Monday, January 14, 2008

"If the Lord is with us ... Why?"

I wonder if anyone remembers this statement that Terry Virgo made at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2001.

In this post I am going to take him up on that offer. In light of that statement he made at Stoneleigh, I feel obliged to take him up on that offer. I think he would be disappointed if I didn't take him up on that offer and that challenge!

I am intrigued with Terry Virgo at the moment. I am fascinated as to what is going on in his head and where he is going and where he is taking Newfrontiers. I hope that doesn't sound too cheeky. But he is one of the very few church leaders who has had a tremendous impact upon my life. His teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Stoneleigh Bible Week really cemented my experience in what was a confusing time when my senior pastor was changing his mind on this most important of encounters with God. His teaching on the grace of God absolutely saved my personal walk with God and my faith in church after one of the most difficult experiences of my life. He has consistently displayed the qualities of an apostle and a prophet in what church life should be like today - when very few other self-appointed "apostles" seem so far from the biblical model.

So when I ask these questions, I do so out of the utmost respect and love and admiration for this man of God. I ask these questions because I am bothered. If the example that Terry Virgo set didn't really matter to me, then what he did and who he invites to Newfrontiers conferences would pass without comment from me. But it does matter to me and it does interest me and I do want to grow in experience by looking at this man and understanding why he is who he is. It does matter to me that "Together on a Mission" remains one of the most powerfully visited by God conferences in the United Kingdom. In my lifetime I have attended the Dales Bible Week and that got stopped. I attended the Anglia Bible Week and that got stopped. I went to Stoneleigh Bible Week and that got stopped. I am not content to see Brighton become merely a "feast of the Word". I want to encounter God there!

Now when I say "open questions" to him, I essentially mean I want to open up these questions for comment very like Jesse Phillip's "Questions of the Month". I do not know Terry Virgo and I certainly don't expect answers from him! But I hope you will all feel free to leave comments to help me if you have any thoughts. As you will expect, a lot of the questions are about the forthcoming "Together on a Mission 2008" and Mark Driscoll's visit. But there are some other questions about the broader and more glorious work of the Holy Spirit as well. Questions that "Together on a Mission 2007" began! I do - I really do - want to learn ...

So Terry ...

1. "Together on a Mission".

If the Lord is with us - and in light of the glory of the past two years of TOAM - why have you invited Mark Driscoll to Brighton?

If the Lord is with us - and bearing in mind you live in a city with a thriving gay population - why have you invited a speaker who has publicly made homophobic comments and jokes?

If the Lord is with us - why is there no seminars about what Rob Rufus ministered in the last two years? Why are there no seminars about the manifest Presence and glory of God? Why are there no seminars about the Holy Spirit and His Presence and dynamic power in spreading the the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Why are there no seminars about signs and wonders and miracles that we should expect to accompany our message?

If the Lord is with us - why do we need to balance what was already a balanced Word and Spirit message at the conference? Why do we need a "Word man" when you yourself bemoaned;

"Why is it so rarely that we are privilidged to experience at the same time the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power and true respect for the Word of God? How sad that we so often have to put up with a lack of one or the other".

It seemed to me that last year's Brighton was the closest we have ever got to a true marriage of Word and Spirit. Why do we have to change that?

2. "With Signs Following".

If the Lord is with us - would you agree that the command to Ezekiel to "Prophesy to the winds" - somehow carries an instruction for us? Would you agree that in the Spirit, the prophetic is somehow capable of unlocking and beginning dramatic moves of the Spirit of God?

With that in mind ...

If the Lord is with us - why didn't you prophesy once at last July's conference? Your prophecies have proved so influential in guiding the family of churches and provoking yet more prophecies from others. We needed to hear from God through you!

If the Lord is with us - why aren't we seeing speakers coming to Brighton who will provoke and impart greater and greater faith for miracles and signs and wonders rather than strategies for building bigger churches?

If the Lord is with us - won't the bigger churches come as a result of a greater manifestation of the glory and Presence of God rather than hearing "How-To" speakers?

And finally ...

If the Lord is with us - and the nations are our inheritance as the heirs of Abraham then why are the majority of leaders of restorationist church movements living in the West where only 5% of the world's population live? Why aren't we going into China? What is our strategy for seeing the glory of God cover China as the waters cover the sea as God promised?


James B said...

Fascinating questions. I would wager he wasn't expecting a list like that when he said that at Stoneleigh 2001! I remember hearing him say that and thinking how unusual it is for an old dude to be almost begging for us young guys and girls to ask questions.

