This is the new normal!

ad_encounterFor some time now, I have been trailing the weekend just gone as one which I felt would be significant in the life of Jubilee Church. We were really looking forward to the visit of a team from Kings Church Horsham and had a real sense that God wanted to do something quite seismic in the church. He did!

We were wonderfully served by Andy, Trevor, Janet, Jo, Juliet, Nicky, Jules and Jon from Kings. This gifted team gave themselves to us over the whole weekend. It was a packed programme and they served enthusiastically and with such graciousness over the entire time. They had prayed and prepared and came ready to give. We are so grateful to God for them and for their heart to be a blessing to us.

The sense of God’s presence over the weekend was tangible. The prophetic gift which was released was incredible. God has certainly been at work in Jubilee this weekend, and I feel that He has raised the bar as to what is to be called “normal” in church life. The challenge for us now is to not go back, not to settle for anything less. If we are not careful to push on, then this weekend could just become a “that was nice” weekend in our history. I don’t believe for one minute that is what God would want. This remarkable weekend should serve to encourage and motivate forward into all that God wants for us. Sarah and I are certainly up for that. Who else wants to come on the journey?

The Welsh Outpouring – a personal view

VictoryYesterday evening I travelled with a couple of other church leaders from Derby to Victory Church in Cwmbran, South Wales. For the last month, this church has been holding meetings 5 nights a week as a response to what God has been doing in their midst. These were not started as part of a strategic plan or strategy, but rather as result of what God has been doing.

I started to hear a little about this on Twitter, and when a friend and fellow Newfrontiers pastor visited and wrote about it on his blog, I knew I wanted to go!

Some background

A month ago, on 10th April, God broke in to a regular Wednesday night meeting and they experienced His presence in a new and powerful way. Since then they have seen hundreds of people respond to Christ and many people healed. Over 9,000 people have now been to these outpouring meetings and people are travelling from across Wales, the UK and indeed Europe to see what God is doing and to encounter Him afresh. Many church leaders are going and praying for God to do something similar in their churches.

Wisely, I think, they are not calling this a revival; it’s too early for that. They are calling it an outpouring – the “Welsh Outpouring”. However, it does have many similarities to revivals of previous generations and it is exciting to see what God might do.

You can see their Senior Pastor, Richard Taylor talk a little about how it started here.

So, what did I make of it and what did I learn?

It is clear that this is a church that loves people – really loves people who are far from God. They have a heart to see people reached with the love of Christ and have a passion for God to move in Wales.

The pastor, Richard Taylor, is clearly a man who loves people, loves the church and most of all loves Jesus. He is very quick to point people to Jesus and make it clear that it’s all about Jesus and what He is doing. Jesus really is at the centre of this.

We were queuing for a good 30 minutes to get into the building and the sense of faith and anticipation in the crowd was tangible. Once inside, the band were already playing and we started to worship. My guess is that there were somewhere in the order of around 400+ people. After a while, Richard stepped in and led the meeting in song and then began to preach. He preached a simple yet powerful gospel message and called people to respond. Around 12-15 people responded to Christ, which was fantastic.

One thing I noticed was people’s hunger for God. Here were a group of people hungry for God’s presence and meeting with Him. This really challenged me – have we settled for too little, have I been too easily satisfied? You could feel people’s faith and love for Jesus. That was so encouraging in itself! There was an expectancy – people were expecting to meet with God, and they did. I guess that should not surprise us – as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.

This was probably what impacted me the most. I have been in other meetings and sensed God’s presence in a greater way, felt more of the Holy Spirit’s power; but I don’t think I have ever seen such faith and expectancy before.

This was not a slick presentation – it was raw and a bit rough around the edges. The stage lights didn’t seem to work, the screen was on the wrong side of the room (because they’ve turned the meeting around by 90 degrees to better accommodate what God is doing). None of that seemed to matter – God was moving in the place.

I do think it’s worth commenting on the context. Here is a local church who were already loving and serving their community. They were already engaging with people far from God, not as a result of a meeting but out of obedience to Christ.

For us, we need to be loving and serving people who don’t know Jesus yet and at the same time praying that God might move in such a way where we live.

Is this revival? I don’t know, but what I do know is that lost people are getting saved, sick people are getting healed and those oppressed are getting set free. That can only be good – and Jesus is getting all the glory.

What to do when there’s a prophet in the house!

JulianWe were very blessed to have our good friend Julian Adams in Derby this weekend just gone. Julian is a gifted prophet and a great gift to the church. The Heaven touches Earth conference we held on Saturday was attended by around 230 people from across Derby and the wider area.  I will post a more detailed review of this later in the week I hope.

Julian also joined us on Sunday morning at Jubilee. He felt he should speak about extravagant worship. Personally, I was both really encouraged and very challenged by this.

I was encouraged because I love enthusiastic worship. Public worship is indeed an overflow of our personal life with God and I love to be in a corporate setting where worship is enthusiastic and passionate.

