DTS Week 3: CIRCUIT RIDERS Norway

For our third week of DTS we sent the team off to Norway to join the Circuit Riders for a week of revival training and evangelistic outreach. Taryn and I were involved with the Circuit Riders training camp in Harpenden (‘London’) in 2012, and it was a life-changing experience (you can read my accounts here, here, here, here, here and here).

They had an amazing time:

And that video doesn’t even begin to go into the testimonies of our team getting filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, souls being saved on the streets of Norway, and the heavens opening to reveal the glorious beauty of the Northern Lights.

DTS Week 2: ORIENTATION (Peter Prescott)

After diving in last week with Shephen’s teaching on MISSION, this week was a chance to explain the story and vision of YWAM Cambridge.

I started with a rendition of my own story, which flowed into my take on the YWAM Cambridge story thus far. And then I tried to set this in the wider context of YWAM’s story (and told them that they’ll need to read Is That Really You God? by the end of October), and we finished with the YWAM Values.

The next morning we talked about CULTURE: about being from different cultures, and the missionary principle of cultural adaptation (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23), and what it might look like for us to have a Kingdom Culture (Unoffendable Heart, Culture of Faith, Culture of Honour, Radical Servanthood, Joy-filled Repentance).

I then spent some time unpacking the heart and vision behind some of the things we’ll be doing: Evangelism, Pioneering Simple (Multiplying!) Discipleship, Worship & Prayer.

On Evangelism: How God took me from handing out mustard seeds to effectively sharing the simple gospel.
What we want to see on our scheduled evangelism times: the gospel shared, souls saved, people developing their evangelistic muscle, starting from where they’re at, but stepping out their comfort zone, and creatively dreaming with the Holy Spirit about how to do this even more effectively. (I touched on why we count).

On Simple Discipleship: The revelation that multiplication is ultimately more effective than anointed addition. If there were one super-evangelist, able to lead one thousand people to the Lord every day, then after one thousand years (supposing he lived that long), he would still not have reached a billion people. But if two people were to faithfully commit to simple (even ineffective) evangelism and discipleship, and every year were to each lead only one person to the Lord — but were to train them to do the same! — then their number would double each year. It would be twenty-four years before their numbers compared to the super-evangelist — but if they continued at that same rate for just ten more years after that, their number would exceed that of the entire world’s population! So the Great Commission can be finished in a generation — if only every Christian is involved in the work of simple evangelism and discipleship!
The story of how we’ve got to where we’ve got to with our attempts to start a house church movement.
And my ‘single-handed’ discipleship course running through the basics of simple Christianity.

On Worship & Prayer: I shared my seven reasons for night & day prayer, and a brief explanation of the tabernacle of David, before sharing some thoughts on The Heavenly Prayer Room as described in Revelation 4-5.

Mark Stanyer, YFC youth worker who is conencted to the local churches, came and invited us to be involved with some local ministries.

And Jane gave some suggestions for how to spend time relaxing in Cambridge: museums, evensong, theatrical performances…

I finished the week with an abridged tour of some of Cambridge’s Christian Heritage.

The YWAM Cambridge story thus far

In 2006, the founder of the largest missionary fellowship in the world was invited to come to England and speak. His reply was simple: ‘I will only come if God gives me a word for England’. Loren Cunningham prayed — and God gave him that word. It was a word about a coming wave of mission that would go forth from the British Isles to the ends of the earth. Loren came and proclaimed the word in five different cities on five consecutive nights: “I believe Britain is ready for a new surge in missions”. Loren reminded those listening of Britain’s missionary heritage and declared that this coming wave of mission would be even bigger than anything that had been seen in the past. YWAM England called it the Global Passion Tour.

It was more than just an inspirational message–it was a prophecy, from a man whose adventure in hearing God’s voice has led to millions of young people being trained as missionaries through the YWAM Discipleship Training School, and who prophesied that the Berlin Wall would come down years before it actually did. As a sign and seal of this ‘Next Wave’, God gave YWAM England a million-pound sailing yacht, which was purchased with the largest one-off gift ever received in the history of YWAM England.

Assisting with the organisation of Loren’s Tour was a reserved Englishman by the name of Andrew Taylor. He had done his DTS almost three decades previously, after the Church of England had responded to his sense of a call to the ministry with the advice that he ‘go and get some life experience’. He had stayed in YWAM, led the Operation Year (an attempt to restructure the classic five-month DTS into a full gap-year that would fuel YWAM’s pioneering efforts in English cities), married Connie–a fiery ginger-haired evangelist from California, pioneered (with his wife) the first ever YWAM school in Estonia, and had spent years contending in intercession for revival to break out in Scotland. But he was finding that his administrative abilities — of which YWAM has a continual shortage! — were causing him to be locked into a more limited set of roles than he might have liked, and was wondering whether he might finally have enough life experience (!) to be accepted into Anglican ministry.