The only thing I think I would add (because I want to know the answers to this list too!) is that are we prepared for the questions to be turned round on us? You know - so for example, you ask rightly about China. What's going on with China? Why aren't Newfrontiers in China in a presence? Are we ready for the leaders to turn it round on us and say;

"Okay, well China is obviously on your heart - are you ready to go?".

It's easy asking questions from the safety of the West, but are we ready to sell all and move out like Hudson Taylor and have no plans to come back?

diane (SG friend) said...

dan where on earth do you get these old videos from?!

Dan Bowen said...

Morning guys (or evening for those in the USA) - well yes excellent question James and one that I am already thinking and praying through. The question I would turn around is - in Newfrontiers, don't you have to wait to get asked to get involved in nations like that?

Diane - when I first started going to Stoneleigh Bible Week, I was quite influenced by a pastor there who was an avid collector of the video messages of men like Terry Virgo, Dave Holden and Dave Devenish so I copied him. I now have got a considerable collection of old Stoneleigh messages on video back from 1999 of those men.

(diane) SG pastors helpmeet said...

Wow that is quite a collection Dan. SO many people want to abandon the past and want to forget, but when you have committed your vision to tape or video - it is hard to forget! And it shouldn't be forgotten if it truly is of the Spirit of God! I hope and pray that Terry Virgo still believes this statement and would welcome a list of such challenging questiosns.

Dan Bowen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cck member said...

Here's a question;

If the Lord was with us at Brighton in July, then why did we only see "moderate" miracles? I don't mean that offensively, I am sure that the miracles meant a lot to the people who received them.

But why didn't we see lame getting out of wheelchairs and leaping? Why didn't we see cancer tumours dissolving? Why didn't we see dead bodies being brought in and subsequently raised from the dead?

I don't know about anyone else but I definately sensed a withdrawing of the Spirit in the last session of Rob's. Was He grieved at being judged by those who weren't comfortable and were simply "observing"? :(

Luke Wood said...

The question I would turn around is - in Newfrontiers, don't you have to wait to get asked to get involved in nations like that?

I remember that session at Stoneleigh - I was 16, and at the time I thought that you had to be invited to do anything exciting for God. To be honest, at the time it would greatly trouble me: how long would I have to wait to be asked? What if no one ever noticed me?

Whether or not this was the mood at the time (I doubt it - I reckon that being something of an outsider on their way in, I simply misjudged the mood), this is certainly not the attitude I have encountered in Newfrontiers in recent years.

Every Mobilise, every Newday, every Student Worker Day from the last few years I have heard the same exhortations: 'if you feel called to a nation, please get in touch with us/fill in this form - even if you think Newfrontiers aren't in that area yet so what's the point - you never know, you might be the one to go and open it up for us! Or at least then we can let you know when developments occur' - stuff like that.

So from my limited perspective Newfrontiers are pulling out all the stops to make sure that our people know we're on a mission and there is a permanent, ongoing, open ivitation for all to take part. And in fact over the last year or so we have seen some significant leaders from Newfrontiers lay down responsibility in their own churches to explore China.

I have said before that I highly doubt that Mark Driscoll will be coming to share with us 'How-To' build a megachurch. Instead, just as being with Rob Rufus had something rub off on us, so I hope being with Mark Driscoll will have a similar effect in terms of (before you say 'well I don't want him to rub off on me!') the things God would have us grow in.

One year (I think when Brighton conference was just for Pastors) Jackie Pullinger was the main guest and shared with the conference. Now I'm sure that the following year when she didn't come back, there could have been a tribe quoting Isaiah 58 and saying:

"If the Lord is with us - won't the bigger churches come as a result of caring for the poor and needy rather than hearing [mild insult to that year's speaker]?"

They could well have been right, as could you. I don't know. All I know is that there's limited time available, and I know for a fact that some Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, tongues-speaking charismatic Newfrontiers-Christians on a mission were equally as concerned (maybe not quite as vocal!) at Rob Rufus being at Brighton as you are about Mark Driscoll. Each year I seem to encounter some objection or other to the choice of main speaker. This does not bother me. There will always be some dissidents.

What does bother me is the thought that these people may end up missing out. God regularly reminds me that He doesn't call me to understand Him, only to trust, follow and obey Him. How sad it is when I will only operate in the realm of things I feel I understand (and therefore have some element of control over). A leader once challenged me that when a preacher said something I didn't agree with, I didn't write it down along with the rest of my notes. They pointed out to me that, in over-zealous application of what were nothing more than my (possibly quite narrow) opinions, I might miss out on what God had to say.

