an extract of an update letter
by Clifford Hill
A New Movement
Forty years ago there was a stirring of the Spirit of God among Christians in the UK. Nothing was published in those early days but snippets of news were passed from one to another of strange happenings in this place or that. The first reports I heard were of Christians meeting in one another's homes - coming together for prayer, praise and worship. The reports were random, uncoordinated. But clearly something new was happening. The word 'renewal' was on many lips, but what was being renewed? Was this a new move of God to renew his church or to renew the individual spiritual lives of believers?
Informal prayer and praise among small groups led to them eagerly re-reading the accounts in the New Testament of how the first believers in Jesus came together and discovered the presence and power of the Holy Spirit among them. As they rediscovered the experience of believers in the New Testament Church lives were transformed. New songs of praise began to be written expressing the joy and freedom of discovering a new relationship with God. Intense discussion took place about the manifestations of the Spirit of God and the exercise of spiritual gifts as listed in the New Testament, which led to further discussion on the five-fold ministries recognised by Paul in Ephesians 4.
Signs and Wonders
It wasn't long before public meetings began to be held in several Anglican churches where vicars such as Trevor Dearing, Colin Urquhart and Michael Harper were exercising a new kind of ministry. Large numbers were attracted and many healings and other evidence of the presence and power of God were seen. Leaders of this new movement formed the Fountain Trust and soon other organisations were born linking together those who were discovering the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
But for those who had eyes to see what was happening in society and whose ears were open to the word of the Lord there was increasing disquiet. The 1968 Abortion Act had slipped quietly through Parliament as a Private Members Bill with no great national debate on the moral and spiritual consequences of such an Act. This was followed by the 1972 Divorce Reform Act. These two Acts of Parliament were destined to change the face of Britain, to undermine and destroy traditional family life - the foundational bedrock of the nation. There were a few prophetic voices raised but the tide was flowing strongly for radical social change, for removing restrictions on moral behaviour and abolishing curbs on individual freedom.
One such prophetic voice was in Lambeth Palace at that time. He was Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury who in 1975 broadcast an appeal to the nation warning of the dangers of moral and spiritual collapse unless there was a return to the Word of God. There was a tremendous response from right across the nation. Tens of thousands of letters and telephone calls came in supporting the Archbishop.
God Equipping His Church
By the 1980s, the spontaneous movement of the Spirit of God that had birthed many house churches and brought renewal to many of the mainline churches was rapidly becoming institutionalised and individualised. Even the songs became 'me-centred'. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were eagerly desired but were seized upon as personal possessions rather than as manifestations of the presence and power of God equipping his church to come against the powerful forces of social transformation that were already undermining the moral foundations of the nation and would soon be attacking the heritage of centuries of Christian tradition. Like Israel in the time of Amos, there was great complacency, but no grieving over the ruin of the nation (Amos 6.1-6).
Prophetic voices were muted in the clamour of triumphalist songs as the people rejoiced and embraced the teachings of popular preachers who told them that they were a favoured generation and promised them health, wealth and prosperity. They fell about in helpless laughter in the 1990s while the nation turned firmly in the direction of hell upon earth, with the secularists virtually unchallenged, as they taught our children their libertarian doctrines of 'unlimited sexual gratification'.
Today, as we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Sexually Transmitted Infections among teenagers are officially classed as having reached 'epidemic' numbers and research shows that the average age when children first encounter pornography on the Internet is just 11 years - average age! Children draw down pornographic images onto their mobile phones and pass them around their school friends - unbeknown even to Christian parents.
We now have a whole generation of children who do not know right from wrong because we have invented a new politically correct language to camouflage sin and to turn the basic moral code upside down. But the words of the Prophet Isaiah thunder down the ages, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." And Jesus warns, "If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
As so often happened in the history of Israel when the people refused to heed the warnings God sent to them through the prophets, he had to step in and save them, but only after they recognised their plight and cried out in humility. God has waited 40 years for his people to humble themselves and recognise that only he is able to transform the nation but that he graciously equips his people and longs to work through them so long as they ensure that he gets all the glory.
Shaking the Nations
Now God is shaking the nations. The G 20 has met in London and gone home declaring that a ‘new age’ has dawned for the world. But do they know that it is God who is shaking the world? Have they repented of the greed and corruption in the financial systems over which they have presided? God has determined to allow things to get worse and worse because, as Isaiah perceived, "when your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness" (26.9). As the financial crisis deepens people will be forced to change their lifestyles, to review their values and millions will have the opportunity of making life-changing decisions.
A Second Chance
In the midst of the shaking God is giving to his church a second chance to bring the gospel to the world; to communicate the values of the Kingdom. This is his purpose in shaking the nations, a purpose that was revealed to Isaiah eight centuries before the coming of Jesus - "the Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted and they will be humbled . . . when he rises to shake the earth" (2.12 - 19). The same word was repeated through the Prophet Haggai three centuries later - "I will shake all nations . . ." (2.7); and then again at the end of the first century AD that same prophecy is given in Hebrews 12.26 with an interpretation saying that God will shake all created things so that the values of the Kingdom of God can the revealed. With it a warning was given that we must be sure not to refuse to listen this time.
God is trying to get the attention of his people so that we can understand what he is doing and how he is working out his purposes. We have to learn to listen attentively like children hearing their loving Father. We have gone around in the wilderness for the last 40 years like the children of Israel in the time of Moses. But God is graciously giving us a second chance while giving severe warnings that this time we must listen to him, in love and obedience, doing only what he tells us to do. Then we will have the joy of seeing the Lord at work, bringing spiritual awakening to the nation.
The biblical injunction is to 'test all things'. See site policy
Clifford Hill, 11/04/2009