Sam Storm’s recent book Convergence sadly still isn’t available in the UK, but he recently gave three seminars on the subject at Bethlehem Baptist Church, while he was visiting as one of their preachers during John Piper’s sabbatical.

The seminars (and sermons) can be downloaded here and I highly recommend them. The first seminar highlights a number of biblical passages that emphasise both the “Word and Spirit” together. In the second seminar he does a good job of analysing the polarised approaches of “Word” and “Spirit” oriented churches. The final seminar is devoted to a question and answer session.

As you probably know from the title of my blog, I have a passion to see churches grow in both faithfulness to the Word and fullness of the Spirit. People like Sam Storms are vital in modelling how this can be done, and encouraging “convergence” from churches whose emphases are so different that they can hardly imagine what they could possibly learn from those at the other side of the spectrum.

Ern Baxter – The Priestly Clothing

A while ago I posted a link to Dan’s transcription of Ern Baxter’s classic “Life on Wings” series, and as a bonus added extra, converted my tape of the sermon to MP3 for download. That post has proved one of the most popular on my blog. I still get regular requests from people wanting MP3 copies of Ern’s sermons. I have posted out about 20 CDs now, but to be honest I do not really have the time to keep doing this. Sorry to those of you I have not replied to yet. It was also getting a little expensive, and though most people promised to reimburse postage costs, none actually did. So I’m waiting now until I can find somewhere I can host the files for free, and just let people download them.

Anyway, Dan has an incredible gift for transcribing sermons. I have done this once or twice and let me tell you, it takes a long time. His latest project is a transcription of Ern’s Sermon series on the High Priestly Clothing, which he preached at the Anglia Bible Week in 1983. I was there (7 years old at the time), and those Bible weeks I will always remember as times when God moved powerfully in my own life. There was a great sense of excitement in the church whenever Ern came over to speak.

Anyway, you can download the transcriptions in Word document format here.

I actually have all the tapes from the 1983 Anglia Bible Week in MP3 format. If you ask really nicely, and are prepared to be patient, perhaps I will be able to get copies of these to you.

  • Tape 1 – The Gospel of the Kingdom (Stanley Jebb)
  • Tape 2 – From God’s Perspective (Howard Carter)
  • Tape 3 – Kingdom of Priests (Ern Baxter)
  • Tape 4 – The Kingdom Church (Howard Carter)
  • Tape 5 – The Linen Breeches (Ern Baxter)
  • Tape 6 – The Coat of Fine Linen (Ern Baxter)
  • Tape 7 – Victory Through Surrender (Howard Carter)
  • Tape 8 – The Robe of the Ephod (Ern Baxter)
  • Tape 9 – The Ephod (Ern Baxter)
  • Tape 10 – The People of Truth (Howard Carter)
  • Tape 11 – Strange Fire (Ern Baxter)

Update: I am afraid I am no longer able to provide these sermons, but if you would like access to a wealth of Ern Baxter sermons, please visit Broken Bread Teaching.

12 Biblical Values (Part 3)

OK, here is very briefly, my thoughts on John Hosier’s choice of 12 biblical values (see part 1 and part 2).

The 12 biblical values list is not meant to be exhaustive, and Dan pointed out that his book does indeed include quite a few more. John Hosier himself acknowledged from the outset that grace was not included in the list, not because it wasn’t an important biblical value, but rather that it permeated all the other values. Another notable missing newfrontiers emphasis was church planting, and as Ger pointed out in the comments, restoration was not there either. Despite including the controversial subjects of baptism in the Holy Spirit, and modern day apostleship, other potentially explosive issues such as women elders or preachers and eschatology were left out. Other pervasive Biblical themes such as holiness, mission, prayer, suffering and healing were not included either.

Despite these omissions, I am pleased to see churches in newfrontiers taking the time to communicate their biblical values in a structured way. We can too easily assume that sharing a common vision is enough. However, two people may have the same vision (e.g. to build a church of 1000 people), but if their values are different, what and how they build will be very different. As newfrontiers seeks God for more churches, and increased growth in existing churches, I pray that we will truly see these 12 biblical values (and more) at the foundation of all that is built, that the church would truly be “Christ’s Radiant Church” bringing glory to God alone.

