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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Cwmbran Outpouring

So yesterday I made the totally bonkers trip of driving to Wales and back in a day from Sussex... Why? To go and see for myself what is going on at Victory Church, in Cwmbran, South Wales. I had read a report (here) about it and felt God was prompting me to go. The thing was I had no time; next week I'm on retreat, the week after at a conference, and most of all I wanted to be honouring to my husband and not be zooming off all over the place yet again! So I literally had one free day and it all worked with the kids and school runs etc, so off I went and had to be back the same day...

I arrived in the afternoon and had a chat with two of the staff who were lovely and filled me on on all that had been going on and how people were getting saved each night and being healed, how people were coming from all over the place just to see what God is doing and to receive a touch from him. 

I spent some time in the main auditorium in the afternoon and to be honest I just couldn't focus, I was asking God why he had sent me there and what he wanted to show me and I was just so distracted, so instead I went into Cwmbran for a few hours with a copy of Pastor Richard's book 'To Catch a Thief' that they had kindly given me. Turns out this was a total God thing as I sat and read the whole thing over a cuppa (or two) in Costa! And I think it helped me to understand a little bit of what God is doing there. Pastor Richard's background is that he was once a drug addict and criminal and spent time in prison. God rescued him from this and turned his life around, and it is this kind of ministry that is so central to what he is doing now, reaching into the real depths, to people who some would call the 'depths of society', people who others would turn away from, and yet at Victory Church they are welcomed into loving arms and so, are meeting Jesus.

So, having read the book, I went back to the church around 5.30pm and found the place buzzing with expectant people, some who had travelled long distances to be there, others coming again, having been night after night, others being brought by friends and neighbours. The atmosphere was one of huge expectance and people were already queueing, and by 6.30 the queue was out the door!  I met up with a couple of friends, the lovely Anita from 'Dreaming Beneath the Spires blog' and her husband Roy, who had come from Oxford. As we went into the main auditorium at 7pm the worship team were already in full flow and immediately people joined into a powerful time of worship. Pastor Richard felt led to pray for  people with blood disorders and many went forward to be prayed for. One thing I noticed was that even though he hadn't given an 'altar call' at this point, so many people went forward to give their lives to Jesus anyway, one after the other, and eventually he just asked anyone else to come forward who wanted to give their lives,  and he then prayed for around 10 people at the same time. This is one thing that has marked this outpouring and I guess is the true sign that God is doing something, that many people are getting saved each night.  

Later the Pastor spoke, and I have to say I was so impressed with his humility and honesty. He spoke of his own experiences but also of what God is doing and how they are just taking one day at a time, not being over confident, but just daily asking God what he is doing. He talked about how often we long for revival but we just aren't prepared for it, and yet here, he said, we have been preparing. And I could really see that, having spoken to the staff earlier, the structure of the churches (they have planted four from the main one already in just three years) is well organised, with a training programme and good links to Victory Outreach UK, the organisation that helped Pastor Richard when he was released from Prison. In fact he himself is now Chief Exec of Victory Outreach UK and the Victory churches have a team of Pastors covering their plants.

Times like these are often messy, and it was! People were dropping all over the place, there was much laughter. But I loved how they welcomed everyone, even those that were clearly off their heads (and there were a few!) there was such a diverse mix of people just gathered together to meet with Jesus. Everything was about Jesus, and I have heard others say that, and stress that this outpouring is all about him. Jesus is at the heart of it, not the Pastor, or the church or anything else, but Jesus, and he gets all the glory.

Pastors, leaders and those needing healing were specifically invited for prayer although I think everyone in the place wanted to be prayed for! And I did go forward and there was a tangible sense of the power of God moving.  He is clearly on the move there!

One thing I did feel (and I don't want to deter anyone from going, and this is my personal opinion only) was that I felt that what is going on there is very much about Wales and particularly the valleys area. I was struck by the fact that parts of Cwmbran seemed deprived and run down and I asked one of the staff about this who confirmed that the valleys generally are marked by deprived areas, unemployment and so on and I guess that so often leads to alcohol, drugs and crime being more prevalent. It was this that I really felt God was and is addressing there. So I had a look at their website this morning and it says this:

Victory Church started with a passion to see the Gospel saturate Wales. The purpose was to start a church in Cwmbran and to expand from there into the rest of Wales and the Valleys. God spoke clearly to Pastor Richard and give him a mission to preach the Gospel and teach the bible that would result in transformed lives.

They also have a vision to plant 50 churches in 10 years in Wales and I really felt like this is just the start of that. That God is bringing these people, largely from the nearby area and that through them these churches will be planted across Wales. It is abundantly clear that God is on the move there and I would not be surprised if it takes far less than 10 years to plant those churches, I think God has plans far bigger, and as we sang last night of 'changing a nation' I really believe God is going to do that in Wales. This is just the beginning. So watch this church....!

