"I think the world has become a boring place over the last few years ... I'm just so bored!".
I agree! The world is boring. It is full of misery, depressive news and dreary endlessness. Of course Cowell seeks his excitement through new and exciting acts - because frankly there's not much more excitement seen around in the church! Or is there? My thoughts fly automatically to my hero - Ern Baxter - and his prophetic statements on the church. Even though he lived, preached and died in the 20th century I still believe he is one of the most prophetic preachers on the church to walk this earth.
Terry Virgo wrote his special conference edition for the Brighton Leaders Conference in 2004 and it was about Ern Baxter. Here's the complete document. Terry wrote;
"Ern's expectation was just as Saul's kingdom collapsed so would the religion that regarded the Bible contemptuously, explained away it's unique authority and inspiration and failed to honour the activity of the Holy Spirit".
There is a move abroad I think to lay emphasis on the unique authority and inspiration of the Word of God. But I still think many churches fail to honour the activity of the Holy Spirit - simply by rendering Him redundant. It's not so much that Christians purposefully blaspheme Him and His work. It's just that church life has adapted swiftly to coping without His manifest Presence. As R T Kendall used to say - if the Holy Spirit was completely withdrawn from the church then 90% would carry on as normal.
Terry closed his Firstline article by saying;
"Welcome to our Leadership Conference where we intend to celebrate Biblical Christianity, honour the King and welcome the Holy Spirit. Let's gather full of anticipation that God has so much more to show us and so much more to accomplish in our day".
Sadly this expectation is unusual in so many conferences these days - and even more sadly next year will see the last Newfrontiers Leadership Conference in Brighton. Here's a few other conferences around the world that seem to lack this active anticipation of both the Word and the Spirit;
1. Sovereign Grace Ministries conferences refer to;
" ... Teaching is central to this conference ... Most of all we gather as pastors, around God’s Word, to celebrate the glorious gospel".
2. John MacArthur's Shepherds Conferences refer to;
"These are times when we gather ... (to) sit under the teaching of godly men".
3. The Together for the Gospel conference has a singular aim;
"They began a conference which occurs every two years and aims principally at encouraging other pastors to do the same—to stand together for the gospel ... The goal of these friendships, conferences, and networks is therefore to reaffirm this central doctrine of the Christian faith".
4. A little closer to home, the local head SGM church Christchurch held a conference called "(Co)mission" and they;
" ... gathered to enjoy the gospel of grace and be stirred by God’s passion for church planting".
5. Alternatively of course - the outstanding "Glory and Grace Conference" in Hong Kong happening this month;
"Whilst our focus is not on miracles but on Jesus, this conference will see far more miracles than any other Glory and Grace we have experience before! There will be greater impartations of freedom and assurances to access and activate the treasures of the unsearchable riches of Christ in an effortless administration of His grace".
So what's your point you may say? My point is if there is no expectation for God to actively visit His people during these times then it's most likely He probably won't. If conferences gather to "situ under teaching" then all they will hear is teaching. Don't get me wrong - I love teaching. But I'm so hungry for His Presence that I find I can't commit my scant resources to going to a conference where that expectation is not present. I've got thousands of sermon tapes at home where I can "gather to hear teaching". I want to feel His corporate manifest Presence!
My initial reason for writing this blog post was to re-introduce Ern Baxter's prophetic ministry and to re-publish some of his writings and think about some new transcripts. But I got distracted by this theme of "conference expectation". That translates surely into our day to day life - if we don't expect God to come in active Presence then the question is will He?
Let's increase our hunger for more of Him! Even though hunger pangs hurt so bad at times - the pangs are a sign that our hunger can be filled by God!