12 Biblical Values (Part 2)

Continuing from my previous post on 12 biblical values, here are the second six from John Hosier.

7. The ministries of apostles and prophets
The church has never had an issue with the ongoing ministries of evangelists, pastors and teachers, butapostles and prophets are a different matter. He cautioned against the use of the phrase “Ephesians 4 ministries” and especially labelling someone as an “Ephesians 4 teacher” (I have always felt that sounded like a description of someone who always preaches on the same chapter of the Bible).

The main thrust of the argument is that Eph 4:11 speaks of gifts that the ascended Christ gave. But the 12 were appointed before the ascension, so who does Paul have in mind? Just himself? John Hosier then argues for four categories of apostles:
1) The Apostle – Jesus, sent by the Father
2) The 12 apostles, chosen by Jesus to be with him. They saw the risen Christ and were uniquely placed to be witnesses to the resurrection. Matthias was chosen according to the same criteria – he had been with Christ and witnessed the resurrection.
3) Paul – a unique “transitional” apostle. He could say that he too had seen the risen Christ, but he was appointed by the “ascended Christ”. Placing Paul in a category by himself is I think a diplomatic move to appease those who think it intollerably arrogant to consider anyone as sharing his minsitry. I think his uniqueness came more from his place in church history as the first apostle to the Gentiles and his being used to write Scripture, rather than his role as apostle.
4) All other apostles, appointed by the ascended Christ, including Timothy and Barnabas. There have been many through church history, even if they have not been known as “apostles” – Hosier suggests Wesley, Carey and Booth as examples. The point being, newfrontiers does not consider the gift of apostleship to have died out and only come back recently with Terry Virgo. These apostles may lead churches, but will typically do so only for a short time – their gifting leads them to regions beyond (c.f. Paul in Ephesus).

8. The government of the local church is to be exercised by elders
The church is not to be a democracy, where everyone has a vote. He argues that people who want democracy really just want their own way – they will still complain if they are out-voted. Having said that, a wise eldership will not be a dictatorship – it will seek to keep in touch with the views of the whole church.

9. A comittment to pastoral care
Seeking to bring individual believers to maturity.

10. Training of leadership from within the local church
Leaders may sometimes be “imported”, but the normal pattern should be training them up locally. If the newfrontiers vision of 1000 churches in the UK is to be realised, a significant comittment to training is necessary.

11. Recognising we are only part of the body of Christ
“We recognise we are only part of the body of Christ and seek real fellowship with all true believers”. Here John Hosier sought to address criticism of an aloof or separatist attitude within newfrontiers. He pointed out that the speakers and newfrontiers conferences have always included a number from other groups. He also mentioned small steps at the local level towards a greater working unity with other churches.

12. Avoid inflexible church structures and traditions
Newfrontiers has reacted against some of the legalism that was developing in traditional evangelical churches. However, he warned that there is a danger of “reverse legalism”, where (for example) those who are teetotal or dress smartly for church are treated as second class citizens. There may also need to be greater flexibility in the future with regards to issues such as
meeting times.

I’ll add a few thoughts of my own in a third post soon, about what has been left out of this list.

12 Biblical Values (Part 1)

Thanks to a recent post by Dan, I stumbled across some MP3s on the Bridge Community Church Bristol website. Their sermons page features two talks by John Hosier (the unofficial newfrontiers theologian), from Church of Christ the King (the unofficial newfrontiers HQ). They are entitled “12 biblical values held by newfrontiers”.

I was eager to listen to these, as I have not yet had the chance to read John Hosier’s latest book, “Christ’s Radiant Church”. I don’t think the 12 points exactly follows the book, as the book has about 20 chapters, but it was clear that there was a fair amount of overlap. It seems as though these were training seminars rather than Sunday morning sermons.

