I have just come across for the first time the book: “REVIVE: Connecting with Revival – a response to the Prophetic. God’s answer to drought – overflowing wells”, published a year ago, although I was already aware of the message and appeal of the movement behind it. The book is aimed at Christians, specifically those living in the Southend area, as one might expect from the title and therefore accordingly so is this post. I try to make it my policy not to criticize members of my family, especially in a public forum, and in this case members are some of my own Christian family (we are after all, if the Bible is to believed, brothers and sisters in Christ). However, I feel I should make my response to what I have read using the true, necessary and kind criteria, and apologize in advance if anything I say is seen as or is untrue, unnecessary or unkind.
One of my many interests, although I have not followed this up much for some time, is studying the history of the church (some of my writings on this subject are included in this website). So when this book, which can be easily read in 15 minutes, although there is much worth pondering on, talks about three moves of the Spirit in my area over the past 150 years, I find myself particularly interested. In fairness to the authors, while they are clear in associating the Peculiar People and the Elim Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements with these three moves, they recognize that the Holy Spirit has been at work through many other ways and means.
The plea of the book is a timely one and is essentially about unstopping wells that had been previously dug, in particular by the three aforementioned movements. This requires resolve and sacrifice but the reward is the ever flowing water, which is the life giving Spirit of God. Having reflected in previous posts on the state of the nation and my sense that I do not see a human way out of the troubles we are in, I have to concur that such an exhortation is timely although begging the question how this might be achieved other than by individual soul searching and radical Christian discipleship, or as the book states in its conclusion: repentance which involves heart change and transformation.
When it comes to the brief potted history and observations on the Peculiar People and Elim Movement, this was before my time as they say, although I have come across some of the spiritual children that have come out of those movements, usually in a positive way, and what was stated in the book seems on the whole correct and balanced. When it comes to the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s, I can say “I was there” and also I have a somewhat different take from what was written in the book. I recall attending, for example, some of the meetings conducted by Arthur Wallis in 1973, which the book identifies as a key event in radically changing a number of the traditional churches at that time.
1970 was the year when I left school and started university. I became a Christian in 1966 (the week in which England won the football World Cup). While my early Christian life was a bit a topsy turvy, and also in many of the years that followed, just prior to going to University I went on a mission crusade with Operation Mobilization, which deeply impressed on me the need for spiritual life and growth and the need to evangelise. In 1970, just before the Charismatic Movement really began to capture the imagination of many of the Christians in the town, my church, Coleman Street Chapel, was a prime mover in putting on an evangelistic crusade, led by the evangelist, Dick Saunders. Many were affected and converted in the town, although the impact on my own church was limited. Not recalling this event is the first significant omission of the book.
Interestingly, many in my church and Dick Saunders himself were not particularly well disposed to the charismatic movement although for some who were involved in that crusade this was where they saw the natural continuation of the work of the Holy Spirit to be. I attended some of the meetings and house groups during the early 1970’s, when I was not at university and before going off elsewhere to work. As one wanting a closer relationship with God and reacting against some of the formalism and negativity of my church that seemed to put rather more emphasis on light (although some of that was erroneous) than that on life, I was thus drawn.
My experience of the Charismatic Movement was mixed, as much negative as positive. While I understand everyone writes from a given perspective and will therefore see things differently, I saw people wounded, especially the young and impressionable, by a cultish tendency, as well as spiritual pride and a disdain for those who did not subscribe to the charismatic status quo and what seemed to me as an overbearing spiritual leadership. I have reacted, sometimes over reacted, when I have seen that tendency thereafter. One observation, mainly positive but a bit negative also, is that the Charismatic Movement rightly put a lot of emphasis on spiritual life but other areas such as the community activism I have discussed at length it seemed to have little to say and was in places weak doctrinally, and this surely begs the question regarding balance.
Among names mentioned, in the short account, one that was missing, and merits a mention, was Dorothy Wetton, very much linked to much of what was going on at the time. She held prayer meetings in her house. Having returned from Nigeria, where she served many years as a missionary, she was burdened to see the church renewed and the very things the book is trying to encourage. She sought to encourage me despite my reservations. I suspect there are still a number around touched by the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s and it is right to build on this legacy.
I am not sure quite where we go from here. The book is certainly worth reading and its message should be taken to heart. But that I have qualms, not least the work I know has been significant over many years, starting from the Christian Saxon king and before that even, and across many denominations that have been around during the period mentioned in the book, including the Plymouth Brethren, which I have been part of for over half my life and the Strict Baptists, where I belong now, needs mentioning. Also the mentality that we either have to agree or be sidelined needs to be challenged. I have come to realise the Lord uses all sorts to establish his purposes.
The Lord is working in many ways among his people, including in Southend, that those in the REVIVE network, or any of us come to that, may know little off and play only a little part in. We need grace and humility to recognize this and encourage one another such that we receive the promise of Jesus for ourselves: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” John 7:37. No-one or group has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit’s favour and this should be what we covet most, for the need is huge.
One thing to be sure and with which I entirely share the authors’ hope and desire; and that is concerning the final statement of the book: “let righteousness grow and exalt our area and nation“!