Dr. Timothy Tennent: New Room and the Crystallization of Discontent
Many of you will know that the first public place of worship for the “people called Methodist” was called the New Room, and is located in Bristol, England. It is somewhat ironic that the “oldest” room in Methodism is still known as the “New Room” because in 1739 when it was constructed it really was a “new” room for us. It was a new “space” for worship, for training and for spiritual renewal in the Anglican Church, which was facing spiritual decline in the years leading up to what we in N. America call the First Great Awakening (1730’s and 40’s). If you visit New Room in Bristol, one of the most striking features is the beautiful window which is just behind the pulpit where John Wesley once preached. That beautiful 20 pane window is now the visual logo of our New Room Conference which is seeking to recapture the original vitality of our movement.
Asbury’s New Room Conference continues to flourish. The first New Room conference we held drew 300 pastors and leaders and each year it has grown dramatically, culminating in last year’s conference with over 2,200 in attendance. This past September we gathered in Hendersonville, Tennessee and drew more than 2,700 people, the maximum capacity we could host in the venue we used. In the week following New Room Conference we had 1,800 people already sign up for our 2021 New Room Conference!
This past year, New Room launched our Awakening tour in collaboration with the Mark Swayze band from the Woodlands UMC in Texas. We toured 22 colleges and universities and met with student groups praying earnestly for renewal. We have been astounded by the response to this tour.
The purpose of New Room is to create a global Wesleyan fellowship of men and women who want to “sow for a great awakening.” New Room purposefully focuses on four major areas which we believe are crucial for renewal and revitalization in the church: travailing prayer, banded discipleship, church multiplication, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All four of these are always woven into each conference in various ways. Thousands of you have been praying earnestly for the renewal of the church. Let me encourage you that we are seeing a remarkable movement toward vitality, even in the midst of unprecedented challenges unfolding at the denominational levels of several of our major Wesleyan denominations. As our movement becomes more aligned with the global renewal of the church, we will benefit from the vitality of our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia who are experiencing the greatest growth of the church in their history.
Brothers and sisters, it is easy to be discouraged by the challenges many churches are facing at the national level and miss what is happening at the grass roots level. There is a growing desperation for God. One of our speakers at New Room referred to the “crystallization of discontent.” It is that moment when you have the power and freedom to name your discontent and cry out for change. There is a growing longing for spiritual vitality. There is a sense that we are on the verge of another great awakening. Holy desperation is breaking out across the Church. Spontaneous prayer sessions have been breaking out across our Wilmore campus at Asbury. Our theme for this year is the “means of grace” and students are availing themselves to God’s work in their lives as we grow in grace and cry out in desperation for a renewal in our land and across the pan-Wesleyan world. Frequently, God’s grace is disruptive, but it is always redemptive. Sometimes it is when things seem the bleakest that God breaks through in fresh and remarkable ways. God is doing something in our day, and we want to embrace it.
Friends, this is at the heart of the very purpose of Asbury. When I arrived as President in 2009, an elderly graduate of the seminary said these words of wisdom to me: “I would rather Asbury Seminary go out of existence, than to lose its reason for existence.” Those words have stayed with me. God’s call is upon us all. He is beckoning us to not miss this divine moment. Thanks be to God!
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