Just to clarify, I'm not saying that people won't be touched and take this move of the spirit elsewhere (and indeed people have already said that and I certainly prayed for our team back here in this mornings staff meeting!) but I just had a sense that the main heart of this is for Wales and for those really deprived areas. I would also say that if your church is in a deprived area or you have people experiencing these kind of problems, drug abuse, alcoholism etc, then do go. Go, and ask God for that annointing and take it away!

Lastly, to give God the glory some more... I had to leave at 10pm and the meeting was still going on, but with a 3 hour drive ahead of me I didn't have much choice. I had prayed before hand, that if God wanted me to go he would give me the stamina and energy to do so in less than a day, and having suffered with fatigue in the past, some of you will know this was a bit of an ask! However, the drive was a sinch! (is that how you spell sinch...?!) On the way there and back I prayed, sang and was just having fun, I had planned to stop and sleep in the car for a few hours on the way home, and yet I didn't need to. I didn't feel at all tired until I got to Gatwick, which is just 10 mins drive from where I live. No sleepiness, no head nodding! nothing. And I don't really feel tired today either, and I've done a days work now too! Praise God :)

If you want to read more, Victory Church is posting info on their facebook page and website with regular updates of meetings and healings etc. I can't vouch for any of them because I didn't speak to anyone who had been healed, but what I will say is that to me it seemed totally genuine.

Update: You can read Anita's post here

Friday, 19 April 2013

Revival in Wales

So, news of a revival in Cwmbran, Wales seems to be going viral on the internet. Reports of amazing healings, salvations and people meeting God in powerful ways are coming out of Victory Church in droves. There seems to little concrete info (it only began last week!) with a few bits on Victory church's website but there is a very comprehensive report from David Pike on his blog 'Welldigger', which I highly recommend you read! 

I'm not a revival hunter at all, but I am always inspired when I hear of reports around the world, of God moving powerfully, and now, something amazing seems to be happening just a few hours from where I live. I can't tell you how excited I am, and I am hoping to get up there in the next few days. If I do I will of course post a report on it!

I know some who will think that if I drop everything and run to Wales to see what is going on, that I am nuts. But do you know what, I don't care. If God is pouring something out in the UK, if he is doing something new here, I want to be part of it, I want to experience it! I've really been interested in the book of Esther recently, and in fact wrote about her a few weeks back (here), so I was amazed to hear that this revival began with the Pastor at Victory Church preaching from the book of Esther...

If anyone else has been up there I'd love to hear about it, in the meantime, here's a little taster from Davids Blog, of what happened on the first night.... Do read the full report, it says so much more. (And huge thanks to David for allowing me to reprint some of his post).

The recent outpouring began on Wednesday night 10th April 2013 at approximately 7.35pm. At that specific time, Pastor Richard was praying for an older man in the congregation called Paul who ten years before had been involved in a serious car accident which left him crippled and in a wheelchair, unable to walk. Richard had just finished speaking from the book of Esther, and invited the people to bring their own Haman to the king's feast, in other words, their own particular problem or need. For Paul, that was his disability. As Richard prayed for him, Paul found he was able to move his legs. He then tried to stand and found he could. The next thing that happened, as the truth of what God was doing dawned on him, was that he lifted the heavy weelchair triumphantly above his head to demonstrate he was healed. The church erupted as he then set off to run around the building without any sign of limitation. Faith was ignited in the people, and in the praise that followed several other people found themselves spontaneously receiving wholeness without anyone laying hands on them. 

Update: Read my report on visiting the outpouring here

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Carl Tuttle Testimony

So, in the last few years we have had Carl Tuttle visit our church a couple of times. For those that don't know, he worked very closely with John Wimber right at the beginning of the Vinyard movement having some amazing experiences with God, as you can imagine. He then took over from Wimber as Lead Pastor. Sadly this was the start of a difficult time in Carl's life, but God has turned this around and he is now back ministering and leading worship. When he came to our church the first time it was his first ministry trip abroad in years and was as a result of a word from God and many confirmations! It is pretty clear that God has big plans for his future, as he continues to minister, speak and travel to share the Gospel. 

Carl sent me this video this week which shares some of his testimony. It shows such raw honesty about what he has been through and how Jesus has shaped his life that I really wanted to share it (I have asked his permission!).

It is so humbling to see someone that has been revered and held up in high esteem in Christian Ministry, fall from favour and yet still love and honour Jesus in all he does. There are others who have been in his position, who have fallen, or who have made wrong choices and lost favour, others who just needed help and yet so often they get discarded, left by the wayside to struggle without help. In this testimony Carl says that within all that he learned that all he needed was Jesus, which is such an amazing place to be. But at the same time it's so important to recognise that our Christian leaders need support. And if they fall, they need help, support and love, not condemnation and rejection...

