Reflections from England
Rev. Sandy Millar and Mrs Eleanor Mumford of London comment on refreshing from the Lord experienced in England.
Reminiscent of Revivals
Rev. Sandy Millar (Now Bishop), then Vicar of the prestigious inner-city Anglican church, Holy Trinity Brompton, comments on renewal and refreshing which commenced in May 1994 in their church.
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Reflections from England:
Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders:
The manifestations themselves are not as
significant as the working of the Spirit of God
in the individual and the church
This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel! (Acts 2:16) Or, as the old version puts it: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.’
This … is … that!
The immediate responses to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost included amazement and amusement. Some, Luke tells us, made fun of them and said, ‘They’ve had too much wine’ (v. 13). Why would anyone who wanted to be taken seriously suggest they’d drunk too much? Presumably because they looked drunk, sounded drunk and generally behaved as though they were drunk!
It is interesting that St Paul too in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus links and contrasts the effects on the body of alcohol (‘Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery…’) with the effects of being immersed with the Spirit of God (‘… but be filled with the Spirit’) which leads to ‘speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Paul wasn’t at Pentecost but many times he’d seen people genuinely filled with the Spirit. Indeed he seems to have been able to tell pretty quickly whether disciples were or were not filled with the Spirit!
He may have been thinking of his visit to Ephesus described in Acts 19 when he asked what we would think of as a rather direct question: ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ To which he got back an equally direct and honest answer, ‘No we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. And, as we all know, ‘on hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus and, when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied’. Luke adds that there were about twelve men in all.
Since about Tuesday of two weeks ago, we have begun to see an astonishing outpouring of the Spirit of God upon our own church and congregation. It seems to be a spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit and there are certainly some very surprising manifestations of the Spirit very excitingly reminiscent of accounts of early revivals and movements of God’s Spirit.
Some of the manifestations include prolonged laughter, totally unselfconscious for the most part, and an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). For some it is prolonged weeping and crying with a sense of conviction and desire for forgiveness, purity and peace with God. For others it seems to be a silent reception of the Spirit of God sometimes leading to falling down and sometimes standing up, sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting.
There are great varieties of the manifestations of the Spirit. They are breaking out both during services and outside them in homes and offices. At times they are easy to explain and handle, and other times they are much harder and more complicated!
We had been hearing for several days of the movement of God’s Spirit in the Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and a number of people have come to us from there telling us about what was going on and of what they thought it all meant.
For that reason Jeremy Jennings and I decided to go to Toronto at the beginning of this month just for two and a half days to see what we could learn and what conclusions, if any, at this stage it was possible to draw. The manifestations are quite extraordinary and would undoubtedly be alarming if we hadn’t read about them previously in history.
That’s really why I started where I started in this article. You don’t get accused of being drunk just because you speak in tongues. And many of the manifestations of this modern movement of the Spirit of God carry with them many of the symptoms of drunkenness. Laughter, swaying about, slurred speech, movements which are difficult to control … all sometimes continuing for long periods of time.
The manifestations themselves of course are not as significant as the working of the Spirit of God in the individual and the church. The manifestations are the symptom and therefore of course it is to the fruit that we look rather than the signs.
Times of refreshing
The church in Toronto first experienced these symptoms on January 20th (1994) and since then they have been ministering to an increasing number of outside people: ministers and church members from all over America, Canada, now Europe and even further afield.
Meetings go on night after night (every night except Monday) and include a pastors’ meeting on a Wednesday from 12 to roughly half-past three in the afternoon. Their understanding is that God seems to be pouring out his Spirit, refreshing his people and drawing them closer to himself, revealing his love to them and a deep sense of preciousness in away that kindles their own sense of the love of God, their love for Scripture, and their desire to be involved in the activities of the Spirit of God today.
So this is primarily a movement toward God’s people. Naturally we expect it to flow out and over into a movement that will affect the rest of the world but for the moment it’s God’s deep desire to minister to his church – to refresh, empower, and prepare them fora wider work of his Spirit that will affect the world to which the church is sent.
Charles Finney (1792-1875) – one of history’s greatest evangelists – records his experience of the Holy Spirit immediately following his conversion:
The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me body and soul. I could feel the impression like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love… And no words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after another until I recollect I cried out ‘I shall die if these effects continue to pass over me’.
During the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in the 1735 revival in New Hampshire, he described some of the effects of the spontaneous work of the Spirit of God. ‘The town seemed to be full of the presence of God,’ he wrote. ‘It was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.’
He describes something which happened during one of his sermons in New Jersey on March 1st 1746: ‘Toward the close of my talk, divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and produced tears and sobs in some under concern and more especially a sweet and humble melting in sundry that, I have reason to hope, were truly gracious.’
During the Cambusland revival in Scotland in 1742, Doctor Alexander Webster described some of the effects of the preaching there: ‘There were two kinds – the outcrying and trembling among the unconverted and the ecstatic joy among believers… indeed such joy was more a part of this work than the sorrow over sin. It appears that many believers found themselves so moved by a sense of the Saviour’s love to them and, in turn, by their new love to him, as to be lifted almost into a state of rapture.’