I was challenged because of a comment he made which was, “Isn’t it funny how extravagant worship of others produces a judgmental spirit in us…?” I have certainly been guilty of this myself, sometimes being irritated by a passionate noisy worshipper in a meeting! When this happens, it reveals the true condition of my heart – not as in love with Jesus as I would want to be. There is a challenge here not to judge others but rather to look at my own relationship with God. (A story about not judging the speck in another’s eyes when there’s a log in your own comes to mind!)

As with all prophetic ministry, what Julian brought needs to be weighed. In fact, that is true not only of prophetic ministry but biblical teaching also. I would be the first one to encourage people to read scripture for themselves and compare what is being taught in church on a Sunday to what the Bible says. We need to be both feeding people with truth and teaching them how to feed themselves with truth.

This Sunday at Jubilee I will follow on from what Julian brought. We will look at what it means to weigh prophecy and how you do that in a God-honouring way. We will consider how all of us can grow in the prophetic, and we will look at the fundamental issue of receiving or being baptised in the Holy Spirit. I do hope you can join us!

CS Lewis on giving

On Sunday, I preached at Jubilee about giving. Basing ourselves in Malachi 3, we looked at what the Bible has to say about generous, grace filled giving, as part of a life that’s sold out to God and committed to His purposes. We looked at how giving to God is not primarily a financial issue, it’s actually a heart issue. It flows out of a heart totally devoted to God. Anything we give to God, as part of our worship, should actually reflect the whole. The part given represents the whole, because we want to give everything to the Lord.

One of my quotes came from CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, where he answers the question as to how much we should give. He says this:

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.” 

In typical Lewis style, this is a challenging and provocative statement. So, how are you doing with your giving?

Why multiply a LifeGroup?

One Biblical principle that seems to appear time and again in scripture, is the idea that healthy things grow. God has made it that way and it’s true of plants, animals, humans, and churches. I believe it’s also true of small groups. However, as small groups grow, they’re become larger, and not very small! When this happens, the group needs to multiply.

Some people talk of a group splitting, but I still remember Simon Pettit teaching on small group multiplication some years ago and saying (quite loudly), “‘split’, bad word… ‘multiply’, good word!”. This is partly because the word ‘split’ can have quite negative connotations. So multiply it is!

As a small group grows, it will need to multiply. This is a good thing, and should be done with great rejoicing and celebration. When a group multiplies, it is a testimony to the grace of God at work in that group and it means that this work can increase and reach more people. We should be aiming to multiply all our groups, and as we do so, we multiply leadership and multiply our effectiveness in the City.

LifeGroups are a great way of building community, discipling and reaching out. Let’s be asking God for strong, healthy groups that grow and multiply, and increase our capacity to reach our City for Christ.

Our first LifeGroup evening

This is the week we’re relaunching Jubilee LifeGroups across the City, and we had the first meeting of ours tonight. Maybe I’m biased, but I have to say, we’ve got a great group! Although not everybody could make it tonight, we still had a good turnout and already we’re praying for and working towards multiplying the group. Sarah and I certainly enjoyed the evening (particularly Naomi’s home made cakes) and look forward to meeting with this group over the coming weeks and seeing what God has for us together.

LifeGroups should be life-giving groups – both to those who are in them and those who are not yet. We need to make sure we keep reaching out, looking to love those who don’t know Jesus yet and serving our City. Let’s “do life together” and see what God does among us.

Launching LifeGroups

For the past few months in Jubilee, we haven’t been running our small groups. At the beginning of the year we felt it was right to shut them down and do some other things for a season. Whilst I am sure that was right, it has felt somewhat strange; it’s the first time in the history of Jubilee that we haven’t run small groups of one sort or another. So it was with great excitement and celebration that we re-launched LifeGroups yesterday morning. And then in the evening I met with our new group leaders. They really are an excellent group of people – passionate, loving and enthusiastic. I really couldn’t ask for more!

LifeGroups are an integral part of Jubilee. They are our structure for outreach and growth as well as for pastoral care and discipleship. And most importantly, they are our expression of community. You can never get to know everyone on a Sunday morning – we passed that stage a long time ago. However, as we grow larger on a Sunday, it’s important that we grow smaller as well – in relationships, in a small group context.

The small group is the perfect setting for community, discipleship and outreach. We all need a community to be part of, and LifeGroups give us that opportunity of living life together, and walking with others in the journey we call life. They are also a great place for encouraging one another to grow in God, and all He has for us. We can be honest, open and vulnerable in a small setting in a way that will help us grow as followers of Jesus. Small groups also give a natural way of reaching out to others, of serving a community or loving people who don’t know Jesus yet.

No small group is perfect, but that’s not a reason not to be part of one – it’s the reason you and I can be part of one! If you’re part of Jubilee, I want to encourage you to get stuck into a LifeGroup – make contact with the group leaders and give yourself to that group of people as you give yourself to Jesus and His church. The book of Acts tells us that the early church were devoted to one another – let’s go for that and see what God might do amongst us. Jesus is building His church – and it’s thrilling to be part of it.