You may remember that Terry Virgo posed this question in the latest Newfrontiers magazine here. I wrote on Saturday that my deep feeling was that our concern should be our readiness for revival, and I quoted Ern Baxter who spoke about travelling with William Branham. Ern felt that the beginning of Branham's trouble began when he moved out of his gifting as a healer and into teaching. In other words - know our calling and stay in it! This must be vital if the tide is on the turn.
I hadn't noticed this before writing my last blog on this, but Rob Rufus also spoke of prepared wineskins in his One-to-One with Nigel Ring here. Rob said;
"It would require people to look at wineskins to avoid another charismatic movement that will run for a while then burst. Those who have been faithfully establishing wineskins for years need to start looking with expectation that they have not laboured in vain. Others will need to be looking at Scripture and to people who have built according to a Biblical pattern. This is the time to prepare for this visitation by building proper Biblical government and pattern into the church. A Biblical wineskin embraces three elements:-
• Biblical authority structures which is proper government, based on what the Bible teaches, not on democracy.
• Biblical vision which involves going to the nations and involves reaching the lost, seeing an impact into the marketplace.
• Biblical values - how we do it, with integrity, humility, with team, accountability etc".
And the result if we can do this? Rob concluded; "This is to see the glory of God come into the nations that multitudes can be saved". I'm so encouraged that some of the preparation Rob is calling for rests heavily on my heart and I've written about it. For example;
• Biblical authority structures - Here we have the importance of church leadership and authority. Churches will never be able to hold and sustain the longed for flood of revival without Spirit anointed, Word orientated men of God! I think that current events involving Ted Haggard's fall make the need for an Ephesians 4 Team Ministry model even more important. Did God ever intend men like Haggard and Roy Clements to be isolated at the head of large churches with noone to be accountable to, and to have noone who would care for them?
The need is desperate for apostles who "love to build the church through church planting and overseeing the early stages of growth". We need prophets who "love to build the church through hearing God's word of encouragement and guidance in season and passing it on". How can we survive without evangelists "to build the church through proclaiming the gospel and seeing people saved and added to the church"? And of course the pastor/teacher who need to shepherd and care for the flock while grounding them in biblical truth.
• Biblical vision - My hero Greg Haslam, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London defined vision in the following ways; "People won't even cross the road for a little vision - but they will go to the ends of the earth for a big one ... Vision is sanctified dreaming ... Until you find something to die for - you are not really living ... Visionary people need to seek out other people - preferably with a bigger vision who will fire what they believe". I am amazed how many church leaders, churches and groups of churches are visionless and I do think that their "eschatology shapes their ecclesiology" as David Holden said at Brighton 2000.
One of Ern Baxter's greatest strengths was that he was a man of vision. I think the greatest expression of that vision can be found in the quote at the side of this webpage. It is from "Thy Kingdom Come" - the closing address to the Kansas City Shepherds Conference, and quite possibly his greatest sermon ever. His vision? "the entire universe acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord - to the glory of God the Father!".
• Biblical values - well I mentioned last Thursday that Terry Virgo was preaching at Church of Christ the King last Sunday. We made the long trip down to Brighton to hear him and as usual he was sooo worth it. The worship was led by a young guy called Jos and was awesomely gospel-centred. Terry's message was, amazingly enough, one that he preached when he came to an All Saints Night at my home church, New Covenant Church, Dunstable (now West Street Christian Centre and Baptist Church ... or something) in the 1970's.It was entitled "Come With Us and We Will Do You Good". You can get the CD from CCK here and I can't recommend it highly enough. Why? Because in that sermon is contained many of the values that are essential for a wineskin that could hold a mighty move of God. The statement comes of course from Numbers 10 and Terry asked of it a few questions. Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you so confident? These are all issues that we must be content with as the People of God if God is going to add to us in revival!
That all being said, there is a tension to be held. The wonderful Hillsongs church had a great song that carried the line, "I'm not satisfied to have the form without the power!". David Holden addressed this at "Together on a Mission" in Brighton in his outstanding session. He spoke of the evangelical tendancy to "dial down" on the Holy Spirit when things aren't quite as they should be. Ern Baxter was absolutely clear on the vital need for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (and of course revival). He said;
"I think I have found that in my best experiences (and I am more a teacher than a methodologist) but I think what I have found is the simple rule of sowing and reaping. That I reap what I sow. What I preach is what I get. And if I address my congregations constantly out of a Trinitarian base and show the significant importance of the Holy Spirit, I have to first generate a hunger in men and women that makes them know that the Holy Spirit is not an optional Pentecostal bonus.
That the Holy Spirit is mainline standard equipment for a New Testament Christian. Then the question of them coming into the Holy Spirit becomes very existential because as you are dealing with each person, you are dealing with them as a person and God will direct you differently on how you bring them in and I’ve could tell you a whole load of stories about that. I’ve had them receive Him in my kitchen and in my living room and sitting in cafes and everything else. But the thing that gave them the hunger to press in was the fact that I made the Holy Spirit so absolutely essential to them that they knew that they couldn’t live another day without Him. We have made the Holy Spirit a Pentecostal luxury. And it’s not – it’s the heart of Christianity."
So let our prayer be that the tide continue to turn! But let's be poised to catch it and go!