Last week I spent a very enjoyable few days in snowy Harrogate at the New Wine National Leaders’ conference. The times of sung worship were engaging and refreshing; conversations with friends old and new invigorating; and the teaching was thought-provoking though rather variable. It was fascinating to hear David Stroud (leader of Christchurch London, originally part of the Newfrontiers network) advocate for an understanding of lay ministry as people fulfilling their vocations as God called them into different sectors of society—something similar to what I heard Bill Hybels talking about 25 years ago and the subject of the recent Church of England report on lay leadership, ‘Setting God’s People Free‘. I confess that I didn’t find Sophia Barrett of !Audacious Church Manchester very easy to listen to (in contrast to her write-up on the church website), but others clearly did, as many responded to the invitation for prayer.
But the most fascinating to listen to was Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church in Redding, California. His fellow minister, Bill Johnson, has been a favourite as a New Wine summer speaker in years gone by, but has also been controversial because of his relentless emphasis on the miraculous, and David Parker (influential in the US Vineyard movement) thinks his teaching is dangerous. Kris clearly struggled with the cultural transition from warm California to cool Harrogate, as was evidenced by his repeated coaxing us into making some sort of response (rather than sitting and looking as though we were thoughtful, which he interpreted as us being asleep), and his teasing comment to his (single female) assistant about giving out free books to someone she’d like to date, which a good number found seriously inappropriate.
Despite this, there were many things that I enjoyed about his speaking. The first related to his genuinely moving personal testimony, which he delivered without laying on the emotion, of finding faith as an 18-year-old from a background of bereavement and suffering—his father drowned when he was three years old, and he suffered both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of two violent step-fathers. He shared painful experiences of later life as well, and all this was done in a straightforward and (what felt like) non-manipulative way. The dark ground of experience served well as a foil for the bright light of the grace of God.
The second thing that I appreciated was the refreshing contrast with some other strands of teaching coming out of the US. He was singularly dismissive of end-times doom-mongers who see the world as going to hell in a handcart, and the return of Jesus as the only hope for any change—which inevitably means you simply stop engaging with social change, and don’t pay attention to what is actually happening in the world. The interesting thing here was that Vallotton’s resistance to this was theological, rather than sociological: if the followers of Jesus are supposed to be the light of the world (Matt 5.14), then if the world is growing every darker, God’s people are not doing their job! (For the alternative secular viewpoint, that the world is just getting better, see Stephen Pinker’s latest on Enlightenment Now). Vallotton also rejects the theological scheme behind such end-times gloom, dispensationalist premillennialism, and in fact checked out before coming to speak at New Wine that that was not our theological position (which again illustrates some of the issues in cultural translation, given that he had to ask the question). Alongside this, Vallotton asked some seriously self-critical questions about the ministry of Bethel church: how come, as the church was growing, the social and cultural life of its community in Redding was actually getting worse? Why was a healthier church not leading to a healthier community around it? (Some critics continue to ask that question.)
The third thing that I appreciated was that he repeatedly returned to passages in Scripture in his speaking, and at times made some interesting and helpful observations about texts, often on a large scale. So the move in the Exodus story was from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land—a move from a time of not enough, through just enough, to more than enough, changes which demanded a change in outlook and mindset in the people themselves. He made some interesting contrasts between the narrative of the healing in the Pool of Bethesda in John 5 with the healing that is made available in the visionary narrative of the stream flowing from the temple in Ezekiel 47. He provocatively asked the question: why, when Jesus left them alone, were the Twelve arguing about who was the greatest (in Luke 22.24)? It seems that just being in the company of Jesus made people think more of themselves and grow in confidence. (He also offered an interesting explanation of the unusual comment by Jesus of the least in the kingdom being greater than John the Baptist in Matt 11.11 and Luke 7.28.)
