God wants us now to pray for revival

posted in: History, Tony Thompson 2

Terry Virgo was the founder of Newfrontiers, a worldwide family of churches that we are part of. In July leaders from Newfrontiers churches in the UK gathered to prayer for our nation at Westminster Chapel in London. These are some edited notes of the talk that Terry gave about revival in which he says “I believe God wants us now to pray for revival. To believe God for the coming of the Spirit, to believe that He will yet move. That He will come with power.”

Something that I believe we need to start doing.

With love,

Tony Thompson

 

In this place, Westminster Chapel, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones decided in 1959, 100 years after the 1859 revival, to preach on revival right through the year. He was stirred and provoked. He said, in one of those sermons, “If we don’t see revival in our nation, the downward drift has reached such a point that we’re in terrible peril as a nation. We desperately need revival.” 

That was even before the so-called, “Swinging Sixties,” before so much that has changed. We’ve seen the dramatic transformation taking place in our nation. But we find that Bible history and Church history isn’t a steady graph. There are seasons of terrible decline and there are these amazing times where God moves. Often in the Old Testament, for example the stories about the different judges, terrible decline, every one was doing what was right in his own eyes. Then they cried to God, and God anoints a Gideon or anoints a Samson and breaks through.

We know from the time of the end of the kingdom of Solomon until the time when Elijah comes on the scene, that was just 58 years. That’s shorter than our Queen’s reign. Fifty-eight years. And by the time Elijah came on the scene it was illegal to worship the Lord. They’re worshipping Baal and Jezebel behind Ahab is running the nation. In 58 short years, how culture can change.

Well that’s been the case in our nation. Revival has been the time that God, in His infinite mercy, turns things around. We’re aware probably of the Wesleyan Revival. Whitfield and Wesley preaching in the open air. Huge crowds coming. And then a nation being so turned that many would say, “This country was saved from the equivalent of a French Revolution because such a powerful thing was happening across the nation.”

You can’t legislate for righteousness. You can’t pass laws at Westminster that change a nation. But it’s the culture and the hope that gives the change. Then you’ll find that legislation will catch up with it. And you’ll find after Wesley, so many things changed. The hospitals, prisons, education, the way children were treated, work in the mines, so many things, all recorded, detailed recordings of England how it was mightily transformed after Wesley.

We may not know about the 1859 Revival. 50 years on from the Wesleyan revival, there was need again for another revival. Jeremiah Shropshire in New York began to pray; he began to set up a lunchtime prayer meeting in New York. And he set aside an office and said to people, “Would you like to gather up and pray?” For the first half hour no one turned up. And then after half an hour a few dribbled in and by the end of the hour, six people had gathered. Next week, he’s gathered another 20 people. And then the following week, 40 people. And then that by the next month more and more people were gathering to pray and seek God. Then there was a run on the banks in New York and people began to get alarmed and concerned and began to pray. And so in the end, there were tens of thousands of people meeting to pray every lunchtime. Churches began to open for lunchtime prayer meetings. Some of them weekly, some of them daily – a growing amount of prayer. That lasted for a year or two and then suddenly, God broke out and many, many were saved and added. They reckon something like a million people were added to the American church.

And then it came across to Ulster and then Scotland and then right back down into the rest of the U.K. And time after time, revival broke out in town after town – very similar to what happened in New York. Initially after just a handful of people began to pray. So town, after town, after town, people gathering to pray. Often it starts with people just catching the news from other places.  There’s a cry out to God. So, the momentum of prayer grew. Evangelists were raised up from the millions who’d been praying about it. They say a million people were added to the British church in the next two years.

I was filled with the Spirit in 1962. I joined a little group and we were praying for revival because that was what was on our minds – revival. A little group on Monday nights, we started to pray, “Oh, God, come and revive. Come and revive.” And I began to feel God calling me to give more time to pray for revival. I thought well how can I do that? In the end, it became so intense that it was time to leave my job. But to do what? To pray for revival.

