Rob Frost's vision for the Pentecost Festival

I couldn’t find this online anywhere, so I’ve posted it below. The press people sent it to me, so I’m assuming they’d like it to be seen. It is an article by Rob Frost, who sadly died in November 2007. The Pentecost Festival is taking place in London from the 9th to the 11th of…

I couldn’t find this online anywhere, so I’ve posted it below. The press people sent it to me, so I’m assuming they’d like it to be seen. It is an article by Rob Frost, who sadly died in November 2007.

The Pentecost Festival is taking place in London from the 9th to the 11th of May 2008. See my post on the Church Times blog for more information.


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I landed in Los Angeles and managed to locate my car rental centre, a bus ride across the huge airport complex. A twelve hour flight, together with all the check-in security hassles at Heathrow and the usual immigration process at my ‘port of entry’ in the USA, had taken their toll. I was grateful that a representative of the convention I was speaking at was there to meet me, and even more relieved when she offered to sit beside me and navigate me through the complex network of Californian highways until at last I reached the country roads in the forests outside San Jose.

By the time I reached my log cabin deep in the midst of the redwood forest at the conference centre, I was absolutely exhausted. I didn’t even unpack, but fell onto the bed and sank into a deep and satisfying sleep. This was, of course, a big mistake. I should have stayed awake and gently acclimatised to the local time zone, but when you’re as tired as I was, nothing is sweeter than sleep. I knew I would pay for it the following night, and of course I did.

It must have been 4am when I woke with a start. It was very, very dark. Owls were hooting, and there was the eerie cry of a wild coyote somewhere in the distance. I was ravenous, and very much awake, so I opted for an ‘early breakfast.’ I rooted around the kitchen to find the generous supplies my hosts had left for me, and I sat out on the veranda of my cabin with hot coffee and toast, and stared out at the moonlit outlines of the trees all around me.

It was as I sat there, in this rather bewildered state of ‘jet-lag’ that I felt that God spoke to me. Not as an audible voice, admittedly, but through a jolt of Holy Presence. The words came very clearly, almost as if they were sprayed onto the wall of my consciousness graffiti-style. “Why not organise an event that I’d like to come to?” he said. It shook me to the core.

Was this my imagining? Perhaps. Was it make-believe? Possibly. Could it have been real? It certainly felt real. And it certainly had a powerful effect on me. It was as if a surge of power had shot through my entire being. As if the things I had been struggling to come to terms with during the previous few months were now blindingly obvious. I felt that some kind of struggle was over, and some different course had been set for my future.

Of course, in order to understand the significance of this pre-dawn experience you’d need to know the context. I’d been the director of an event called Easter People since its launch twenty years previously, and I had recently announced that the next conference would be the last. There’d been a lot of consultation, a plethora of ‘forward planning papers’, and a lot of discussion with my trustees and board. It wasn’t a decision that we’d arrived at lightly; it had certainly been prayerfully submitted to the will of God.

The reasons for the closure were manifold. After peaking numerically in the year 2000, with 12,000 plus participants, the event had been in gentle decline ever since. The changes in school holiday dates were bound to have a detrimental effect on numbers over future years. The transfer of conference centre management from town councils to large entertainment corporations had meant that rental prices had more than quadrupled. The event had become less and less cost effective.

Above all, however, those of us organising it were feeling that it had passed its sell by date. We knew that it would be hard to ‘re-launch’ because so many wanted to keep it just the way it was! It was haemorrhaging money and staff resources from the rest of my ministry. This grew so serious that I began to feel as if I was raising large sums of money each year for mission, only to spend it on sustaining a loss-making Christian conference. But, above all, those of us at the centre of it were bored with the twenty-year merry-go-round of planning and preparation! A process which dominated the passing seasons of every year.

Having reached the point of ‘laying down’ Easter People, I was not looking for some other event to take its place! On the contrary, I was looking forward to developing a new style of ministry which gave me more time to speak and write, and which demanded far less ‘organisation’ throughout the year!

On the long twelve hour journey to California I had re-visited the future of my ministry again. Would anything ever replace Easter People, and if so, did I have a part to play in launching it? I submitted it all to Christ again, and as the carpet of white cloud slipped slowly past beneath us, I gave my ministry back to God as I had done so often down the years. God’s faithfulness had been an undeniable experience throughout my life and I had no difficulty in recognising that he would work his purposes out in the future, too.

