Right now in the United Kingdom there are more mosques being built than churches. Many church buildings are empty, congregations often have a few aging members, and some denominations are in steep decline.
But I am convinced that God is reversing this trend, pouring out His Holy Spirit to renew and grow the Church in the United Kingdom.
There are many alive and growing congregations in the British Isles and many who have been touched by the Holy Spirit and are on fire with a vital and contagious Christianity.
These on-fire congregations are often shining lights within the traditional denominations where many congregations are struggling and are served by pastors who are often discouraged and over-worked.
The challenge that we see and are determined to meet is: how do we bring the fire of the Holy Spirit into these other congregations?
One of the means has come from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican Church in the heart of London which has birthed the Alpha Course.
Alpha is having a worldwide impact in evangelism and is also introducing churches to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Another means that builds on the introductory teaching of Alpha is the Dunamis Project, together with its adaptations as Ignite and as the Dunamis Video Course. God is using these, too, in order to bring renewal.
In November we added another powerful means for the Lord to use, namely the Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit equipping event for pastors.
The Growing the Church event provides a theological and practical introduction to the dynamic of cooperating with the Holy Spirit within the local church. This dynamic is the biblical key that enables congregations to grow in expressing the reality of the Kingdom of God. But how does this dynamic of cooperating with the Holy Spirit actually take place in a congregation?
It begins with intentionally cultivating two key foundations. The First Foundation is leaders who embody the Kingdom of God. These then help create the Second Foundation, which is the congregation growing in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Together, these foundations pave the way for the Seven Dynamics of cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that Jesus is experienced working in and through the church as Prophet, Priest and King. The result is that the church grows in the depth of its engagement in advancing the Kingdom of God, in experiencing Jesus as Lord, and often in numbers too, as the Lord brings others into His Kingdom.
This very first event in England was held at the Barnes Close Centre, a manor house set in English parkland amongst hills and grazing sheep and cattle, located half an hour outside of Birmingham.
Josh Modrzynski did the hard work of videoing all the teaching so it could become part of our online course. The three authors of the book Growing the Church (Cindy Strickler, Paul Stokes and Brad Long) were joined by experienced members of the Dunamis Fellowship Britain and Ireland, and by members of GEAR (the Group for Evangelism and Renewal within the United Reformed Church).
These pastors, who have first-hand experience implementing renewal in their own congregations, served as small group leaders and mentors for others. The participants were mostly United Reformed Church Ministers and Elders from the UK.
This was an amazing time of experiencing the power and refreshment of the Holy Spirit, and also together learning some practical ways of implementing these Foundations and Dynamics in the local church’s life.
The Rev. Cindy Strickler not only kept us on track as we covered a huge amount of material in a short time, she also participated as an anointed teacher who is able to clearly articulate the concepts and bring them to life. She also has a great gift of getting guidance from the Holy Spirit and discerning kairos moments that helped as we moved from just teaching and talking into experiential encounters with Jesus Christ. For a number of the pastors this was their very first introduction to the Dunamis teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit, and the move from teaching into ministry was profound and revitalizing. Participants experienced healings of ancient hurts, renewal of vision and reaffirmation of call to pastoral ministry.
The Rev. Paul Stokes worked with Cindy to organize and put this event together. He, too, is an anointed teacher who clearly presents the concepts and applies them to the local church situation.
Paul is working with GEAR as well as with the DFB&I to share in the urgent and formidable task of bringing restored vitality and growth to the United Reformed Church – a task that is utterly impossible without the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.
The worship team was amazing!
Led by Brian Harley, Chairman of GEAR (on guitar) and with vocals by Hilary Clark, a member of the PRMI Board, they were joined by Roger Jones (piano), the founder and director of Christian Music Ministries.
Their leadership enabled us to have a wonderful learning experience of how to be led by the Holy Spirit to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.