I could go on and on – and probably you could add your own accounts that you’ve read about in history. There are more than one in the Acts of the Apostles.
I think it’s important that we should stay close to the Lord and be grateful for every sign of his grace upon us. Don’t let’s get too caught up with the symptoms of his Spirit, but more with him and his love for us.
Let’s encourage those who think they have experienced nothing (it may or may not be true) – and let’s above all continue to pray that through this outpouring of God’s Spirit he will build a church worthy of him: holy, equipped, and full of love and grace towards him and the outside world.
Meanwhile let’s pray that it may continue. And continue to pray for one another.
Mrs Eleanor Mumford , wife of the pastor of the South West London Vineyard church, comments on her visit to Toronto in this edited version of her message at Holy Trinity Brompton on Sunday morning 29 May 1994.
This whole move of the Lord
is all about Jesus
I have just been to a church in Toronto in Canada. I heard that there were things going on. I wanted to go and get into the middle. I went because I knew I was bankrupt and that I was longing. And I went with a spirit of tremendous expectancy.
So the first night I went forward and this delightful pastor said to me, ‘Do tell me who you are and what you’ve come for.’
I said, ‘I’ve come for all that you’ve got. I have two days and I’ve come from London.’
So he looked at me with a glint in his eye and then proceeded to pray for me on and off for the next two days.
At the same time there was a young Chinese pastor who arrived at Toronto from Vancouver where he was pastoring and he came fasting. The darling man looked as if he’s spent his whole life fasting and he was the most wonderful and godly man. As he arrived at the church the Lord spoke to him clearly and said, ‘You can forget about your fasting. This is a time for celebration.’
Indeed it was.
An ordinary little church
The Airport Vineyard church in Toronto is a funny little place. It’s just a very ordinary little church set in an office block on the end of the runway of the airport. Even that in itself, I thought, was gracious of the Lord because so many of us can get there so easily. It takes 10 minutes from the check-out to the church!
It was a very ordinary place. I was reminded when I went in there of how the people in the crowd said at Pentecost: ‘Are not these Galileans? Are these not just terribly ordinary people?’
I went in and I thought, ‘Well, God bless them, these are just ordinary people like me.’
It’s just to do with Jesus, and yet the attitude and the sense of expectancy was enormous. As the worship leader strummed his rather tuneless guitar, he stood up and said, ‘What have you come for?’
We all said, ‘We’ve come for the Lord. We’ve come for more of God.’
And he said, ‘Well, if you’ve come for God you’ll not be disappointed.’
From that moment on that was the truth.
There was just a beauty on those who were ministering there – the leaders and the pastors and the worship leaders – the sort of beauty that I guess the people saw in Acts when they looked at the disciples and they said, ‘These people have been with Jesus.’
These Canadians were just men and women who had spent 130 days in the company of Jesus who was pouring out his Spirit on them. They shone with faces like Stephen. It was beautiful to see.
I saw the power of God poured out in incredible measure and it was all accompanied by phenomena.
Jonathan Edwards, a great man of God during the eighteenth century who was part of the Great Awakening in America, wrote this in his journal of a similar outpouring of the Spirit of God at that time: ‘The apostolic times seem to have returned upon us, such a display has there been of the power and grace of the Spirit.’
He wrote of fear, sorrow, desire, love, joy, tears, and trembling, of ‘groans and cries, agonies of the body and the failing of bodily strength.’
So I thought, ‘Well, none of this is new. It may be unusual but none of it is new.’
Edwards also wrote, ‘We are all ready to own that no man can see God and live. If we see even a small part of the love and the glory of Christ, a foretaste of heaven, is it any wonder that our bodily strength is diminished.’
That is indeed what happened to many of us despite ourselves.
The truth is that this whole move of the Lord is all about Jesus. I was there for only 48 hours. I never heard anybody talk about the devil. I never heard anybody talk about spiritual warfare. I never heard a principality or a power mentioned. We were so preoccupied with the person of Jesus that there was really no time. There was no space for talk of the opposition because there was just a growing passion for the name of Jesus and for the beauty of his presence among his people.
So I went scurrying back to the Scriptures and scurrying back to church history and it’s all happened before. It’s all in the book and there’s nothing that I saw – however strange or unusual – that I haven’t since been able to read about in the Bible.
Jonathan Edwards’ wife had an intimate acquaintance with her carpet for 17 days during the time of the Great Awakening. For 17 days she was unable to make their meals or take care of the family or look after the visitors.
She said after 17 days that she had a delightful sense of the immediate presence of God – of ‘his nearness to me and of my dearness to him.’
I thought to myself when I came home, that’s what this is about. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.’ Wonderful, wonderful things are going on.
During the time I was there I saw all sorts of people coming and going. There were many very weary pastors who turned up with their even more weary wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.
There was one very sensible middle-aged man who’d been in pastoral ministry for years and when he spoke to us after having been there for several days he was just behaving like an old drunk. It was funny. Once he stood up and talked about the intimacy that he’d gained with Jesus. Then the leading pastor said to him, ‘Well thank you, Wayne, for telling us about this. May we pray for you?’
