This year’s Winter Conference Speaker is Father John Coles, an Anglican Priest from the UK and former director of New Wine. John+ and his wife Anne will be speaking about the Kingship of Jesus, and what that means for our lives, church, and world.
We recently sat down with John+ to ask about the breakthroughs he’s seen in his life and ministry, and what he is excited about for Winter Conference.
Tell us about yourself.
I was raised in a typical English, Middle-class, Anglican family where education was salvation. We went to church from time to time, but not frequently.
I went to an all-boys boarding school when I was a teenager, and I was confirmed there without really understanding what that was about. But I started attending bible studies and was introduced to Jesus in a personal way. You could say I was converted when I was 17.
At university, I was very involved in Christian ministry, and at age 25 I was ordained while still a bachelor. I met my wife, Anne, while serving in my first curacy.
At age 31, I became the vicar of a church in North London. The church was a small, traditional Anglican church. We had about 50 people in attendance for whom to doubt was probably more honorable than to have faith. Anne and I knew we needed a renewal of our congregation and to attract some new comers. I was preaching some of my best sermons and getting nowhere.
I cried out to God, “there must be more than this.” And I began to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit in a new way. This was the beginning of a new adventure, and of a different understanding of God, ourselves, ministry and the church.
We served that parish for 25 years. In that time the church grew to many hundreds of people. We had a multinational reach, planted churches, sent out missionaries, and saw transformation in our local community. During that time we also raised four children, and I went on to serve as director of New Wine.
What is New Wine?
New Wine is a network of churches and church leaders that was started by Bishop David Pytches. +Pytches served in Chile in the 1970s, and during that time he saw a rapid expansion of the Pentecostal church and the movement of the Spirit. When he came back to England, he found a very withdrawn, fairly fruitless church and wanted to see change.
+Pytches developed a friendship with John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard. He began to see that the key to fruitfullness in ministry is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for everyone. If you empower everyone in the Spirit, you have the trained army of God.
+Pytches started to hold training days, which Anne and I attended. After 4-5 years, he began an annual summer conference called “New Wine.”
The New Wine conferences were and continue to be for the whole family. We’ve seen as many as 26,000 people come over 2 weeks in the summer, all coming to encounter God.
What has been your involvement with New Wine?
I took over for +Pytches in 2001, and was Director until 2014. During that time my focus was primarily on the development of the network around the country. Our summer conferences were doing well, so I spent a lot of time traveling and building the network.
When +Pytches started New Wine, he was particularly concerned for the Anglican Church. For many individual churches, renewal comes through re-digging the well, not necessarily planting anew. We don’t need to change everything; we just need to look for new ways of sharing the gospel. We are rebuilding on ancient foundations.
We have 3,000 church leaders in the New Wine network, meeting together in 66 different groups around the country. These groups meet in person at least 3 times a year, some once a month. The network is mostly Anglican and other historical denominations, but we also have many people from independent churches. Ministry is lonely. People need to belong to something. New Wine gives people that network, which is especially important for those in independent churches.
What are you up to these days?
I retired from leading New Wine, but am still chair of the board and support the leader and his team. I still seek to develop other missional communities around North London. I mentor church leaders and respond to speaking invitations.
How have you and Anne partnered together in ministry?
Anne has a heart for the Lord, for His church, and His world. When we first met she was a teacher. Once we had kids she didn’t work full time, but over the years has worked part-time in schools and private tutoring.
Principally, she started working in the church with me, first as a worship leader and then as a pastor working with women.
When I started working at New Wine, she asked to work with the women in the network. She was very concerned with empowering women in leadership. She has been involved with holding a number of women conferences and working alongside ordained women.
We’ve also led trainings together on healing prayer and prophecy, seeking to empower local churches in the things of the Spirit.
What are some of the typical breakthroughs you’ve seen as you’ve led trainings over the years?
One of the big breakthroughs is allowing God to be God. We don’t have to understand everything or control everything.
In my life, this was real when I saw people having encounters with God that were beyond my own experience. People would start talking about God speaking to them through dreams or miracles. We don’t need to feel threatened by that. These are described in Scripture as authentic encounters with God. I was moved to accept them and to ask God to move me further in my biblical experience of Him.
Many church leaders feel like they must control most stuff in the church. This is born out a good desire for biblical order as talked about in 1 Corinthians, but in the end, not much gets done. We’ve helped people get to the place where God can be beyond their experience, understanding, and control.
The second common breakthrough is helping people go beyond church walls. For some church leaders, most of their ministry happens within a church building. We want to free the people of God to minister like Jesus did, outside of the building. We want to empower people to take the good news wherever they go. We want to equip them for ministry outside of the building.
What message will you be delivering at Winter Conference?
One of my core beliefs is that God is always at work in the world. The key to living the Christian life is to find out what God is doing and to join him. In other words, to keep in step with the Spirit.
At Winter Conference we want to talk about the way we relate to Jesus as the King of our lives, our church, and our world.
The church is the hope of the world, the light in the darkness. It’s where transformation happens and where we can encounter the Spirit. God calls us to be a part of a family through the church, and it is in those relationships that we find what it’s like to be a disciple.
We have everything to look forward to in terms of who He is and what He wants to do. The Lord wants to use anyone who would say “here and I, send me.”
What are you excited about Winter Conference?
I am excited to be together with a group of Anglicans who have found a way of committing to the prayer of Acts 4: “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
I look forward to seeing the Lord empowering you. Anne and I will be sharing stories from the UK to encourage you and keep you going. And we look forward to hearing stories about how God is moving in the United States and to bringing back those stories here. I know I will gain by being with you.
To register for Winter Conference 2017, visit: http://theamia.org/winter-conference.html/
John and Anne’s talks will be available on the AMIA Youtube page after Winter Conference.