Perhaps most striking was his theological configuration of the nature of the kingdom, where his focus on the Lord’s Prayer meant that the direction of travel in Jesus’ teaching (and in the rest of the NT) was not from earth to heaven but from heaven to earth. We are to pray for the kingdom to come here, and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven—and the eschatological goal is not for us to leave earth to go to heaven but (in Rev 21.1) for the New Jerusalem, as an image of heaven, to come to earth. In that regard at least, Tom Wright would have felt quite at home—and it is yet another illustration of the curious connection between the theology of an Anglican academic and the narrative readings of Pentecostals and charismatics (Tom Wright’s theology is also popular in the ‘new churches’ in the UK). Whatever other problems there are with the theology coming out of Bethel, this is quite striking when the doctrine of the rapture and the tribulation are so widespread in Vallotton’s context.
Vallotton’s practical focus in leadership and training was strongly on the encouragement of others. He contrasted a ‘denominationalist’ approach which relies on conformity and agreement which suppresses questioning and difference, with what he believes is the proper ‘apostolic’ approach to leadership that involves taking risks and allowing mistakes to be made—though whether that allows errors in teaching or just in practical matters begs the question he is answering. And it was refreshing to hear someone in his position talk about allowing others to grow in confidence; real leadership is about allowing others to excel, and not needing to make ourselves look better in comparison with them.
Alongside these positives, Vallotton’s teaching also raised some quite big questions for me—and I found them writ even larger in his book Heavy Rain than in his teaching sessions. (Note to self: a book will sell well when it has a dramatic, archetypal metaphor for a title.) I was a little shocked to find that the early chapters read like a transcript of some of the things Vallotton had said in the teaching sessions. I guess that happens when you teach the same thing in a number of different places—your words become well rehearsed.
The first was his language of ‘epochs’. Although he appears to reject the chunking of history into the dispensations of dispensationalism, in his teaching he made much of the different ‘epoch periods’ (which he pronounced ‘epic periods’ to keep us all guessing) and this comes over even more strongly in the book. His observation of the change in the Exodus episodes (not enough, just enough, more than enough) was connected for him not just with the need for the people to respond differently—but with the idea that God treats his people differently in different seasons. That comment made me raise my eyebrows, not least because one of the repeated emphases in Scripture is that, despite our different seasons and circumstances, God actually treats us with the same grace, generosity and accountability. For Vallotton, we are currently going through an epoch change, moving in church from the pastorate model (using the five gifts of Ephesians 4.11) to the apostolic model that he is now advocating. I am also curious when the new thing that God is doing from a cosmic theological perspective happens to be the thing that the person speaking is most committed to.
There are some genuine oddities about this—not least that the word ‘apostle’ appears in the list of the five ministry gifts. But for Vallotton, this apostolic ministry has been practised in the static pastoral model, not in the dynamic, community-transforming way that he is advocating. I am not at all clear that the New Testament understanding of apostolic ministry corresponds to what he is offering—it appeared to be more concerned with evangelism and church planting than with transformation of wider society. But what is most fascinating is his rational for this: in a prophetic word, God revealed to him that the five porticoes of the Pool of Bethesda in John 5 symbolised the five-fold ministry exercised in this static, pastorate model, but that the stream from the temple in Ezekiel 47 symbolised the new epoch of apostolic ministry of community transformation.
This is characteristic of Vallotton’s reading of Scripture, which is not immediately evident in his teaching, but again is more evident in his writing. Whilst he does make observations about the details of the text, and does at times engage with the narratives in their own terms, his most common way of reading is a strongly symbolic one, in which the text becomes a place to mine symbols and metaphors which fit with his prophetic understanding—so that, very often, a text only makes sense when it is given its meaning by a prophetic word from God or a dream. Whilst this sits very uncomfortably with traditional evangelical interpretative approaches, which highlight the importance of historical context and semantic content, this way of reading is actually closer to the way that many New Testament texts make use of the Old Testament (most notably in the early chapters of Matthew, and of course throughout Revelation). The key question, then, is whether Vallotton’s symbolic readings correspond in any way with the symbolic connections made by the different texts themselves.
