I am very excited to have booked into the “When Heaven Invades Earth” conference in Tunbridge, Kent this May.
Bill Johnson is the Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, where that are seeing what can only be described as amazing and outstanding miracles. What excites me about what I read in books like “When Heaven Invades Earth“, “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind” (both by Bill Johnson) or even “The Ultimate Treasure Hunt” by Kevin Dedmon is that the culture of the church in Bethel is one that demonstrates the love and power of God not merely in the confines of the church, but outside too.
Whilst some, myself included on occasion, find the outworking of this teaching in some people produces things I find uncomfortable I have become convinced recently that “I should fear lukewarmness far more than I do radicalism (Stef Liston)” . I genuinely believe that the church, and therefore us as those who make up the church, needs to be far more radical than the sedimentary culture we have come to accept as “normal church life” currently dictates. (see our church recent sermon series – The Radical Life of the Normal Christian”
I am convinced that there is more to a Holy Spirit filled life than I currently know or may have experienced personally. I long to experience the tangible presence of God not simply in church (which I deeply desire) but in everything I do. I want to recognise the Holy Spirits presence in every action and learn to hear his voice and follow his lead even as I walk to the coffee shop. Will he speak to me every time? I don’t know to be honest, but I do know that if I don’t listen or if have no expectation that he might, then I will never hear him even if he did! In fact, this Sunday I will be preaching on this very thing … Listen to this FREE Sermon | Download this FREE Sermon).
Some have asked me “do you agree with everything Bill Johnson says” and my honest answer is “No, I don’t any more than I agree with everything Mark Driscoll or John Piper says” (both big hero’s of mine). I long for the preaching and communication skills of Mark Driscoll, particularly as that would be one of the gifts I believe God has given me, and I desire to study and understand the scriptures like John Piper. Would I build church like Driscoll? No, not entirely because, by way of example, whilst he is not a cessationist theologically, he is one in the practise of his church meetings and I would want and expect to see the Holy Spirit gifts operating in and through the congregation in our meetings. John Piper and I would differ in terms of how we perceive the “expectation for healing today” as I beleive that we should pray for the sick and expect them to be healed and that this is not something where we simply see glimpses of today but should wait for the fullness on Jesus return. (and I submit these differences very humbly and not saying that are factually correct, but are just my perceptions at this time). So “do I agree with everything Bill Johnson says”, No I don’t… but he is seeing something of the power of the Holy Spirit that I am, thus far, not seeing and I would be foolish to reject it simply because there are some areas of theological difference. As another pastor friend of mine recently said “We must learn to be discerning. How about following a biblical model like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who are definitely among ‘the early church’. When they heard Paul’s teaching they examined the scriptures daily to see if these things were true.“ The Church in Bethel are seeing cancer healed, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing as they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are these miracles necessarily a reflection of their theology? Possibly not. Is their theology a reflection of their experience of the Holy Spirit? Maybe. Do miracles validate their theology? No I don’t believe so, but it does validate the grace of God! All I can say is that the New Testament clearly teaches that the power of God is demonstrated through the working of the Holy Spirit in signs and wonders and this is something I long for but am not yet seeing in my own life and ministry. So I guess I want it all, to know scripture like Piper, preach like Driscoll and demonstrate and know the power and kingdom of God like Johnson but most importantly to know it personally… a high expectation maybe but impossible? Why should it be?
So it is my desire is to see more of the demonstrated power of God, to experience personally the power and presence of God more deeply in my own life and to be a conduit for impartation of that power and presence of God through my preaching, my leading, my praying or whatever I do. Right now am I seeing and experiencing that? No, not in any significant or regular measure and certainly not in the way Bill Johnson, for example, is seeing it. I am therefore continually searching the scriptures and prayerfully asking God for a greater measure of his Holy Spirit and a deeper experience of his presence. Is this the final objective? No, of course not. I live to worship him, my objective is always his glory. However as John Piper would say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” and so if my goal is his glory then as Psalm 16:11 tells us “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” I can seek pleasure in him and find fullness of Joy in his presence. It is his presence that I find the satisfaction that most satisfies me and most glorifies him. I long to experience the Holy Spirit manifesting the presence of God and to see and experience the power of the Holy Spirit over sickness and much more besides. This is why I read the bible and books by Piper, Johnson, Driscoll and many others (You can see my most recent reading lists here). I look to many different people, in many different church and denominational streams in order to gain the elements of knowledge, wisdom and revelation that God has, in his grace, made known to them. I believe that that God, in his wisdom, has not given his whole reveleation to one man, or one denomination, but it is “through the church (the universal church) the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” (Eph 3.10). No-one has a monopoly on the revelation of God. As Don Smith from NewFrontiers very famously said “Get milk from lots of cows, but churn your own butter“!
So it is for this reason that I am excited about going to the “When Heaven Invades Earth” conference in May as I long to have imparted something of the revelation that Bill Johnson has received and to mix it with the wisdom and revelation of others and with my own understanding, revelation and experience. I want to see, understand and hopefully experience and have imparted to me something of that Bill’s revelation, not simply intellectually but experientially and supernaturally. I am not throwing my theological convictions out the window nor will I cease to be discerning, but I am looking to add to my knowledge and experience something from those who are clearly experiencing something in God that, as yet, I am not!