Sunday, October 29, 2006
1. A Welcome that Disarmed.
Finding Christchurch wasn't difficult - their website instructions are excellent and easy to follow. They meet at the Piccadily Theatre where ironically "Guy's and Doll's" is performing. The welcome team (or 'hosts' as they are called) reminded me somewhat of a roll-out for a royal visitor. There was a line of black t-shirted hosts in the front entrance and they actually did make us feel like royalty! We were asked if it was our first time at Christchurch and when we confirmed that it was, we were whisked into the theatre where another group of hosts met us and engaged us in enthusiastic conversation, even though the worship was just about to begin! We were told about drinks after the celebration and urged us to stay.
Another very pleasant girl asked us politely if we would mind going down and sitting near the front and was so grateful when we said yes. Hence we ended up sitting a few rows along from Greg Haslam! There's nothing like sitting near a prophet to make one examine one's heart properly before worshipping God - just in case he got given a word of knowledge to reveal the sins of my heart! More importantly (as I'm sure Christchurch would agree) I was incredibly aware of the tangible Presence of God as soon as I entered the room. Here were a people desperately hungry for God Himself and He hadn't disappointed.
2. A Worship that Devastated.
I guessed something had stopped Kate Simmonds from coming, as Rhys - one of the elders - was already leading worship and David Stroud (the church's father and leader of the Newfrontiers UK team) confirmed that she had the flu. Previously this might have distressed me somewhat as she was 50% (or so) of the reason we had travelled across the UK! But God was there and somehow I knew that was all that mattered. I haven't heard of Rhys before - but he is a worship leader of incredible sensativity and anointing. I don't remember many of the names of the songs that we sang - although two of my all-time favourite songs featured, "Before the Throne of God" and "Yours is the Kingdom".
All I can say about the time of worship is that I have never before (and that includes Stoneleigh Bible Week and Brighton so far) have felt God so "close" to me. I had my eyes shut most of the worship and I somehow knew that if I opened them I would have seen His face right in front of mine. I spent much of the worship in tears - although not really knowing why. It was a truly glorious time. God had passed by and was showing us His back!
The Spirit didn't fail to distribute His gifts in abundance either. Two that stood out to me were a word brought by a girl - "Sinners are welcome here" - and another prophecy that expounded the wonders of creation and ended with a joyful shout, "If I did all this - how will I not give you what you desire?". In that heaven-soaked atmosphere, I couldn't think of anything to ask but "Give me Yourself". That's not pathetic false humility - I have a long list of things I thought I need. But when "things that surround me become shadow in the light of You" - somehow you forget all your so called needs in the light of Him! I didn't want it to end! I can't explain it better than to say that I was devastated.
3. A Word that Demolished.
In terms of my favourite expository preachers - Greg Haslam and Dr Stanley Jebb rank neck and neck. Regretfully I rarely get to hear Dr Jebb preach nowadays due to his busy ministry in Cornwall - so I am truly grateful that Greg Haslam is placed so strategically in London. London needs that kind of bible-based ministry in a post-modernistic age when truth is being eroded!
Greg's message was crucial and absolutely in keeping with the worship that had just ascended to the throne of God from that place. He preached on "Passionate Worship"! It was from the text where Mary anointed Jesus feet with the costly perfume and wiped them with her hair. I once heard C J Mahaney preach on this at Celebration UK (the former SGM conference) a number of years back. Mahaney's presentation was good but in this atmosphere at Christchurch I found my views of worship being systematically and expertly demolished in a way that only Greg Haslam could do. I realised that I don't think I have ever truly worshipped God before - because God taught us that worship is expensive and costly! What has my worship ever cost me?
And so back to Bristol ...
We closed by singing the awesome, "Yours is the Kingdom" that so thrilled me from the Brighton Leaders Conference. It couldn't have ended on a higher note. The glory is indeed His! That's all that mattered! We were siting behind the renowned evangelist Adrian Holloway who is so powerfully used at Newday and across Newfrontiers. He turned round and said hello at the end. I was intrigued that he was so astounded that we came from Bristol to London purely for Christchurch. I believe that the day will come when many do travel across the nation to go to that church.
I had a vision during the worship (and that doesn't happen to me often) of the geological cut of a volcano before it is about to blow. There is a huge reservoir of molton lava that grows until the skin between over and underground bursts and the lava erupts. I think that there is a huge reservoir under Christchurch and it isn't going to be long before there is an eruption in London. Lava of course is virtually impossible to stop and I can see London being devastated by the effects of this church.