I think Vallotton’s reading stumbled in two particular areas. The first is that his eschatology seemed to be ‘over-realised’ at almost every point—that is, he focussed on the promises of power and miracles available now as the kingdom of God is made real through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, and underplayed the equally strong emphasis in the New Testament that there will be struggles and setbacks as well, as we await the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom which will only be realised when Jesus returns. Hence I tweeted:
I like @kvministries on the realisation of heaven on earth. We need it. But Rev 1.9 says 'kingdom, suffering AND patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.' We need courage for the realisation of the kingdom…but we need patient endurance for what's not yet realised #NWLC18
— Ian Paul (@Psephizo) February 28, 2018
In particular, Vallotton asserted that we should not think of ourselves as sinners saved by grace, (notwithstanding Paul’s own self-description), but as saints, since this is the language consistently used by Paul of the people he addresses. This is actually an important point around theological self-perception, but Vallotton needed to make it with more nuance, or at least set it in a wide context. I have just been sent a copy of Paul Mallard’s new book Invest your Disappointments published by IVP, and he does the job much better, listing all the positive things said about the church in the NT—but then pointing out the rather contrasting reality. Mallard’s isn’t as racy a read as Vallotton’s—but he does a much better job of locating personal disappointment, including disillusionment with church, within a proper biblical understanding of what God is doing.
The other blind spot for Vallotton relates to questions of politics and power. It was interesting to have heard him talk of leadership power and enabling others, and then to watch him from the stage pick out individuals in the audience and give very specific prophetic words to them. I think that this can be very valuable, but it is also a very particular exercise of spiritual and personal power, and is not without its dangers. In the panel question session, when asked about the possibility of involvement in politics for Christians, Vallotton appeared unable to understand the question, let alone offer a convincing answer. And the reason for this is revealed in the book, which offers a desperately naive reading of Romans 13, suggesting that Paul believed that governments simply must be obeyed without question—ignoring the challenges in the passage itself (that government is accountable to God), the context within Paul’s wider understanding, or passages in tension with this like Revelation 13 or the OT prophetic tradition.
In the end, Vallotton is wrestling with questions that challenge all of us in our thinking about the kingdom: how do we take hold of the radical realisation of the kingdom of God that we see released through Jesus’ resurrection, and how do we also live with the frustrations of the not-yet-realised? And what does it mean to be agents of transformation in our society? This cannot be detached from the imperative for proclamation, since (as John Stott used to say) it is changed people who change the world. Neither can the gathered church be dismissed as a static pastorate, since (in another useful slogan) ‘the meeting place is the training place for the market place’. This training surely should include the need to pray for others and see God do remarkable things in their lives. But it must also include training in understanding what it means to be a Christian teacher, a Christian artist, a Christian accountant, a Christian lawyer, a Christian roadsweeper or administrator—and I suspect that is going to be a longer and more complex task.
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42 thoughts on “The kingdom of God: Now? Not yet? Church? World?”
This post articulated some things for me that I hadn’t been able to/struggled to realise.
Kris isn’t nuanced. He is straight down the line in terms of his teaching and views, and that is fine, but it can often come across as naive when you approach it a bit more intellectually, depending on the topic.
This is something I have generally found within various charismatic circles I have been involved in (and from hearing Kris before as well as other Bethel associated people speak) They are hugely inspirational, which can be sorely lacking from some teachers/preachers, huge emphasis on what God can do for you personally but it lacks the critical aspect that needs to come when looking at a text, like you say, with regards to historical criticism. This is something I can find tough to reconcile especially in a context such as New Wine where perhaps there needed to be that; then again, I feel David Stroud did a good job of laying a theologically sound foundation for all of this (though I will need to re listen to his, and all of the talks), so perhaps Kris was not meant to be that…
In any regard he was a fantastic speaker for the conference and what it was trying to (I believe) achieve.
Do you know of any books or talks that lay a good strong theological groundwork for community transformation in the context of what was being talked about?
Try Ann Morisy, Beyond the Good Samaritan and Journeying Out.
Wonderful. Thank you.
Tom Wright’s broad acceptance I’d regard as a very positive indicator. Mere Christians like CS Lewis get and deserve broad acceptance. Billy Graham earned broader acceptance than he began with. Whereas the American and Canadian Anglicans would not be easily recognised by most parts of the world church.
As for David Stroud’s perspective, Amen to that, and it is being admirably fulfilled by his wife among others.
