Fruits of renewal

February 19, 2018

Last week in Geneva, I reflected nostalgically with fellow YWAM leaders on the global renewal movement over the past fifty years.

In recent weekly words I have written about the ‘profound thankfulness for family, friends and the faithfulness of God’ Romkje and I felt as we sorted and packed our belongings collected over four decades to move to Amsterdam. My mother’s 95th birthday two weeks ago in New Zealand was further occasion to look back in gratefulness, particularly for the dramatic upheaval in our family life after encountering the Holy Spirit in the mid-1960’s.

As a family, we began opening our home on Friday nights for times of waiting on the Spirit. There was no organised programme or speaker. As host, my father would encourage all to be open to the promptings of the Spirit, as in 1 Corinthians 14:26; When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. My brother and I would play keyboard and guitar when anyone suggested a song.

Our living room quickly became packed with bodies, the windows steaming up and parked cars lining the road. More than once people came to the door hoping to gatecrash a hot party. Silly rumours began to spread that people barked like dogs and climbed the walls at the Fountains’ house. The meetings remained unplanned and unpredictable, following the leading of the Spirit.

We removed a wall to enlarge the space as people began coming from near and far. Eventually we jacked up the whole house to build a larger meeting room downstairs. Initially a layman’s affair, the ‘Friday night meeting’ began to attract clergy from mainstream denominations. One night an Anglo-Catholic archdeacon appeared at the door, to our great surprise. For many, these evenings became places of personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was one of the starting points for what became known as the Charismatic Movement in the city of Auckland.

New wave

Looking back over half a century, we can trace various phases of this renewal movement. It began with personal empowerment with lives healed and transformed, flowing over into renewed congregations. My father, a Baptist elder, was amazed to find himself leading ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminars among Catholics.

Renewed worship was a further overflow of this movement. In 1968, a young Kiwi couple named David and Dale Garratt began producing recordings with scripture verses put to music. My brother and I helped record their very first album called Scripture in Song. Les Moir, in his book about the global worship movement, Missing Jewel, says this album set the pace for a whole new wave of songwriters and worship leaders shaping church worship everywhere.

Around the same time, Loren Cunningham was introducing his fledgling organisation, Youth With A Mission, to New Zealand. In those days, a global YWAM conference could have been held in a telephone booth. The timing was perfect for many Spirit-filled young people to go overseas on short term outreaches. New Zealand was the first country outside of the USA where YWAM became established. Missions became the next phase of the renewal movement.

Others staying at home began to explore what the gospel meant for what my father called ‘the other 100 hours’; those hours each week not spent at church or in sleep (activities which sometimes overlapped). God was empowering his people as agents of his Kingdom for this next phase–of effecting transformation in all spheres of daily life and society. The division between so-called sacred and secular areas of life was breaking down.

New expression

While for some this appeared as ‘new revelation’ from above, Francis Schaeffer and others pointed to the profound and far-reaching tradition of John Calvin, who in the sixteenth-century had preached and taught this message every day in the city where we were now meeting. Geneva became what John Knox called ‘the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the Apostles’, following Calvin’s teaching about family, business, education, government, church and other lifespheres.

A further phase came with the awakened realisation of God’s concern for justice and mercy. The mercy ministries of Matthew 25 took on new expression in food banks, community counselling, refugee and migrant ministries, Christians fighting poverty and much more.

Despite this last phase, the emphasis on transformation is today in danger of being hijacked by those who believe that by infiltrating Christians into top political positions to dominate and control such spheres or ‘mountains’, society will be transformed. Too often, especially across the Atlantic, this is associated with a ‘culture wars’ mentality, a ‘them-and-us’ mindset, further polarising an already divided society.

The time seems ripe for a new phase of renewal, expressing God’s ultimate goal for human history–which we will write about next time.

Till next week,

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