Monday, February 16, 2009

A Day at CCK, Brighton!!

I was fascinated to come back from Brighton to read Mark Heath's latest post looking specifically at four different directions Newfrontiers could be going in. I think they could easily apply to churches generally but what made it so applicable was the experience we have had being at Church of Christ the King in Brighton today. I want to make it clear that the three hour drive back to Birmingham was largely spent discussing in depth the two services we were at this wonderful church so this isn't an "off-the-cuff" post but one that has been discussed and thought through in depth!

Before I get into my report on today - for those who don't have time to get over to Mark's post - here's a very brief summary of the four positions he outlines. Where are we going?

1. Church Growth – (Bill Hybels, Hillsong, Rick Warren)

2. Reformissional - (Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and maybe C J Mahaney and Wayne Grudem)

3. Neo-Pentecostal - (Rob Rufus, Todd Bentley)

4. Emerging Church (Rob Bell and Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke)

Now before I get into discussing my opinion on where I think Newfrontiers is headed in light of my experience today - here's a more objective report on CCK, Brighton and more specifically what Terry Virgo preached on.

Simon Brading was leading the worship from the keyboard and we began by singing just two songs before one of the leaders came up and led us in a time of communion. Then there were the obligatory notices and the "speak to someone you don't know" - while Terry Virgo got ready to come up and speak.

Terry spent some time bringing a report back from the months he has spent in Australia as this is the first time he has spoken at his home church since getting back. Here's a short video clip;

It was exciting to hear about what God is doing out on the "Pacific Rim" particularly at the interest in Japan there is to hear more about the grace of God. Terry has been invited back in 2010 to speak at a national conference and his book; "God's Lavish Grace" is going to be translated into Japanese. The advance of the Gospel indeed! He then introduced his sermon - a continuing of the series on "Elijah" that he has been doing over the past year or two.

Here are my notes;

1 Kings 18 (NASB) - Elijah

Elijah came and confronted a king about a nation that had tragically lost its way. God had promised Abraham that through him, He would bless the whole world. They had the high privilidge of coming to Sinai and hearing the voice of God. He called them; "My Bride - I am married to you". Look at the Psalms and you will see they knew who they were. In the preceding chapters you will see over 58 years seven kings came and went and they forgot who they were. They ceased to represent God and enjoy God. Having come into the land they saw other gods here. They learned how to cultivate. King after king yielded ground and the nation that was meant to be the light of the world - now made it illegal to worship Israel's God under Ahab. Into this Elijah was sent to confront Ahab and said unless you change, God will act. God will capture your attention and bring you down! It is a bit like God pulling the plug on the banks. We are falling apart - what is going on?! God can turn a flourishing place into a desert (Psalm 107). Ahab will be further confronted by Elijah.

"How long will you limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him".

1. Behold Elijah.

"Now Elijah ...". No background to him - he just appeared. God is ready to start speaking again. This period of humbling is over and God is going to show mercy. The Bible repeatedly says that God will not over test His people. "If He causes grief then He will have compassion" (Lamentations). It is interesting to see that God initiates this. It is not Elijah saying he wants to have another go. It is not Elijah initiating. It is not for Elijah to get ahead of God. Some like Moses try that and they are not very successful. God had closed the heavens until He was ready to open them again. When he faced Obadiah and Obadiah spoke of doubt - Elijah was solid and said "I will meet him today". Elijah is so submissive to God that it is like you are meeting God. He is truly prophetic! "Elijah arose and went". This man is carving out a life of total obedience. He speaks with frightening authority because he lives in a relationship of total obedience. He is sent by God and knows God will be with him.

We want to look like people who comes from the Presence of God and speaks with authority - that is the true prophetic church.

Where did unlearned fishermen get their boldness on the Day of Pentecost? Down through church history there has been a break out of people who know God.