Andrew was marked with a conviction that Loren’s word was true, and the promised next wave of mission would come — but that they couldn’t stand passively back waiting for something to happen, but must take this promise and pray it into fulfilment. The Taylor family was coming to the end of a chapter, having spent the previous couple of years in Kent seeing to the affairs of Andrew’s deceased parents. Where should they go? How could they best respond to this incredible word from the Lord? What place was there that had seen this sort of missionary movement in the past, that they could go and pray for that ‘well’ to be unblocked? How about Cambridge — birthplace of England’s Reformation, and the launchpad of the missionary Cambridge Seven –; might God open up the door for them to move to Cambridge?

….

Meanwhile in the summer of 2006, a missionary kid by the name of Peter Prescott had just discovered that he had been accepted into the Mathematics course at Cambridge University — despite failing to quite achieve the results for his Conditional Offer. (This kid would be me!) My parents had been Cambridge students twenty years before, and had met and married and moved to the Philippines to plant churches and reach Asia’s billions with the simple gospel of the love of Jesus. Now, having encountered the fiery power of the Holy Spirit in my final year of school, I was heading to university with a sense of being sent back from Asia as a missionary to England.

But upon reaching Cambridge, I soon found myself struggling: struggling with the workload, struggling to make the most of those fleeting student years which too many describe as ‘the best years of life’, struggling with personal discipline, struggling with pornography, struggling with the question of what all this study was for, struggling to achieve any sort of missionary impact. By the time that I hit second year it was clear that I had neither the motivation nor the mathematical brilliance necessary to thrive in my chosen degree.

In my second year, I was involved in a week of 24/7 Prayer in which I encountered the presence of God in a way that marked me with a burden to continue to pray for night-and-day prayer and worship to rise up in Cambridge, and to do whatever I could to convey the love of Jesus to those around me. Not long afterwards, Andrew and Connie Taylor arrived in Cambridge. I remember being introduced to them by a mutual friend in the very house that hosted that life-changing (at least for me!) week of prayer. We didn’t spend too long on formalities—within minutes we were crying out together in passionate prayer for the power of God to break through and bring a revival that would propel students out in mission to the nations.

….

Around that time, a number of people were beginning to talk about the possibility of a permanent ‘house of prayer’ being established in Cambridge. It was even suggested that a certain old Anglican church, inhabited by a very small congregation, might be converted and made available for such a vision. Andrew wrote an email to a couple of the key people involved, suggesting that there be a meeting to pray and discuss the possibilities that lay ahead. That email was forwarded on to a few others interested in the vision, who forwarded it on to a few others—and about a dozen people (rather than just the three or four initially invited) appeared at the appointed time and place (Inge and John Ruddock’s flat), eyes bright with hope for what might happen. As we started to pray, the Spirit fell – and by the time the meeting had to be brought to a finish, we all knew that God had just started something that must continue. Neil Prem (himself a former YWAMer who had just moved to Cambridge) summed it up in sharing a prophetic picture about the first of a series of flaming beacons being set alight, and we decided to continue meeting on subsequent Friday lunchtimes.

Over the next year or so, those Friday lunchtime prayer meetings continued (and in fact still continue at the time of writing) – occasionally, the strong sense of the Spirit’s anointing would dwindle somewhat, and someone would suggest whether perhaps we should cease to meet in this particular way. After all, we were all busy people and this particular meeting didn’t fit neatly under the remit of any one of the various ministries that we were involved with. But whenever this thought would surface, the next time of prayer would invariably witness a renewed outpouring of spiritual zeal—clearly God was committed to this thing that he was bringing to birth!

So two distinct yet interconnected ventures were beginning to take shape: YWAM Cambridge, and the Cambridge House of Prayer. Andrew had been accepted by the Church of England to begin training at Ridley Hall in Cambridge – the first step in his being ordained as a pioneer minister, and then appointed to lead the Cambridge House of Prayer. Connie was thus the de facto leader of YWAM Cambridge, whose ranks were joined by Andy and Collette Henman and their two daughters—almost a year after deciding that God was calling them to Cambridge, they had finally managed to sell their house in Derby and move. Neil and Esther Prem however had decided that they were not called to be involved full-time with YWAM Cambridge.

….

I graduated, was commissioned as an evangelist by a church in Cambridge, and given a small living allowance to release me to share the gospel and mobilise prayer and evangelism. Except that between graduating and starting work as an evangelist, I had married a beautiful Indian girl called Taryn – and her visa to join me in England was denied. We were forced to spent three of the first months of our married life estranged on opposite sides of the globe, in heartbroken bewilderment as the principalities and powers of international immigration bureaucracy prevented us from seeing each other. The situation could have left us broken and disillusioned. Instead, we pressed into the heart of God, and found that our experience was an echo of a spiritual reality. Just as I longed for my bride to come and join me in England, so Jesus longs for His Bride to come and abide with Him in the place of prayer. Taryn took the psalms of lament and poured out her heart before God (we would later record and release as ‘Songs of the Bride’). I took God’s word to Pharaoh and paraphrased it to synchronise my prayers for my personal situation and for revival in the nation: ‘Thus says the Lord, Let my Bride come to me!’

