The Vitality of the Pastor/Teacher.
It's interesting how and where a train of thought can lead. In one of my last blog entries I commented on David Tomlinson's disappointment and disillusionment with not seeing revival blossom out of the Charismatic Renewal and how it has clearly lead to a change in his theology becoming "post-evangelical". Pragmatic changes in theology is not a new thing in my experience unfortunately. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick". It clearly cannot ever be a bad thing to hope and desire and long for "more" of God. But surely this has got to me married with a contentment that "it is well with my soul" where we are at the moment. And the two must be held in tension. Too much "it is well" leads to idleness and laziness. Clearly too much dissatisfaction leads to disappointment and disillusionment.
But that aside, the question still stands; why? Ern Baxter told the thousands gathered at the Dales Bible Week in 1976 that they stood at Kadesh in crisis - and they faced a choice. Go into land or turn back into the wilderness. I suggest that generation turned back and here we are in the wilderness. It is the intention of this entry to hold a public investigation and consider why they turned back and why hence we are in the wilderness as a national church.
Those 3 years of Bible Weeks were unquestionably remarkable (1975-77). The Lakes Bible Week 1975 was mentioned by Terry Virgo in his addresses to Brighton 2004 - Ern preached on the "King and His Army". At the Dales 1976 preached on "Where Are We Going?" - and his final address was "The Kadesh Crisis" - where he challenged them as I have mentioned. At the Dales Bible Week 1977 - he dealt with spiritual warfare and the "Binding of the Strongman". At the end of that week corporately the thousands gathered bound the Strongman of Great Britain and apparantly signs and wonders abounded that week - including angels singing.
So what then? The next year Bob Mumford was the keynote speaker due to Ern being ill and I don't know what the theme was. I do know that it didn't follow on from 1977. What a high point! This corporate act of spiritual warfare happened and then the churches went back to their homes - to what exactly? I investigated this a bit in my home church in Dunstable, who of course were all there - and I asked what happened. A post-charismatic elder put it bluntly; "It didn't work". Didn't it?
There is a whole issue here with the role of Ephesians 4 Ministries and what each minstry should accomplish. It is my belief that Ern Baxter came to the Dales Bible Week as an apostle with a prophetic anointing. He addressed a gathering of leaders at High Leigh Conference centre before the Dales and told them in detail what he wanted to do. Bryn Jones made it quite clear that Ern was to be welcomed in this apostolic/prophetic role. His prophetic anointing was to "see" what was going on in the UK and where they should be going. His apostolic anointing was to lay a foundation for the Charismatic Renewal in the UK - which I believe he did progressively at each Bible Week. However I wonder if the failure of the 1970's generation to go into the land and seize this vision presented to them was less to do with the fact that it simply "didn't work" and more to do with the pastor/teachers present (the forgotten Ephesians 4 Minstry) and what they did and did not do.
We hear a lot about apostles and prophets especially as they have been restored in this last century. There is a lot of defining about what they do and don't do - and what their role entails - -and I think that everyone assumes that the pastor/teacher just "is". He is the safe one. He has been there from before and will be there throughout. Yet I am asserting that the role of pastor/teacher is vital because he has the ability to hinder this vision (and clearly did) as well has having the ability to carry this glorious vision through to completion.
Before hackles rise, let me make it clear that I am fervently pro-the pastor/teacher. They are essential and must be honoured as the often-unsung ministry! My interest is that all the Ephesians 4 Ministries work together in fluid unity, so that if God in His mercy were ever to be gracious and allow us as a church to come back to the Kadesh Crisis - we would seize the vision and go into the land and possess it - driving out the giants before us!!
1. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Judging the Vision Presented.
When a vision is imparted by an apostle or prophet, there is a clear and definite mandate from the New Testament that pastor/teachers must discern carefully and protect their flock from error. This vision must be weighed! Is it of God? If so - it must be seized and carried. If not - it must be discarded and the people protected.
I wonder how much discussion went on after the sessions and the worship had finished at the Dales around campfires and caravans. I would hope and imagine a scene where eager church members would gather around their pastor and question him on what Ern Baxter had taught - hungry to know more. Then the pastor would teach more into what had been spoken from the platform that night. And together they would discuss what to do as a local church to carry that vision. That's what I hope happened anyway - I know that's what I would have done, had I been a little older than I was (my mother was 3 months pregant with me when they were at the Dales 1977).
2. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Watering the Vision Planted.
"I planted - Apollos watered - another ...". It is clear that Apostles and Prophets are mobile ministries designed and comissioned by the ascended Christ to "go" to regions beyond - (see Dave Holden's excellent article in the Newfrontiers magazine; http://newfrontiers.xtn.org/magazine/vol2issue5/article_index.php?id=167). They were never meant to stay long in one place - but the pastor/teacher was and is! He is entrusted with a local church. While he absolutely must maintain a "mobile" state of mind - his remit is the local people under his care.
Ern Baxter was in the United Kingdom for a few months at most in 1977. He taught solidly while he was there but then he left to go on abroad. Few in the local church would have had the chance to get close to him and get to know him. The vision he planted was left to the mercy of the pastor/teachers to water.
Again I hope and imagine that pastor/teachers would have taken time in their sermons throughout the year to urge, teach, preach and raise faith for the vision presented at the Dales Bible Week. Remember the Dales!! The Strongman is bound!! Let's go and plunder his possessions! Did that scenario happen? Or did churches return to their gentle enjoyment of the new songs learnt at the Dales, and seeing ones and twos receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and getting excited when they there was an odd spiritual gift in worship? And the Dales was only remembered by audiotape and a fond memory and a longing for "next year"?
I got hugely encouraged when my parents would tell me of stories at my home church in Dunstable when amazing things were accomplished through prayer. At some point during those years, there was drought around the Dunstable area and the church gathered on the Downs that surrounded the town and they prayed for rain ... and rain came. They prayed against an immoral night-club in the town and it was closed down. They prayed for the capture of a local rapist and murderer called the "Fox" and he was captured and caught - by a Christian policeman who went to my church!
3. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Reaping the Vision Proclaimed.
It is interesting that Moses never entered the land. He died on a mountainside looking at it. Just as Ern Baxter never entered the land as he envisioned it on earth. I believe he died on a mountaintop looking at it. Ern was committed to pastor/teachers - he didn't praise the idea of exalting apostles and prophets above them because that is not how the Bible sees it. Ern knew that pastor/teachers were vital for reaping the vision that he saw.
How will they reap? Because if they truly do capture the vision and water it - it will be through them and their local church that we enter the land. The glorious end time church will spread through the planting of local churches as will the gospel. I can't really reflect on the reaping of the vision at the Dales because I don't think we are at that stage yet. But I hope that by God's mercy we come to that stage again at some point.
I long for it.
And I believe when we do, Ern Baxter will be cheering us on from heaven.