Friday, May 12, 2006

"Ready for Restoration?" - An Interview with the New Wine Teachers.

Still very impacted with the amazing potential in the interview with Ern Baxter, I went on to find this interview with Ern and his three brothers: Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford and Don Basham. The interview technique brings a fresh insight into the minds of great Bible teachers as apart from direct sermons or teaching because the answers are more spontaneous and less thought out. There is also a definite benefit to an interview with a group such as the New Wine teachers - because it is possible to see them reflect on other brother's responses to questions and stimulate each other. I found and transcribed one other interview with the four teachers on "Change" and that too demonstrated the impact of this group-style interview. I hope and pray this interview continues to bless and challenge!

Q: How would you describe the relationship that exists between the five of you - Derek Prince, Ern Baxter, Don Basham, Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson?

Bob Mumford: We came together with the burden described in Ephesians 4 - equipping the saints for the work of the Kingdom. That sounds almost shopworn after all these years but it's still true. Our desire was to help the saints mature, to bring God's people into a place where each could find his place and function in the Body of Christ. That has been one of our primary motivations ever since, both in our individual ministries as teachers and our joint publications and tape distribution ministries - to prepare the individual Christian to function in the body of Christ.

Don Basham: What strikes me is that we were all beginning to teach on unity of the Body before God joined us together. There was such sovereignity in the way we were brought together, as if God demonstrated to us that while what we were teaching was true, it could only be demonstrated out of a corporeity that we didn't have before. We didn't have any idea at the time what would result from our covenant, but when we look back over recent years as to what's formed around us as a result of our being together, it's clear to me that there is in the heart of God a deep desire for corporeity.

Ern Baxter: Two things attracted me in this direction some ten years ago. First, I was attracted to the shepherding concept. For years my concern had been that while I probably held my large church together with strong preaching, I was lacking the kind of personal pastoral contacts that I saw the Bible emphasizing and outlining.

Second, while I had always had good friends during my forty years of ministry, I had lacked the type of close-knit relationships with other men that would give a minister in a position of service to God and men the kind of security that he needs. I was drawn very much to this manner of men relating to one another on more than a professional or casual conversational basis. Both of these emphases through the last ten years have continued strongly with me.

Charles Simpson: We have always described our relationship as a "committed one". Since 1970, a personal committed relationship has existed between us as teachers, which continues to this day. Over the years however, certain structural or pastoral relationships have evolved among us which have periodically been adjusted due to geographical relocations. It should be noted that Derek Prince, who is now geographically and spiritually involved in Israel, maintains a personal relationship with us and continues to maintain a relationship with the Good News Fellowship Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While there is no structured relationship or "governmental" one, there is a warm brotherly relationship. Derek is also relating to other ministers and leaders in Israel and elsewhere.

In addition to Derek Prince's move to Israel and increased involvement there, sometime during 1984, Brother Ern Baxter will be relocating to San Diego where he has a long-standing relationship with leaders in the spiritual community. Brother Baxter will continue in our mutual cooperative efforts, such as publishing and pastoral ministries.

These kind of geographical changes have happened with a fair amount of frequency since 1970, when we first began to relate to one another. We have not thought of our relationship as static, either spiritually or geographically. We do not "possess one another". The Lord possesses us. We have never conceived of our relationship together as being a covenant apart from the blood of Jesus Christ, but rather a commitment within the covenant - to serve one another and to strengthen one another because we were called to do that. Beyond mutual pesronal support, our desire has been to serve the whole Church and to fellowship with the whole Church to the extent to which that is possible. So our ministries will continue to the larger Body and will continue as the Lord enables. Our desire, like many other Christian ministers, is to promote unity in the body of Christ and to explore with other Christians ways to uphold and strengthen the one covenant that we as Christians share in the blood of Jesus Christ.

I would continue to describe our relationship as being committed to each other for the Lord's purposes. We uphold one another to do the Lord's will as He leads. We certainly uphold our brother Derek and his wife in their calling to Israel.

Q: Do you feel the Church as a whole is deeply hungry for the truths that God has led you to proclaim?

Charles Simpson: Yes, I think it is. God's revelations are usually in answer to a particular need. For instance, when the Reformation came, there was a need for justification - a tremendous need - and through the Reformation God spoke to that need. Historically, whenever God has given a revelation, some of the same things have always happened. One phenomenon is that when a revelation comes, an immediate polarization occurs. Some people see the need and quickly rush into the revelation. But others areafraid of the new idea and react negatively to it, and in so doing react to the people involved. Often those who rush into the revelation abuse it by receiving it but throwing out everything else. But eventually people mature into the revelation and there is a lessening of tensions and an assimilation of that revelation into the mainstream of Christianity.

I think that process happened to us to some extent. When God's words about corporeity, pastoral care and discipleship came to us, they were certainly not unique to us but were revelations that came to us both individually and corporately because of a need. Then we went through a season of polarization and also a time when perhaps some people walked in that revelation to the exclusion of everything else they had ever been taught. But I believe we have come to a time when that polarization is diminishing somewhat. Other people independent of our efforts have also seen the need for corporeity, pastoral relationships and other truths about how God's people are to fit together in His body.

So I do believe that climate of receptivity towards much of what we are saying is out there, not just in the area of relationships but also the whole matter of absolute values - a restoration of integrity to our society. I think there's a tremendous number of people who are not only receptive to it but who in their own way are contributing to it just as much or more than we are.