We appealed the decision and eventually it was overturned: Taryn arrived in England the night before Christmas. Then came the challenging task of learning how to serve together in the work God had called us to. This was my fifth year in Cambridge–this was Taryn’s first time in England. I was rushing around the city, doing whatever I could to connect with kingdom-minded Christians to pray and reach out. Taryn was rushing around behind me, doing whatever she could to work out to work out what was actually happening.

One morning Andy Henman drew us both to one side, and told us he’d been praying for us. ‘And I feel that God’s saying you need to step back for a season, to lay a foundation for your marriage and ministry’. He suggested that doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School could be an appropriate way of doing this. That evening as we talked and prayed about Andy’s advice, we agreed that he was right about us needing to step back for a season. After investigating several possibilities, we finally heard about a one-off ‘Wilberforce DTS’ that was starting that September at YWAM’s forty-acre Harpenden base. Wilberforce had been a Cambridge man, and his heritage of ambitious faith bringing reformation to every sphere of society (as well as battling the slave trade he had also founded dozens of other societies for social reform) had been something we had already spent a large amount of time praying into, and when we went to visit the YWAM Harpenden base everything seemed to fit into place.

We signed up for the DTS, and were then invited to stay on as staff, before returning to Cambridge to help start the first YWAM Cambridge DTS.

….

The first thing we were involved with as YWAM Harpenden staff was the School of the Circuit Rider. Inspired by the early Methodist revivalists, this was a two-week crash course in simple evangelism and fiery faith. On the YWAM Cambridge side of things, Connie had been leading ‘Call of the Wild’ summer mission trips from Cambridge to China each summer for the previous few years, but was persuaded to put those on hold and instead mobilise people to be part of this Circuit Rider school.

As well as staffing the school, myself and Taryn, were appointed leaders of the outreach team sent immediately afterward to London. We were hosted by the London Burn 24-7 team, who were doing non-stop worship during the Olympics in a north London church that had also made their vicarage available to host visiting teams. We began each day with a couple of hours of prayer and worship, and then from that place would scatter in pairs out to the streets of North London, ready to share the love of Jesus with whoever we encountered. And whenever we regrouped, there would be incredible testimonies of what God had done—souls saved, bodies healed, the kingdom advancing!

I woke up early on the final day of the two-week outreach, with a burning sense that this was the day I would see revival come. That evening we took our team to join a youth group in Brixton. The numbers were disappointing, the kids unruly, the meeting the antithesis of what I expected ‘revival’ to look like. But after it had finished, myself and another girl on our team had the chance to pray with two of the boys, that they would encounter Jesus. And – at first I thought they were making fun of us – as we prayed they began to describe what both of them were seeing: ‘I see a man in a white suit’ – ‘Yeah, and he’s got a gold scarf’ – ‘That’s right, and gold shoes!’ – ‘His hair is white’. They were describing Jesus, as he appears in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, but as only two kids who had never read that chapter of the Bible could.

It was our first experience of missionary leadership, and it felt like we had tasted something of the authentic glory of the presence of God. The outreach came to an end, and we returned to Harpenden longing to experience that again: ‘What if in Cambridge we had a house where we could live in worshipping community, and see revival break out from that place of intimacy with Jesus?’ But of course, even just a four bedroom house in Cambridge would cost perhaps half a million pounds—far more than we could even dream of being able to afford.

….

The next morning as I was reading my Bible, the seemingly impossible thought of such a house refused to go away. I was reading Romans, and tried to focus on the text. It was about Abraham, a man who received an apparently impossible promise from God, and who “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21). What particularly caught my attention was that God sealed that promise to Abraham with a specific sign – circumcision. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘might be the sign of God’s sealing this promise to me of a big community house in Cambridge?’ Immediately into my mind came ‘£100 – today’. And immediately unbelief rose in my heart – because it’s easy to belief vaguely that someday somehow it might be possible to have a big house. But it’s difficult to believe that by the end of today someone would give me £100.

Sometime that afternoon, no-one having yet given me any money (!), I decided to check my online bank account, just in case. And as I opened it I was astonished to see that the most recent gift was a gift for £100. I looked again – it was not £100 but £1000! I called up the generous giver to express my gratitude. They told me that they had given in response to a dream from the Lord: “God told me I should give it to you ‘for the baby’” – and they explained – “it’s not necessarily a physical ‘baby’, but some project that you’re beginning”.

