‘Best so far!’ Words I love to hear, though I realise they are not an objective response to the latest Brighton TOAM conference. I know that no-one has carefully lined up the various strengths and weaknesses of all the previous conferences, graded them and carefully calculated that 2010 was the best.
In reality God was with us blessing us, teaching us, inspiring and motivating us, and it was great to be there! At the moment the memory of no previous conference seems to eclipse this one and people are excited and appreciative.
Surely the prayer night carried ‘best ever’ status with its breadth of personalities, locations, reports and the intense intercession that followed. Can we really be stretched across so many nations, languages and cultures and still be such great friends full of united desires and aspirations?
Training track recordings
I have been downloading the recordings of several magnificent training tracks which are so diverse and the result of such thorough research and preparation yet delivered with grace and humility. I have been so proud of the quality of those I have so far listened to, such as Theological Trajectories with its respectful yet careful appraisal and critique of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. The extraordinary breadth of our training tracks includes a wonderful historical review of world mission focussing on William Booth and the Salvation Army, William Carey and Eric Liddell, and the provocative series on ‘Fighting for Charismatic Life in the Church’.
Last year, following Brighton TOAM 2009 thousands downloaded from our conference website and I would urge you not to miss the opportunity to catch up with the great teaching freely available online this year.
Strengthened, armed and prayerful
I have personally been very encouraged by the response of many to my three sessions from Ephesians 6 on Spiritual Warfare, and have been urged to underline that they were by no means simply Bible studies but God’s actual call to us as a people right now!
We must be good soldiers, being strengthened, armed for conflict and prayerfully involved in apostolic advance. The battle is real. Who would have imagined that immediately prior to the conference we would hear of P-J Smyth’s sudden battle with cancer, and that within days of the conclusion of the conference one of our Newfrontiers pastors would be martyred for his faith, shot dead at close range, leaving a wife and five children?
We face genuine conflict of literal life and death proportions. Are we ready for this? Are we in warfare mode? God in His grace has provided everything we need and is calling us into battle.
We should be so encouraged that at Newday, our teenage event in the UK, nearly 7,000 were being inspired not only to serve the local town with practical social action but also hundreds were saved, hundreds were healed and hundreds responded to the challenge of the nations to hear the gospel.
Grace and healings
Since Brighton TOAM I have had the joy of speaking at a Bible Week in Italy where a group of churches gathered for a week of concentrated teaching on the Grace of God. Many received fresh revelation, and were liberated and so enthusiastic about such an encounter with God’s presence in His Word. Several were healed and there are plans to translate and publish God’s Lavish Grace in Italian.
On his return to East Grinstead, Steve Alliston who had been with me reported to his local church about the healings that had taken place. At the conclusion of the meeting one man was prayed for who was due in hospital later that day for an operation on the Monday morning to remove his stomach and take out large growths. He had been in pain for years and so inflamed that he had to wear dungarees as he could no longer cope with a waistband on normal trousers. On the following day new CT scans were taken and the hospital couldn’t understand why they were so different from the ones of the previous month. There were no traces of growths and all inflammation had gone. They had expected surgery to last for hours and told him to expect ten days in hospital. Instead they gave him a meal and sent him home that afternoon!
The tide is turning
These accounts of healing vividly remind me of the beginnings of the charismatic movement. I remember hearing of increasing numbers of individuals from different parts of the UK who were receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking with tongues. Something fresh was happening on an increasingly wide scale. Soon the charismatic movement would be sweeping the nations.
Now I hear repeated stories of healings and powerful manifestations of the presence of God’s Spirit in the meetings and on the streets. Healing seems so much more accessible! What will local churches look like in two or three years?
When recently invited to a debate on charismatic issues among 800-900 pastors in London, I was asked if I did not realise that by the time 2 Timothy was written spiritual gifts had already disappeared! The best answer to that interpretation of Scripture is not to argue one Bible verse against another but to go in faith to the towns and cities of our nations, preach the gospel and heal the sick as Jesus told us to.
The battle is on. Let’s be strengthened, get our armour on and prayerfully go to war!