Yes, it’s been a long time since I contributed to this blog but what a summer it’s been.
Our Brighton leaders’ conference Together on a Mission was a remarkable success and now approaching 40,000 downloads are being listened to around the world. It’s great to know the conference keeps speaking. It would appear that my own teaching on Receiving the Holy Spirit was particularly popular and I will soon be adding it to this blog.
Since the conference I have had the joy of visiting churches in Montana and Idaho and making wonderful new friends and sensing God’s guidance in those friendships and God’s purpose in our being joined.
Wendy and I then experienced a delightful holiday break in Southern France in the sunshine.
Most recently though we have just had a memorable visit to South Africa, first of all speaking at Together on a Mission in Johannesburg, where we joined with P-J Smyth and his great people there together with Stephen van Rhyn, Julian Adams and Tom Shaw from Canterbury. The church that P-J has planted is now approaching 400 members though it’s only been going a couple of years, and they have already planted out another church across the other side of town which is rapidly approaching 100.
We walked on a massive site – acres of land which they are currently looking to buy, which will be a huge venture of faith. We enjoyed an outstanding time together and I was so impressed at the zeal and godly commitment amongst the people there.
From Johannesburg we flew first to Victoria Falls and enjoyed a delightful two-day break. What an amazing sight Victoria Falls is. How it speaks to you of God’s super abundant grace and lavish supplies of His Spirit and total sufficiency.
While in that neighbourhood we made a few new friends!
This was quite an experience, as you can imagine! We were given very careful instructions of where to stand and where not to stand and how to behave ourselves in the company of these amazing creatures! I don’t think I shall forget this encounter for a long time, especially when one of them from the depths of its throat gave the deep roar that sends a shudder down your spine.
To be honest though, my most lasting memory of this trip to southern Africa will not be the lions or Victoria Falls but our wonderful churches gathered together at Megavision in Harare. Over 1,000 believers gathered and against the backdrop of severe economic crisis, hardship and political chaos, they shone like stars!
The worship was among the most magnificent that I have ever been involved in. The joy was unmistakeable. The delight in God was exceptional. The preaching of our brothers, particularly Scott Marques, Sibs Sibanda and Mbonisi Malaba was breathtaking. They could have stood on any platform to preach such magnificent Biblically-rooted, God-glorifying teaching, but particularly against the background of their present lifestyle, it was truly awesome.
Verses of Scripture which we take for granted in the comforts of the Western world took on new meaning and far greater challenge given the context in which they live. I never heard anybody whining about their conditions. I heard nobody simply looking for an end to all this. Rather, I heard provocative challenge about honouring God in the midst of it, glorifying Him for His faithfulness in the midst of severe trial. I simply wish that every pastor with whom I am associated could be plunged into that Zimbabwe situation among our believing friends for a week or two simply to be exposed to their joy and faith and pure godliness. I was also deeply humbled to meet Zambians who had walked first for two days to get to Lusaka where they could then catch a bus, which would take another day’s journey, to attend the conference. Three days to get there for a three-day conference followed by a three-day journey home!
I cannot thank God enough for the high privilege of being identified with these wonderful people, brothers and sisters who glorify God against such a background. I feel I have been changed by being there and was thrilled and privileged to preach there for six sessions.
Now I am off to Ghana and know I will once again be deeply provoked by our African brothers and their radical commitment to the gospel of grace, sadly alongside much that is legalistic, religious and sometimes borders on being ‘another gospel’.
May God help us to continually change the expression of Christianity around the world so that it glories in grace and celebrates the wonder of God’s love and presence with us and a pure devotion to Him for which He is so worthy.