Similarly, I would hate for those who weren't happy with the choice of speaker to miss out on what God has to say.

So last year, I actively encouraged my Rufus-sceptic friends to turn up and trust God with an open heart. And this year I intend to do the same with the Driscoll-sceptics!

James said...


Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Luke for taking the time out of your busy schedule to leave a comment!! Yere as always Luke, you provoke me to think (and that's partly why I posted the questions). I want to think about this! I want to bounce concepts off people who I trust such as Luke and others so that I can (hopefully) grow in wisdom.

"'if you feel called to a nation, please get in touch with us/fill in this form - even if you think Newfrontiers aren't in that area yet so what's the point - you never know, you might be the one to go and open it up for us! Or at least then we can let you know when developments occur' - stuff like that"

Well that is really encouraging!! I didn't know that - see I knew I shouldn't be missing Mobilise! :) Well it would be ever so interesting to share my heart for China. I just cannot understand why every time I pray for China or hear something about China, I keep bursting into tears! I wonder what would happen if I filled in a form ...

Yes I fully take your point that God could have some things that I could learn from Mark Driscoll! *gulp*!

I would hate to think that I am reacting against some perhaps over-zealous things that Mark Driscoll said and took an instant dislike to the man because he came across as everything that is bad about men and yet BE as bad as Mark Driscoll! I.e proudly stating that I am not gracing Brighton with my presence because of that .... American ... ;)

So thanks again Luke - you have really challenged me and I really mean that. This is new territory for me because up until now I have NEVER had a problem with decisions Terry Virgo has made and speakers he has invited! (Well maybe apart from C J ...). But I don't want to become a moaner and miss out on anything that God has!! :)

A Driscoll-phobe said...

I am not familiar with Terry Virgo or the situation you are facing in the UK but Mark Driscoll I am familiar with, living in Seattle USA and being a "casualty" of his Old Testament style of leadership. Here's a quote you may find interesting;

"There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity".

Relevant Magazine.

A Driscoll-phobe said...

Oh yere and here's another link to an article he wrote ranting against Brian McLaren calling the discussion "all gay".

Ellie said...

So Dan, are you going to mail your list to Terry?? :D

Dan Bowen said...

Ha ha very challenging question Ellie! But alas I am not privy to having his email address! ;)

Open but Cautious said...

Interesting articles Driscoll-phobe. But I note at least Driscoll did have the humility to apologise for his homo-phobic rant. That's gotta earn him a bit of respect. It can't be easy to apologise publicly when the eyes of the world are upon you. I would be interested to see C J Mahaney apologise for comments he made about women.

James B said...

Why would C J want to apologise for comments about women that he wouldn't see as anything wrong?

diane (SGM pastors wife) said...

Here's another question that occured to me. Terry - Newfrontiers could invite virtually anyone from across the whole spectrum of charismatic, Spirit-filled, faith speakers. You seem happy to verge on the more conservative speakers such as Mahaney, or Driscoll or Wayne Grudem. Why don't you verge on the other side and perhaps invite "wilder" speakers such as Rick Joyner, or Bill Johnson - men of faith who may have slightly off-centre theology but one cannot deny their passion for more of His Presence?

jul said...

Dan, the e-mail things is not a problem just go to his website to the contact page. I e-mailed him before, though I only got a response from his will get through.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Julie, I didn't know that.

james b said...

Terry doesn't reply personally, I don't think he has the time. I've tried him before. Mind you I think if you go to CCK and go up to him personally, he is usually very gracious even tho he can only spare you a few minutes.

We Were Never Meant to Be Content with a Little said...

If the Lord is with us ... why then have the remarkable manifestations of 1994-96 faded and gone into the dusty times of history? Why aren't we seeing newer and greater demonstrations that the Spirit is among us and active? If the Lord is with us ... why aren't we seeing gold dust manifest in the meetings and times together? If the Lord is with us, why aren't we seeing feathers floating in the air at Brighton like some meetings are experiencing? If the Lord is with us, why aren't we hearing angels singing like they did at the Dales Bible Week?

Dan Bowen said...

Good questions, "We were never meant" and a good name! That's Dr Lloyd-Jones if I am not mistaken isn't it?

Gold dust and the other manifestations have been on my heart too recently. Why is it seemingly happening a lot over in the USA with various ministries and yet we who are alledgedly open to the Holy Spirit seeing nothing?

I am not sure - have Newfrontiers EVER seen gold dust or anything?