As I sit down to write about the impact of Advance, I’m honestly amazed and a little humbled with all that’s happened over the last few years. It just goes to show what can happen when ordinary people come up with simple ideas and God decides to breathe on them.
Less than six years ago there was one Advance Group meeting in my office as I wrestled with a bunch of friends over what kind of gospel we are to share with a world in need and what kind of life we need to live in order to give that amazing gospel credibility. Little did we know that within a few years, there would be thousands of groups in over seventy nations, in every corner of the globe, meeting in the same way and as a result seeing thousands come to Christ. With all that’s going on, we are confident that within twelve months we will see groups in over one hundred nations (approximately half the nations on Earth!) and even have a dream that within ten years, Advance Groups could be multiplying in every single nation on Earth. It’s our attempt to play our part in fulfilling the great commission. The gospel is meant to be heard and is totally relevant in every culture and context everywhere.
How about that for an Advance impact!
However, the real fruit of Advance isn’t seen in crazy global dreams but in one amazing Christian after another growing in confidence in their evangelism, clarity and godliness and going for it in season and out of season. A couple of weekends ago I experienced the impact of Advance on two beautiful occasions.
Firstly, on the Saturday, I went to a wedding of one of our real trophies at The Message Trust – Jamie had been saved from chaos and drugs and discipled initially through our Oaks halfway house. He has gone on to hold down a job, live a good life and now was marrying his lovely Christian bride, Danielle. They made very sure that the service was beautifully Jesus centred but what I wasn’t expecting was what happened when Ben, from my Advance Group, got up to speak. Initially, he brought some lovely words from the Bible for the happy couple then went into full-on gospel mode, sharing the good news of Jesus and then doing something I’ve never seen in all my years of going to weddings. He asked people if they wanted to give their lives to Christ today to stand up in front of all the congregation. Nine people did just that, including the local drug dealer! It was such a precious moment.
That was the Saturday. The next day I was at my home church and Daniel, again, from my Advance Group, was the guest speaker. He powerfully spoke from Luke’s gospel then brought his appeal. It went like this “Please don’t bow your heads or close your eyes. If you today want to give your life to Christ for the first time, stand up publicly in front of everyone.” This time thirteen people made that precious commitment.
On the Monday, I had the chance to speak to both Ben and Daniel and they agreed that a key reason for their unusual boldness was that they were regularly meeting with eleven other guys in an accountable way, growing in confidence in the gospel as the power of God for the salvation of ANYONE who believes and always wanting to make the most of any opportunity to see people come to Christ.
Advance is clearly not just for the platform preachers like Ben and Daniel, but it is unbelievably exciting that a growing group of men and women are learning together how to share the good news of Jesus with clarity and then are willing to step out in faith and invite a response to that good news and watch it go from an appeal of the mind to an appeal of the heart. Whether it’s at a wedding, a local church, on the streets or the school gates, watching that miracle take place is still literally the most exciting thing in the world!