Christopher, I firmly agree that David’s wife Philippa is ably fulfilling this perspective that lay ministry is serving God & the world working in the sphere of society not merely exercising gifts in church. But I slightly wince when Philippa is presented as a prime example of such service – she is, of course exceptional by any criteria – however, only a few dozen of committed christians will get to serve in the House of Lords (I think also of the outstanding Baronness Berridge)…so I am not sure the Baroness is the ideal example, illustration per se – indeed, I feel the use of such can even undermine the point being made. I always find it strange when, periodically, in church we make special mention and ask respective folk to stand and be prayed for in their ministry as “teachers, or medical professionals or local government officials” – but why always so narrowly selected a category band, as if these were specially divinely anointed ministries? Why not the butcher, baker and book seller? David Pawson used to make a good point about Road Sweeper sweeping to the glory of God. I really concur with David Stroud’s theological point – lay ministry is serving to the glory of God and good of all in the world – but illustrated by his wife in HOL seems rather rarified and slightly undermines the point for me.
(It was just a connection that occurred to me, of no special significance.) I agree with your whole perspective. And (just like those who were glad that the cheesemakers got included) I am glad you included the booksellers.
Booksellers are among the most noble and God glorifying of ministries –
as Erasmus said “Paradise is a library’ 🙂
I appreciate your interaction with Vallotton and his often controversial thought. The only people who seem to pay any attention to him in the US are various “discernment ministries” that often don’t provide any serious thought or interaction with his work. While I think they are right to point out some of the questionable, controversial, and often dangerous (even heterodox) beliefs he shares with other proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, what is desperately needed is serious, scholarly, and graceful interaction with his books and teachings.
This post is a start! 🙂
Thanks. Can you say more about the New Apostolic Movement? I think I am lagging behind here…
OK, here is a starter for 10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Apostolic_Reformation
I worry about this whole NAR – it seems like a power play that goes something like this:
the old denominational lines are breaking down – people are no longer gathering and identifying along doctrinal belief systems and traditions of worship. Instead they are recognising and regrouping under God’s end time Spirit anointed Apostles. And of course, the Apostles are….you guessed it – the one’s telling you they are apostles and so you should align with them. And what qualifies them as Apostles? A big church in California and focus on the charismatic and eccentric? Paul’s apostolic boast was in his scars. I miss John Wimber….who I think was an apostle (if birthing 1500 churches qualifies) but who refused to be called one!
The movement is similar to the Word-Faith movement (think Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland) but focused more on signs and wonders, rather than simply financial prosperity. While Vallotton, Bill Johnson, and others would most likely reject being associated with that movement, that’s the name that Peter Wagner gave to it back in 2001. That’s when, he believed, God decided to reinstate the 1st century offices of Apostle and Prophet. As you pointed out in the post, it’s highly characterized by an over-realized eschatology and has most recently condemned denominations as divisive (while they are basically forming their own “apostolic” denomination).
Its leaders are known for some rather strange, questionable, and often heretical teaching (Jesus being born again, not being divine on earth, etc).
More recently, Vallotton and other NAR leaders met with the Pope and soon after declared that the Reformation was over and that any church opposing this reunification was opposing God and was creating division. His blog has also had some interesting pieces go up recently.(https://krisvallotton.com/new-operating-system/ and https://krisvallotton.com/calling-all-angels/ )
Andrew Wilson wrote up a great piece on Vallotton’s church (http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/on_throwing_the_baby_out_with_the_bethelwater)
As I said, what’s needed is loving, gentle, biblical, and scholarly interaction with this movement and its teachings. Your post was a breath of fresh air 🙂
Thanks for these links. Love the column by Andrew Wilson…as ever!
Really enjoyed that Andrew Wilson article, it sums up well what our attitude should be to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in different churches. Ultimately we are all flawed humans, and it is humans who are in the church, so they are flawed, so seeing things that we are not sure of through a lens of grace, but also engaging with it critically is infinitely helpful.
I hope they get him on national TV, he’s brilliant.
I’ve found this book of reflections on the NAR to be careful, detailed and nuanced. I haven’t finished it yet, but would commend what I’ve read so far.
