Dr. Timothy Tennent: New Room – Sowing for a Great Awakening
In March, the church around the world celebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of Susanna Wesley. It is widely accepted that her deep commitment to the faith, her careful catechesis of her many children, including John and Charles Wesley, and her role in the emergence of the Class Meetings has left an enormous legacy in the history of the 75 million people around the world who trace their spiritual lineage back to the Great Evangelical Revivals of the 18th century. 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 North 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 and Network 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 September (25-27), we will be gathering in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and expect the largest gathering in our history. Make plans to attend our 2019 New Room Conference. The venue only seats 3,000, so we will have to cap registrations this year.
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.
This year, New Room launched our Awakening tour in collaboration with the Mark Swayze band from the Woodlands UMC in Texas. The purpose of the tour is to visit dozens of college campuses around the country to listen to young people and hear their prayers for the church. We have been astounded by the response to this tour. Even though we are only halfway through the tour, it is clear that God is moving among these future leaders in the church. It seems that God is renewing the church from the bottom up, not the top down. We are already praying about launching a separate New Room Conference just for college students, the demand is so high and there is so much vitality to be tapped into. There are hundreds of young Susanna Wesleys out there whom we need to meet.
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. There is a growing longing for spiritual vitality. There is a sense that we are on the verge of another great awakening. Since the Protestant Reformation, the church has experienced a number of major revivals. Four of those revivals were greatly influenced by wesleyan Christianity (First Great Awakening, Cane Ridge and the Second Great Awakening, Phoebe Palmer and the Layman’s Revival, and the Pentecostal movement in Azuza Street). Aren’t you desperate for another revival? Could God not do it again in our day?