Why is Christchurch so dangerous? It is built on apostolic foundations - with David Stroud resident who I know will keep them looked to "Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth". Prophets are evidently present there and will keep that place razor sharp listening for God! Evangelists are also there of course keeping them with a passion for the lost and the relentless advance of the Gospel.
Do I recommend Christchurch London? If you want a "nice time" while you are in London then no. Don't go near it. Pick another church somewhere - there are many about. But if you long for an encounter with God - if you are desperate for His Presence and His touch then get to Christchurch because you will find you are in good company there.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It was thrilling as usual to receive the latest edition of the Newfrontiers Magazine through the post (which I am sure will be available online here soon). It is typically of an extremely high standard with an amazing new look to it. But most importantly each article is incredibly stirring.
There is a review of Together on a Mission 2006 written as usual by Wendy Virgo. Interestingly enough she opened the review by mentioning some of the key prophecies that I have transcribed here, and quite rightly speaks of the predominant theme of Word and Spirit that Wayne Grudem and Rob Rufus brought unconciously to the conference.
Simon Virgo reviews Mobilise held at the Clarendon Centre. He too noted; "What marked Mobilise ... is an unashamed and confident commitment to being a people of both the Word and the Spirit. Being unashamed of both emphases enables us to be truly unafraid as we present the gospel to our culture". That is the best apologetic for holding 100% to being truly Reformed and truly charismatic that I have yet to find. We don't attempt to hold the tension between Word and Spirit just for it's own sake - but because we truly believe that it is the most effective way to spear-head the Gospel into a lost and hurting world.
That all being said, Terry Virgo mentioned something in his 'Firstline' that reminds me of the utter importance of "Foundations". There have been two discussions about "Big Churches" on two blogs I read - Mark Heath's (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and Gavin's - and the vitality of right foundations for a church was a theme common in both. Terry said;
"It could be argued, of course, that everything changed on the great resurrection morning when Jesus conquered death for ever, or perhaps on the triumphant day of Pentecost when the powerful Presence of God was poured out on the waiting disciples. New creation began! The long awaited eschatological kingdom was inaugurated!".
This of course thrills an "avid resurrectionist" like myself! Kate Simmond's awesome hymn sums this truth up; "on this my hope now rests - that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!". My next transcript of Ern Baxter is to be a New Wine article he wrote on "Repentance". Ern wrote this;
"We first need to stress the importance of good foundations in the Christian life. Most of the problems we encounter as Christians and many impediments to our personal growth derive from our failure to have laid sound foundations at the very beginning".
I hope that this transcript will follow hard on the heels of my next post - a review of our time on Sunday evening at Christchurch, London!
Friday, October 20, 2006
When I began to transcribe prophecies on the "Spirit of God!" website, my close pastor friend Pete felt quite strongly that it would be appropriate when prompted by the Spirit to re-publish certain prophecies. All night I have (for some reason) had on my heart the powerful prophecy that Ginny Burgin brought to the Brighton Leadership Conference. As my friends Luke Wood and "Prophetic Reformation" will no doubt testify (as they both attend her church in Sheffield) - Ginny is a prophetess powerfully used by God and this word impacted the conference greatly. Here is an extract - but I urge you to follow the link and re-read it. Begone evangelical smugness!
"And as I look I start to hear a cry and I start to hear it louder and louder until I want to cover my ears because of the cry that is coming to the church and it is louder and louder. And it says;"Wake up! Why are you still sleeping? Wake up! Get up! Call upon your God and perhaps He will turn on us and have compassion on us and save us!". And the cry just gets louder and louder to the church. "Wake up! Why are you still sleeping? Get up and call upon your God that He might have compassion upon us and save us!".
I hear another voice and this voice shouts out to the church as well. It shouts out; "Prophecy! Prophecy! Prophecy to the wind! Prophecy over these dead souls that they might live! Proclaim to these dead souls that they might rise up and live! Call upon to these people to stand and then call upon the wind to come! Call upon the mighty powerful wind of My Spirit to blow! Call upon the very rock of My breath to come and bring that which was dead to life, to come and bring death to be overcome by the power of life. Prophecy and proclaim to those that are fearful! And let those that are fearful rise up a great and vast and mighty army!".
Well I thought that would grab a bit of attention. It's been an interesting few weeks being without internet access. I have enjoyed the "Back to Basics" style of back to pen and paper but it is frustrating feeling somewhat out of touch with the wider Christian sphere. Fortunately my laptop is now fixed and awaiting collection! So I have many ideas and thoughts to re-commence writing with a vengance. That being said, I must admit I haven't seen much on the various blogs I look at that has lit the fires of controversy (I guess that's a good thing) so no rants forthcoming. Furthermore it is hard at work to get time to write anything of length so this is just a reflection.