This is what the authors state in their preface:
“We write this book with two major goals in mind. First, to give people an idea of the sheer size and reach of the NAR movement. And second, to systematize its key teachings and practices and evaluate them on the basis of Scripture and careful reasoning . In our judgment, the NAR perspective crosses these boundaries [that is, certain broad parameters, revealed in Scripture and practiced in the historical orthodox church], and it does so in part because of flawed theology rooted in a flawed understanding of Scripture. We wish to warn readers about a possible confusion: Some critics have linked the NAR movement with mainstream Pentecostalism and charismatics. We do not do this. In fact, it is our contention that the NAR movement deviates from classical Pentecostal and charismatic teachings. This movement has emerged out of independent charismatic churches and, thus, has gained a foothold in many of those churches in varying degrees.”
Thanks, that’s really interesting.
We had a discussion in our group: is the kingdom God’s agency or human agency? Kris seemed to saying that it is the church’s responsibility to create the kingdom here on earth, which is true in the sense our work is an anticipation of the return of Christ. Others disagreed and said the kingdom is solely God’s initiative.
Thanks Peter (and sorry not to see you there). I cannot think of anywhere in the NT which suggests that we can build the kingdom. We can pray, and preach, and teach, and make disciples. But isn’t it always the case that ‘one sows, the other waters, but God gives the growth’ (1 Cor 3.6)?
Ah yes, but most importantly we do the loving (the thing we are sent here to learn)…….in the manner of Christ Jesus
Very helpful reflection. He was an engaging speaker but I too found his epoch theories distinctly unconvincing.
They are much more central in the book; in the talk it was just an idea, but in the book it is really foundational.
As a believer who fought for healing only to watch her husband die twenty years ago, I have lived between two worlds. One that remains confident that faith makes a difference and the other that knows struggles and patient perseverance form us more into Christ’s likeness. The apostolic, divine healing, the power of Christ, they all stir in me. But with a caution you’ve expressed. One day we will truly know. Until then, we see in part.
Thank you so much for sharing you testimony of faith, Susan. Very moving.
I’m not familiar with Kris Vallotten, though I do know about the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ (NAR), Bethel church Redding and the controversy that surrounds some of the latter’s leadership and charismatic practice. I think the commentary on your Facebook link shows just how sharp some of the contrasting views are, and Arno is not the only person I’ve encountered who feels strongly enough about the issue to couch his concerns in such words. In many ways I agree with him, though I’d be far more cautious about throwing accusations of “spiritual abuse” around…
Also, I can’t help but think ‘Epoch’ is a bad word to use. I understand what’s being said, but any hermeneutic tool that seeks to divide the history of Christianity into distinct chunks, even when done with the caveat of a rejected dispensationalism, just adds fuel to that proverbial fire; providing ‘theological fog’ when it should provide clarity. Doubly so if you’re arguing a difference in the attitude and aims (or even character) of God between the ‘chunks’, rather than simply the manner of communication.
I’ve not read the book though, so maybe that’s a premature judgement?
Thanks for this valuable post.
There is an critical discussion of Bill Johnson’s theology in article by Abigail Shuttleworth in the Journal of the European Pentecostal Association (35, 2, 2015). It is available online https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1179/1812446115Z.00000000012
Thanks for the link!
Thank you, Ian. The comments on the Exodus journey reminds me of Rob Bell in “Jesus Wants to Save Christians” (a more interesting book than the title would lead you to believe). I love what you/Mr Vallotton says about the church being the light of the world!
I always appreciate your measured, thoughtful, biblical perspective, Ian. Not aware of Valotton’s work, but it was really interesting and instructive to hear you dialogue with his ideas. Thanks for your ministry. When your email shows up in my Inbox, it’s hard to resist the temptation to just immediately stop what I’m doing and check your musings on some interesting and timely topic. But, when I finally get to catch up and read what you’ve written, it’s usually time well spent.
Thanks for the comments—appreciate it. I will continue to work on changing the ‘usually’ to ‘always’….!
Conflicted, wary, now.
The people referred to in your article are not known to me.