For info, Carl is planning to come back to the UK in October/November if you are interested in hearing him speak. You can also find out more about him at his website. Hope you enjoy the video.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church

So I've been reading a book by Danny Silk (from Bethel Church in the US) called 'Powerful & Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church' and I've got to say it's fab! As the title might imply, Silk obviously takes the position that Women should be able to lead in Churches. Now, I am a Bethel fan and I love a lot of what they do over there, but I recognise that some don't - it's very American, some would say it's extreme, some might say it's even heretical. Personally I think that's a load of tosh but I can see why some would find Bethel a bit hard to get a grip on. The reason I say all this, is to say: if that's you, then don't discount this book because of it's Bethel links! I think it's a very balanced book, with some great scriptural basis for his opinions, and it addresses the main points against women leading rather than riding rough-shod over them. I would recommend it to anyone considering this issue.

I should say my own position is that I believe women should be able to lead in the church. I didn't always feel that way, but when I didn't it was basically because I was uneducated about the whole thing. I now work for an Anglican fresh expression church and I am shortly going to start training to be an Anglican Priest. The journey to this point has not been easy it's fair to say, and I am in one of the most traditional dioceses in the country, but actually the problems I have faced have been more about the kind of ministry I would like to be in (and the kind of church I attend) than the fact that I have boobs. The church that I am in fully supports women's ministry and in fact there are several women on the staff team and one on the oversight team.

It's very interesting that many evangelical churches are anti-women in church leadership, particularly in the US, and yet Bethel which is certainly evangelical in it's outlook, does not adhere to all the beliefs that often go with evangelical churches. Our church is very similar in it's outlook to Bethel. Obviously for the Anglican church in this country there is a very real glass ceiling (which all being well will shortly be shattered) of not having women Bishops. I find it utterly amazing that women can be overlooked in such a way and yet it actually happens on so many levels in the church. Do you know at the vote at general synod the women reps of this diocese all voted against the motion. That staggers me more than anything.  Women are the ones who put up with being put on sunday school duty, or preparing the flowers, or making the coffee, even those with amazing spiritual gifts and yet given the opportunity to make a difference they would not stand up and do it! So often the church stifles the gifts God has given them and puts them where they don't want to be but the truth is that some women go along with this argument, and more than that, they actually reinforce it.

One of the main points Danny Silk makes in this book is that without women in leadership we don't have a balance. A balance of opinions, skills, gifts. So how can we expect to run a balanced church? The bible talks in several places about the body of Christ and each part having it's own function, but together they form a whole. Surely by missing a part of that we are creating an unbalanced body?

Another way he talks about this is that by saying that in empowering women, it also releases men into their true destiny. It's like the opposing business models which say 1) Work on your weak points so that you will be all round good worker or: 2) work on your strong points, this is where you are naturally gifted and can increase in your productivity. 1 - is the old school view and 2 - seems to be the norm these days. So if all our male leaders are trying to be everything, trying to fulfil all roles, they will become weaker in their actual gifts, wasting too much time and energy on the things they are not naturally gifted to do. Actually how much more efficient is it to encourage everyone in their giftings regardless of their gender? It's the importance of a team working together, inspired, anointed and gifted to do God's will. Silk uses the example of a family, and so often we talk of the church as a family don't we? (and I'm not going to go into discussion here about single parent families, homosexual parents or anything else) but most families have a mother and a father, and each has a role to play, we cannot expect men to fulfil both roles and it's the same in the church, each brings a different view and different skills. 

It seems such an obvious point and yet so often we get bogged down in how one person interprets a scripture over another's interpretation. I believe we have to form our opinions based on our own experience of Jesus and of the bible. It's a dangerous thing to take every or indeed any scripture out of context and quote it literally. And in fact all of the scriptures that are used to confirm the view that women shouldn't lead can be taken in more than one way, especially if you look at the context surrounding them. So it becomes one persons view against another. So with that in mind we are left with our own opinions and our own experiences. This is mine:

I absolutely believe that God has called me into ministry in the church. This is not something I have sought, in fact I spent a long time in denial about the whole thing. (and more here). And yet this calling was confirmed so many times and in many ways, through people who didn't know me, through people who did, through people in the church and out of it. And at every turn I have asked God to shut the door if this is not right. How can that be explained if women shouldn't be in leadership? Am I continually hearing God wrong? Are the people who confirmed that calling in me hearing God wrong? Is the Bishop wrong? is God wrong? 

(links above to other posts I have written on my experience!)

If you are someone considering this issue, I would really recommend the book and I'd love to know what others have thought of it...