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!

Arnold Bell – a life well lived

ArnoldI spent this afternoon at the thanksgiving service for the life and ministry of Arnold Bell, who, until his death shortly before Christmas, led City Church Sheffield. The service had a number of tributes from different people who knew him well. Clearly, this was a life well lived.

One of the Elders of the church spoke from Hebrews 11 and described how the writer to the Hebrews talks about these men and women of faith. They were just ordinary people, he said, believing in an extra-ordinary God, and living accordingly. Arnold was an ordinary man who believed in an extra-ordinary God and certainly lived accordingly. His life was an example to many and even his Thanksgiving service was a challenge to us to believe God and live accordingly.

Here’s what I wrote recently on his tribute page:

My first meeting with Arnold was when he was my lecturer when I was studying on FIT for Leadership, and then FIT2 (the forerunners to Leadership Training Foundations & Advanced). I remember being taught to think Biblically and not make assumptions; to look at what the text actually said and not to be afraid to say, “we don’t know” when we really didn’t know!

I remember preaching class with Arnold and also remember what he thought of my sermon! His honest feedback was invaluable and helped to shape my preaching in both content and delivery.

On FIT2, there were only a handful of us and I well remember how we used to try and get him onto Monty Python or other such subjects on a Friday afternoon! His impressions of comedy moments were quite something!

More recently I have had the privilege to serve with him on the ChristCentral team. He always brought such wisdom and insight to situations and will be sorely missed. Arnold – thank you for all you taught me, modelled to me and encouraged me in. Your legacy lives on.

So my question is this – are you believing God, and are you living accordingly?

… and a very Happy New Year!

Anyone who knows me will know that I am probably the worlds worst blogger. What started off as a good idea soon got relegated to the bottom of the to-do list, and more often than not has fallen off altogether! However, a friends post on Facebook yesterday got me thinking, so I thought I would share my thoughts.

He was reflecting on the year that was 2012. He was saying that for him, it had been a mixed year – some highs, some lows. My guess is that this would be true for most of us. Life is rarely all good or bad – it’s most usually a mixture. He went on to quote from Romans 5:

Romans 5:3-5 (ESVUK)
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul talks about hope. This is one word that has such a stronger meaning in the Bible than we have for it in everyday English. We might hope for good weather, or for a favourite sports team to win their next match. Often this hope is no more than wishful thinking. Biblical hope is so much more. Biblical hope looks not to good fortune but looks to Jesus. We are encouraged to put our hope in Him.

The Psalmist puts it like this:

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. (Psalm 71:5)

As 2012 has now ended and we look forward to 2013, my encouragement to all of us, me included, is not just to hope for a better year, but to put our hope in Him who is our hope. Let’s put our hope and trust in Him who promises to walk through this year with us, no matter what it may bring. As you hope in Him, let me wish you a very Happy, Hope-filled New Year.

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?

A review of North 2011

Over August Bank Holiday weekend, 2,500 people gathered in North Yorkshire for North 2011. We went as a church and had a good number of people staying both on and off site. Despite generous amounts of rain and mud, the weekend was a resounding success. Such a powerful sense of God’s presence and power; outstanding preaching from Terry Virgo, Guy Miller and Jeremy Simpkins; inspiring worship; excellent kids and youth events and a great time away with friends, old and new. Once again, Paul Mogford (Jubilee Church Teesside) and his amazing team served us outstandingly well, by turning a working farm into a venue fit for such a momentous gathering.

In addition to the powerful preaching, God also spoke to us through some very significant prophetic words. Including, being shaped like clay in the potters hands, with North no longer being a holiday camp, but a boot camp where God was raising up an apostolic army!

On the first evening, Jeremy set the tone for the weekend by setting out the key distinctives of the North team and our sphere:

  • Being Friends enjoying God together
  • Building Churches empowered by Word and Spirit
  • Advancing The Kingdom, transforming the world
  • Reaching Nations, making disciples

You can watch a video of us as a team discussing these distinctives here:

Terry wonderfully served us, with 3 morning preaches from Ezra, which culminated in taking an offering which currently stands at £132,000! A very tangible example of how North was moving.

Guy Miller brought a challenging word to us, to believe God for significant growth, and he could see us becoming like a runway at an international airport with many thousands of people coming and going. He felt God challenge us to have the nations firmly in our sights and to dream bigger dreams. Guy’s presence and chemistry with us was also a very tangible foretaste of how the new emerging apostolic teams can and would work together in the future.

North 2011 was so much more than just a weekend conference – it felt like God was fashioning us together, building an Apostolic people, an army who can advance His church and His Kingdom across the nations of the world!

You can download all the main sessions and the videos shown over the weekend from www.north2011.com

(This article was written for and first appeared on www.newfrontiersuk.org)

Be who God meant you to be…

The Bishop of LondonLike around 2 billion other people, I spent Friday watching the Royal Wedding, of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. I was particularly struck by the opening line from the address by the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres. The line was this:

“‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today.”

This got me thinking – how do you become who God meant you to be? I am sure there are many answers to this, but the following were top of my list as I thought and prayed about it yesterday:

  1. Love God and follow Him
  2. Serve others
  3. Develop close relationships and accountability
  4. Identify, grow in, and use your gifts
  5. Give generously

Love God and follow Him (Matthew 22:36-38)

This has to be fundemental to everything we are and all that we do. Jesus made it clear that loving God was our top priority.

Serve others (Matthew 22:39)

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes loving your neighbour as yourself number 2 on the list after Loving God, so we should take this seriously and look for ways to love and serve others.

Develop close relationships and accountability (Acts 2:42-47)

The Bishop referred to marriage in this context, but it doesn’t have to be marriage. In the New Testament, people were “saved and added” into the church community. Our culture is very individualistic, but Christian culture is far more community orientated. We make an individual response to Jesus and then we’re expected to follow Him in the context of community.

Identify, grow in, and use your gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7)

God has given every Christian at least one gift, often more. We have a responsibility to discover what this is and use it/them to the Glory of God.

Give generously (Luke 6:38)

Giving generously helps to ensure that we put God first, at the very centre of our lives. Generous giving is also a great antidote to the very materialistic culture we live in.

I am sure there are other things you might add to this list, but this is my initial offering. Live like this and be who God meant you to be. You could set the world on fire!

You can download a sermon based on this theme from the Jubilee Church website here.