Thanks to a tip-off by Luke, that Christchurch, London would be having some guests, we found ourselves travelling through torrential rain down the M4 for their half past four celebration. The wonderful Kate Simmonds was to be leading worship and Greg Haslam (also a hero of mine) from Westminster Chapel was preaching. This is a review of our time with them.
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.