Don Basham: I would like to comment on what Charles said about our accfeptance of certain truths because of a sense of need. God seems to first allow a situation to deteriorate to the point where the need is felt, where things have become so bad that people are hungering for something else. People today are so hungry and so needy for spiritual truth. The Bible has been explained away, the need for basic morals and spiritual values has been cast aside; not only by the Church of course but by our society. And people have finally reached the stage where they are crying out for a return to those proven values.

That is the pattern that has repeated itself throughout history. In the New Testament, the Church had power and unction and great things happened, but then it began to decline. The power faded and people were left only with forms and creeds, a practice that did not give life. But throughout the history of the Church, there has always been a breakthrough because of that need. Out of that dryness comes a prophetic figure or some group of people who out of that dissatisfaction and hunger begins to pray and seek God, and who then comes into some new revelation that starts the whole cycle again.

Q: Ern, what do you see going on in the spiritual and cultural climates right now?

Ern Baxter: I'm wondering if we as God's servants, aren't sometimes a bit obtuse in that we're not aware of the cultural climate in which we're living - the impact of the whole technological boom and it's breakdown, the chemical boom and the resulting ecological problems, the hedonism and permissiveness of our society that are now beginning to bear unpalatable fruit that is so obvious that even the hedonist and the permissive person will be forced to decide if he wants to live with it.

It's frightening to see what it is going on culturally and politically because our socitety has perhaps within itself the seeds of its own destruction and is probably in serious decline. But if we would discern a historic pattern in God's activity, we would be aware that this is a form of providential judgement. Every time God providentially judges anything, He stands by to redeem it. We could very well be at the point where man has run out of steam and out of options, where his brains have gotten him into trouble because he has ignored his soul. I believe we're on the brink of some confrontation between God's providential judgement and His redemptive activity.

Q: Do you sense that the Church as a whole is on time in its response to where the world is today, or do you feel it has been slow in preparing for where things are spiritually right now?

Charles Simpson: One problem we have is that of viewing the Church from the human perspective, although none of us is capable of looking at it from a truly divine perspective. From where we are, if we look at the Church as a whole, we can see that many times it's the last to get involved with what's going on. But we must also look at that part of the Church which with a high degree of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is moving in response to God. That is the radical edge - the voice of the Lord in the earth. The Church hasn't always been "behind schedule". Jesus and the apostles changed the world, and that was the Church at it's best. The Reformation certainly changed the face of the earth in a very positive way and we have had numerous great awakenings in our own nation. I believe that we are on the verge of another great awakening.

Don Basham: Charles was talking about how we view the Church from a human perspective. When we see it from God's perspective, we see the Church, or at least portions of it, standing at the place where it can be the instrument of God in evangelism, putting a redemptive word in the heart of men who are so fed up with wickedness that they're ready to repent and return to God. Our society has become so fed up with its own debased humanity and wickedness that it is ready for revival to take place.

Bob Mumford: In the great awakenings of the past, people came to the Lord wholesale. Many people met God in a sovereign, unmeditated manner that was phenomenal. We have seen that in our day as well. In the late sixties on the West Coast, during what was called the Jesus people movement, thousands of young people revulsed by their own lifestyle, turned to God and many of them had little or no contact with anyone leading them through the "sinnners prayer". I don't mean to negate personal evangelism or even minimize it because ordinarily it is a necessary action but I think we're standing on the edge of a sovereign outpouring of the Holy Spirit when men and women will come to the Lord by the thousands in that same wholesale fashion.

Q: What are some of the things you see taking place in local church settings that would reflect what God is saying and doing in the body of Christ as a whole?

Ern Baxter: I see many local churches recognizing the need of doing something about more personal care for their people. Numerous churches in America are incorporating the cell church idea and I think that this is not without significance. I see it as an indication of God's ultimate intention of bringing together in one all things in Christ.

Don Basham: One other development I see is that there seems to be a return to some of the basic things about spiritual gifts and what we call the charismatic activity in the Church. We seem to have come full circle through the last number of years. We've been stressing structure, authority, government and relationship, which I am sure will go on being emphasized, but now there's also a renewed interest in and concern about the miraculous - healing, the gifts of the Spirit and deliverance from demons. As a result, I'm finding in my own public ministry that I'm being invited more and more often to teach again in these areas.

Ern Baxter: I certain agree with what Don said, but I hope the Church doesn't make the mistake that over fifty years I've observed being made again and again, and that is to make these supernatural manifestations an end in themselves. When Jesus performed mircales, it was in view of getting the attention of the people so that He could say the things the Father sent Him to say. So mayn times we preach healing and people are helped and touched and healed, but we don't take advantage of the platform that it provides for us to say what God really wants said. Jesus used the miraculous to declare the Kingdom and we need to do the same.

Charles Simpson: In a way, all of us went into the Charismatic Movement without being prepared. As a result, we watched people being saved and filled with the Spirit and saw great things happening, but all without a foundation and without a place to go. When we turned toward pastoral care, it wasn't that we were rejecting the charismatic dimension, we merely saw relationship as a necessary element that was missing. So I view these last ten years as a plaform for the declaration of the Kingdom of God that encompasses its supernatural aspects. When you're in the sovereignity of God, you always see the past as prologue. You realize that what you've been through is preparatory for what God wants you to do. I feel very strongly that these past ten years have been of God and I don't see us departing from them, but I see them as a foundation for greater things God wants us to do in terms of a brand new harvest in the world.

As I said earlier, I believe that we are on the verge of another great awakening. There is a tremendous upheaval already going on within the Church, so much so that the people outside the Church are beginning to be aware of it. And when that happens the Church will be the means of redeeming society. What we're talking about is not a pipe dream - it's historical reality. I believe we agree among ourselves that the stage is set for the greatest outburst of evangelism and revival across the earth that this generation has ever seen.

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