Interviews by Adrian Warnock: Part 3. Joseph as a picture of the charismatic church
This is the third in a multi-part series of interview clips that Adrian Warnock filmed with Terry Virgo when he was in London with Jubilee Church Enfield.
Tope: I remember, actually, you tweeted recently that you listened to a sermon that you preached… how long ago was that?
Terry: Thirty years ago…yah.
Tope: And the voice was different.
Terry: That’s funny, yes, my son, my youngest son said to me ‘Have you heard your voice on this recording?’ So I said ‘What’s he talking about?’ So I turned it on and it’s strange how your own voice sounds so different thirty years ago. But I was talking about Joseph and just listening to it reminds you of how when the Holy Spirit began to be poured out across the denominations in what was called the Charismatic Movement was starting in the UK and hitherto was the Pentecostal group, which was outside, suddenly people started being filled with the Spirit and it really changed my perspective. And then not only was it an individual experience, I thought ‘No, it must change church – we need new wine skin’. But that wasn’t always received with great enthusiasm. It was contentious, people withstood it, people thought ‘No, no, no… you’re threatening the gospel’ or something. And so it was born in pain, to be honest. The move of the Spirit was born in pain. And I went through a lot of difficulties.
From having enjoyed Christian fellowship, suddenly I had this experience and problems. And others were – people were asked to leave their churches. Some people left their churches and some were pushed. And I found I was leading Bible weeks, as we called them – big summer camps – two or three thousand people and it grew over the years, and I felt God spoke to me about Joseph that he was a seer of visions and a dreamer of dreams. He was a charismatic. He was also a bit obnoxious and adolescent and he didn’t know how to handle it well. And I preached to our people and said ‘Maybe we have been like that, maybe we’ve not handled it well’.
Joseph had an authentic encounter with God but he was thrown out of his family as a result and they were jealous of him. He didn’t do well. He was thrown out. And I felt God spoke to me that Joseph was like the Charismatic Movement, as it were, and people were throwing us out. And then Joseph went through trials, would he resent them but it says he was a successful man, but he was in prison, but he was successful. He didn’t live in the past, he didn’t live in the future, he made it work. Then he had temptation – Potiphars wife, and he went through all kinds of testing. But then ultimately, he didn’t stop believing in his supernatural experience. And he’s in prison and he retained his confidence in God so that when in prison he was told ‘I’ve had a dream’ he didn’t say ‘I used to have dreams, look what, it’s got me into trouble, forget it. I used to believe in that.’ He said ‘Tell me your dream’ and I thought ‘Wow! He still believes in his ability to interpret, he believes in the supernatural’. And it was actually his confidence in the supernatural, and his ability to handle it that got him out of prison. And it brought him to Pharaoh and we all know the story. He was vindicated and he had a good heart. And he said to his brothers ‘You did it for evil, but God did it for good, and God sent me ahead.’
So Joseph has seen a sovereign God bigger than his painful experiences. And I thank God that I believe in the Sovereignty of God, I thank God that I have a reformed faith. I thank God that I believe He is sovereignly over the way things work out. And I thank God I believe in the supernatural – interpreting dreams and visions. And then there came the moment that he actually began to feed the world. And I would say, probably we have found, in the last few years, that calling on us big time – helping the poor, internationally in tough areas, nationally… nearly all the churches we work with have a ‘work with the poor’ ministry. It’s interesting that when Joseph began to feed Egypt that his brothers said ‘Hey there’s food in Egypt, let’s go down’. And I felt in studying it, it came alive to me, that it was actually when Joseph was true to his vision, he cared for the world and then his brothers came and he was restored to his brothers. And his attitude was fantastic – he was full of mercy and thrilled ‘We’re in this together’. He brought them in too and so I enjoy preaching that. And I think in the early days, people saying ‘Oh, you’re saying you’ve got something we haven’t got’, whereas I actually felt ‘I’m a bit like the 4 lepers. You know the 4 lepers, they’re going to die, they’re just nothing but they stumbled on, they stumbled on riches. It’s not like they are any better, but they stumbled on riches – ‘Hey! Look what we’ve found!’ And I felt we’ve found a life in the Spirit. Doesn’t mean we were better – we just stumbled on something that if we stayed true to it, it would enrich us. God has enriched us with his presence. And I’m so glad that we’re finding renewed fellowship with people who plainly they would say ‘I’m a cessationist, I don’t believe that, but I love the word and I love the way you love the word, can we engage some more, can we talk some more?’ So I’m thrilled that that sort of thing’s happening all over the place. So we’re having fresh opportunity to fellowship with people.