As I downloaded them, I thought to myself that he dare not miss out “Grace” as one of the points. But actually, he starts by saying that it wasn’t one of his points, because it was so fundamental and ran right through the others.

There are no real surprises here for those who know the newfrontiers group of churches, but I’ll list the points he made and perhaps make a few comments of my own. He offered one Bible reference for each point, though making it clear that more could be offered for each one. I’ve broken this post into two parts, as it was getting a bit long.

1. The place of the word of God
There is a strong commitment to preaching the word in gatherings, and teaching it in small group and discipleship settings. The Bible is God’s revealed truth and preachers especially must remember the importance of soaking themselves in the word of God.

2. Baptism in water is for all believers
He didn’t really use this point to talk about credo baptism versus paedo baptism, but spoke of the symbolism of death and resurrection. He also cautioned about overemphasising the evangelistic opportunity at the expense of realising it is a special occasion for the candidate themselves.

3. Baptism in the Spirit
Which “brings a definite sense of assurance and a real experience of the power of God in the life of a believer”. This is the subject of the longest chapter in his book, and he believes it needs to be defended theologically. He laments the fact tat charismatic theologians such as Grudem do not appear to have understood their position. I can agree that most arguments I have read seem to be arguing against something quite different from the position laid out so well by David Pawson in his book Jesus baptises in one Holy Spirit. He reiterated the basic position that “it may take place at conversion, but it is a distinct experience of the power of God”

4. Church membership involves taking an active serving role in the church
“We’re not trying to gather a crowd, we’re trying to build a church”. He underlined also that nobody should feel they don’t belong because everyone has something to contribute.

5. Participation of believers in meetings is encouraged and expected
There is of course a problem if you have a moderately large church, that not all can contribute in a single meeting, but all should have a desire to contribute. He also briefly mentioned that the interpretation of a tongue should be Godward, and noted that the charismatic contributions included a “teaching” as well as prophecy and tongues, and that these could be brought by men or women. This form of “teaching” is understood as a short spontaneous biblical exhortation rather than being in the form of a fully prepared sermon, and is therefore not seen as contradictory to restricting the preaching ministry to men only.

6. All the spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament are available today
… and these gifts should be eagerly expected and eagerly sought. Interestingly he made the same excellent point here that Don Carson raises in Showing the Spirit – the command to eagerly desire that you prophesy is in the plural, indicating that churches should seek to manifest all the gifts rather than individuals trying to collect the full set. The “what’s my gift?” mentality can be unhelpful as it is individualistic in outlook.

Part 2 to follow soon…

Post-Restorationist Links

As far as I know, there’s no one who refers to themselves as a “post-restorationist”, but perhaps that would be a good way to describe a couple of sites I discovered this week.

The first is the blog of Ger Jones, which I discovered thanks to his insightful comments on a post about Restorationism. Anyway, Ger is the son of Bryn Jones, so he probably has a better inside view of Restorationism than most. Ger is currently studying at Regent college in Canada. I read his entire blog last night, and there’s lots of interesting stuff there, and he deserves more readers than he apparently gets, judging by the lack of comments.

The second is the website of David Matthew, himself a former significant player in Restorationism, and mentioned many times in Restoring the Kingdom. There is a very interesting article entitled “No Revival, So What Now?” which addresses the topic of what direction the “new churches” are going in. His analysis is quite perceptive, outlining four trends from which he highlights both strengths and weaknesses. I think New Frontiers would probably agree with much of his suggestion for synthesis, all except for his preference for churches not to grow overly large, which is something NFI are unashamedly pushing at the moment.


An anonymous commenter on my post on books for charismatic evangelicals asked me what I though of Simon Ponsonby’s book “More”, which is subtitled “How you can have more of the Spirit when you already have everything in Christ”. It addresses an important question in the debate on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I actually suspect, given Michael Green’s endorsement of the book, that he doesn’t believe in baptism in the Spirit as secondary to conversion. But he does passionately believe that we are to desire and seek more of the Spirit’s power and presence in our lives.

