But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.
Judges 5 v 31
Yesterday, I went on an unexpected trip to Cwmbran to visit a church. My pal and his pastor Simon Redmill, who leads City Church Salisbury, suggested Rachel and I come on an adventure with them to Wales where God has been at work for the last few weeks. The alternative was a takeaway and movie. So we drove down the M4 to a 'new town' that I last visited in 1984 on a geography field trip. Incidentally, as we arrived in Cwmbran, I did wonder who decides when a new town has been around long enough to be an 'ordinary' or 'old' town. New in 1984 can't really still be described as such.Here is the background to all this which you can hear direct from the pastor of the church (Richard Taylor) and also do read a Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper report.
Moves of God in Wales have happened before, most notably under Evan Roberts in 1904 (a warning that 'Revival' requires wise stewardship and leadership if disciples are to be made). I was also personally captivated by the accounts of preaching to working men across Wales as told in Martyn Lloyd Jones' The First Forty Years. Many of you will also have read Rees Howells Intercessor. Suffice it to say there's been a bit of praying, preaching and singing of hymns in the valleys of Wales going on down the years.
The meeting we went to started at 7pm and people were queuing to get in which, it has to be said, is not true of many churches on a Bank Holiday Monday. Most of you were probably at home watching TV or worrying about getting kids back to school.
The banner outside the church reads as follows:
1. Passion for the saviour
2. Love of Scripture
3. Rescuing the sinner
Amen to that.
Here are a few reflections:
1. Much was made of Jesus: The name of Jesus was held in high esteem and proclaimed boldly. It wasn't about the church nor was it about a personality. (Richard Taylor wasn't there). We were led by one of the assistant pastors. I do confess to being a little disappointed though that he wasn't Welsh.
2. The sick were prayed for: This all started because a man lept out of a wheel chair after a mid-week prayer meeting- so it is not unreasonable to be continuing to pray. We spoke to a dear lady who welcomed us in the queue and she had brought the man in question to church and he has been part of the church for some time and is a member of her bible study group. There were probably 400 people in the meeting we attended.
3. The word of God was opened up and the gospel preached: Something like 200 people have given their lives to Christ in the last 3 weeks. How many people have been saved in your church or mine in the last three weeks you might ask? A very simple but clear gospel presentation was made with great power and people were called under the blood to repent and believe in Jesus. Praise God for that. Any who witnessed the goings on in Lakeland know that Todd Bentley's failure to even have a Bible with him let alone preach from it was the writing on the wall. It told any prudent and bible literate observers things will go pear-shaped and sure enough they did. Too few Charismatics these days are rooted in the Scriptures but this is not so here.
There is always a decision to be made. One pal having supper in Buckinghamshire who I texted from Wales replied 'Isn't God here too?' or words to that affect. As most people are conservative by nature it's easy to assume it's all a bit nutty and therefore to be avoided. Quite often these reports are- so my pal is right to be a bit cautious. However, personally I don't want to miss out on something God might be doing either because my pride won't let me join in or because I'm too sound or fearful. And yes, I do believe God is powerfully at work in Barnes- praise God. Its just I would like to see even more of his presence and power here and am always happy to have someone pray for me to be able to reach the lost and see more disciples made. Of course, you should have a bible to hand and be wise but at the same time relax and see what God might be doing. Also, it's cheaper to get to Wales down the M4 than to Pensecola, Seattle, NY, Bethel or Toronto :)
4. Pentecostals: Every church has a culture and 'Victory church' is no different. 'Victory' is Pentecostal and so has a theology that includes a belief in'impartation' (the passing on of God's blessing from one to another through the laying on of hands- Hebrews 6:2). This means the service leader and preacher is the one who both leads and pray's for people (A little like 'Father John' in your local Anglo-Catholic church who also does everything). We could have done with him not speaking over the mike as he was praying for each person in turn (as we were worshipping at the same time) but that's a detail. The pastor did pray for us all and he had a man who followed him around with a black cloth to wipe his brow. It sweaty work being a pentecostal :) -that's also a new job to enact for our service team rota- Vicar brow-mopping!
They also had 'a catcher' who looked like he played prop for Llanelli and was clearly at the beginning of time made for such a time as this. However, the ministry was ordered, heartfelt and passionate with little histrionics or drama about it (which is a nice change). Only at the end were the rest of the pastors released to pray for people which they did with patience and great kindness and warmth. This delay is perhaps part of ensuring things are done properly and with care.
5. The people: I sat next to three middle aged women who wept through the worship and were calling out to the Lord on their knees. The pleading and passionate prayer deeply moved me. There were old men and young too- many you may not expect to have normally seen in church. It wasn't clear if they were some of the recently saved but they may well have been. There were many present who clearly had quite a story to tell.
Should you visit?
As a traveller to a church or two in my time (I flew from Moscow to Toronto in 1993) I would say God seems to be doing a good thing here.
-Take your Bible
-Pray for the team @ Victory
-Pray for Richard Taylor
-Make it all about Jesus as Richard is encouraging you to.
The pastors seem wise, the ministry is well lead, the worship passionate, the Scriptures are opened and the overarching desire is that Jesus is made much of. They are also very passionate about reaching the lost rather than simply blessing/filling Christians. We were all refreshed, encouraged and we felt loved and welcomed.
So, I would encourage you to turn off Eastenders and do get in the car and head up the M4 if the moment grabs you. If you lead a church put the staff team in the car and bring them too. Alternately, you can watch it on live stream (as my pal's wives did on Facebook) and see what you think.
Latest details here.