2. That spells trouble.

He earned the title; "You troubler of Israel". That is a feature when the church begins to be the church! It happened with Jeremiah - another authentic prophetic. When he spoke in his day and promised judgement - "Jerusalem will fall". They called him a treasonous man and threw him in prison. But he was just the authentic voice! An authentic voice does not want to make trouble, it just wants to shed light! They are sharing but it looks like trouble! The one who lives the righteous life will be seen as such! The early apostles hit this kind of come back! (Acts 17) So many people are responding to Paul that people start speaking against him. "These men who have turned the world upside down". The Greek word means literally "revolutionary". John Stott says the same word is used of an Egpyptian terrorist who tried to start a revolt! Revolutionary overtones! But it doesnt say that he caused trouble! (v2, 3) The verbs that describe Paul; "reasoned, proclaimed, persuaded". Paul was just being reasonable but the backlash was - you troublemaker!

"God is light and in Him there is no darkness". Light came into the world but men prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil. They want to stay in the darkness. The offer of light is seen as trouble but that is the thing that you most need! The words that describe the people that charged Paul; "jealous, wicked men, mob, uproar, riot". That is the reaction that Paul got as truth is told! That is how the church is often regarded as these days. We tolerate everything apart from people who feel they know something. The message of hope and light and life is a Gospel declarer! Not trouble! We are meant to be salt and light! If we haven't got a clear message then we may as well stop speaking! He knew what he was saying was true!

Such kinds of declarations will meet with hostility. Paul says to the believers in Colosse - let your speech always be gracious. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in you. Let your speech arrest the corruption. Speak when you can to stop the corrupting trend. Elijah was the hope of the nation! Not a trouble maker!

3. It is time to make your choice.

Jesus was ruthless with religion! The religious were dismissive of the apostles! They didn't like that! They called the blind beggar "untaught" because he was healed! Elijah had no time for the prophets of Baal. But he had mercy on the people. Never has there be someone who came so near as Jesus. Never has there been someone who stood before the Presence of God. Come from God! He grew up in a carpenters home. Just a child of Mary and Joseph. He didnt come near just generally but near to the ordinary people. He offended the religious! He ate and drank and sat and laughed and danced at weddings! John could say that we handled and touched. Mary could say that she anointed His feet with her tears.

It is wonderful to know a God who comes near. He comes near! "Emmanuel - God with us".

We can start our day saying "Thank You Jesus - you are with me!". "How long will you limp between two opinions?". As a nation they hadn't totally abandoned God. Their very identity was linked with God! They knew their history and the Psalms they sang. Even Ahab's sons later in the book of Kings took over and his name was Ahaziah. Ahab called his son "Yaweh has grasped". And the second "Yaweh is exalted". This nation had a divided heart. We are not supposed to follow two masters. Jesus said you actually cant do it. It won't work! "You cannot serve God and money". Jesus used money as a kind of god. What does money offer? It offers some interesting things. "I will care for you - provide for you - give you fulfillment". Who else offers that? Money is coming with the same offer! And Jesus says you cant serve both. When a rich young ruler came to Jesus and there was an attractiveness to him but Jesus enunciates some principles and then saw right into his soul. "Sell what youve got, give it to the poor and follow Me". He couldn't do it. The man went away sad.

The tax collector - a crook and yet Jesus came to his home. He was so different. Although he was very rich and very crooked, he said he would give back. Jesus said; "Salvation has come to this house". We are appealing about who is the Lord of my life?

The only way you get salvation is a revelation of Jesus, Who He is and what He can do.

1 Corinthians 6:12. The prohibitions of Jewish lifestyle were lifted. That approach to God, trying to keep the old laws is irrevelant. You don't have to keep them! All things are lawful! The liberty of the Christian is that all things are lawful! And then he says; "I will not be mastered by anything". A good job, a nice house, a nice car, a nice wife or husband, a good education is all lawful. Christianity recognises it is Gods world and we feel very at home in it! But we aren't going to come under anyones control. Otherwise we are in danger of something becoming an idol and we cannot serve two Gods. The fact that we are free doesn't mean we become a glutton! Is that how we show our freedom?! That's not being free at all not being able to go without something!