I had never heard of the man or the book, but a quick web search revealed that Simon Ponsonby, who is from St Aldate’s church in Oxford has a large collection of his sermons online in MP3 format, including some which appear to be based on his book preached at an All Soul’s Peckham church weekend away. They are very helpful sermons, and what’s interesting for me is that in these two sermons, entitled “The Foundation for More” and “More”, feature a reference to my friend J-D, and a reading from (I assume from the American accent) his wife Kellie.

J-D was once at St Aldates Oxford and is now at All Saints Peckham. He has recently written two wonderful worship songs, which have been immensely helpful to me in my own personal times of worship. I mention them here, because they both fit in with the theme of “More”.

They are entitled “Lord, You Desire” and “Father, in Your Eyes” and brief excepts can be heard here. Let me quote some lyrics to give you a flavour:

Give me a heart that burns for you
A passion that will never fade away
Give me a devotion that will never cease to cry
More of you in my life

Today I decide, you are the one I will persue
Leaving it all to follow you

Total devotion, means that there’s nothing I hold back
Total surrender, means I don’t question what you say

As Dan has pointed out, far more important than simply emphasising the use of charismatic gifts is a real hunger and thirst for more of the living God. And I think that he is right too, in suggesting that in this common pursuit, we may find genuine unity, even between cessationists and continuationinsts.

What’s the Point of Public Tongues?

Jeremy Pierce raised some interesting questions in his comments on my recent post. He confesses to not understanding how speaking in tongues might edify the speaker. I agree that there is some mystery to it, perhaps in a similar way to the way that partaking of the Lord’s supper and water baptism can be means of grace to us. From personal testimony though, I would say that speaking in tongues for a few minutes is very helpful in putting me into a more prayerful attitude when I am finding it hard to pray, and afterwards I find a surprising liberty and passion in my prayers in English.

However, the point I want to address here is why would we want tongues in a public meeting? If it only edifies the hearer (1 Cor 14:4), as Paul says, then why not speak in your natural language? It would seem that in Corinth that some people were quite self-centred about their use of this gift – wanting to show themselves as spiritual, rather than desiring to edify others. But ego-centric motives are not exclusively tied to speaking in tongues – prophets and even preachers could just as easily fall into the same trap.

As a general rule (and here I may go against the views of some of my charismatic friends), people with the gift of tongues would not normally expect to use it in a public meeting. But on occasion, they may feel that the Spirit is stirring them to speak out in tongues in much the same way that a person with the gift of prophecy does. In this case, they should be open to the possibility that God intends them to bring this contribution, and that the church will be edified through its interpretation.

Which brings us on to the question of how you know if “an interpreter” is present (1 Cor 14:28). In charismatic churches, there are often a few people known to exercise this gift. But if you are not sure they are there, then you should pray that you yourself would be given the interpretation (1 Cor 14:13), as your desire should be for the church to be blessed which cannot happen if the tongue goes uninterpreted.

So how is it that a tongue followed by an interpretation might edify a congregation in a way that a contribution in a natural language wouldn’t? Let me suggest two ways.

First, tongues is an exalted prayer language, in which we speak mysteries to God (1 Cor 14:2). In my experience the interpretation is a prayer that really lifts the spirits of all who hear, often with greater fervency and eloquence than is normally seen in public prayers in church. Thus everyone is encouraged and drawn in to worship more wholeheartedly as they see the Spirit moving someone to pray in such a way.

Second, tongues are described as a ‘sign’ for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). This is by no means a simple verse to understand, but I take it to mean that the gift of tongues is a powerful witness to visiting unbelievers that they are outsiders. There is a power present that they know nothing of, and this may stir a hunger within them to know it for themselves.

In conclusion, let me quote 1 Cor 14:39: “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” It seems clear to me that Paul considered prophecy far more immediately useful than tongues in meetings, but to forbid speaking in tongues publicly could also rob people of a blessing God wanted to bring. In other words, if Paul was judging a meeting, he wouldn’t be asking “were there three prayers in tongues?” but “were people edified?” and “was there evidence of the Spirit’s moving?”.