A few months later, I was investigating possibilities for rented accommodation in Cambridge, when I came across a large guesthouse (with fifteen ensuite bedrooms) for sale for just under a million pounds. And as soon as I saw it, I felt God give me faith that to purchase it is possible. He gave me the verse from Revelation 5:11-12 (which immediately came to mind), “I looked and I heard… thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb…’” So I felt that we should be asking (in prayer and to whoever might want to partner with us) for a ‘thousand thousands’ – ie. one thousand donations of £1000 (which would make £1 million). And God had already given Taryn and me the first thousand pounds as a seal of a promise for a big community house in Cambridge.

As I started to share this story, several people immediately began to respond with their own thousand pound gifts. I was given an envelope stuffed with fifty twenty-pound notes; I received a cheque for a thousand pounds; I discovered another thousand-pound gift quietly transferred into my bank account. Within a few weeks there was about seventeen-thousand pounds sitting in YWAM Cambridge’s ‘House Fund’. It was an impressive release of supernatural finance – but it was nowhere near enough to purchase a property, and in spite of our attempts to tell the owner our story and invite him to become a part of our faith venture, we were unable to buy that particular property. In the meantime we continue to remind ourselves of God’s promise, and to steward the gifts that have been given towards the eventual purchase of a permanent property.

….

It was now five years since the Taylor family had moved to Cambridge, and YWAM Cambridge still had only two full-time staff: Connie Taylor, and Andy Henman. Growth was coming—but before God multiplied the numbers, He would first bring the breakthrough that would be imparted to those that would later come.

Global Outreach Day 2013 was the moment that breakthrough occurred. The vision for Global Outreach Day is that, on the Sunday after Pentecost, Christians all around the world should take the opportunity to share the gospel with those around them. Connie Taylor had invited whoever she could to join the Cambridge team in marking the Day with evangelistic outreach in Cambridge: Taryn and I were there coordinating the outreach for a team from Kona, Hawaii; there was a Wildfire team of Christian families from around the country; and several others—perhaps forty in total. In order to help this disparate collective connect with people and share the simple gospel, Connie had got hold of some elastic and six different colours of beads, and prepared an arsenal of Good News Bracelets.

We were still in a church hall for our initial time of worship and training, when there came the first testimony of someone giving their life to Jesus. Mario was a Portuguese man looking for a job, and had for some reason wandered in to the church building—when one of our team had used the opportunity to tell him about Jesus and invite him to put his trust in Him! And by the end of that day we had seen about forty people on the streets respond to the gospel by praying a simple salvation prayer.

….

We had decided that YWAM Cambridge’s first Discipleship Training School would begin in September 2013 – even if there were just three people signed up, better to get the ball rolling and see what might happen after that. We wanted to put a particular emphasis on prayer and worship, and to impart that breakthrough we had experienced in simple street evangelism. We didn’t want YWAM Cambridge to become just another training base, but we wanted to gather a team of faith-filled disciples of Jesus who could impact the city in the power of the Spirit to the glory of God! God had given us the words ‘Revival & Reformation’ with which to title our particular DTS – a tribute to Cambridge’s Christian heritage, and a declaration of faith that God would ‘do it again!’ – and we had agreed that if we were to have time to engage with life in Cambridge during the lecture phase, the DTS would need to be nine months long, rather than the typical five.

Taryn and I were still living in Harpenden, so Connie and Andy would drive over so that we could pray together about the DTS. Mike & Jane Askew had also been persuaded to help with this pioneering DTS: their three sons had all done the DTS and Mike’s retirement had given them the chance to theirs in Kona, where they had also subsequently staffed another school.

Also joining our DTS staff team was Bethany Breed. She had been to the city previously on a DTS outreach team that Taryn and I led from Harpenden to India, with a couple of week in Cambridge at the end. Our time in Cambridge was something of a challenge—it was the middle of the English winter, making any sort of outdoor ministry less appealing; and our accommodation had no shower, meaning we had to trudge across town in order to have a wash. But the outreach had the incredibly significant outcome of bringing Bethany onto the YWAM Cambridge team. She was an eighteen-year old American doing her DTS, and the day that we arrived in Cambridge, as we joined the Friday lunchtime prayer group (that I’ve already mentioned), she heard the voice of God telling her that this was where He was calling her.

….

As it turned out, the Revival & Reformation DTS didn’t turn out to be YWAM Cambridge’s first school. Cliff & Amaris Davis, from YWAM LA, were invited to consider coming to Cambridge by Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian apologist who was connected with Christian Heritage. As it happened, Vishal ended up not continuing in Cambridge, but Cliff & Amaris were persuaded by Connie to come and run their Chronological Bible Core Course (three months of intensive inductive bible study). So YWAM Cambridge was having twins!

