Updated: Sep 23, 2020
I am thankful for this opportunity to invite you to pray – specifically, fervently, and in unity! I am inviting you today to pray for a special event, but also for something much more.
In less than six weeks (depending on when you read this), we are scheduled to launch a worldwide event – the first-ever International Friends Church Multiplication Conference (November 11-13, 2020). This is a global event for evangelically-minded Friends that is coming locally to YOU! In the next prayer letter, I will share a little more about the genesis and history of this conference. For today, I want to address a very specific kind of question that might be on your mind (and if not you, then perhaps someone you know has been thinking about it). Essentially, the question is this: “Why in the world are we going ahead and planning to hold this conference at this time? Wouldn’t it be better to wait and do this some other time?”
As everyone knows, we are living in unprecedented days. Far from the result of just one issue, we are daily confronted by overlapping pressures that weigh heavily upon many people. In addition to a global pandemic, in just the past few months in the United States, we have been confronted by many natural disasters (vicious winds, floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.) that serve as additional layers to other significant concerns such as job loss, racial strife, violence, social tensions, financial pressures, political wrangling, and more! And each region has its own share of specific challenges. In the Northwest Yearly Meeting (where I serve now as Superintendent), a number of our pastors and church members had to evacuate their homes last month due to the “once-in-a-generation” wildfires, and several families lost everything. The fires also led to pervasive “Hazardous Air Quality” for everyone, continuing the disruption of what people thought was normal life. The critical issues rise exponentially, when we consider the multiplied effects of personal, local, regional, national, and finally global concerns.
While the challenges are ubiquitous, these are ALSO some wonderful days of opportunity to see God work! This is not a time to panic, to become ingrown and defensive, or to think that God is somehow finished with us or with the world around us. We dare not forget that God is still on His throne and He is still in charge (Isaiah 6). Jesus is still building His Church, and neither the gates of Hades nor the Coronavirus, social unrest, or anything else can stand against it (Matthew 16)! But if Jesus is building His Church (even during these days), the question for us is, are we really willing to believe it and to join Him in what He is doing?! The fact is, He still wants us to go into the world around us to make disciples, and He promises to go with us (Matthew 28). If anything, the needs and crises around us should remind us that people need the Lord! The harvest field has perhaps never been more ripe in our lifetime – we just need to make sure that we have our eyes open well to see it (John 4:35)! God is at work – and that is true among evangelically-minded Friends in your region and across the globe today!
All that is to say, we are moving forward with this conference because we believe that the ultimate answers for the world today are still found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the needs for church planting persist as strongly as ever! While on the surface the challenges around us might suggest a delay, a different perspective of those same concerns moves us to urgent action! As Friends, we want to be faithful to do our part to fulfill the Great Commission and contribute to a multiplication movement. To that end, it is timely for us to gather together online, providing synergistic experiences to be inspired, encouraged, challenged, and equipped to live up to our callings during these days of critical need.
How will we do it? Interestingly, for purposes of growth and expansion into every region, we had already planned several years ago that this conference would meet simultaneously for the main general sessions in 25-30 locations around the globe through video conferencing (all other aspects taking place on each site). Dictated primarily by Covid-19 (and the inability of many of our regional locations to hold large gatherings), our new plans (determined several weeks ago) take this decentralized concept a step further. The primary program for the conference (including the general sessions, workshops, fellowship receptions, affinity groups, etc.) will all be available online, so that anyone with internet access will be able to participate! We also anticipate some local “watch parties” and gatherings, depending upon regional Covid-19 laws and guidelines.
Did I mention the theme of the conference this year? It’s “For Such a Time As This!” May the Lord help us to move forward with faith during these crucial and timely days!
How can you pray? Here are a few specific requests for the International Friends Church Multiplication Conference (November 11-13, 2020). Please pray…
1. For those involved in the planning and preparation phases for the conference – for the Lord’s help as we pivot in relatively short order to this new 100% online format. Pray also for Dr. Ed Stetzer and each speaker and leader – for God to use each one as a tool in His hand!
2. For the finances that are needed for this event to succeed – for both program and technology expenses. Pray especially for those in some countries and regions who do not have good internet access, laptops, or projectors yet, that the Lord will supply what they need (by the way, a fund has been established for this purpose and is receiving donations).
3. That God will help us to have more than a good conference (we anticipate that it will be incredible as we connect with like-minded Friends worldwide like never before), but more significantly that God will use this event as a stepping stone toward the fulfillment of His purposes through the Friends Church!
4. That God will use this event to inspire and raise up new church planters, missionaries, pastors, and church leaders – who will hear His calling to GO and to evangelize and start new communities of faith. Pray that there will be many new churches, in North America and worldwide, that will be started as a result. Pray that many existing churches will catch the vision to send out leaders and give birth to new congregations!
5. That this conference will serve as a kind of historical marker of the highest order… that the Friends Church will become known as a world-wide family of evangelically-minded believers who want to surrender themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and who will do their part to share His hope and love with everyone! Pray that God will pour out His Spirit in such a way that it give birth to a multiplication movement among Friends, in each of our local regions and around the world!
- Jim Le Shana