So every day, Monday through Saturday, we met together every morning to pray for two or three hours a day for revival. And the intensity of God’s presence sometimes was remarkable. I remember one morning I was scared to open my eyes, wondering what I might see in terms of a sense of God’s power. I thought we were on the edge of revival. It was the start of a long, long journey over these years. We began with people getting filled with the Spirit. People getting baptised in the Spirit, speaking in tongues. It was, at that time, an extraordinary new phenomenon. Then I began to see a glorious Church, making room for the gifts, filled with the Spirit. Not a Church changed into a slightly new wineskin but a glorious Church. Then I saw the grace of God. Then apostolic ministry and a body, a functioning body. But revival? No but let’s get on with these things You’re showing us. Let’s get on with these things.

Very early on, a woman called Jean Darnell, preached at the Capel Bible week. She said, “I’ve seen a vision of England, and over her I can see spots of light. Light. City after city. I believe God is going to raise up an army of light all over the nation.” One of the first times I spoke at the Downs Bible week, I spoke on Gideon. How Gideon’s army was reduced and reduced and reduced, until it was actually just 300 of them. And I felt God really stir this in my heart lately. It says in Isaiah 9, “the people have seen a great light”, which is what happened at the battle of Midian with Gideon. Suddenly the people in darkness saw 300 bright lights all around them. The Son has come, this mighty God. It’s going to be a great victory.

We started the journey planting more and more churches – let’s see restoration first. So revival kind of stuck on one side because in 1960 the church was so cold, so formal. No one was speaking into your life. There was no community, family, grace, engagement, many hadn’t got it. And we’ve worked hard. Rebuild and restructure. Doing something that will glorify together, that holds together through love and loyalty and common faith. So I believe God wants us now to pray for revival. To believe God for the coming of the Spirit, to believe that He will yet move. That He will come with power.

I had letter recently from Ginni in Sheffield. She was saved in the 1970s and she was given a vision. And in the vision she saw a map of the whole of England. And she saw pinpricks of light. Pinpricks of light, which grew bigger and bigger, growing bigger and brighter as she looked at them. And she saw as she looked closer they were fires that were bursting into flame like beacons across the nation. She realised that the nation itself was getting darker and darker and darker. But the beacons were getting brighter and brighter and brighter until they flared into one huge burst of flame.

She thought that God promised her that revival would come and that God would give her two confirmations – that this was His voice to her. And she thought they would come in the next few days but she had to wait some years. Some years later, she said, she turned on the television and saw a helicopter flying up and down many beacons that had been lit across the nation for the Queen’s silver jubilee. And as she saw this on television, that’s what I saw in the vision. All these lights burning and then she had to wait a few more years. A few more years she saw another of these television programmes and it was 50 years on from V.E. day and they were lighting beacons all across the nation. And she felt these were the two confirmations that God had promised her.

And then some time later, she asked God to give her some encouragement to remind her again of the things that God would do. The following morning, at the morning service in the middle of the worship time, she was told there was a man at the door asking for her. She went to speak to him rather defensively. The man said to her that he’d been working in Leeds and was on his way home to the south of England when God has spoken to him and told him to come and find her to tell her something. He had no idea where she would be or what church. But God would direct him, street to street, to find the church. And he arrived at the church in Sheffield and asked after her.

He said that he had tell her what his job is. He didn’t know why. He just had to tell her what his job is. He said, “Do you remember the beacons being lit for the Queen’s silver jubilee and for V.E. day celebrations? My job is working on the Millennium beacon committee responsible for organising the lighting of the beacons up and down the land. I work directly with the man who gives the Queen starter equipment to light the first beacon.”

I truly believe God wants us to anticipate His coming in power. I feel God spoke it to me, recently. It’s been quite a demanding year this last year, very taxing, very demanding. It’s like nearly everything fell through. Why are we going through such tough times? So then one day I set myself to seek God in prayer. And then I knew it was okay. Things would go through. And then I thought, “Lord, why?” And He said to me, “I want you to have this same certainty that what I promised you about revival  will come.” I want to have that same certainty. And I’m know I’m praying into that. I can’t say I’ve arrived, but I am praying diligently for that so I can say with utter, utter, confidence I know it’s going to come.

