. That is a different project. Indeed, it is a beautiful thing when a church explores at the deepest level and with great clarity what they believe. However, this Confession is designed to discover our shared theological heritage with all Protestant churches.

Where are those places where we all agree? It is meant to be a statement of unity in the midst of our diversity. It took over a year to craft the statement and reach the kind of wide approval we sought. I lost count on how many drafts we went through, as each line was carefully scrutinized. The Confession has now been drafted in its final form. The website has been launched and the Confession has already secured nearly 1,000 signatures from around the world (It is also available on the site in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Korean, with several other translations to follow). It can be found at http://reformingcatholicconfession.com.

I encourage you to log on and read the confession and join us in this great statement of Protestant catholicity. In this day when there is so much division, it is refreshing to be reminded of that great historic faith which binds us all together in Jesus Christ.