On the veranda I chewed on my toast, and wondered what diverse manner of animal life was scurrying about in the shadowy forest ahead of me. The words wouldn’t go away. “Why not organise an event that I’d like to come to?” Had God actually spoken to me, or was this some subconscious echo from my prayers on the flight. I sincerely felt it was the former, but couldn’t rule out the latter! But, whatever, the phrase intrigued me. What would an event that Jesus wanted to attend really look like?

I ambled back into the wooden cabin and picked up my airline carry-on case. I pulled out the biro and notepad that I always carry on long-haul flights. I sank back into the veranda chair, and the warmth of the summer’s night enveloped me. What would an event like this look like? What would make Jesus want to show up?

I knew in an instant what it didn’t look like. And that shook me. I felt for sure that it wouldn’t look ‘religious’. It wouldn’t be full of ‘meetings’ or ‘seminars’ … and it wouldn’t be full of stressed out Christians running from lecture to lecture eager to mop up the latest teaching from the newest ‘guru’ on the block. It wouldn’t just be lots of worship events, with a stream of eager praise bands each seemingly trying to outdo the other. And it wouldn’t feature strutting preachers, some of whom seemed to be more intent on ‘playing to the gallery’ than prophetically challenging their hearers to the core.

Other negative images streamed across my mind. Long appeals for money. Uniformed guards stopping people from coming in. Fifteen foot high walls designed to keep out those not wearing the right wristband, badge or day-glow hand stamp! And a great cloud of earnestness, of ‘good intent’ and glowing self-satisfaction – a kind of contemporary pietism that says to the world “I paid £1000 to bring my family to this and we deserve a medal.” (They do, actually, because they could all have had a nice beach holiday in Tenerife for less!) No, I really couldn’t see Jesus feeling comfortable here!

Would he turn up for an event with barely a black face in sight? Would he like it if the children were safely boxed into one space and the teens in another? Twenties in a trendy venue and the middle aged in one with more comfortable seats, but all the ages never coming together? With the elderly made welcome only as long as they sang the latest songs? A middle-class constituency of decent people filling every seat, but no sign of the poor, the marginalised, the hurting or the down right peculiar?

And would he show up if there was no room for atheists, agnostics, cons, pimps, addicts, gays, divorcees, single mums, asylum seekers, Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs, sex workers and very lapsed Christians? I don’t think so.

I finished my toast, took a last swig of coffee and began to write. The following three and a half hours flew by. I barely noticed the shadows receding and the orange glow of dawn filling the sky high above the tree tops. It was a time of ‘inspiration’, when the flow of ideas moved so quickly that my pen could hardly keep up. The exercise book was practically full by the end of it.

I saw the event so clearly that it was as if I was there. It was as if the Body of Christ had woken up after a long sleep, and had discovered what fun it was to be alive in God.

I saw artists of every kind filling the streets. Big graffiti style creations and fine oils on canvas. Great tapestries, and projects with lots of ordinary people ‘having a go.’ Telling God’s story in pictures and symbols that anyone could understand.

I heard musicians, bands playing on the street corner, classical ensembles in shady city squares, and people singing. Gospel, barbershop, choirs and soloists, and young people rappin’ in shop doorways. Praising God in a cacophony of beautiful harmony.

I smelt hot food drawing me towards a square filled with delicious tastings from all over the world. Rice and peas, curry, French fries, and big steaming silver bowls of Chinese food. The cultures of the world offering free food in celebration of the One who gave it. And in among it all there was dance, from ballet to contemporary, from liturgical to Latin, Salsa, Ballroom, street and hip-hop. A long conga was winding its way through the crowd. All celebrating the One who is Lord of the Dance of Life.

Somewhere in the distance church bells rang out the grandeur of God, and the roar of a crowd indicated that there was a football competition or sports tournament for inner city kids not far away. Floating in on the gentle breeze was the sound of a theatre company in full swing with laughter in the air. Round the corner a lorry appeared with a jazz band rockin’ on its long trailer decking.

I passed a pub, and inside a crowd of people were hearing eminent scientists debating the mysteries of the universe. In an up-ment_author_url>

3 Comments

  1. Hmm.. a festival that God would want to go to. That’d be… something.

    Sorry to speak ill of the dead, but that man could waffle for England.

  2. Waffle? Doing something you’re inspired to do rather than sitting in a mire of fear and arrogance..? Looks good to me – thanks Dave

  3. I agree with Phillip of Samaria, it sounds great !! It would be marvelous to see it happen, and I’m up for playing in the Jazz band, though I’ll have to do some more work on playing those sixths and ninths.

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