I was born again into Church of England church where the minister was part of a charismatic group, including New Wine, AoG, New Frontiers, healing ministries, at a time of the Sunderland refreshing, Toronto Blessing, (which Wimber had concerns over) Brownsville, gold fillings, exercising of prophetic gifts, words of knowledge, courses in the prophetic, some congregation falling down at the altar rail during communion, weaned on books by Wimber, Pytches, Urquart and others, aware that some people had sold their homes to purchase a building, in furtherance of a prophecy only to see it close not many years later, (following a new prophecy), having given and been given correct personal words of knowledge, having seen division in a church over whether someone, not me, (who was adamant God had told him) was called to ministry, and having been rejected and subsequently , seemingly fallen away from the faith, having been aware of many “God instances” in life, at a time when there was an emphasis of “men of power for the hour” ,having read David Watson’s book on his last days and incorrect words of knowledge from Wimber, concerning Watson’s healing, having seen people I know who were given words of knowledge for healing, then didn’t seek available medical intervention (because it had been stated they were healed) and died, having heard from a retired AoG minister that they were aware of a pastor who had been excluded from a healing prayer meeting, by his own people as they though he hadn’t sufficient faith.
The general emphasis was that we can have all of the Kingdom NOW. I recall musing with one man, that if that were correct, there’d be no need for the return of Christ.
But it started to change when I had a triple CABG, which I didn’t have in my diary. Afterwards, it seemed as if God had been surgically removed from my life and some I knew started wondering if I’d lost faith, when that was so far from the truth, and I’d been given the faith to die and know that death brings healing and astonishingly glory to believers.
Then about 7 years ago I had a stroke which ended my employed life, but God was faithful. I can’t recall precisely when but I was getting some marvellous over the internet teaching, through a recorded, taught DMin by Clowney and Keller and great UCCF recorded teaching from Mike Reeves and recorded Martin Lloyd Jones Sermons. This and much more has resulted a much deeper appreciation of scripture, of Union with Christ and ballast to life, and a Practice of His Presence.
While I’d self categorise now as charismatic calvinist,(or 39 Articles) but not a follower of Calvin, I am wary of the exercise of gifts, particularly when there is barely, if any mention of Jesus, when power is extolled, not weakness, nor the glory of God. Indeed, who gets the glory, who or what is the focus on.
Lastly, this is an observation, not a criticism. Ian’s earlier critique of Richard Rohr’s book seems to be far more rigorous, robust, than the report of the conference above. And yes,, they are not comparable formats, settings, oral – written.
Conflicted and wary, I am now.
As in everything, Geoff, we need to stand right back and assess things calmly, everyone for him or herself.
God’s people are many and varied, but what matters first and foremost is our own honest personal, individual relationship with Him. Then we must be honest about the people who espouse this or that idea: what are they really like as people, what is the real fruit of what they are up to, does it stack up with everything your learn from the Bible about God’s way of doing things? Be very wary of the compelling nature of being in with the crowd – judge it at least in part by how it affects your life when you are not with the crowd: if it leaves you low and depressed or feeling inadequate, the ministry you have encountered may need careful evaluation. Is the groupthink in the hothouse of the crowd in line with common sense – both ordinary life common sense and biblical common sense? That’s one great reason for sites like this where things are thought through and learned both in a public sense but also as privately and quietly as may be necessary. And everyone is free to disagree – respectfully if possible (it’s not always)!
And there’s no avoiding the discernment of what is actually motivating people – Christians sadly are not immune from untruth, self promotion, emotional manipulation, bullying, group power politics, the adrenalin of public performance, the enticement of public appreciation, adulation, the excitement of ‘new things’, wild theories, newly discovered benefits and freedoms, intimacy which crosses sensible boundaries; the list goes on.
So always it’s you and God and what is true that matters – and that’s exciting enough. The rest can sometimes have a lot more to do with personality than it does with truth.
Thanks for sharing Geoff
we drink from similar wells – and I wish great Bible teachers like Mike Reeves got to be on the platform at New Wine events
Wary – yes, good word
You mention Wimber had ‘concerns’ over Toronto Blessing – he did – but he didn’t doubt it was a genuine move of the Spirit – his concerns were the way it was managed. In particular the focus on phenomena and the model of ministry and the loss of what he termed the main and the plain. I believe Wimber would have the same concerns with Bethel for the same essential errors are in play. Wimber would acknowledge them as brethren, accept the good, but challenge the emphasis and call them to return to the main and plain.