The CBCC began in mid-September with five students and another staff member, Heather, who Cliff had recruited for the school from YWAM LA. The school was hosted by John and Inge Ruddock, in their newly renovated Oak Villa, thirty minutes to the west of Cambridge in the village of Madingley. Meanwhile, we were still searching for somewhere to host the DTS – which had six trainees arriving in a couple of weeks! Our dream of buying a property had been put on hold, and our attempts to rent a house kept meeting with landlords suspicious of the sort of group (A family? No; Professionals? No; Students? Not exactly…) we were. Finally we found someone willing to let their house to us. The contract was ready to be signed—but it needed to be ratified by the YWAM England board, who happened to be on retreat in the Lake District and seemed impossible to contact. It wasn’t until three days before the school was to begin that we had actually agreed terms and been given the keys—and the house was still unfurnished! But through some miracle of divine provision, various local Christians donated the necessary beds and tables, and the house was furnished literally as the students arrived. When our first student arrived, she was shown to a room with one bunk-bed and told that she would be sharing it with three others—the second bunk duly arrived a couple of hours later, just before her next roommate.

The DTS continued to experience the manifest power of God as we stepped out in faith beyond the boundaries of our own human strength. The impartation of evangelistic effectiveness we were hoping would take place happened within the very first week, and each week there were testimonies of people responding to the simple gospel. We felt the tangible glory of God within touching-distance as we worshipped for two hours each afternoon. We went to Hull for a weekend to do outreach with Wildfire; we went to Norway for a week to join the Circuit Riders. We absorbed into our number a seventh student: the son of a local pastor who had tragically died of a recent heart-attack, and he was filled to overflowing with the irrepressible joy of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t all miracles and glory-stories—in spite of our prayers, our friend Inge died of cancer, after a long and painful battle against it.

….

In January 2014, YWAM Cambridge was joined by Gary and Caroline Morgan, the leaders of the Year For God, who moved from Holmsted Manor to Cambridge. The Year For God places young people from the Western world in DTSes in developing nations – Uganda, Bolivia, India – where they then continue on staff for the rest of the year after the initial five- or six-months of DTS is completed, thus making for a fully cross-cultural missionary gap-year. It is bracketed by a week of cultural orientation at the start and a week of debrief at the end—the only parts that actually take place in Cambridge. There are two points of entry each year: in August, and in February.

….

We sent our first DTS Outreach team out from Cambridge on March 3?th 2014, to Kenya—to work with the YWAM Atthiriver base, and to serve among the tribal Pokot people.

Taryn and I were unable to go with the team, as she was pregnant – and had been for the precise duration of the DTS! She gave birth to Isaac on May 28th – and we remembered the word we’d been given: “It’s not necessarily a physical ‘baby’, but some project that you’re beginning”. Our first year with YWAM Cambridge had brought forth both.

Our second R&R DTS began in September 2014, this time with nine students (though one left prematurely a couple of months in). As well as all the staff from the first DTS, we had two of our students from the previous year, Hannah, and Lukas, and also Simon, who had done a nine-month DTS with YWAM Coventry. YWAM Cambridge was now renting two houses on the same road, and Taryn and I had rented another for ourselves just around the corner.

We had planned to run a second CBCC—but Amaris had also given birth to a baby, and so that had to be postponed till April. And then she found she was pregnant again, so that too was cancelled! Instead we are planning on starting a full nine-month Chronological School of Biblical Studies, which will begin in September 2016.

Rather than the CBCC, we therefore made plans to start a classic five-month DTS in April 2014. Two more of the students from our previous R&R DTS—Akira and Haley were recruited to join the staff team, as well as Teresa from Germany, and Brandon from the USA.

But all that YWAM Cambridge had begun to do could so easily have been brought to a standstill.

In September 2015, the UK Visa Authority came to inspect YWAM England and found that our record-keeping was not quite up to the new standards. This meant there were three possible consequences: at worst, we could completely lose our visa sponsorship licence (meaning everyone on YWAM visas would have to leave the country, and no more could be granted—and thus putting in jeopardy much of YWAM Cambridge’s work); or, we could be down-graded and have our licence suspended (meaning those already in the country could remain, but no new visas could be granted for six months); or at best (but this seemed almost too much to hope for!), we might be forgiven and our Grade-A status maintained.

Just days before Christmas, we were told that it was going to be the worst-case scenario. After an appeal and much united prayer, that decision was completely reversed – and we were given the best possible result! This meant we could go ahead with the April DTS. Within days of the nine-month R&R DTS heading out on outreach – this time to Albania – this other DTS was beginning, with six students from England, France, the USA, Zimbabwe, India, and Israel.

Before we joined YWAM Cambridge two years ago, there were just two full-time staff: Connie Taylor, and Andy Henman. This September, it looks like will have about twenty, not counting families.

