Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ern Baxter and Rob Rufus - Celebrating Connections!!

I was absolutely thrilled to receive an email from Steve Schroeder - President of Christian Ministers Association in Vancouver, Canada - who is hosting a conference this week with Rob Rufus as the keynote speaker.

I trust those of you who read here frequently know by now that I don't dare to think highly of myself. I write assuming no one will read here - it's more for my benefit. So to hear that some of my transcripts meant that a major leader developed my love and appreciation for Rob Rufus and has in fact enabled Rob to go to a conference in Canada (where he's never been before) to minister to them - just THRILLED me! My only ache is that the Lord would release the finances for me and Pete Day to go to these events! Or release finances to pay for Rob to come back to the UK!

Until that time - its great to follow this.

The key connection here is my two major heroes - Ern Baxter and Rob Rufus. Steve and his leadership team have been actual spiritual sons of Ern himself. Yet have sensed that Rob Rufus has so much to offer them. I earnestly believe there is so much similarity between Ern and Rob's ministries - yet so much difference too. The combination of great Kingdom themes - wow!

Here's the email;


TO: Dan Bowen
Message flagged Monday, 17 October 2011, 2:02

Hi Dan

Just a note to say that your great work on honoring Ern Baxter had caught my eye some years ago. I had contacted you once before regarding some of Erns material that we have here in Canada. Ern was my Fathers pastor and mentor. We knew him well. He was also the Father to our ministerial fellowship here in Canada.

As a result of my cruising your site I connected with Rob and Glenda. Tomorrow night and for the next three days they are ministering to our group of leaders from across Canada. It is his first visit to our Nation. We are anticipating a powerful time together.

You are part of this great connection. Thank you for your faithfulness. I will be posting the sessions on our web site after the convention is over. You can access them at Canadacma.org.

I will send another note when we conclude.

Deepest blessings from Canada

Steve Schroeder
Christian Ministers Association Canada

Monday, October 17, 2011

Learning How to Worship from a Worshipper!!

One of my favourite pasttimes if I am struggling to engage with God during worship in church is to focus and watch someone who is "in the zone" and I find it lifts my spirits and before long I am leaving distractions aside and focusing on what really matters - or Who really matters! One of the reasons why I treasure women worship leaders so much - such as Kate Simmonds, Lou Fellingham, Darlene Zschech or Isi de Gersigny - is I find they are far more abandoned to worship and far more ready to move into the Holy Place. I love it!

And Wendy Virgo is no exception. Although she doesn't leave worship, she is pretty easy to spot in a Newfrontiers conference. She is usually to be spotted in the front row with both arms raised - lost in wonder, love and praise. So it is great to read her latest blog post;

"The pastor called the chattering mob to order. “OK folks! Time to stop talking and start worshipping!” It was hard to get them to focus at first: 500+ people all greeting, hugging, laughing, swapping stories, kids milling about. It was warm, friendly, lively and strangers were welcomed gladly. But John the pastor persevered, and the band played some chords. “OK, are you ready to worship? God is here. He will meet with us and speak to us.”

Somehow you knew this was true; it had already been demonstrated in the expressions of love in the large auditorium. Now the people responded, rising to their feet to sing. For the next 50 minutes we were in glory, enjoying God, celebrating our salvation, worshipping the King among us.

A lot of the time our hands were in the air, or clapping, or both. The band was technically excellent: it was difficult to keep still! The words of the songs were declarations of truth that resonated in heart and mind. It was loud, but it seemed appropriate!

There were prophecies, a reading or two, a tongue and interpretation, a prophetic song. From the top of the banked seating to the front of the auditorium, there was enthusiastic involvement. It drew to a close after about 50 mins. Long? It didn’t feel long. When Terry came to preach, he was speaking to hearts that were open, primed to hear and receive.

I have been in worship that was technically excellent, but empty. I have been in long worship that seemed endless! I have been in loud worship and it was simply noise that made my ears hurt. I have also been in worship that was efficient, brief lasted exactly 14 minutes and 32 secs, and it did not leave me longing for more; no room for gifts of the Spirit.