He said, ‘I’d be glad for you to pray for me.’
They prayed for him and down he went and he rolled on the floor for the next two hours and no-one took any notice. He just continued to commune with his God.
I saw another young pastor who talked at the pastors’ seminar that I went to. He was a very all-together young man – quite serious minded and godly and thrilled with everything but very much in control and very anxious when he came and not at all sure of what he’d come to.
For a day or two he just watched and he just basked in the presence of the Lord. After a day or two he started to twitch and he was a little embarrassed. Then he started to shake and he was very embarrassed. Then after a while of shaking and laughing in the presence of the Lord he decided, ‘Who gives a rip? Who cares what people say?’
A verse in Psalms says, ‘gladness and joy shall overtake me.’ This young man had been overtaken by the gladness of the Lord. But he had a sense of responsibility and felt, ‘I’ve got to keep my church on the road.’
So he decided that the obvious thing to do was to go into the office and to type out the church bulletin, the news sheet.
‘Someone’s got to keep a grip round here,’ he said to himself.
So he went to type out the bulletin and as he got to announcing the seminar. The title of it was ‘Come Holy Spirit’.
He typed, ‘Come Holy Spirit’ and fell under the power of God.
There was another young man who was a youth worker who arrived and he was worn down with ministry. His wife had said to him, ‘Why don’t you go to Toronto?’ She thought he was getting far too straight and serious.
So he came to Toronto and arrived the night that I did. That night he fell on the ground and he laughed and laughed. I thought he would have died. The next day he spoke about what God had done for him and the refreshment that had come to his soul. Then they said to him, ‘Would you like us to pray for you again?’
He said, ‘I think so.’
So we prayed and down he went and just laughed his way through hour after hour of the pastors’ seminar.
And you think to yourself, ‘What is this?’
But this is just the refreshing of the Spirit of God. It talks in the book of Acts about times of refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord, and that’s what God is doing.
He’s pouring his Spirit out upon us. He’s sending his joy and he’s refreshing our spirits just because he loves us.
I’m not even sure that he’s equipping us. I’m not even sure it’s all about being better this, better that, better ministers. It think it’s just his love for us. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.
Joy and refreshing
I could tell you heaps of stories. There are stories about people who are ringing one another up and getting led to Christ over the phone.
There was a story about a young woman who’d lain on the floor and laughed for two hours. Then she got up and decided she was peckish and went off to a little fast food restaurant. She sat down. Opposite, she saw a whole family sitting at a table and, completely out of character, she went to them and said, ‘Would you like to be saved?’ And they all said yes! The whole family was led to Christ.
I went to the Dolphin school [a Christian school in Clapham] the other day and talked to them about what the Lord had been doing and I prayed for them. The Lord fell on those children aged five years old and they were laughing and weeping for the lost and crying out to the Lord. The teachers were affected and the parent were rolling around.
I thought, ‘God, this is a glorious thing you’re doing. This is fantastic.’
Jesus is breaking down the barriers of his church because he’s coming for a bride, and he wants his bride to be one.
We’ve been meeting with Baptist pastors this week. We’ve been meeting with New Frontiers pastors. We’ve been meeting with the Anglicans. And God is pouring his Spirit out on us all and it’s a glorious thing.
I was reminded of that verse in the Psalms (133:1,3), ‘How blessed it is when brothers dwell together in unity … for there the Lord commands the blessing.’
He doesn’t just invite it, or suggest it. He commands a blessing on us when we dwell together in unity – when we love one another and we love one another’s churches and we bless one another’s people.
So God is moving, not just on this funny little church at the end of the runway. He’s moving across the denominations. He’s moving across the land. He’s moving across London and England in a fantastic way. And he’s moving across the world.
Greater love for Jesus
What are the perceived results so far?
For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a grater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible, a greater sense that these are glorious, glorious days in which to be alive. I’m thrilled about the Scriptures and I’m going back to the Word and finding that it’s all been there from the very beginning.
I’m excited about church history. I have a heightened sense of what’s been going on up to this point.
I have an ever stronger sense of the whole church than ever before. The Lord said to them in Toronto right at the beginning, ‘This is not about the Vineyard; this is about the Kingdom.’ This is not about any one church. This is about the Kingdom, and about the Bride of Christ. Right across the church Jesus’ passion for his Bride is beginning to be understood.
I’ve also discovered that I’m desperate to give this away. I haven’t had this appetite for ministry for years. I mean, I’ve always been enthusiastic but I’ve not had this passion before. I’ve just found that there’s a greater recklessness in me than there’s ever been before because God is coming upon us, and the joy of the Lord is coming on the church and Jesus is restoring his joy. And his laughter is like medicine to the soul.
In our church the people are getting freed and the people are getting healed. We’ve got people who have gone down on the floor and got up healed. Nobody ever knew they were sick and they got better without us even naming the words.
The Lord is coming with mercy and kindness.
The prodigal son went to look for parties but he discovered that the best party was in his father’s house. Isn’t that the truth?
(c) HTB in Focus, 12 June 1994, the monthly paper of Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London. Renewal Journal #5 (1995:1), pp. 24-31.
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