Adrian: So there’s a unity, I guess, around, I suppose two things, about seeing the blessing in a sort of ‘What’s happening here, the church is growing, people are becoming Christians?’ and yet perhaps also recognition of actually, at least of the core aspects in terms of the Gospel we believe the same thing. Not everybody does at the moment. I don’t know if you are sensing that. Are you sensing that people are going ‘Hey! I’m so thrilled that you’re basically teaching the same stuff as us’?
Terry: I believe that has been a huge part of it – that people that had initially not really been persuaded that the charismatic gifts are for today and were tending to leave us out. But gradually are realizing ‘Hey, actually we believe the same as us.’ And then people like Stuart Townend writing his great ‘In Christ Alone’ and actually he’s a member of my church! And these truths, yeah, he’s learned them with us – we’ve been preaching them for years!
Adrian: He’s been there since being a teenager hasn’t he?
Terry: Oh absolutely, yeah, I remember Stuart as a teenager. I mean, if you listen to the series on Joseph, you’ll find the first talk you’ll find it’s 75% about how God, it’s all reformed, how God chose him. It’s all talking about how He chose one and not the other. How it’s God’s authority. That’s there right from the beginning.
Tope: Are these talks online?
Terry: Yes, they’re online.
Adrian: They’re on your podcast aren’t they? On your site.
Adrian: As you look out over the Church, globally, if you like, outside of New Frontiers for the moment, just looking at the whole, well outside, in the sense of encompassing it, how is your hope for the future? Do you feel the church is doing well? Do you feel it’s not doing so well? Are there things that worry you? Are there things that thrill you?
Terry: I mean I think it’s so patchy, I am encouraged by these recent developments. Very encouraged that God is leading us across the paths of very good, godly people who we love, and whose books we keep saying to our people ‘read these books, read these books’. And we love the teaching that they bring. We also have the charismatic dimension, which we can integrate. And that encourages me a lot. And that’s happening globally, coz we are involved in many, many nations. And in some places we are seeing quite rapid growth. In other places you feel ‘God there is so much to do’. And one thinks of England – morally lost, confused, you know the Bible phrase ‘Don’t know their right hand from their left’? England is spiritually in such decline. And then if you think beyond England and look across to continental Europe and the Christians there look to England as though we’re enjoying something remarkable.
Adrian: Yeah, a bit like we look at America or Africa and places like that.
Terry: Yeah, yeah, and you think ‘Wow, the need!’ In France, and Spain and Italy, it’s huge. So yeah, there is much to discourage when you think, ‘Wow, the gospel, we need a revival, we need the presence of God, we need great Biblical churches’. And so yeah, there is much that can hurt your heart. But then there is also new life! And the young! I am so thrilled about summer camp when we’ll get 7000 teenagers and they’re listening to Bible teaching and they’re worshipping and they are saying ‘Where will I go?’ and the call ‘Who is going to go to the nations?’ So just this morning, talking to one of the young girls here in this church the end saying ‘I’m going off to another nation’ and so on. Yeah, that’s in our ranks. Many young people in our ranks are saying ‘I want to go and plant a church across the nations’. So that’s very encouraging. You have to keep encouraging your own heart. And I think it comes back to what you were asking earlier – yeah, there are many things that can disappoint – you know it’s painful when people misunderstand you, so you have to encourage your own heart every day. And as George Mueller said ‘That’s my chief duty – to make sure my heart is happy in God every day’. So you mustn’t let the discouragements get to you. You need to encourage your heart every day so you can face the pressures and so you can keep going in the grace of God.