by Richard Haney, Executive Director + Brad Coon, Associate Director for Development + Research
“Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ…Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong.” —Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline
In October, Frontier Fellowship gathered in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with over 300 friends, colleagues, international partners and church partners to celebrate 40 years of ministry. Friends came from as far away as Central Asia and as near as the hosting church, Community Church of Hendersonville. Some have been close to Frontier Fellowship for our entire 40-year history, and others met us in person for the first time. This was the largest celebration we’ve ever hosted, and there was plenty of joy to go around.
Our celebration event centered around a single story—Frontier Fellowship’s impact on a church, two individuals and a movement of indigenous church planters. This story highlights our two most important ministry goals: frontier mission mobilization and partnership. You can read this story in The Frontier Journal magazine, linked here.
Yet, in reality, at the heart of our celebration was a bigger story—the story of a community coming together to serve God’s global mission. Richard Foster writes that the celebration of ancient Israel’s festival holidays “…were the experiences that gave strength and cohesion to the people of Israel.” By all accounts, those who shared in our 40th anniversary celebration—from the veteran international leaders to the newest prayer partners—left feeling honored about the part they have played in the story of Frontier Fellowship and in God’s great story to gather all His people from the ends of the earth through the love of Jesus. Our celebration renewed our “strength and cohesion” as a ministry community, and we pray that this renewal extends to our wider community around the world.
Since the event, a repeated refrain from attendees has been: The Spirit’s presence was so tangible in this time together. These are the things you cannot plan for in a celebration, but only pray for as you act in obedience to the leading of God. Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:6-8 is for the Holy Spirit to empower followers of Jesus to be witnesses. Lesslie Newbigin called this the “overflow of Pentecost”. The overflow of God’s presence with us brought joy, and from it came new relationships, fresh ideas for frontier mission engagement and power to bear witness. We also realized a small foretaste of the worshiping community from every tribe, tongue and nation described in Revelation 7. Perhaps, then, the real heart of our celebration was our joy of being found in Christ together and on His mission.
Molly Wall, Co-Director of Operation World, shared the next day at the Connecting Mission Leaders conference that “the future of frontier mission is a persecuted Church loving a broken world.” This will happen only as we are willing to cross barriers of geography, culture and economic status and be found in Christ, together. This is the heart of our vision for Frontier Fellowship as we go farther, deeper and wider in frontier mission—until all have had a chance to hear and respond to the love of Jesus.