Thursday, February 16, 2012

Glimmers of Life in the UK!!

One of my more negative reflections on the last Brighton Newfrontiers leaders conference of the last summer - was the apparent (to me) lack of conferences/holy convocations (as Ern Baxter used to call them) that strove to held the tension between Word and Spirit (or Reformed doctrine and real charismatic experience - not "continuationism").

That's not to say they don't exist - or to dare claim that Newfrontiers hold the unique claim to Word and Spirit in the UK (although to me they certainly seem one of the few). But it was just that I wasn't aware of them and I found it difficult. Stoneleigh Bible Week was a massive yearly event in my life that I looked forward to greatly with friends, and then Brighton seemed to replace that. So when the Newfrontiers leaders stopped the Brighton conference (and I have nothing but trust in Terry Virgo and the other leaders for doing so!) - it seemed like a double kick in the teeth!

So it was a real joy to quite by accident come across this conference that is being held this weekend in the heart of London. The church is new to me - but the speakers; Terry Virgo and Greg Haslam among others are not! I am GUTTED that it's too soon for me to go to - I have other plans this weekend involving a trip to Bristol, but the thrill is - it's HAPPENING and in the capital of this country I love so much!

Now - a caveat - one of the major concerns I have had with the whole "Sovereign Grace Ministry mess" I have been closely following since July last year, has been the culture of "Celebrity Pastors". Ironically the man - C J Mahaney - at the centre of this "mess" is going to be on a panel at "Together for the Gospel" - addressing this very topic. I wonder how he will address these concerns given the very public celebrity status he holds? So - you may rightly say - am I not guilty of the same, elevating men like Greg Haslam and Terry Virgo (who I have made no secret of hugely respecting)?

I see a difference between "celebrity pastors" and "Ephesians 4 Translocal Ministries".

Celebrity pastors, it seems to me, seem devoted to building and maintaining their own ministries - whether that is based at (usually) a large, wealthy church with books, DVDs and seem to often be stalked by reports that they care little about the members of the churches they purport to serve. Ephesians 4 translocal ministries on the hand are marked by - what Terry Virgo called;

"The gift ... something of a supernatural element ... a gift that opens up the possibility of God breaking through".

While I appreciate many "celebrity pastors" such as John Piper or Joel Osteen - I often am left wondering if they do indeed carry the "gift" that Terry speaks of which opens up the supernatural element and the manifest Presence of God breaking into a meeting? I am sure they would strive to. But I can testify to most meetings I have been in with Terry, Greg Haslam, Rob Rufus and many, many others (such as Dave Holden) who do indeed carry this gift.

I wonder if it is what Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls the "anointing"?

Maybe some are tutting and saying this post is just "another" attempt to "slag off SGM". Not at all! There has been a radical change of thought in my mind these last few months. I see a vast distinction now within SGM where I can accept, love and appreciate many SGM pastors. I think though - the only SGM "apostle/Board member" I have sensed the anointing on has been - ironically - Brent Detweiler - when he spoke at Celebration UK.

So back to this Word and Spirit conference ...

Here's a video talking about the "need for demonstration" from one of the conference organisers;

Word & Spirit : 3 The Necessity for Demonstration from Revelation Church London on Vimeo.


Oh how my weary heart longs for demonstration of the beliefs we have talked about for years. Reformed theology is all well and good. And Lord knows - I generally still believe most of what I have always believed. But I am tired of conference after conference talking about "theology".

It's all very well being "together" for the gospel. But if the gospel doesn't change a needy, lost, hurting world - then really what is the point? I don't want to go to another conference where I do not see a "demonstration of power" there - praying for the sick, appeals to the lost, signs and wonders! I'm tired of a Christianity that has nothing to offer but words!

I can't make this conference - but I hope it spreads the seed for this essential - primary balance of theology and experience. Nothing else will do! To end with Terry Virgo's statement;

"We have never been content with a cessationist perspective that expects the church to try advancing without God’s manifest presence".

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