Tag Archives: Methodist

How Lay Witness Missions came to the UK

For me it began with a waking dream: one word, MACEDONIA, like a place name I saw once on a Welsh railway station, with the letters embossed,  standing clear of their background.  Pouring over a map later, I realized that, for the apostle Paul, the call from a man of Macedonia was a call to take the gospel west across the sea to Europe.  Was God calling me to go west across the sea to America? I knew no one in America and saw no reason to go there.

Ten years later, in 1974, when I was the Methodist minister at Bolsover near Chesterfield, I was in my study thinking about this again.  By then I had an open invitation to visit someone in Florida and a pressing request to allow two Americans, Charles and Lucille Gipson, to take me to a Lay Witness Mission if ever I visited the U.S.A.  I was also keen to see how the Lord was at work in various situations being affected by the Charismatic Renewal which was then at its height.  I decided to go for it.

So it was that I found myself in a remote community in the Appalachian mountains where a small Methodist church was having a Lay Witness Mission.  I could see the potential for the U.K.  Several months later, early in 1975, I had a letter out of the blue from Dr. Roger Haining, a dentist living in Seattle, asking if I would be willing to help him introduce Lay Witness Missions to England.

The idea was that we would have a joint American and British team for the first weekends that Roger would lead.  My task was to find the British team members and the churches to have the first missions.  Roger was hoping that they would be held later that year but as time went on it became apparent that though it was easy enough to find some volunteers to be the first British team members, finding enough churches willing to have an American led mission about which they knew nothing was a different matter!

The Lord knew that I needed help.  I recall vividly the day when Nev  Marples, a neighbour and a member of the church at Bolsover, called at the manse looking very worried.  He told me that he had been putting on his boots ready to go to work at the local Coalite plant when he heard a voice telling him to go to America.  When he recovered from the initial shock and asked whereabouts, the answer came back clear as a bell “Spokane”.   This was totally outside Nev’s experience and when I asked him why he was looking so anxious he told me that he thought I might recommend him to see a psychiatrist!  He had never heard of Spokane (neither had I for that matter).  Looking it up on a map he found that it was near the west coast!

After Nev’s visit I came across the word ‘Spokane’ on three separate occasions, one of them in a letter from Roger saying that the Methodist church in Spokane was thinking of sponsoring one of their young people to join the team.  I realized that Spokane was not all that far from Seattle and asked Roger if he would like to invite Nev over to sample a LWM so that he could then come back and help me find the churches to have the first missions.

The day came when Nev was dropped off at Spokane and told that he would be collected again later in the day.  Looking around and wondering what he was doing there, he noticed a building with a cross on it.  When he went to investigate he found that it was a shelter for disadvantaged men.  Nev ended up having lunch with the director who told him how he had been a successful cattle rancher when the Lord called him to the work in which he was now involved: how reluctant he had been and how he had been thrown from his horse, ending up on his back with plenty of time to think.  He told Nev: ‘If the Lord calls you to do something you’d better do it!’

Nev was taken to a Lay Witness Mission and also saw their potential for the U.K.

When  Nev came back home he had an amazing story to tell and was the one who encouraged churches to have the first missions as well as becoming a member of the management committee and going on missions himself.  Sadly, Nev died a few years ago.

The 1,000 Lay Witness Mission was held in October 2006.  This coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first mission being held at Bolsover.

Looking back it feels as if I had the privilege on entering into something that God was doing.


The Forgotten Factor

holy-spiritI recall how surprised I was at theological college when we were told that the emphasis of the preaching of the early church was on the resurrection of Jesus, as shown conclusively by C.H. Dodd in his book ‘The Apostolic Preaching And Its Development’. As a result of my conversion I was deeply convinced that God loved me and that Jesus had died to make me right with him.  I was therefore expecting the emphasis to be on the Cross, that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’  (I Corinthians 15:3).  It included that, but it was not the emphasis.  Beginning with Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, the emphasis was on the resurrection (Acts 2:32-36). It was not until I was in my first appointment as a Methodist minister that I began to understand why this was so.

One day the local newspaper carried a headline: ‘Miracle Man comes to town’.  The story concerned the forthcoming visit of a Pentecostal evangelist called Fred Ball. Having a free evening and being curious I went along to see what it was about.  He began  by sharing that when a young man he had been told that he had an incurable liver condition and had been given a life expectancy of about six months.  He told us how he went home and prayed: ‘Lord, if you heal me the rest of my life is yours.’  ‘The Lord healed me’, he said, ‘And here I am’.  Another surprise.  I was even more surprised when, at the end of the meeting, he invited those who were in need of healing to come forward to be prayed with.  This was 1965 and I had no awareness that Jesus is alive in the person of the Holy Spirit to do today what he did in his physical lifetime.

It was like seeing colour television for the first time after black and white.  Here was another dimension to ministry about which I knew nothing.  I asked him what was his secret.  What did he have that I didn’t?  He pointed me to the promise concerning a spiritual baptism, or immersion, in the Holy Spirit, a promise that is found in each of the gospels, indicating its importance.  (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:32-34).

I came to see that John the Baptist was contrasting what he was doing, baptising people with water, with what Jesus would do, baptise people with the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is a gift he wants to give us (Luke 11:9-13).

Most of the teaching of Jesus concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit was given during the Last Supper and is found in John’s gospel chapters 14-16.

This was his last opportunity to share with his disciples before his crucifixion.  He tells them that he is not going to leave them to manage as best they can.  He promises to return to them in a spiritual form: ‘Now I am living with you, then I will be living in you.  I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.’  (John 14:17-18).  He goes on: ‘On that day you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’ (v.20)

The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete meaning ‘One called alongside’.  He is the teacher who will remind them all that Jesus has said to them (John 14:26). He is the Spirit of truth who will guide them into all truth (John 16:13)

In one of his resurrection appearances shortly before his ascension, Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 4-5,8). The promise of the Spirit was fulfilled during the Jewish festival of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2   “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20).             The Holy Spirit, the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), was now living in them as Jesus had promised.

It was this awareness of the Lord being with them and in them that gave the early Church its zest and impetus.

Jesus has not changed.  As the writer to the Hebrews puts it: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”

Hebrews 13:8