I invited Fred, the Pentecostal evangelist, to lead a series of services. Each evening he invited people to receive Jesus as their saviour, to receive healing, and to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. One night I stood in response to the last invitation.
The following night, the last in the series, Fred gave the same three-fold invitation. No response. The meeting felt as dead as the proverbial Dodo. In desperation he prayed: ‘Lord, please do something!’ Whereupon a young man, sitting across the aisle from me, began to pray in tongues. As he did so, I experienced a tingling sensation from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. My awareness was of the presence of Jesus.
The meeting being effectively over, I walked to the front and said: “If those of you in need of healing would like to come forward, I will lay hands on you in the name of Jesus and you will be healed”. No ifs and buts because I knew that Jesus was there to do it. I knew that there were a number there in need of healing because I had invited them to come. In the event no one moved to come forward.
The following week, one of those present told me that when he got home he was about to have another glass of whisky when he heard an inner voice say to him “You don’t need that any more”.
For me, the immediate result of this experience was that my theology changed. I already believed that God loved and that Jesus had died to pay the price for my sins, now I knew that he lived for me as well. I came to see that Jesus is alive in the person of the Holy Spirit to do today what he did during his lifetime. I also came to see that the enemy is alive as well! Whether we like it or not we are involved in spiritual warfare.
Another result was that the bible came alive too. I came to see that it is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice and that the ministry of deliverance, the casting out of evil spirits, is a valid and important part of Christian ministry.
This took place in 1965. I discovered that others were having a similar experience, including a young curate at All Souls, Langham Place, London, called Michael Harper. It was not long before he left and founded the Fountain Trust that became the focus, for the mainstream churches in this country, of what came to be known as the Charismatic Renewal.
I went to one of my appointments as a Methodist minister with a question: could an ordinary Methodist church be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit? Within six months of going there I invited a colleague to come and explain what it meant to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Slowly people came into blessing, beginning with some of the young people. Some began to get excited about Jesus. Others began to feel like second class Christians and troubled about the changes beginning to take place. For some a new togetherness was emerging: others began to feel left out and resisted attempts to include them in.
When the time came to consider whether I should be invited for a further period it never occurred to me that it might be right to leave, though with the benefit of hindsight I feel that it probably was. The question was decided for me when I discovered that someone had organized a petition and secured twenty-five names of people threatening to resign their membership if I was invited to remain for a further period.
The decision not to invite me for a further period took effect eighteen months later and during this time I encouraged the development of the emerging lay leadership. I am glad to say that the growth of the church continued after I left.