I have learned a technique: when I am in an unfamiliar crowd and I want to find Jesus, I imagine I am like the woman who needed to press through and touch his robe. I try to push through the obstacles to find Him. But it is so refreshing when you are in a crowd that is shouting hosanna, metaphorically waving palm branches and welcoming the King! Seeker friendly? Bah, humbug!

So—how do you get there? You prioritise on the presence of God. Musicians learn that they are like priests who stand before God and the people, and make it easy or hard to find Him. There has to be an ethos in the church of anticipating the presence of God, to recognise Him, cherish Him and respond to Him.

The previous day, we had looked around an amazing new facility that had become available for their newest church plant. This is a burgeoning church, a church on the move, but a worshipping church. Gifts of the Spirit flow; lives are being changed; people are being saved.

What an edifying weekend!"

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Prom Praise Birmingham!!

I come home very, very blessed from a wonderful night out in Birmingham. The awesome Prom Praise was in Birmingham - run by the All Souls Orchestra and Choir conducted by my hero - Noel Tredinnick. I have been a fan of these wonderful people since I was back in Dunstable. I remember my first Prom Praise well (although I can't quite remember who was responsible for taking us). Life in the Spirit at our home church was deteriorating well and truly - the hymn/prayer sandwich was the name of the game and to be frank - I was bored with Christianity.

So to visit Prom Praise in the Royal Albert Hall and hear hymns sang out in such a heavenly manner was life-changing. To realise it is okay to be excited about the wonderful gospel and our amazing God! I never forgot it. It's been a few years since I've last been - so it was great to be back. A few highlights for me;

1. The outstanding Grace Yeo performing Rachmaninov's "Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (Finale)". I'm ashamed to say I have never been a massive fan of classical music but to watch this gifted young woman (and a member of All Souls Langham place) perform this piece on a grand piano - without music - and watch her fingers moving faster than I could watch was breathtaking!

2. Singing Stuart Townend's; "The Power of the Cross" and one of my favourite hymns; "O Lord my God (How Great Thou art)". There is something heavenly about singing these amazing truths to a thundering great organ and an orchestra. I'm sure it's just a small touch of what heaven will be like! Particularly this verse;

"When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home -
what joy shall fill my heart! Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim, my God - how great Thou art!".

3. I was surprised and taken aback by Pam Rhodes hosting and "Pause for Thought". I've known of her well of course on Songs of Praise but wouldn't call myself a fan particularly. However her ten minute "chat" was a breath of fresh air. She shared a couple of thoughts that really stuck with me. She was asking her family about what commandments they would invent if they could to add to the 10 Commandments for a Radio 2 show. Her 19 year old nephew said this;

"I will respond to your encouragement but I resent your criticism".

It made me realise how utterly NEGATIVE my Christian life and church experience has become. Talk of indwelling sin, bad conscience, accountability groups and so on have seared me with a view that God may have saved me but is constantly angry at me and disappointed in me. But Noel Tredinnick made a comment in between songs about how "the Second Adam" has come to reconcile us to God - and the New Covenant is all about open fellowship with God! So why are we blaspheming the Cross by going back to (or falling from grace) when we were separated from Him?

I am reminded by the Ambassadors of Reconciliation comment on SGM and their current difficulties - the observation of (in SGM);

"... the lack of proclaiming God's grace to one another that seems apparent in this dispute. When confessions were made ... we observed no evidence of proclaiming God's forgiveness to the one who confessed".

Oh for more positivity - not just in SGM but the church worldwide! I will never forget hearing Rob Parson's making a prophetic statement at Spring Harvest 1998;

"When the Father's house is filled with the Father's love - then the prodigals will come home".