I am hugely encouraged by two blog posts by a new friend of mine - Jonathan Edwards. He truly is a kindred spirit! I urge you to read "Characteristics of a Glorious Church". How about this quote to fire your spirit on a rainy Monday morning? "The end time church that God will unveil in these last days will be like nothing we've ever seen before. In fact it's will far exceed anything we could have ever asked, thought or imagined Ephesians 3:20.
It will reveal a bride that is prepared and ready for the return of her Lord and Saviour". Amen!
And then in part 2 Jonathan brings an outstanding quote from the awesome Puritan Thomas Goodwin, "There will come a time when the generality of mankind, both jew and gentile, shall come to Jesus Christ. He hath had but little takings of the world yet, but he will have before he hath done".
I remember reading a challenge from a former blogger who reminded himself that we are all accountable for our time - for what we read and what we write. How can we fail to be stirred to read what Jonathan Edwards has written? To be stirred and motivated to go out and join in our part of the great Mission we are on - to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
" ... I want you to know that I have not called you to a static path. I have not called you to be the defender only of what you have thus far. I don't want you to have a fortress mentality. I want you to know the excitement of pressing on, experiencing more and going on with Me - this is My call to you. I call you to grow, this is not something that you frighten you or seem strange to you - this is the great essence of life, that you grow. Therefore I say to you, beware of the dangers of defending everything you know, standing only secure in what you have proved. I call you to the adventure of learning new things ... "
It is rare that I disagree with my friend Luke Wood on anything - we are astoundingly alike in lots of areas! 99% of his posts I read, I find myself nodding in agreement, yet my review of the live worship album from Brighton must differ from his just slightly! He said that none of the songs struck him as particularly incredible. However the song he mentioned as his favourite - "Yours is the Kingdom" - made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Indeed the wonderful Kate Simmonds cry at the start set the tone; "Let's give glory to God this morning; all the glory is His!" but to me the theology in the song summed up the conference perfectly. And what a life-changing world perspective to carry through your week!
I am going to follow the style adopted by Scott in his excellent review of Lou Fellingham's debut album and comment on a few of the songs that struck me and then sum up the album for me.
Praise Is Rising - It is fitting that the title track should open the album. The atmosphere is tangible as you hear voices crying out then the music fades in. The song begins a familiar theme that occurs in many of the songs on the album - "We find strength". This is not a light, fluffy album of celebration but rather a triumphant shout of the people of God knowing that He is God through suffering.
Never Let Go - I admit this song didn't grab me as we were being taught it, but it very quickly won me over with again it's faith-filled words of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The mission that we are on isn't easy but it is so worthwhile!
Sing To The Lord - I wish that there were more of Lou Fellingham's songs here and sang at Brighton but this is the representative. It is great that she lead it on the album. It can't fail to stir your spirit and lift your heart to God even if you don't feel like it!
We Come To Praise You - Finally! Kate Simmonds is the lead vocals. This is my only complaint with the album that there is not more of her. I know that this is due to a problem with her voice (we saw Terry Virgo praying for her at CCK the Sunday before the conference) but my only complaint is that the album misses her passion, zeal and fervour.
You Reign Supreme - A Kingdom statement that Ern Baxter would have loved. He is sovereign!
Yours Is The Kingdom - This for me was the song of the conference and of the album. It opens with a call to worship from Kate Simmonds and is fast paced and thrilling. It will stir your heart with the truth of our mission. The earth lies in wait to be taken by the people of God - yet the job is already done for He has gone before us! All we have to do is go into the land and take it! It will be quite some time before I tire of blasting this out in my car or in my home!
Party Song - A surprising but welcome familiar to the album. The Prayer Meeting Night saw me really "get" the international feel to the conference and begin to enjoy it and appreciate it and there are places during the song where Evan Rodgers makes it clear that we are an international family on a mission.
I have found that each Brighton conference I attend is like scaling a mountain peak. Each time I climb slightly higher and find that I can see slightly further, experience slightly more and learn new things. I spent quite some time discussing "Praise is Rising" with Scott and we both agreed that it is an excellent mark of how the conference itself felt slightly more "serious and business-like". That isn't to say we didn't celebrate - and how! But the theme, "Together on a Mission" said it all. Yes we will go partying, but we are going. There is a great work to be done and the time for dancing in circles and waving streamers may be over. This isn't an "easy listening" album for a quiet Sunday afternoon! This is a stirring, dynamic album that is for a hard Monday morning when you are wondering what it is all about. This album will remind you - Yours is the Kingdom! And He is so so worthy of all our praise!