Books for Charismatic Evangelicals

There are not many books for people for whom being committed to Scripture is a non-negotiable, but desire to explore how much of contemporary charismatic practice is truly Biblical. Two good ones, from opposite sides of the table are Don Carson’s “Showing the Spirit” (which I have reviewed in detail here), and David Pawson’s “Word and Spirit Together”. Both books in their own different ways highlight strengths and weaknesses of the different positions, and offer ways in which evangelical non-charismatics and charismatics might find more common ground, and move towards a truly biblical unity.

But there are two very interesting new books that I feel will be able to contribute significantly to the ongoing debate between evangelicals about the charismatic gifts. Again, there is one from each side of the table, and both have the potential to be read and appreciated by those of differing persuasions.

First is Sam Storm’s new “Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist”, in which he argues that one can be both a convinced Calvinistic evangelical and a charismatic – in fact, that they belong together. Unfortunately its not available in the UK yet, but I have high hopes for this book to help non-charismatics understand and appreciate charismatic evangelicalism better. Having said that, Tim Challies was not convinced.

Second is a collection of essays entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? An Investigation into the Ministry of the Spirit of God Today” edited by Daniel Wallace and James Sawyer. Abstracts can be read here. This comes from a non-charismatic background, and is intended to address the issue of the missing dynamic of the spirit-filled life in many reformed churches. They propose “pneumatic Christianity” as the answer, without fully embracing being charismatic. Again, its not easy to get this book in the UK, but Justin Taylor records Wayne Grudem’s thoughts on it here. Its another one I am eager to read.

Despite our sometimes robust disagreements, there is a surprising amount of common ground between the charismatic and non-charismatic evangelicals. Let us not be too proud to learn from each other, and together move closer towards being fully obedient to God’s Word and fully open to God’s Spirit.

Open but Cautious

I am struggling to keep up with the pace of the charismatic versus cessationist debate that has been raging in the Christian blog world over previous weeks. However, I did want explain my mention of the words “open” and “cautious” near each other in my last post, as Dan has taken this to be an advocation of the “open but cautious” position, which it was not supposed to be.

There is in fact a broad range of positions from the cessationists who see any modern day tongues and prophecies as being of the devil, right through to the raving charismatics who seem to think that tongues and prophecy are the only elements to the Christian life. The common division of evangelicals into three distinct groups (cessationist, open but cautious, and charismatic) is in fact over-simplistic.

For example, some who are broadly cessationist will still be open to the possibility of occasional supernatural occurrences of the charismatic gifts, but were they to occur, they would not expect or seek their recurrence afterwards.

The “open but cautious” camp itself consists of those who are not opposed in principle to the ongoing use of the gifts today, but are unsure that what they see in charismatic churches is either genuine or desirable. Within this group, there are those more accurately described as “closed and critical”, and no one would dare attempt to use such a gift during one of their meetings. But there are also those who are quite happy that one or two members of their church exercise these gifts publicly on occasions, but the rest of the church are not encouraged to follow suit.

Even within the charismatic group, there is variety, from those who insist that all believers without exception should seek and receive the charismatic gifts, and consider it dreadful for a meeting to go by without a prophecy or tongue, to those who place a lesser priority on these gifts.

However, I am not in the “open but cautious” group myself, because I believe their caution all but cancels out their openness to the charismatic gifts. However, I used the terms because they have a Biblical mandate.

We are called to be open. “Eagerly desire the greater gifts”. “Do not treat prophecy with contempt.” But we are also called to be discerning (which is probably a better word than “cautious”). The Bible repeatedly warns of deception and false prophecy. So I would say that the Biblical position is to be “open but discerning”.

In summary if “caution” is used as an excuse not to seek after God with all our hearts and to welcome all that he wishes to do through us and in us, then I want no part of it. All I meant to say is that I want the real deal, not a fake plastic replica.