Thank you Ray Gaydon
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. Exodus 1:1-8.
When I was made redundant from Rubery Owen in Darlaston, West Midlands I headed to East Sussex to find work where my brother and his wife were living. They attended a chapel on the outskirts of a village called Barcombe just outside Lewes. The then, part time pastor, was Ray Gaydon. One of his first words to me was “Nigel you are a died in the wool non-conformist with a lot to learn!” I owe much of what I am today to Ray. This is my journey and my appeal to the young leaders of this generation.
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. Exodus 1:8
My family attended Little London Baptist Church in Willenhall. A strict and particular Baptist Church. If you look at the gravestones as you enter the church grounds, you will find Lloyds going back hundreds of years. Little London was the only church life I had ever known. These are some of my reflections looking back, not what I saw at the time. Before I do that I want you know, that it was a happy place, it was family. The church had seen some amazing times in the past but in my day there were only around thirty folk without a pastor.
In my late teens I was appointed as a deacon and I had particular responsibility for the fabric of the building. We, as a team, had the power to hire or fire the pastor! If, and when, we had a pastor, we were the team he would be subject to. We voted on agenda items and we pretty much ran the show.
Each Sunday we would have flowers at the front of the church. Flowers were good and they made the place look brighter and we would give them to those sick and struggling afterwards. The variations of flowers was much noted, from a bunch shoved in a pot to a fully arranged display. There was much discussion over the flowers from ‘tuts’ of disapproval to admiration.
On Sunday evenings we sang an introit before the meeting began: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. To be honest, I am not sure what we ever would have done if the Spirit of the living God had fallen afresh upon us!
The church business meetings were often feisty and a bit scary. The sheep could block the shepherd by means of a vote. I remember a particular spirited discussion over the colour of the church front doors. We were democratic or a better description would be, if the body of the church didn’t like it, then it just wasn’t going to happen.
Sundays were the same, generally hymn, reading, hymn, prayer, hymn, notices, hymn, message, hymn. That was how they had always been, why change it? We sat in pews with doors and usually sat towards the back.
Communion was once a month after the service. Always the same format; bread cut up into squares, Ribena in tiny glass cups. If you were not a Christian you could not stay, you had to go into the back room or go home.
Hymn singing was led by a massive pipe organ, my father manually pumped air into it as child but by now it had an electric pump. We paid for it to be looked after and serviced regularly. We even paid to have an organist, it was important and there was a sense of reverence regarding its lofty position in the gallery.
Most of the women wore hats with their posh dresses on a Sunday, although my mum did refuse to wear a hat, and the men wore suits, jackets and ties. We were formal, stern, dressed to meet the king. When I was a little older I varied my suits from morning to evening.
We used Grace Hymns, previously we had used Hymns of Faith. There was a committee appointed to check the theological content of the new hymn book with much discussion about whether to have a red cover or a green cover. Green was finally decided upon as red was thought to not be sober enough.
We prayed using language taken straight out of the King James Version of the Bible. Thy, thine, thou, thee, hath, hither, and more. It was an art form, learnt language kept only for the meetings.
We were big on the puritans. People like Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, John Owen. I still have some of their books on my bookshelf. They were our model for life and service, our aim was to be like them.
There are many other reflections I could make, but that will give you a bit of a flavour. This was my background, my understanding of Church. It was what I had always known. Ray Gaydon however, was preaching about the church not of the puritans, but of the New Testament. A church that was a body, a bride, led by the Holy Spirit. I witnessed gifts of the Spirit, salvations, healings. Leaders who were gifted by God to lead and shepherd the flock who followed willingly and joyfully. The presence of God was tangible and sometimes fearful. Often called Charismatic, people flocked to the church and it grew supernaturally, we did not know week by week what God would do or say. Ray preached on Spirit and truth as we tried to hold our course on being as biblical as we could be.
So why am I telling you all this? Many years have passed since a church in Sussex and many other churches came together to restore New Testament life and values. Time can change things. We can be like the Egyptians where there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. We can replace our flower rotas and our pipe organs and our democratic viewpoints with just more modern versions of the same. We can become set in our ways, lose sight of the Holy Spirit and create new traditions. We may not have the sacred cow of a green hymn book but there can be other things in our charismatic churches that are just as bad.
I don’t believe we restored the church back to New Testament values and principles in the 1970’s and 1980’s I believe we should be constantly and consistently looking to restore the church to its New Testament values and principles. We may have to demolish modern strongholds, fight again for New Testament theology and practices. It’s not where we are today that matters it’s where we will be in a few years time that matters. Our aim, surely, is to be closer to the book of Acts not further away from it.
Is the end game restoration in the church? No, surely the end game is Revival. Now, I know you will state, and correctly say, that revival is a sovereign act of God and that is correct, but is not the church the vessel for God to pour his Holy Spirit into? Let me draw you to this verse.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
Although God is the source of all revival, there are conditions that He expects His people to fulfil before they are ready to receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They describe the heart and the desire.
Hosea sets these before us in one of the most helpful foundations for revival to be found in Scripture. Not only that, but church history informs us of how God acts on such things (see the two ladies and their prayer life on the Isle of Lewis prior to revival)
“Break up your fallow ground” that is both the preparation of our heart and the desire of our heart.
“For it is time to seek the Lord” that is our urgent prayer and a deliberate decision.
“That he may come and rain righteousness upon you” that is a wonderful description of revival.
Here then are set before us the conditions; heart preparation, deliberate decisions and urgent prayer.
We get so lost in the process of church and the institutional nature of church we loose the simplicity of it all, to encounter God in all his glory.
What is fallow ground? It is simply ground which has, in the past, given fruit, but has now become largely unproductive through lack of cultivation, land that is lying idle. Oh! is that not the church.
However there is a promise. Seed can be sown in this ground in abundance, there is a promise of rain from heaven.
Stop for a moment and look at the state of the church today. Look within at the condition of our own hearts, we cannot but admit the accuracy of Hosea’s description. Vast areas of fallow ground in the hearts of professing Christians surely constitutes the greatest barrier to the rain of revival. Is it not time to seek the Lord?
This is a quote from a Duncan Campbell sermon preached in 1968 about the Hebridean revival.
“We got to the church about quarter to nine to find about 300 people gathered. I would say about 300 people. And I gave an address. Nothing really happened during the service. It was a good meeting. A sense of God, a consciousness of His Spirit moving but nothing beyond that. So I pronounced the benediction and we were leaving the church I would say about a quarter to eleven.
Just as I am walking down the aisle, along with this young deacon who read the Psalm in the barn. He suddenly stood in the aisle and looking up to the heavens he said, “God, You can’t fail us. God, You can’t fail us. You promised to pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground-God, You can’t fail us!”
Soon He is on his knees in the aisle and he is still praying and then he falls into a trance again. Just then the door opened, it is now eleven o’clock. The door of the church opens and the local blacksmith comes back into the church and says, “Mr. Campbell, something wonderful has happened. Oh, we were praying that God would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground and listen, He’s done it! He’s done it!”
When I went to the door of the church I saw a congregation of approximately 600 people. Six hundred people, where had they come from? What had happened? I believe that that very night God swept in Pentecostal power-the power of the Holy Ghost. And what happened in the early days of the apostles was happening now in the parish of Barvas.”
Does this not quicken your heart to remove any obstacles in church life that hold us back from revival and to peruse God with all that we have.