Jesus said "Go" but hasn't He said He will work all things together for good?! What matters most? That is the appeal! We can't live with non-negotiables. Jesus is looking for ruthlessness. He calls for a radical commitment! Loving but truly revolutionary! We are saying "Jesus whatever you say". He said "How can you believe yet make no effort to attain the praise that comes from God alone?". Elijah didn't get praise from anyone but wanted the praise that came exclusively from God. 1 Cor 4:3. It is so easy to be zealous if you get some applause. You want people to see it from your point of view! Jesus modelled a completely different lifestyle. He always kept very clear. His passion was to please the Father. Even as a little boy He "must be about His Father's business" and He carried that to Gethsemane. Under the shadow of the Cross itself; "Not My will but Yours". Jesus had one intent - to please the Father.

For Him there was no alternative, nothing else appealing to Him. Here is our focused Saviour, modelling sonship for us. Equal and yet submissive. "The Father sent the Son". He was submissive so that is how He could be sent. He came to a world that lies. He came and showed us what it is like to be a Son. "You came from heaven to show the way".

You can learn objective rules and not love God. It is about how can I please Him and enjoy Him more and get to know Him better!

"For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross". We are His joy! He wants a wife like Him! "Lets go and do the Father's will". Lets not limp between two things. God is willing to bring rain! Let Him be God!".

Terry then called up one of the CCK evangelists who gave a very empassioned short Gospel message to which there was about 10 responses! This was really exciting! Simon Brading then led us in some more worship and it began with one of my favourite songs from the 1970's;

"Jesus we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King,
Standing here in the midst of us - we raise You up with our praise,
And as we worship build a throne - and as we worship build a throne!
And as we worship build a throne - come Lord Jesus and take Your place!".

It was as though my tear ducts were put onto free drainage! That song particularly was so special and reminded me of the truth that Jesus Christ is risen and reigning! We sang a couple of other songs and then a leader came up and closed the meeting. There were no specific spiritual gifts during the meeting - no prophecies but there was a short few minutes of singing in the Spirit.

So the ramblings of a Mystery Worshipper ...

My thoughts! Allow me to begin with the caveat that CCK is one of my favourite churches in the United Kingdom. I first went to CCK when my home church in Dunstable was rapidly becoming rabidly anti-charismatic and I was just thrilled to find that it was possible to find a fully functioning charismatic church that wasn't totally anti-doctrine or anti-the Bible. So when I share my thoughts - I do so with the discomfort about criticising a family member. This isn't easy for me. But I hope that I will carefully explain my observations - and as always I am open to criticism and points that will enable me to hone my attitudes if necessary.

A. Terry Virgo - Grace and Law?

Terry has always been known as a "Grace teacher". Rob Rufus speaks of him frequently as being so key in his life. In 1984 Terry visited South Africa and it was that teaching on the grace of God that began to make Rob the man he is today. I remember being told by one of the former disciples of Stanley Jebb that when Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers went around the country on the "Enjoying God's grace" tours between the Downs Bible Weeks and the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks - my home church and Stanley Jebb was so concerned at this "antinominanistic teaching" that he began a series on the Law!

But during this sermon I noticed that I have become hyper-sensitive to any mixture of law and grace. And I saw it happen again and again. Firstly I recalled that Terry preached a glorious sermon on "Elijah" back in Bristol. That sermon was the most profound explanation of grace that I had heard upto that point. I had just come out of Sovereign Grace Ministries bitter and badly bruised - and that gentle but prophetic teaching drew me back to not turning my back on the church as I wanted to at that point.

I need to say that I have not seen the same grace in this series that he has been preaching. And I am not quite sure why. Terry seems to be trying to apply this Old Testament passage to a New Covenant period that we are in. At the beginning of the message he stated quite firmly that it "could be God pulling the plug on the UK banks". Rob Rufus would differ quite firmly from that. Rob said again and again throughout his glorious "Established in Righteousness" series that we cannot lay the earthquakes, tsnuamis, terrorist disasters and so on at God's door and blame Him. It is logical - God has given us free will. We are not living and governing our countries by His Kingdom economy therefore we are reaping for ourselves the fruit of that.

