The following is a guest wonderful review of the conference, Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Sermon is a pastor in the United Reformed Church in the UK and a Faculty member of the Dunamis Fellowship in Britain & Ireland
(And yes! His name really is so appropriate to his calling! He is an anointed preacher, teacher and prayer minister.
Impressions by The Rev. Jon Sermon
Imagine 24 acres of wooded mountain side, with sunlit trails, a river running through, a log house as a base to meet with meals provided and black bears occasionally seen on the land.Imagine stimulating company, co-operation about all you are doing together, fabulous weather (if a bit too hot) and a sense that you are there for a reason.
If you have managed to conjure up such a picture, you may be close to my recent experience, during a short visit to the Community of the Cross, Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries International’s retreat, prayer and equipping centre in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
I was there for a conference on growing the church in the power of the Holy Spirit. A small group from USA, Canada and UK worked together on genuinely applying Biblical principles. Church leadership and the people really need to embody the Kingdom of God, as Jesus himself did. Thus, churches can provide effectively for growth.
We studied together, prayed for each other and lived in community while we were together.
Our main sessions were recorded on video, so that an on line resource to pass this on can be created.
With God’s help, our praying for each other reached deep levels with the reasons for problems being exposed and effectively dealt with. Personal relationships grew and church pastors and others from three cultural settings worked together on principles necessary for growth.
The content of the course was Biblical and, in a sense, nothing new. But it did draw out the crucial need for both leadership and people to embody the Kingdom of God. Sounds very fine – but what does that mean? And how can churches do it more?
What we looked at:
We looked at 4 essentials under the headings: Incorporation, Information, Transformation and Empowerment.
The exciting truth is that Jesus Christ, the one true head of the church (all denominations) want leaders and congregations to receive these four requirements – which are on offer to enable us to participate in an incredible ‘dance of co-operation’ with God the Holy Spirit!
Incorporation – being incorporated into God’s Kingdom – becoming part of it – being ‘born again’ Jesus called it. Just as we are all born physically, we also need spiritual birth, leading to a personal relationship with God. Famous examples from history confirm that church leaders don’t always have this experience. John Wesley, founder of Methodism was a priest for 13 years before this experience transformed his ministry!
Information – learning from the teacher – Jesus himself. We need not just intellectual knowledge, but personal knowledge, relating to Jesus. Getting to know the author as well as the writing, God’s written Word, the Bible and God himself, the inspiration behind it.
Transformation – an ongoing work, never completed in this life. But, to be effective as church, we need to be being transformed – the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Our lifestyles need to constantly become more like Jesus. This is not rigid rule-following but more like heart surgery, as we allow God to transform us from within.
Empowerment – Jesus actually expects his followers to do the things he did… things like placing our hands on sick people, praying for them and seeing them healed! None of us have the power to do such things, but an incredible aspect of the dance of co-operation God calls us into, is that he wants to empower us – to do these things trough us!
If you thought Christianity was simply about beliefs, or even rules, a glimpse of this could really open up something for you. Putting these principles into practice can engage our churches in growth and in the most exciting adventure imaginable. More and more people who thought church was of no relevance to them could want to get involved.
Please pray for us as we put this course together. Also a new book is coming out published by Zondervan that contains this teaching.
It is written by the Rev. Dr. Brad Long – The Executive Director of PRMI, Rev. Cindy Strickler – the Director of the Dunamis Fellowship International, and The Rev. Paul Stokes – A URC Pastor, Evangelism and Renewal Advocate for GEAR and Faculty member of the Dunamis Fellowship in Britain & Ireland.