Back to Prom Praise - all in all it was a wonderful evening and my faith is greatly built. I shall most definitely be attending the Christmas Praise concert in London and the main event - Prom Praise at the Royal Albert Hall next April!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Message from Brent Detweiler

Should I Participate in the SGM “Group Reconciliation?”
Absolutely but Not Naively! - by Brent Detwiler

On October 1, Dave Harvey posted “Group Reconciliation Assistance and how you can be involved.” That post drew massive criticism. As a result, SGM is allowing people to provide feedback without mandatory attendance at the “Getting to the Heart of the Conflict” seminar on November 8 during the Pastors Conference. Praise God!

Now, you can appear before “congress” and give testimony without traveling to D.C. I’d encourage every person to take advantage of this opportunity. The leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries have been deaf, dumb and mute when it comes to serious and substantial charges against them. Maybe God will open their ears, minds and mouths. But not if we are silent. Now is the time to speak.

I can’t guarantee this “group reconciliation” will result in biblical change. I doubt the findings will ever be published in any specificity. I don’t imagine it will hinder C.J. from returning as President. And I can’t envision any disciplinary being taken against men like Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Steve Shank or Gene Emerson. I am not naive. Disappointment has become an dubious friend. Disillusionment an unwelcomed companion.

But it is still important for all of us to share our grievance, offenses, concerns, observations and correction. There are still good people and good churches in SGM. There is still the possibility of public repentance, confession and restitution by C.J., the SGM Board, and other leaders in SGM churches throughout America and the world. Read the book of Jonah and the ESV footnotes. God is compassionate.

But people must courageously speak up regarding their former or present SGM church and its leaders. This is not a time for silence. This is a time to speak out. Yes, redemptively, but also loudly and clearly!

The hundreds of people who left the Richmond Church must speak. The good folks who were part of Grace Community Church in Mooresville, NC must speak. Brothers and sisters from Gaithersburg, Ashburn, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, Charlotte, Denver, Stillwater, Philadelphia, and a host of other cities must lift their voice and send in their thoughts.

If SGM doesn’t hear from us they can make a case that concerns for the ministry are overstated and actually quite limited in scope. It can be presented as all is well except for a few tweaks here and there.

Voting in a national election doesn’t always produce the desired results but it is necessary, right and sometime effective. So too, writing your Senator regarding the budget, health care, abortion may accomplish nothing. But is a civic duty and God is pleased to use your efforts as He sees fit.

I spent two hours laying out my concerns for SGM to Ted Kober, President of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, on July 14. I covered critical issues like the growing presence of lying, deceit, manipulation, lording, hypocrisy, and spiritual abuse by C.J. and others. I’ve provided him 1,000 pages of documentation. But I am one voice and it is a voice SGM has sought to silence. All my writings have now been condemned as gossip and slander. They are off limits to people in Sovereign Grace churches. So SGM may not listen to me but maybe they will listen to a multitude of people around the world.

Please participate for the glory of God, the advance of the gospel, and the good of people in the movement! Sovereign Grace Ministries used to be different. It has changed for the worse and is in need of radical reform. But God can restore them if there is authentic repentance that results from your faithful appeals. Therefore, pray for them and contact AOR. See how below.



Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Sad News: Larry Tomczak uninvited from SGM Pastors Conference

One of the things that massively encouraged me in July when the whole SGM saga broke out and C J Mahaney stepped down from leadership was the seemingly-successful reconciliation with Larry Tomczak. Years of broken relationships seemed to be mended! C J himself made a big deal of the fact he had invited Larry to be a "special guest" at the SGM Leaders conference and had even given great thought to how Larry would be appreciated and welcomed (these comments were made at what essentially was his farewell to Covenant Life Church);

"And in November I have asked Larry to come and be our special guest at the Pastors’ Conference where we will once again stand side by side. [applause] Actually we won’t stand side by side. I think it would be more appropriate for me to stand aside. And he has been a wonderful example to me of forgiveness. I want to emulate that".

I know some of SGM's critics on "SGM Survivors" were affronted at what they saw as C J's presumptive attitude that he would be back from his "season of reflection" by November but I honestly was encouraged! I do believe heaven rejoices and the gospel is advanced when Christians can admit they are human and forgive.