I had a prophecy from one of our people in India given to me before all the recent incidents in the UK. “You will see revival in your nation following a wave of national fear.”  I think the nation is becoming ripe for a move of God. And we, the Church, need to lay up with God.  J. O. Frazier says, “Don’t be lazy. Don’t just keep repeating things. Fight them until you know you’ve got them.”

I was thinking about Elijah the other day. About his servant looking seven times for the rain cloud. Every time he looked, is it now, is it now? No, it’s not. About to give up and don’t just get into vain repetition. Pray, expecting it’s going to happen. I believe it. I believe multiplying prayer is happening all over, all over. People are gathering, little twos and threes. People are beginning to pray. Thousands are praying half a night, let’s believe God. The Church of England recently prayed for Thy Kingdom Come. Cathedrals filled with praying people. There is a growing prayer life in the nation. Let’s go with it. Let’s believe God, that He will move, that He will break through. Let’s believe God for it. Amen?

Mountain tops verses real life

A friend of mine recently wrote about his experience of returning from an excellent week Christian conference, which he described as a mountain top experience. He compared it to the story in Matthew 17, the account of the transfiguration and the healing of the demon-possessed boy. For the disciples to be invited up the mountain by Jesus was wonderful, but they weren’t meant to stay there – the boy needed healing!

“Since coming back down the mountain I have returned to the normal realities of pastoral life: church systems and processes that need adjusting or fixing; trying to be a friend to the guy who seems incapable of kicking his drug problem; spending time with the person suffering significant mental health issues; encouraging the woman with a sick husband. The mountaintop can look far more appealing than the mission, but it is to the mission we are called.

Some of my Christian friends never seem to go up the mountain: it’s almost as if they don’t believe they have the right to, or even the conviction that they are invited. But others I know want to camp out on the mountain permanently, like Peter offering to make booths for Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Both these approaches are mistaken. Jesus does take us up the mountain with him, but for the purpose of sending us back down again.”

What can be true for a Christian conference can also be true for many other things, including holidays. We need to have holidays but we can’t be permanently on holiday! To misquote my friend, Jesus does take us up the mountain of holiday with him, but for the purpose of sending us back down again.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Ignite @ Newday 17

posted in: Events, Prayer 0
We really have had an amazing week. I was blown away by the goodness of God. One of our young people went to the front to make a first time commitment to God, many others had powerful encounters. 2 healings for one young person as well as deep questions asked and discussed, books and worship albums bought, lots of new friendships and fun had. Thank you all so much for those of you who were praying. Please do keep praying for them as we are really excited about how each has moved on their individual journey.
Linda Geevanathan
We hope to hear some more stories from individuals soon!

People Who Leave The Church

We all will know of people who have drifted away from church attendance, as you can imagine I know many. Some I am still in good contact and friendship with. I shared this article with some of them, they confirmed that this is generally true for them. I found it very challenging, but also confirming. We can’t afford to be church-centred and church-focused, as the author of the report says at the end.

In his role as Regional Development Officer for the Church of Scotland and in his studies for a PhD, Steve Aisthorpe was able to talk to and survey a substantial number of those who were no longer attending ‘church’. These are some of his findings (as reported by my friend Geoff Knot):

Firstly some myths busted:

  1. It’s all doom, gloom and decline. Around the world, Christianity is growing and growing in may ways; depth, impact, numbers.
  2. There’s an inevitable slide into secularisation. Growing prosperity, health, education does not lead to secular societies.
  3. The end of Christendom is the end of Christianity. Our Christendom-shaped churches need to realise that substantial numbers of those disengaged from churches want to be part of a vital, revolutionary, compassionate movement of Jesus-followers that existed pre-Christendom.
  4. Decline in church attendance is synonymous with decline in Christianity. 2000+ people leave churches each week in the UK – the majority continue to be committed to their Christian faith.
  5. Christians who do not attend church are all ‘church-leavers’. Many with faith have not attended ‘church’ as they have found the experience does not mirror the course they attended for example. However, they continue to witness, meet others, etc.
  6. If congregations do the right things, leavers will be returners. They are not waiting for the local ‘church’ to change. They are content to live out their faith without reference to religious institutions. Most feel part of the wider Church. A minority would be open to meeting in an informal setting.
  7. Churchless Christians are driven by consumerism. Leaving a church is actually emotionally complex. The evidence points to decisions being rooted in a journey of personal discipleship influenced by deep changes in the individual.