Secondly he made a number of comments that again I seized on. Near the end of his sermon he was speaking about; "Jesus is looking for ruthlessness. He calls for a radical commitment!" and an example of that was; "If your hand causes you to sin - cut it off! If your eye causes you to sin - pluck it out!". Terry made that comment and then moved on. Those particular Gospel commands of Jesus Christ are something of incredible sensitivity to me because they were used by the SGM pastor while I was being "disfellowshipped". He asked me specifically if I had committed immoral sin with a friend of mine - which I denied.

His reply was then; "Well Jesus said if you look at someone with lust in your heart then you have as good as committed adultery - so you have!".

The obvious reply to that was; "Well so has every man on this planet!". But at the time I didn't think of that. Rob Rufus has gloriously again made me realise how utterly wrong and indeed cruel it is for preachers to apply these New Testament commands of Jesus to us today. Do we see the disciples and followers of Jesus walking around at the time dismembered? With eyes gouged out? Of course not! He would have become known as a sado-masochistic cult leader! What was Jesus saying? Rob said;

"Don't take the outlandish things that Jesus says in the gospel and say 'I've got to live by that!'. See the context is that He is saying this to the arrogant people! Christians say; 'That is the new law of the New Covenant!'. Jesus Christ is preaching under the Old Covenant that you must not commit adultery but under the New Covenant even if you look you have committed it! Oh pleaseeeeee!

There is no faith in that! We are all dead if that is the case! He was preaching Abraham to the broken and the hungry for God and He was preaching the law to the self-righteous and to the arrogant".

So I offer hope to every person like me whose hand has caused them to sin, whose eye has looked at something that we shouldn't have. We do not need to go for the kitchen knives yet. Our bodies are the glorious temple of the Holy Spirit! No - Jesus has taken that radical punishment on our behalf. HIS hands were pierced for us! HIS back was beaten for us! HIS side was pierced until blood flowed for us!

I don't know why Terry said what he did. I can appreciate his heart is missional. He spoke frequently throughout the sermon about Tom Eaton out in Japan and other Newfrontiers folk who have acted radically and "gone". But I don't think the subtle mixture of law and grace is required to keep that radical fire burning. How much better to go because we simply "MUST - MUST - MUST". He is too good to keep to ourselves!

B. Reformissional? Charismatic? Confused?

So finally we come to Mark Heath's excellent summary as to where Newfrontiers are going. I must admit to spending much of the journey home rather confused as to what I had witnessed at CCK. The atmosphere was very different. The lights in the main auditorium were turned out and the stage was lit brightly. There were coloured lights every now and then sweeping over the audience during the singing of songs. And I can say quite honestly that it was a very professional performance. The worship band were excellent and everyone joined in enthusiastically. But I found myself asking why signs, wonders and miracles were absent from the meeting as were spiritual gifts (apart from a brief moment of singing in the Spirit) and were offered at the end after the benediction.

But it was MISSION that dominated the meeting. They showed a "Mobilise" video at one point and encouraged all the teenagers and 20's to get their bookings in before the 28th February "while it was still cheap". Joel Virgo - the lead elder - came up and did a long plug about the famous Newfrontier churches "Gift Days". The figure that the elders are believing God for is £150, 000 and this money will be going to CCK itself to help their work in Brighton. Scott and I discussed on the way home how helpful it is to present the figure that the elders wanted. Does it encourage a "Malachi 3" atmosphere of giving or a "Melchizadek" atmosphere of giving?

I don't know - I am not a CCK member - but I wonder whether my primary motive in giving generously would be out of a heart full of abundance at the lavish grace that God has poured on me? Or because I didn't want to disappoint the elders and have the excruciating news that after "Gift Day" has finished, that Joel Virgo got up and said; "We didn't make it" = guilt. Would it not be more helpful for the elders to keep that figure to themselves and maybe announce it when and if that figure is met?

