I have been asked to share with you some of what is on my heart as it relates to Friends, the world, and the upcoming conference. Hopefully these thoughts and background information for the conference will enable you to catch the heartbeat of what we are doing to help you as you pray!
In just a few days, we will launch a worldwide event – the first-ever International Friends Church Multiplication Conference (November 11-13, 2020). As you may know, this is a global online event for all evangelically-minded Friends. The purpose is to inspire, encourage, equip, and help us to take steps forward as individuals, as churches, and as regions to evangelize, start new churches, and do our part to fulfill the Great Commission.
Enthusiasm and Participation is Rising: In recent weeks, I have been in conversations with a number of leaders from North and South America, Central America, Africa, Europe, and Asia in anticipation of this unprecedented gathering. Even though we are weeks away from the gathering (as of the time when I am writing this), we have already had many people preregister from countries like: Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, Uganda, Ireland, India, Ukraine, Tanzania, Romania, Nepal, Hong Kong, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Cambodia! In the United States, we anticipate that many others will be registering as we approach the discount deadlines (October 31 and November 10), but we already have many signed up from coast-to-coast across the country, including: California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida! The ball is rolling and interest is growing as we approach our time together. CLICK HERE to preregister.
A little history: In the last prayer letter, I mentioned that I would share with you a little bit about the genesis and history of this conference. Of course, it would take too much space to review the entire history of evangelism among Friends. Suffice it to say that from the earliest days of Fox and the Valiant 60, who traveled far and wide to preach and start new “meetings” (churches) in the 17th century, doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission has been a priority for Friends. Whether we have always practiced it well or not, evangelism and church planting is part of our DNA! While there have been some recent examples of rapid conversions and church planting in some regions around the globe, the last time Friends in North America experienced a multiplication movement was in the late 19th century. Sadly, in every region, the natural entropic tendency is for evangelistic efforts to slow down, plateau, or even decline. And yet, the deep, consistent, and loving pulse beat to reach people for Jesus continues to reverberate among Friends in each generation! The motivation behind this Multiplication Conference stems from this same root.
Genesis of the Gathering: The 2020 IFCMC is an extension of a “National” Friends Church Multiplication Conference first held at Barclay College in Haviland, Kansas in 2013. Although planners anticipated originally that only 30-40 people might attend the first gathering (which would have been a great start), the first conference brought together 100 Friends from across the country and nine Yearly Meetings who affirmed a commitment to support and encourage a church multiplication movement. Among other things, this conference gave birth to the National Friends Prayer Network (which sponsors this prayer letter you are now reading). Follow-up conferences were demanded by popular request, each one held at Barclay College, with the decision in 2014 to start meeting every other year. Numbers of participants continued to increase in both 2016 and 2018. Each year, a speaker from another country participated in the conference – a reminder that we have much to learn from each other in the world as Friends. With this conviction in mind, organizers partnered with Evangelical Friends Mission leadership in 2016 to determine that we would expand the conference in 2020 into a truly international conference.
Pivoting for us, Plan A for the Lord: When we made the original decision to hold the IFCMC in 2020, only the Lord could have known that we would be in the middle of a Pandemic – perhaps the most unifying common experience globally we have witnessed in our lifetimes, a reminder of the great needs around us in the world. Not only that, but when the decision was made after Covid-19 hit to shift to a 100% online format, again, only the Lord could have anticipated (because we certainly could not) that everyone worldwide (and even many of our churches in the United States) would be more adept, skilled, and experienced out of necessity in the use of various internet communication tools. Who knew about Zoom as recent as last year?! Of course, some did, but because of the Coronavirus it is commonly used today in Bolivia and many other countries, along with YouTube and Google formats (all of which we are using in this conference). More than one person has stated to me that what I believed was “Plan B” (changing to an online format), was really God’s “Plan A” – and that it may allow for some people to participate who may not have otherwise. At the very least, it symbolizes a decentralization – a multiplication if you will – of connection with everyone globally.
Join the Story: God’s heart is for the world. Church multiplication is part of His mission. We sense His leading and want to join Him in this story that He is writing. But we are still at the toddler stage of development. We need God’s help, and yours. Jesus said that we need to “open our eyes” to see that the harvest field is ripe all around us (John 4), and that we need to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field (Matthew 9)! That is at the center of the bulls-eye for why this conference exists – to stir our hearts to pray, give, and go! We are praying and anticipating that the 2020 IFCMC will help us take those next steps forward together to make a difference in each of our regions and world for Christ! Please join us in prayer to that end!
Once again, 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 continue to 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! This is not a finish line, but a starting line!
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