Then some stereotypes, generalisations and assumptions about Christians that are not church-goers. These help deflect from deep examination of causes and therefore the need to change:

  1. The loner. Many meet up with others informally or online.
  2. The backslider. Most people reported their faith journey had been positively impacted – a deepening relationship with God.
  3. The petty-minded. Long-term struggle and deliberation can result in a tipping point over something trivial. This can be misconstrued.
  4. The uncommitted. Many have attended church for decades – the average in the research was 15 years. Considerable committment.
  5. The incomer. New to the area and expecting something different – no – most had lived in the area for many years.
  6. The Christian in name only.

He also looks at how churches can inadvertently create a culture that is helpful and comfortable to some people but challenging and excluding for others e.g. dress code, gender, lack of community, personality types, etc.

A significant recurring theme of those that had left was the frustration with change-resistant culture of congregations rather than alterations they disliked (rarely cited in the research). A transition has been happening for decades and existing structures and practices have for the most part failed to adapt to cultural change. 

The research showed that crises of faith and life take people into seasons of being church-adverse. For a small number this may amount to a sabbatical after which they return. Others have no intention of engaging with the congregations currently available to them but still yearn for a different type of church. They often find other forms of Christian community, whether face-to-face, virtual, structured or informal. They are contentedly non-congregational. Reinforcing this separation is a lack of recognition of vocation e.g. business, irrelevance of sermons to everyday life and the ‘sacred’/’secular’ thinking in church words and actions e.g. praying for missionaries but not those in workplaces. 

The research also showed that while love within the Christian community was often prominent in the reasons for embracing the Christian faith and involvement with a local congregation, it was often a perceived lack of love affecting themselves or others that contributed to or sealed a decision to disengage.

Unexpectedly, the research showed that a sense of commitment to participate in God’s mission was prominent in more than 50% of respondents. It was a concern for the missional challenges in their area that was a decisive motivator for their disengagement from the congregation. They explained that mission opportunities were inadequately met by the local congregation, due to, for example, a focus on internal matters. They have found a release of time to meet and talk to others outside of a faith community.

As Steve says, “The fact that Christianity sometimes becomes church-centred and church-focused rather than Jesus-centred and Kingdom-focused is a tragic reality. Congregations degenerate from being a movement to being a monument, from being dynamic to being static. Eagerness to follow and serve and grow in Christ gives way to routine, monotony and boredom. The main thing is that the main thing remains the main thing.”

Written by Tony Thompson

A Theology of Mental Health

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson 0

Mental health problems impact more people, including Christians, than we sometimes realise. Many within our own church family struggle in this area. This extract from a talk by Will van der Hart who is on staff at Holy Trinity Brompton is relevant and helpful as we seek to understand and help the subject.

“I realised that Christians suffering from mental health problems were often subject to what I’d call the theology of unbelonging. This wasn’t a Biblical theology, it was built upon superstition and misunderstanding around mental health. The extent the theology of unbelonging continues to be espoused in contemporary Christian texts is alarming. Some suggest still that depression is a decision, anxiety is a sin, psychosis is clearly demonic, positivity is a virtue, and all mental health problems can be resolved through prayer. But a true Biblical theology of mental health is of course far from these things. A true theology of mental health is a theology of poverty. A theology of mental health is one that acknowledges that material poverty, homelessness, exclusion, the plight of the UK’s 87,000 prisoners, are all inextricably linked to mental health conditions. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ He meant these poor.

“In 1 Kings 19 verse 4 we see the beginnings of an outworking of a theology of mental health. Elijah is suicidal. He’s been chased around the block by Jezebel who’s been saying all sorts of things about him. He is physically exhausted, no doubt, and he’s certainly psychologically disturbed. He cries out to God, ‘I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life.’ God did not condemn Elijah. God does not exclude Elijah. God didn’t punish Elijah. God didn’t say that Elijah’s theology was out of whack. Instead, God responds in the most Godly biopsychosocial manner you could ever anticipate. ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’, says God. So we see God respond to Elijah with gentility and compassion, celebrating the whole of Elijah, not just his mental faculties, his physical ones too, his sense of exhaustion and desolation. The God of love, present in the desert with the broken.

