Guest Post from Joel Virgo: Reflections on Newday 2017
1. Worship. I occasionally get a view of the whole crowd of faces, when I trespass my way onto the platform. I love this annual snapshot: a young multitude learning what they were made for.
2. Prayer. Each morning prayer meeting was well attended, serving to train young people in habits to take home to local churches. There were other prayer contexts too: a well set-up Prayer Room; a special prayer gathering led by Ben Lindsay (from Emmanuel Church, New Cross) praying against youth gang violence and a massive prayer night on the final evening.
3. Numbers. It’s been a year of praying, scheming and experimenting. Newday is a proven week to which young Christians can bring friends who don’t yet know Jesus, confident they will enjoy it and get potent mega-exposure to the gospel for days. We’ve worked on growing that group this year and the numbers were up (and 324 made first time commitments to Jesus).
4. Healings. We are spoiled each year by accounts of healing that surprise, move and inspire. Here’s a sample story, told this year about what took place the summer before.
5. Offering. As always our offering went towards church planting through Newfrontiers, but also Care for Children – the beautiful organization caring for Asian Orphans pioneered by Rob and Liz Glover. A record amount was raised – £151,000 at latest count. From teenagers. It leaves me quietly confident about the authenticity of item 1 (above).
6. Songs. The musicians and worship leaders are a constant gift to the church. This album (which they prepared in advance of the week) is a sign of something good and new. I pray it goes far.
7. Servers. Newday happens because God has given us world-class volunteers. I know something about how busy, responsible, and sought-out some of these people are. It does me good to see them give up a week (often more) to do unpaid work, barely more glamorous than fixing loos.
8. Gratitude. Speaking of servants who are giants – this was the year that Phill Gray, who has led the management team for years, stepped down (moving on to a new job with Care For Children). There are many emotional points at Newday, but Phill’s goodbye party stood out, partly because it was held in the least atmospheric place on site – no lights, music or dry ice. In fact we were competing throughout with noise from the concourse outside and various open-mic acts in the venue next door. But with all turned down to zero, the room was filled with palpable emotion as we thanked a humble hero.
9. Outreach. As with each year, hundreds went out from the campsite to share the gospel with people around the area. During the week a lady introduced herself, telling me she’d been approached in 2016 by Newday delegates sharing Jesus with people. Though she was from a Christian background she wasn’t walking with God at the time. The encounter changed her life and she was now on the campsite having brought a carload of young people with her.
10. Washing. I’m referring to ‘the washing of water by the word’ (Eph 5.26). The waters in which we swim (in which we are called to swim) for 51 weeks of the year don’t naturally provide this. Not to say that a six day camp takes the primary place of local church, but I am so grateful for preaching and teaching at Newday that helps to prepare people. Every main session speaker (Joe Macnamara, Andrew Wilson, Francis Chan, Livy Gibbs, Tope Koleoso, Adrian Holloway) served us, fed us and helped us see Jesus. Over the years I’ve heard slightly less of the comment preaching the bible doesn’t work with young people (though I still hear it more than I’d like). Maybe Newday has helped prove otherwise. The main sessions will hopefully be heard all over the world, but many of the smaller seminars were just as helpful; they are all available here and on iTunes Podcast. Let me give special mention to Glen Scrivener’s message, which reflects insightfully on the experience of church kids, who need the gospel way more than we often realise. The evening with Francis Chan was also memorable in a lot of ways. I only found out days later that after it ended, many went quietly and spontaneously over to the Prayer Room and knelt down in silence – at no one’s invitation or suggestion. It just seemed the obvious thing to do …
11. Mission. Newday exists to plant and cultivate, in young people, a love for Jesus and a passion for His mission to bless the world through building His church. In the world where most Newdayers are doing life, church is a toxic brand. It certainly doesn’t look like it’s prevailing. No matter. Jesus said it would and He died and rose to make it so. Weird as it sounds in a room with thousands of teenagers, I like rhapsodising about the church as God’s capital city, His urban dream, His centre of the universe. I’m so glad we’ve not blurred this since we began in 2004. If Newday doesn’t serve existing churches and help start churches with gospel foundations, it’s lost its way. As a penultimate piece on the final night it was poignant to watch Andy McCullough sharing stories about church planting in the Muslim majority world, and leading in prayer for our Muslim friends. Some past generations have particularly been characterised by missional endeavour, rooted in gospel hope for our world. I hope Newday serves such a generation.
12. Next year: July 30 - August 4 2018.