Looking forward, Taryn and I are committing to be in Cambridge with YWAM Cambridge for at least the next five years. Last summer, I mentioned that I was considering Anglican ordination — I have decided that God’s call to us to see YWAM Cambridge established means that I am not to pursue this any time in the next few years. I have however been selected by the Lausanne Movement as one of their ‘Next Generation Young Leaders’, which means that for the next ten years I will be mentored and equipped for the task of mobilising and releasing ‘the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world’.

Two years ago, I tried to put into writing the vision God was giving us for YWAM Cambridge. I wrote that
By 2020 I hope to see, by the grace of God,

– non-stop 24/7 prayer and worship taking place across the city, involving a growing team of more than forty intercessors and musicians;

– daily evangelism taking place within the city;

– at least one hundred Revival & Reformation DTS graduates committed to serve at least two years in cross-cultural mission;

– at least twenty churches planted;

– summer outreaches taking at least forty students in international short-term mission each year;

– at least seven University of the Nations-accredited courses happening in Cambridge each year;

– seven other Revival & Reformation DTSs pioneered in other cities;

— and whatever else God might want to do.

We are making progress on some of these–on others there is still much work to be done.

Nevertheless, the vision remains the same. The vision is Jesus. The vision is an army of young people. The vision is night and day worship overflowing in mission to the ends of the earth. The vision is revival and reformation impacting every sphere of society and igniting Cambridge with whole-hearted love for God. The vision is an exponentially multiplying movement of discipleship that would fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. When I close my eyes, I can see it! And yet when I open my eyes, it still sometimes seems a long way off.

We cannot do this alone. We need your help. Will you join us in making this vision a reality?

You can contribute financially;
You can commit to pray for us;
You can come and join us.

Your partner in the gospel,
Peter

Ancient Wells: The Spiritual Heritage of Cambridge

Cambridge-Heroes-of-the-Faith-captionsIn our prayers for revival & reformation to be released from heaven into the streets and gutters of Cambridge, one image that has profoundly inspired us has been that of the ‘ancient wells’ being unblocked.

The image is from Genesis 26, after Abraham has died. Again there is a famine in the land, and Isaac is tempted to follow the example of his father and give up, at least temporarily, on God’s word that this promised land will be his inheritance and a place of blessing to all the nations. But then the Lord appears to him, repeating the promise and commanding Isaac to abide in the land. “And,” we’re told, “Isaac sowed in the land, in the year of famine, and reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him”. How did God make it possible for Isaac to reap a hundredfold harvest in the midst of famine? According to the text, it was not simply through some supernatural miracle, but through Isaac “redigging the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father”.

For us in contemporary Cambridge, the famine that we face is spiritual, as is the hundredfold harvest that we long for. And so the question is, what are the ‘spiritual wells’ that we need to unblock if we are to see spiritual water again begin to flow, and spiritual seeds begin to grow? The answer is the testimony of our forefathers in the faith, which is of course what ‘Abraham’ represents paradigmatically. As Hebrews 13:7 exhorts us, “Remember those who have gone before you, who spoke the word of God; considering their way of life, imitate their faith!”

And as we have begun to realize, Cambridge’s heritage is full of faithful witnesses who testify to the power and truth of God. Here are seven of those heroes, and the spiritual ‘well’ that they represent:

C Simeon
Charles Simeon: Prayer

Saved while a student at King’s College, Cambridge, Charles Simeon then became the vicar of Holy Trinity Church. His evangelical preaching was initially met with fervent opposition: his services were frequently interrupted, he was insulted in the streets, his parishioners would even lock up their (privately-owned) pews to prevent the possibility of other people hearing him preach.

But by steady, faithful discipline in prayer, Simeon overcame public prejudice and eventually gained a remarkable and lasting influence particularly among the university’s undergraduates. And it is said that when he died, half the city attended his funeral to pay their respects.

The story goes that to help him stay disciplined in spending the early morning in private prayer and quiet time with the Lord, he resolved that if he did not rise he would give a half-crown to the servant who cleaned his room. But one cold morning as he struggled to get out of bed, he found himself rationalising that the woman was poor and could doubtless use his charity–and thereafter he decided instead to throw a guinea into the river!

Apparently he only did this once, since “he could not afford to pave the river bed with gold” — but nevertheless, our vision for Cambridge is that students would again be converted to a Christianity committed to costly prayer, and that this would empower them to endure opposition and win people over with the gospel.

W Tyndale
William Tyndale: Bible

Tyndale did his undergraduate study at Oxford, but complained that although he was supposed to be receiving training for Christian ministry, the course included no systematic study of the Bible. In fact, at the time it was a crime punishable by death to be in possession of an English translation of any portion of Scripture! He then spent a few years in Cambridge, where a few years earlier Erasmus — who put together the first scholarly Greek New Testament — had been teaching.

