So today Scott and I visited Churchcentral - our closest Newfrontiers church (about a half hour walk away). The reason? I was very excited to see on Terry Virgo's twitter feed that he was coming to preach this morning! Terry had come up last night to speak to the Birmingham elders and wives. He is a hard man to follow so knowing he was so close was a temptation too great to miss as well as being one of the few men I would travel miles to get to.
So here's how we found it;
A very grand Edwardian style school in Edgbaston in Birmingham next to the University of Birmingham campus.
Nicer part of Birmingham - lots of students.
Jonathan Bell (the Senior Pastor), Mark Titheridge (worship leader) and Terry Virgo himself.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
250 or so plus.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes we were welcomed warmly by two men waiting outside the building and then even more warmly by a guy inside the building. He asked if it was our first time (I said yes) and told us where there were some free chairs - a really helpful pointer as the hall was quite packed.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes moderately comfy.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We deliberately arrived when the worship had just started - our new ploy to avoid uncomfortable chat such as; "So ... where do you normally worship?".
What were the exact opening words of the service?
See above. They were singing a Simon Brading song; "The God of Time and Eternity" when we arrived.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. A Powerpoint projector.
What musical instruments were played?
A guitar, a keyboard, drums.
Did anything distract you?
Nope not really. Probably the only thing was looking around during the worship because we couldn't see Terry. A tad concerned he was ill and couldn't make it! Fortunately he and Wendy walked in with Jonathan Bell around 12:00 probably from the first 09:15 service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very powerful, moving and full of the Presence of the Spirit. We only sung around three songs but there were many contributions from people across the congregation. Prayers, readings of Scripture and a couple of prophecies.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Around 50 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 and 1/2. Vintage Terry!
Text and summary of sermon:
2 Kings 9:1-9 - the 4 lepers.
Terry opened by talking about church history being full of God's interventions. You cannot project church history like a business. At times it does look as though God has forgotten His church and then He breaks through! The church is the business of an interventionist, active God who chooses to act.
The context of the text - the people were promised by prophecy that by tomorrow food would be cheap. The people may have expected an SAS crack squad but the story turns on 4 lepers.
These four people had no other agenda and nothing to live for. The incredible power of people whom nothing else matters. They were powerful because they were reckless with no other agenda.
The second point Terry made was the one that REALLY got and challenged me. He drew attention to verse 9 of the text; "they entered and ate and drank and carried silver and gold and clothes and then moved to the next tent". Terry noted that this text is usually preached in a typical evangelical fashion; "You are saved - now go out and serve!". But he asked - do we take time to enjoy the benefits of salvation? Did you taste any of the goodness of the food?
We are not always filled with that sense of wonder now it is mine now! It is an amazing discovery - Jesus Christ is MY righteousness! I WOKE UP THIS MORNING SPOTLESS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD!
The early apostles burst into the street after the Spirit fell on them drunk - they didn't care because the Spirit had fallen! It is possible as Christians to not be excited in the wonder of the gospel because we do not look too closely. The leper's first thought must have been "What have we stumbled upon?!". The leper's got their spoil of the victory. The word "spoil" appears countless times in the Bible - spoil is what you get when a battle is won!
God gives gifts freely. It is all ours because of His victory! Terry was speaking at a seminar at "Together in the North" on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many people had not yet received the Spirit because they didn't understand it is a free gift! Miracles, healings and miracles can be freely received because of Him! Come and take! Let's receive because it is free!
We come to God hidden in the obedience of Jesus Christ!
This story tells us that when we have no other agenda and you are reckless - then you are dangerous! Have we found what has been left in the tent? The enemy has fled!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon. Terry once again demonstrated his outstanding gifting - that he can preach a sermon and it is EXACTLY what I needed to hear!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The sheer dread of hearing the words; "We are going to take a short break before the sermon".
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Terry closed the message by bringing some words of knowledge about people with different health needs and said he wanted to pray for them. We left.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not sure - didn't try it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 - definitely thinking about it!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
While we were praying during the worship I had a vision of two cogs grinding and making an awful noise and felt God was saying that I have let disappointment and cynicism in the church start to affect me. As I was watching I saw a hand pour a bottle of oil over the cogs and watched them start to move smoothly and speedily again. I felt Him graciously remind me of His true wonderful and gracious heart!