“I am wary of the exercise of gifts, particularly when there is barely, if any mention of Jesus, when power is extolled, not weakness, nor the glory of God. Indeed, who gets the glory, who or what is the focus on.”
I agree with that wariness…. Isnt is back to the (prime?) danger of being more interested in the gift than the giver or the purpose of the gift beyond an ‘enhanced spiritual life’ of the gifted person?
Worship can fall into the same trap of being limited to seeking a deeper personal experience of God (which can be good) but where the heaven-now experience becomes the key thing…. a kind of realised eschatology which disengages the Christian from the reality of ‘now’, relies more on ‘in the moment’ feelings and is weak on the solid ground of God’s promises. I don’t think this is necessarily deliberate at all but more the product of a weakly thought though theology or poor framing acts of worship. I’ve come to value the principles of Anglican worship more and more. That’s not because of worship by rote or essential liturgical items but because it makes one think about frameworks, shape, discipling and ingredients beyond the instant gratification menu.
I agree about the gift/ giver and worship experience points you make. But the church seems to have a short memory, forgetful of what has gone before, even in living memory, and the tendancy of some to seek the experience, (which in early days included me) notwithstanding that the presence of God with His people is a theme of all scripture and with Jesus being present with two or three gathered in His name, and the temple theme, even in the individual Christian.
After the stroke, which left me with a continuing heart malfunction and after prayer and healing evenings and the realisation that someone who was acknowledge to have prophetic gifting in the New Frontiers church I was in, had himself a pacemaker (guessing he was 10- 15 years younger) and looking at scripture, it seemed that God was saying that healing was becoming an idol to me, something that was taking the place of God Himself and trusting in him day by day for the future.
On the way to the operating theatre for a heart bye -pass , some years earlier, I was singing, along with my wife, and a sister in the Lord, “All I once held dear – Knowing you Jesus – to know you in your sufferings…” by G. Kendrick. The porter’s response, was “I’ll have some of that.” There is much more that I could say, about that time. My prayer was that, throughout it all, it would bring glory to God, as I had that “Blessed Assurance”, though not the assurance, I’d come through on this side of heaven. Granted, getting out of bed, healed, with evidence of arterial blocks, unblocked, and heart rate and rhythm rectified, may have been a greater witness to Jesus and his salvation, maybe not.
Ian, in his original post, mention Paul Mallard. I’ve heard him at Keswick and at a weekend conference at a local church. His life and his wife’s, full of suffering. is a greater testimony to me of a life of faith, than some of the hunky dory, glory. Within the last month I’ve heard that someone, who I knew, who died within 2 months or so of being diagnosed with lung cancer (as a non- smoker) was a great encouragement to a Christian doctor, caring for her, so much so he asked if he could bring a nurse to meet her to be a witness to Christ.
Why is it that these ‘movements’ invariably seem to be American?
Well, they actually have their roots in South Africa and Toronto. The Toronto Blessing is behind it all and it has since spread to the U.S., then to the UK via HTB and others, then around the world, it’s in the Anglican church, AOG, Hillsong, Bethel, Vineyard, virtually everywhere. Rodney Howard Browne of South Africa was one of the major players of Toronto and Heidi Baker also spreads it in Africa as well as regularly going to Bethel. Here’s a good video explaining some background. This is serious stuff, particularly as clearly it is reaching seemingly polite churches by stealth, worship music, conferences and the internet. New wine indeed. A very different wine imo. If people choose to brush this off, that’s on their conscience, but it is a hard watch, which tells you something.
Toronto blessing documentary:
Thanks. But in reality, the TB has very little active influence in mainstream UK churches now…
Apart from Chris spreading a false gospel and inviting people to spread demonic spirits in his church I can see no problems with the guy… partnering with heretics and the odd failed baby ressurection aside. I think the fact few could watch the following video with excerpts from Bethel without feeling physically sick should be a bit of a red flag, but still, if he’s a nice bloke with a moving testimony let’s turn off our discernment. In love, it is time to stop treating Christianity like an open house for mysticism. These people produce worship music that is infecting and twisting the gospel for new believers and many experienced believers too.