His conviction that the Bible needed to be made available to everyone was incredibly controversial. He famously got into an argument with a certain Catholic clergyman (this was before the Church of England had broken away from the Roman Catholic church), who told Tyndale that, “We had better be without God’s laws than the Pope’s.” Tyndale responded: “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou!”

Tyndale’s life was not spared quite long enough to translate the entirety of the Bible into English — he was betrayed and arrested for his ‘heresy’, and then strangled and burned at the stake. But his dying prayer that God would “Open the King of England’s eyes!” was answered, and within two years an English Bible had been authorized that was mostly Tyndale’s own work.

Our vision for Cambridge is that God would again raise up people with a fervent zeal to do whatever it costs to make the Bible available and understood, in England and all the nations.

JC Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell: Wisdom

Cambridge is famous throughout the world for its scientific research: this was where Isaac Newton wrote his ground-breaking Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, almost single-handedly establishing a new standard for ‘natural philosophy’ (what we now call ‘science’) in which experimental evidence would be explained by mathematical models. In more recent times, Cambridge has been the home of several scientists that have given some the impression that scientific study and religious conviction are incompatible: Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theory seems to so many to be a considerable hurdle to biblical belief, was a Cambridge scientist; so was Francis Crick, discoverer of DNA, and an adamant atheist.

But of all these great scientists, it was a man called James Clerk Maxwell whose discoveries were said by Einstein to have “changed the world forever”. Maxwell formulated the theory of electromagnetism, unifying the understanding of electricy, magnetism and light. He was one of the founders of the University of Cambridge’s physics lab, the Cavendish Laboratory, and he was also a convinced Christian. To this day a visitor to Cambridge can see, inscribed over the door of the Cavendish Laboratory, the words of Psalm 111:2 which Cavendish chose as the science lab’s motto: “The works of the Lord are great; sought out of all them that have pleasure therein”.

Our vision is that God would again raise up Christians who would be able to demonstrate that there is no contradiction between trusting in God and studying the world He has made, and whose wisdom would impact not just academic study, but every sphere of ordinary life. And our conviction is that God is able to bring that wisdom not just through the educated elite, but through the simplest student of His word and His ways.

CS Lewis
C.S. Lewis: Creativity

C.S. Lewis is probably the best-known Christian author of the twentieth-century, having written both the children’s fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as numerous works of popular apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and The Problem of Pain. But perhaps it is less well-known that all of this writing was really just a particularly fruitful hobby! — for his full-time employment was as an academic lecturer in the field of English Literature.

His academic career began at Oxford, where he studied as an undergraduate and later became a Christian through the witness of friends such as J.R.R. Tolkien. But he had to move to Cambridge to be given the senior position of ‘Professor’ — apparently his colleagues disliked his open and confident Christian faith.

Our vision is that God would again release Christ-centred creativity from Cambridge that would demonstrate the beauty and truth of Christianity. Like CS Lewis, we pray that this would happen both directly — in formulating persuasive arguments for gospel truth–, and more indirectly — in telling stories, singing songs, creating art that would captivate imaginations with the glory of God.

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William Wilberforce: Justice

The name of William Wilberforce is now almost synonymous with the fight against institutionalized evil — his battle against slavery is one of the greatest stories of persistent moral of the last few centuries. But Wilberforce was not always on the side of justice and right. As a student he spent his time drinking and playing cards, and he initially bribed his way into politics.

But he then agreed to go on holiday with a Christian friend from University, and as they spent time reading the New Testament together, Wilberforce was convicted of his need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This prompted a crisis of calling–could he stay in the political world that he had so selfishly become involved with? Through the advice of his godly mentor John Newton, Wilberforce was persuaded that he could in fact use his influence for God’s glory, and spent the rest of his life pursuing what he described as his “two great ambitions: the abolition of slavery and the reformation of ‘manners’ [ie. society’s standards of living]”.

The battle against the slave trade took his whole life–Wilberforce died just days after hearing that the government had made concessions that guaranteed that the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery would at last be passed. But Wilberforce was also involved with numerous other societies focused on social reformation, involving everything from education to animal cruelty. The fuel that powered all this commitment to social justice, was the revelation that the justice of God is a free gift that can be ours through faith in Jesus–this was the subject of his best-selling book contrasting authentic biblical Christianity with the nominal religion of his time.

Our vision is for another generation to experience the revival of heart that comes from understanding the gospel, and for this to release a reformation of every sphere of society.

H Roseveare
Helen Roseveare: Mercy

Helen Roseveare was an atheist when she came to Cambridge to study medicine, but became a Christian through the witness of the University’s Christian Union. She then went to Central Africa, where she was involved in what we in YWAM today describe as ‘mercy ministry’–she set up several hospitals.

