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Anglican Renewal has Changed2 months ago
The Holy Spirit is still at work! That’s the conclusion Don Brewin, former National Director of SOMA UK, comes to in this week’s Blog, as he looks back on the charismatic renewal over the last half century. Some things have changed, but the work of God and the challenge to the churches is the same as ever.
My first experience of the renewal of the Holy Spirit was around 1970, when I was training for the Anglican Ministry. This was reinforced while I was a Youth Pastor in Sheffield over the next four years, during which time we were able to experiment with worship services which were called ‘Youth Praise’ – but attracted quite a number of older folk as well. Things changed for me on 17 April 1973 when we were away with a group of young people. I was feeling exhausted, and asked some of the young people to pray for me. They didn’t really know what they were doing, but they responded to my request, and some of my faith descended from my brain into my heart!
At that time we were just beginning to hear about what God was doing in other churches. In particular we – and many others – were blessed with worship songs coming from the Fisherfolk, part of the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas, under the leadership of Revd Graham Pulkingham.
Over the next 20 years or so, I was involved in different ways in trying to ‘embed’ the work of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Parishes where I served. Then between 1994 and 2007 (and less frequently since I retired) I had the privilege of leading teams to different countries on behalf of SOMA (‘Sharing of Ministries Abroad’ – the sister agency to ‘Anglican Renewal Ministries’, which has now become ‘ReSource’). During this time we were blessed through the ministries of John Wimber, and the ‘Toronto Blessing’, and UK churches such as Christ Church Chorleywood and Holy Trinity Brompton.
The Holy Spirit is still at work!
However, one of the things that has been disturbing me recently is that quite a few of the ‘headline’ churches that had a huge impact on the spread of charismatic renewal in the Anglican Communion have dwindled in numbers and impact. The Church of the Redeemer (in Houston, Texas) seems to have become very small; and we do not hear so much nowadays about the Toronto Blessing. Sadly, some of the headline church leaders misused their positions and had to be disciplined. In addition, my impression is that there are far fewer evangelical theologians today (called ‘dispensationalists’) who maintain that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, described so vividly in the New Testament, died out at the end of the apostolic era. The Holy Spirit is recognised to be still at work!
So the “little, local and ordinary” churches which are the backbone of the work of ReSource, are absolutely vital for the future growth of the Kingdom of God.
The Three-Legged Stool
In different ways, appropriate for the particular situation, churches that are serious about continuing the work of establishing the kingdom here on earth – the work that Jesus began – need to find a way of setting up what I call ‘The Three-Legged Stool’ of ministry. We find this summarised in Matthew 9:35-36:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus goes on to say (9:37-10:1):
“’The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into his harvest field.’ He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Is your church balancing – unstably, and in danger of falling over – on one, or two legs?
Or is it, in its own way, fulfilling the three-fold challenge that Jesus gives us, by sharing the good news, bringing ‘healing and wholeness’ to those who need it, and changing disciples into ‘disciple-makers’ through relevant biblical teaching?
My experience is that we need to be available to help one another, beginning with those individuals and churches nearby, then further away – but always in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Who is your neighbour?
In 1973, when we got back to our home in Sheffield, someone in one of the churches (who did not know what had happened) said “What has happened to you?” I said “What do you mean?” She said “You are different – your eyes are dancing!”
Ever since then I have asked congregations “Look at your neighbour and see if their eyes are dancing!”
Are your eyes dancing?