Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Who of Urban Renewal. Darren Rouanzoin.

5 days to go until Urban Renewal. People gathering from 3 continents, 4 nations and 5 states. If Texas is a state and not a nation, that is.

I've blogged the last few weeks about the speakers who are coming. In some ways it's been easier deciding on international speakers than local ones, partly because there is such a wealth of great speakers in our county. Our question has not been so much, Who is the best speaker?", but rather, "Who is living out a unique story and message that needs to be heard?"

The first time I met Darren Rouonzian I thought he was a model. Not the rugged, Levi jeans kind of model either. He looked to me like someone who'd stepped out of an Urban Outfitters commercial. Perfect hair. Fine, hipster features. To be honest, I thought he'd be better suited to planting a church in Santa Monica than Long Beach!

First impressions are often misleading. As I got to know Darren and his wife Alex, I discovered in them a razor-sharp vision and rugged commitment to living out the Gospel in the heart of Long Beach, the most culturally diverse city in the U.S.A.
From the get go, their church, the Garden, planted deep relational roots in the soil of the city, gathering on Sundays in a bar, and starting a literal community garden to serve the poor.

Unlike many missional expressions of church, they have remained faithful to the Gospel and fervent for the power of the Spirit to fuel them on mission to their city. Darren has quickly become a catalyst for unity among the churches in Long Beach, urging them towards a common mission. He's also begun to travel more broadly, speaking primarily on impacting our cities in the power of the Spirit.

Darren and Alex planted the Garden with a team from Rock Harbor about three years ago, as twenty-something newly-weds. Rock Harbor, in their typical servant-hearted generosity, set The Garden up extremely well for success. But with all the support in the world, church planting in a city like Long Beach is still a massive under-taking, littered with countless casualties. To have seen the growth, favor and impact God has given them as twenty-something, newly-weds is note-worthy.

Theirs is a story still unfolding.But one well worth hearing.

Darren will speak at Urban Renewal on Friday night on "Renewing the City," and will take part in one of the breakouts on 'Word, Spirit and the Post-Modern Mind."
To register go to

Monday, September 17, 2012

'The Who' of Urban Renewal. Rory Dyer.

We're just 10 days from the start of Urban Renewal and I feel real anticipation for what God is going to do when we gather from 3 continents, 4 countries and 5 States here in the U.S to seek Him.

The last few weeks I've tried to give you a glimpse of the people who are coming to speak at Urban Renewal - a rich and diverse mix of culture, experience, age and gifting. This week I want to let you know a bit about Rory Dyer, a good friend who is coming from South Africa to join us.

Chris and Meryl, who led Southlands for 14 years, handed Glenridge, the church they planted in South Africa, to Rory and Mel Dyer in 1996 before they came to the USA. Glenridge is a large church, but more importantly, it is the most generous church I know. Bar none. They have been overwhelmingly generous with their finances and their people over their almost 30 year history. I would guess that they have planted about 50 churches during that time, by training up leaders and sending them with some of their best people. In some cases they've sent up to 70 people with a leader to plant a new church just 10 minutes down the road! Remarkable open-handed generosity and subsequent Gospel impact.

Over the years Rory has become a unique and potent minister of the Gospel, moving very naturally between preaching, prophecy and praying for people. He loves to speak on God's Father heart, introducing people to the reality of a relational God who knows us by name.

He's also experienced amazing favor in the market place, where he sits on the boards of a top private school and a bank as a kind of spiritual consultant. He carries an urgent passion to see the Church make Kingdom inroads into the market place. And he is living his message. He will speak on 'Renewing Disciple making' and 'Renewing our call to the Work Place.'

I honestly would not want any of you to miss the gift that he will be to the church in this nation.

You can find out more about Urban Renewal at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

His Bride is an Army?

Around 15 years ago, a wise friend of mine sat with the leadership team of the church we were in at the time. He had come to help us take next steps as a a fairly young church, and was listening and observing before he gave counsel.His name was Ray Oliver.

Ray was never quick to speak. But when he did, it was always incisive. This time he simply said, "There are 4 main pictures of the Church in the book of Ephesians. Body, Family, Bride and Army. From listening and observing, it seems to me that this church is a great Family and Bride. But God wants to make you into a strong Body and Army too.

What did he mean? What he meant, was that we had very close relationships as a community, and we were also a worshipping community with a strong sense of God's presence with us. However, we were not as good at serving one another as a Body, or at being on Gospel mission together as an Army.

We responded to Ray's challenge as leaders, repenting and asking for God's help to lead this Family/Bride to be a Body/Army. During this season I wrote a worship song, which became something of a war cry for our church. "Great King, your Bride is an Army.." A comical picture perhaps, but it became an anthem for a season.

When I went to Brazil a few years later, someone had heard the song, translated it into Portuguese and recorded it, selling thousands of records. On getting hold of a copy, I asked my Brazilian friend to listen to the song and translate it back into English for me. After listening, his puzzled reply was, "The first line says, 'Great King your fiance' is a platoon!'"

Anyway, my point is that God's intent is for every local church to rise up to be a united Army with a common mission, advancing a common Kingdom against a common enemy. He also dreams that we would live as a Body, with each member actively playing it's part in sacrificially serving the rest of the Body.

Coincidentally, I would say that God is also working in Southlands at this time, in growing a compelling Family and Bride into a powerful Body and Army. My prayer is that we would all look to Jesus, the Head of our Body and Captain of our Army, and with one voice would declare, "Lord, Use us and Lead us."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

'The Who of Urban Renewal' part 2 - Terry Virgo

In the final weeks leading up to Urban Renewal (27th-29th September), I'm taking a few moments to highlight the different speakers. One of the things I've loved about the gathering is the diverse mix of culture and church background represented.

If you include the breakout speakers this year, we have people from South Africa, England, Canada and the USA involved, from a variety of church streams and flows - Vineyard, New Frontiers, Anglican, Acts 29, and independent - evangelical - all with the same heart to see Gospel-centered, Spirit -led churches equipped to be on God's mission. Very rich indeed.

One such man, is Terry Virgo. Terry is the founder of New Frontiers, a worldwide family of churches on mission together. He is from the UK and is currently based at Kings Church in London, which is led by his son. Terry and his team serve nearly 700 churches across 60 countries.

He studied at London Bible College as a young man, and during this time his spiritual journey was was deeply influenced by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, whose quest to discover a sound theology of the Holy Spirit was almost unheard of in evangelical circles. Having been shaped by this experience, Terry became a fore-runner in the UK in planting churches with an empowered-evangelical ethos. More than three decades later, Terry has raised up and commissioned numerous younger apostolic leaders in his network, who are continuing the work of planting and establishing churches all over the world. His courageous, open-handed leadership has become a rare and remarkable model for many of us.

Terry speaks at conferences internationally and hosts the annual Together on a Mission conference in the UK, which draws thousands of delegates from around the world. Here in the USA, he has developed close links with the Acts 29 movement of churches.
Terry has written several books, including The Spirit Filled Church, God's Lavish Grace, God Knows You're Human, The Tide is Turning and No Well-Worn Paths which is his biography. Terry will be one of the key-note speakers at Urban Renewal.