It is a must-have! Go buy it!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
As I mentioned in an answer to a question earlier, my laptop has joined the list of casualties and has decided to break it's hard drive and lose all the material, interviews, transcripts and articles on it! I have been quoted it will cost me £400 to retrieve it so there is a thermometer on my front lawn at the moment ... if you drive by - give generously ...
So I do apologise that blogging has been a bit sporadic. I have been busy never-the-less. It has been a great opportunity to transcribe in written format (remember that?) many of Ern Baxter's awesome audio ministry as well as continue my pace of reading from holiday. During the time of quietness, of course, the Desiring God - "Above All Earthly Powers" - Conference happened and was dutifully liveblogged. While the session reports were interesting to read, I found reports of the Panel Discussions far more enthralling. As many know I love hearing heroes of mine in a question and answer situation as it puts their minds in a far more spontaneous mode as opposed to the pulpit where it is more prepared.
The reports of the Question and Answer Session can be found here and here. Many of the questions were well thought out as one would expect from Justin Taylor - who hosted the sessions. Two in particular caught my eye:
Drs Piper and Carson give advice to Pastors of Small Churches.
Justin Taylor: Dr Piper, a lot of pastors might be discouraged by the size of their church. What encouragement would you give to the small town small church pastor?
John Piper: Feeding the flock of God is the most precious and high calling in the world. “Feed my sheep.” There is always room for growth! Every one of these guys discourages me – so in one sense that is life. It is a great thing to rest in the calling God has given you. There has got to be witness in smaller populations. It is just that we cannot abandon the city! Faithful loving exposition is what you must do. God loves rural people.
Don Carson: There are different degrees of gift. If we are doing something wrong, then we must fix them. On the other hand, I was brought up in French Canada. There were very few churches there. My Dad was faithful through the lean years. God works on another scale. I made a resolution when I was young man to never stop going to small and insignificant works. Be faithful where you are.
Mission in a Conference Context?
Justin Taylor: John, foreign missions are often forgotten in conferences like this. Are you concerned that foreign work is being forgotten.
John Piper: I don’t know since I do not see evidence. The great commission is no where near finished. Muslims and others are hostile and difficult to reach. We need to go there! Are we raising up an army to go? The seeker sensitive way is having a trickle-down effect in missions in a harmful way. There is a fear of not succeeding. So, foreign missions can be undermined when you go with a compromised message – or a contextualized message that abandons Christ. There is no radical Jesus without hell. What emergent is doing is what they say we are doing: “domesticating Jesus!”
"Are we raising up an army to go?". I quoted David Holden yesterday saying that "Your Eschatology Will Affect Your Ecclesiology" and I suspect that the same principle applies in the conferences that we organise. Do we have a high view of where the Church is going? Do we have an ever present understanding of where Jesus Christ is now and what He is doing for us His Church? Do we believe in the Triune promise that Jesus Christ has been told to sit and reign until His enemies have been made His footstool? If we do, then it is highly likely that we will seek out conferences that (to quote Terry Virgo) "ever hold this vision before us".
I am tremendously stirred by this quote of John Pipers! "Are we raising an army to go?". Reformed theology seems to me to be the most apt foundation for the most radical and passionate mission advance, yet so often we retreat into hyper-Calvinistic groups devouring ass's heads and doves dung. This must be put right! In the New Frontiers Magazine - August - October 2001 - Greg Haslam wrote an outstanding article on Reformed Theology and Charismatic Experience. He said this concerning Reformed Theology;
"Both modernity and postmodernity have robbed us of the ability to explain or make sense of reality. They have no credible grand narrative or big story; consequently they have no hope to offer mankind. Reformed theology, reflecting the Bible itself has the power to integrate our total perspective so that we shun all forms of dualism that would divide life into the watertight compartments of sacred/secular, spiritual/material, body/soul, time/eternity, heaven/earth and work/worship. To us all of life is sacred and there is nothing secular except sin. We are to see God's Kingdom progressively advance to reclaim the whole of life, every activity and ultimately even the whole of the cosmos for Christ. We are to glorify God in everything we do".
What a quote! It oozes Ern Baxter! If we are to avoid "conference-ism" - the mentality where we hop from one conference to the next, enjoying the temporary spiritual high, it is vital to seek out conferences where we will be challenged into being built into an army - armed and ready to go to the ends of the earth for Christ. Any conference that doesn't do this isn't quite enough.