On a wet November morning, I along with 300 or so men shuffled into the Clarendon Centre for Church of Christ the King's annual Movement event.
The men's conference, now in its third year, was comprised of delegates mainly from the church's four sites but it's numbers were boosted by attendees from across the country, Europe and even further afield.
A warm handshake, a cup of tea and a yorkie bar were a pleasing reception and soon things kicked off with an extended time of worship, very ably led by Sam Cox and Simon Brading. We celebrated God, who He was and what He had done and reminded ourselves that, as one of the songs says, God, “we are here for you”.
Following this, Joel Virgo addressed the male filled room and underlined the event's vision and purpose. We're here to reach men with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At a time in society where gender differences and roles are often bulldozed in the name of equality, it is still true that where men go, the culture goes too. If the church fails to reach men in cities across the country and across Europe then the church will fail in her mission.
This opening theme was quickly picked up on by Neville Jones who then gave us an update of the situation in Berlin. He spoke with passion and conviction, not just about the challenges of overseeing this young church plant in the light of recent events, but of the goodness of God and His power to restore and fix a broken people.
Matt Simmonds continued the European theme by explaining his plans to take his family to Amsterdam next year to plant a chuch in the dutch capital. Having just heard the challenge and sacrifice required from the Berlin situation, Matt's commitment to count the cost and respond to God's call on his life was even more poignant.
It made me cast my mind back to Movement two years ago when Joel began to speak to us about Western Europe and what God was calling us to. Then, in many ways, we were talking the talk but now, here are men from our own ranks really walking the walk. You could feel the rise of faith and excitement in the room.
Donnie Griggs, in the next session after lunch, brought us down to earth with a messaged entitled “A Faithful Man, Who Can Find?” I say, brought us down to earth, but definitely in a good way! In the first straight forward preach of the event, the church planter from North Carolina reminded us to be careful as we live in a time where church planting has become sexy. Similarly, while many talk of the Gospel being central, which is good, we also seem to judge a man's “success” as a church leader by how many downloads they get on their podcast. God is faithful and looking for faithful men most of all.
The third session had a very different feel as Joel interviewed Darrell Tunningly by Skype. We sat with mouths wide open as Darrell told his incredible life story; from a life of crime and drugs in Yorkshire, through a dramatic prison conversion, to a fruitful prison ministry and then to a wholehearted commitment to build the local church and impact community with the Gospel. God really can change anyone, even the worst of men.
The evening session was full of God's presence and after a powerful time of worship people were invited to walk down to the front of the room and give their lives to Christ. Two men did just that and there was much rejoicing.
Simon Murphy who joined us all the way from Singapore where he planted and now leads a church, then spoke to us from the first chapter of Nehemiah. “How can we be great in God's kingdom?” he asked, and then helpfully drew out principles from Nehemiah's life to answer the question.
The day was rounded off in almost medieval fashion with meat and mead; a hog roast and beer from Movement branded tankards. And so after a long day, we 300 men left physically as well as spiritually satisfied and looking forward to what God might say and do tomorrow.