“Hence, a theology of mental health is an integrated biopsychosocial one. One that integrates mind, body, spirit, community, and family. Jesus himself expressed a full range of emotions -as it says in Isaiah 53:3, he was a man of sorrows, familiar with sufferings. A theology of mental health sees people not as mental health problems to be fixed, but as children of God waiting to be loved.

“Pope John Paul II, in his important 1997 piece of work, The Image Of God In The People With Mental Health, says, ‘Whoever suffers from mental illness always bears God’s image and likeness in himself, as does every human being.’ So a true theology of mental health celebrates the whole person and stands with them in their suffering.

“A theology of mental health is a theology of the victorious Christ who is suffering. The suffering Christ and the victorious Christ are one and the same. Our church will only be a valiant church if it’s a suffering church, a church that does not segregate love and suffering, but loves in suffering.”

You can listen to the full talk using the link below. It is 8 minutes long.

https://youtu.be/E6ZaTJIwHvU

Written by Tony Thompson

Our Role As Peacemakers

God speaks to me in different ways, sometimes it is a thought that comes into my head and I wonder where it came from; at other times, it will be someone or often a number of people saying “I wonder if God is saying……”, sometimes God speaks to me through things I come across that speak powerfully to me.

That has happened in the last few weeks, it started with an interview by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Today programme following the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. His point is that to combat religious extremism, people must be able to “put themselves in the shoes of religious believers”, which they struggle to do because of a lack of religious literacy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05502h4

I came across a similar, but developed point in an academic paper from the Jubilee Centre, a Christian thinktank, written by Colin Chapman. He says we need to “Recognise the role that Christians can play as peacemakers.” And develops this to say

“One of the major problems in Western democracies is that since the link between religion and state has either been totally severed or become almost meaningless, Western governments find themselves at a loss in dealing with Muslims and Islam. Secular politicians can take strong measures to safeguard the rights of every community and to protect their countries from terrorism carried out in the name of Islam. But they simply don’t have the worldview or the language to enable them to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Muslims who want to bring God into the public sphere. In this situation, Western Christians may have a significant role as interpreters, because they ought to be able to understand and sympathise with both sides – with God-fearing Muslims on the one hand (with whom they share many moral values) and secular Westerners on the other (because this is the world in which they have been living). If there is genuine trust between Christians and Muslims, Christians may be able to act as peacemakers and bridge-builders.”

I then read a column in the Times by Alice Thomson entitled “Surge in faith can’t be allowed to divide us”. In the article, it was clear she didn’t understand people of faith. She says,

“No one should be allowed to promote sexism, racism, homophobia or violence under the guise of their faith in this country. Women are never inferior, gay relationships are not abhorrent, no religion is superior and practices such as female genital mutilation need to be condemned by everyone as medieval. Tolerance must go both ways; the religious must also respect their secular neighbours.”


Don’t get me wrong, I hope I am not a sexist or a racist etc. However, the point is that people of faith cannot be told what to believe, whatever faith we adhere too, we believe we submit to a higher power. No one can say that no religion is superior, they are either true or false, right or wrong. I respect other people’s faith, even her secular faith, but they can’t all be true! Surely true is superior to false.
She also says, “Proselytising seems wrong” however secularists don’t seem to realise that they follow a religion and have a faith themselves and try very hard to convince others to share that faith. The article itself is a form of proselytising for secular faith and she clearly thinks that her secular faith is superior.

All this has convinced me that as Christians we have a vital part to play within our society. Our calling to be salt and light has never been more relevant. We need to play a crucial role as peacemakers. We need to understand where people are coming from, we then need to build true friendships across faith boundaries, respecting each other, not imposing our beliefs but seeking to convince them of what we perceive to be truth.

Written by Tony Thompson

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