But sadly according to an exchange of emails between Brent Detweiler and Larry Tomczak at the end of September - he has been "uninvited" by Dave Harvey;

"From: Larry Tomczak

Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2011 9:20 AM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Re: November Conference

Hello Brent!

Thanks for writing. I hope you and Jenny are doing well, my friend.

Yes, the invited has been put on hold because Dave wrote me saying that with all the things going on right now they felt it would be best to wait til more is resolved in the matters at hand".

Two things are saddening me and disappointing me about this whole process now.

1. The massive amounts of money involved in "mediation". Why can't they just talk?

2. Now Larry being "disinvited" for - let's face it - rather vague reasons. If C J and Larry are reconciled then why would it hurt keeping the invitation? At least it would be something to encourage SGM during a difficult period.

Still hopeful and praying. And I mean that - I've visited my former church - Grace Church Bristol - twice now and been encouraged so much each time. May God work miracles and convict where conviction is required.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Why Can't You Just Talk?!

It's been a blast from the past - I've been watching a programme about one of my favourite groups from a decade ago - "Steps". 2001 was one of the worst years of my life. My beloved grandmother died. A close friend (almost like a second mum to me) died suddenly from cancer. I was finishing my degree in nursing with all the stresses that brought - and then the group who's music I loved split up suddenly! You may laugh - but their Christmas break up has scarred Christmas's since for me. ;-)

The programme is a four-part but it's an interesting concept. The band members split ten years ago and haven't been in the same room since apparently since. The programme is filming them sitting together for the first time and working through some of the issues which clearly still traumatize some of them. The girls especially frequently break down in tears. Time - it seems - isn't always a healer as I know too well!

What's my point? The "Steps" programme just made me reflect and realise that much of the problems, trials, troubles that have caused me heartache, grief, pain, nightmares and sleepless nights over my lifetime could have all be sorted out by "talking". More than that - on a wider sphere, thousands of pounds (I believe) could be saved by "talking". Even wars could have been stopped maybe sometimes by "talking"! Isn't that the point of the United Nations? To try and prevent wars?

Look at prominent celeb preacher C J Mahaney. So much of his prophetic-ministry preaching career focusing on the Cross of Christ has been momentarily forgotten with the interest and focus on his high-profile splits with Brent Detweiler ([the 'Documents' would never have had to have gone out if they could have sat together surely?) and Josh Harris. Thousands of pounds potentially are being spent in outside mediators - which seems a massive disgrace to the Person of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Why can't they just sit down and "talk"?

SGM are starting to move into the mediation process with all those that have fallen out with them - and the reconciliation process seems very formal. The agreement involves signing a form that disallows any of the discussions from being used in a court of law. What shocked me again was the costs involved in this process. Ambassadors of Reconciliation costs are as follows;

"Our consulting fees are charged at $150.00 per hour for actual consultation and preparation time, plus expenses. A daily maximum of $1,200.00 applies when hours exceed 8 per day. A weekly maximum of $6,000.00 applies when hours exceed 40 hours in one seven-day continuous period of time".

As Brent Detweiler said, "Getting rid of specks is expensive". Two thoughts occur to me;

1. Do these AoR costs apply to just one individual? Or to each person who has a grievance with SGM?

2. Is SGM footing the bill for this? Surely this is going to be a STAGGERING amount of money spent from people's tithes!

I say again - why can't we all just sit down and talk? It wasn't easy at all pursuing reconciliation with my SGM situation in the UK. I didn't know whether the SGM pastors would be hostile or happy to see me. They had asked to see a copy of the agenda and I feared I would be crucified yet again. If they had stuck to their guns and insisted they had done nothing wrong - I doubt I would be now enjoying the peace and joy I have and the renewed relationships with them. The only external party was my dear friend Pete Day who came to support me out of his own time and costs. I guess from their point of view, they didn't know how receptive I would be either - we had to take a risk!

This money should be going to reach the lost! To spread the gospel! To help the poor! To plant churches!

Rant over.