Finally I was wondering about this "mission" emphasis that Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller (now Newfrontier favourites) seem to be leading the way in. Taking the book of Acts - what did the early church do? Did they go - go - go militantly to meet figures or did they make it their primary ambition to see the Presence of God come down - and then find that the surrounding community were "added to them daily"? It was actually persecution that split them up and sent them to go! A note about communion - the leader who opened up the Lord's Table said something rather odd too. He said; "If you are a guest or visiting us then perhaps you would like to let the elements pass you by". That left both Scott and I very nervous as to whether we should or should not take the bread and the wine. Fortunately the girl sitting next to me didn't seem to know that we were visiting so gave me the bread and wine with no trouble. But I would have felt very uncomfortable if she had bypassed me and not let me join in. Is that something "Reformissional"?

My love for CCK and for Terry Virgo and indeed Newfrontiers remains unchanged - but I found myself leaving the meeting and wondering where dimmed lights and a disco-lit stage with flashy videos and a frantic drive for mission left a sense of "SUDDENLY from heaven". Does that make me "Neo-Pentecostal" under Mark's definition!? Maybe so!

Speaking of which - I spent a ridiculous £30 on a book I found in the CCK bookshop that looks really interesting. It is called "Apostolic Networks in Britain - New Ways of Being Church" by William Kay and was published in 2007. Both Mark Heath and I enjoyed Andrew Walker's "Restoring the Kingdom" and I am relishing seeing what the conclusions are on much of our childhood now that more time has past. I will post a review when I've read it later on this week.

I have every intention of "going" as soon as I can. I KNOW that I will not be staying comfortably in the United Kingdom for the rest of my life earning a pension and paying a mortgage. I have a suspicion that I am never going to own my own house. I know that I will most probably be heading for the Far East and China and whatever that holds for me. But I have got no intention of going unless the Presence of God goes with me and signs and wonders accompany the preaching of the Gospel of grace!


dave bish said...

When did bread and wine get caled elements? I guess what was meant was - don't feel you have to have these if you're not a member / not a Christian... but I can see how it could be taken another way.

Grace/Glory seem to me to be the best motivators of mission - which is why I so warmly embrace the Driscoll/Keller school of thought, shouldn't be a tension for charismaticism, but perhaps just some minor adjustments of style to be more acutely aware of those who come in, and more intentionally thinking about how to go.

I feel like our church has taken on a lot of Driscoll, though we don't have the people or the building or the money to do the technology/video/lighting stuff so we're just "good old school hall" style... grace/missional preaching in the context of gifts/contributions/encounter with God...

It's fascinating to me that what Driscoll took away from Brighton was opening the door for people to be praying and prophesying etc.

Dan Bowen said...

The leader called them "elements". It's quite an old-fashioned term for them - they always used to be called that in Dunstable at my home church!

It's interesting you mention about Driscoll-style = a need for money = the lighting, sound etc.

This new book I brought was speaking about the "humble" charismatic beginnings of churches like Newfrontiers and others and of course the whole point was that they DIDN'T have organs etc at that point but just met in "house churches" with a guitar if necessary!

CCK for one has certainly moved beyond the house church stage.

Interested that Driscoll took prophesying away from Brighton - does that happen more in Mars Hill now then?

Jon Sidnell said...

I think almost immediately after getting back to Seattle following TOAM08, Driscoll announced to the church that if anyone felt that they should pray for the whole church to hear, or bring a prophetic word, then they should bring it to the main meeting leader. If they know and trust the person, and agree that it's correct, then they will be able to share it.

So it is encouraged in principal - whether that has translated to it happening more often is a different matter of course :)

jul said...

Dan, I haven't been to Brighton lately, for obvious reasons! But I concur with your observation of the law mixing just through Terry and CCK's blog. I don't like it, and maybe it is partly due to Driscoll's influence who I know has legalistic teachings (just listening to him recently). I would have hoped for Terry to be influencing Mark with grace! But it's true that a little leavening leavens the whole lump, so it really matters a lot who we lump ourselves in with. This is precisely why I never believe people who say they understand grace but are 'able' to sit in a legalistic church unaffected. Jesus didn't teach that, he taught us to beware the leaven of the Pharisees. Anyway, the whole thing saddens me, I am very concerned for Newfrontiers. I have a few good friends there, or least I still love them though I don't often see or hear from them.

