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Looking forward to more ‘Saints Alive!'2 weeks ago
ReSource Consultant Christopher Landau talks about the much anticipated re-publication of the Saints Alive! course and tells the stories of some of the many people who have come alive in the Spirit by using the course. Bringing the saints to life is what the Spirit delights to do. Christopher's Blog is a helpful and timely introduction of the course to a new generation.
Does the phrase ‘Saints Alive’ mean anything to you? This discipleship course, written by Felicity Lawson and John Finney, was widely used in the UK church in the 1980s. During my work for the ‘ReSource Future’ project a couple of years ago, I came to discover how significant a part it had played in the faith journey of many ReSource friends and supporters. Here was a course that was accessible and inclusive – and clear about its desire to see all Christian disciples become fully alive in the Holy Spirit.
Last week, it was a huge privilege to spend a couple of days working alongside Felicity and John as they oversee work to publish a revised version of the course, complete with some new video teaching.
Although I was there principally to record some sections of teaching, alongside Joanna Seabourne from St George’s Leeds, the highlight for me was hearing from members of churches who had continued to use the course since its first publication in 1982. They had inspiring stories to share about how God had brought renewed faith and hope to individuals, and whole fellowships, through the use of ‘Saints Alive’.
The publication of these new and revised resources this autumn is happening in association with ReSource, and what struck me as we interviewed people was how well this course fits with the ReSource vision to serve ‘little, local and ordinary churches’.
During my time working for ReSource we sometimes asked ourselves, is it somehow patronising or demeaning to refer to any church as ‘ordinary’? (A church community may not like to admit it is little, but at least that can be assessed objectively!).
Our answer tended to be that ReSource has a particular call to cherish the ordinary local church, and cherish the fact that God can send renewal in the power of his Holy Spirit to any group of people, gathered anywhere. Those people might be blessed if they travel to attend a large Christian festival, or even a not-so-little church in the next town, but it’s always worth being reminded that from Pentecost onwards, God consistently sent his Spirit on small and unlikely groups of followers, and yet these were the very same people who went on to bring transformation to the Roman Empire and the wider world. Surely He can do the same in our own time. In that sense, no church is too small, too ordinary, or too unlikely to be visited by God.
‘Saints Alive’ seems to revel in the fact that it meets ordinary Christians, and people who are interested but wouldn’t call themselves Christians, exactly where they are. There is no need to put on a shiny façade – the emphasis on a group journeying together, sharing wisdom, and even laughing on the shared journey, is refreshing.
Among those we interviewed, people kept talking about ‘week six’. This is the time when an offer is made to pray with people specifically, for the filling of the Holy Spirit. The course is straightforward and honest about the fact that this will look different for different people – but the testimonies we heard were so wonderful precisely because they were so varied.
There was the taciturn man who had barely said a word for the whole course, yet who began praying in tongues before any hands had even been laid on him. Another person spoke of no particular sense of God’s presence in the moment of prayer, but a transformational moment the following morning (and thus began a journey from being a travelling salesman to an ordained minister). Time after time, we heard ‘ordinary’ Christians tell quite extraordinary stories about the hope and change experienced when they had been prayed for on the course.
I remember John Coles, a former director of New Wine, once saying that in his visits to churches around the country, he often asked them what opportunities there were for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, apart from the day away on the Alpha Course. It seems to me that one of the strengths of Saints Alive is that it can be used equally by existing church members and enquirers, and everyone in between – but the non-negotiable hope is that participants will not merely find faith in Jesus Christ, but the fullness of new life in the power of his Holy Spirit.
My hope is that many churches will consider using Saints Alive in the months and years ahead, as we pray for the kingdom to be revealed more widely and deeply in this country.
Click HERE for more information about 'Saints Alive! Living Life in the Spirit Today', a nine week course for churches and small groups.