Dan Bowen said...

Hey Jon - that's v interesting about Driscoll's policy re the prophetic. It sounds very similar to the "prophecy mike" that my old SGM church employed. I don't know why but when you are told you have to pass your prompting of the Spirit by an elder who may or may not sending you on the "walk of shame" back in disgrace, it really puts a spirit of fear over you. I only ever dared do it once. I just don't see "prophecy mikes" in the Bible. The prophetic is spontaneous and "errupts" and then is weighed afterwards. I understand why "prophecy mikes" are introduced - for practical reasons in large churches, but in practice even my v small old SGM church used them even thought they weren't needed.

So I think they can become a tool of control rather than a desire to be "cautious".

The next step becomes rather than having a "charismatic dimension" - you become "continuationist" and instead of actively loving the gifts that the Spirit brings, you simply believe they "continue"!

Julie - that's a very important point I think. It's far easier for legalism to creep in than for grace to hold. I am understanding why Rob Rufus talks about going on a 5 year grace "diet". I have been really wrestling all day with the familiar legalistic thoughts, doubts and fears again after church yesterday.

Whispers like; "Well why aren't YOU going somewhere like Istanbul? Why aren't YOU giving more of your money? YOU had a lie-in this morning - bet Terry Virgo didn't!". Blah blah.

So I am back to transcribing the glories of grace and working to re-gain the ground that I lost over the weekend!

Ursula Kuba said...

I have every intention of "going" as soon as I can. I KNOW that I will not be staying comfortably in the United Kingdom for the rest of my life earning a pension and paying a mortgage. I have a suspicion that I am never going to own my own house. I know that I will most probably be heading for the Far East and China and whatever that holds for me. But I have got no intention of going unless the Presence of God goes with me and signs and wonders accompany the preaching of the Gospel of grace!

Feels like you took that right from my heart!!!!

As to prophecy...there is a place for leadership here. Even in Jubilee, during services, if we didn't know you, it was preferential to go to someone and share with them first, leadership. There are some kooks out there, and it was protection for the flock. In saying that, there was never a sense of the prophetic being held back, and for babies in the prophetic, as long as the word was biblically sound, not totally off key, and sometimes whether or not it fit the meeting was monitored, they were allowed up and at 'em. There was never a feel of censorship. Maybe its the heart that its done with? In saying that there was often an open mike during Glory and Grace. We need to understand, that as long as the leaders err on the side of encouragement and letting someone take the mike, as opposed to NO! - we are probably ok! Its a lot more embarrassing to have to go up and undo a word that is totally unbiblical, because of someones lack of understanding NOT because of the fact that they are a 'false prophet'. Heck knows, I've got it wrong sometimes. And sometimes God is doing A in the meeting and someone comes up with B and just kills it all!!!! We allow for mistakes, we encourage, but in that encouragement, we need wisdom. We need a happy medium between a censored mike, and a free mike!

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to criticise isn't it. I have done it myself.
But I think there is a danger of making sweeping statements about a church, particularly their doctrine/theology after visiting one week, rather than sitting under the preaching ministry every week.

I have some news. CCK is not perfect. Some times, believe it or not, we have meetings that fall flat.

Do you think the elders aren't aware of what goes on? The level of spiritual gifts in our meetings? Do you think they they will be satisfied with any thing less than what God used them to restore 20 years ago? Of course not.

It's important to bear in mind, there is a whole generation coming in to CCK, particularly those in the evening service, who haven't been exposed to things of the Spirit. That is why Joel is spending 3 weeks teaching about spiritual gifts this month.

Of course we all have our thoughts about the way things are done, but I just wonder what the fruit of writing this kind of thing publicly is. We're all growing, we're all learning.