But the mercy that she ministered went far deeper than merely alleviating the physical suffering that she saw around her. This is demonstrated overwhelmingly by her response to what some would see as an unforgiveable sin–being brutally raped by a soldier during the Congolese civil war. She later returned to Congo and had the opportunity to meet the man — now in prison — who had humiliated her, and she took that opportunity to tell him face-to-face that he was forgiven.

Our vision is that God would release this sort of supernatural mercy again from Cambridge, that would indeed alleviate physical suffering, but also even more profoundly release spiritual mercy and forgiveness.

CT Studd
C.T. Studd: Mission

Perhaps the one hero of the faith from Cambridge’s past that has most inspired YWAM Cambridge’s vision for Cambridge is the converted student and cricketer C.T. Studd, who went as a missionary to China as one of the Cambridge Seven, then to India (where he pastored the church in South India where I was baptized!), and in later life — in spite of being rejected by the existing mission societies as medically unfit — to Africa.

As well as giving up his career as the most celebrated sportsman in England, he also gave up a massive fortune of £29,000 ( equivalent today to about £2.3 million), and left everything to obey God’s call on him to become a missionary.

CT Studd summed up his life vision in this little rhyming couplet:
Some wish to live within the sound of Church or chapel bell,
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.

Our vision is that young people in Cambridge would again say Yes to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ–wherever God calls them to go, whatever God calls them to do, however much the cost might be!

YWAM Gathering ’15 in 4 W’s

YWAM Gathering 15

W.I.S.E. Together
It took me a little while to work out why the official hashtag for the YWAM UK & Ireland Gathering was #YWAMWISE15, but eventually I managed to work it out — it’s an acronym of Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. And while there’s generally a YWAM England Gathering every year (last year myself and Taryn were unable to go, as we had more important matters to attend to), this was the first time in [] years that the Home Nations had gathered like this. It was repeated several times that this was not a political statement — and in chatting to a few from YWAM Scotland it turned out that there were strongly contrasting opinions on the (currently settled) question of Scottish independence — but with the UK elections coming up just days after the Gathering, it was certainly a statement about our spiritual unity being necessary and vital, regardless of our political situation.

Wonderful Connections
And it was a real joy and refreshment to connect with the UK&I YWAM Family: with those from Harpenden (where the Gathering was being hosted) that we know from our time on DTS and subsequently as staff there; with those in YWAM England that we’d not seen since the miraculous reinstatement of our visa licence; with those from further-afield that I’d met at some European event we’d mutually attended, and whose names I could not always quite remember. Every single evening of the long weekend I found myself chatting with someone after the end of the evening meeting, and experiencing that rare and sudden realization that this particular conversation we were having was not idle chit-chat but rather heart-connection–our simple words sowing the seeds of relationship that you know will one day bear significant fruit. And even in that moment you can taste the sweetness of it! And a moment of simple prayer suddenly shifts into a powerful prophecy of destiny, and you open your eyes and find that you don’t dare to leave the spot you’re standing, for fear that maybe there’s more the Holy Spirit wants to do.

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Photo Credit: YWAM Rostrevor

Word of the Lord
Our speaker for the weekend was Alejandro Rodgriguez, leader of YWAM Argentina, and the author of a book about ‘Apostolic Vision’. He was preaching in Spanish, ably translated by Steve Bishop, who spent seven years with his family in Argentina on Alejandro’s team, and from the beginning declared his intention of sharing with us something that would be ‘simple, and yet also profound’. And so it was! His talked about the priority of love, the difference between superficial sociability and real relational depth, the necessity of sometimes losing time to win family, the need for ministries that achieve multiplication and not just addition (even though when you’re beginning, addition seems like the better option: 1+1=2, but 1×1 is just 1!).

And by the end of his final message on the Sunday evening we were on our faces kneeling on a giant map of the nations of the world, surrendering our lives again to obey the call of Jesus upon us.

Worship
I do love our regular times of YWAM Cambridge worship in which we have a fairly small group of people squeezing into a room that still always manages to be slightly smaller than adequate for all gathered, and with one instrument and a basic sense of the words and tune of the songs we’re trying to sing, we come boldly (!) before God’s throne of grace trusting that regardless of our musical accomplishment we will find mercy in time of need (and, let’s be honest, it’s almost always our time of need!) But having said that it’s something of a relief to be part of a congregation of several hundred where you can just be caught up in the joyful praise of the multitude. And yet the thing I love about YWAM is that even in the larger gathering, the value of each one being able to hear God’s voice is still believed and practised. And on multiple occasions throughout the weekend the worship was interrupted by a word from someone within the gathered group. In particular, someone shared at the end of the first session a sense they had that the Spirit was marking different people with a call to take the gospel to closed nations of the world.

And I had an image through which I felt God speaking powerfully, and which I was able to share, of a butterfly: small, fragile, beautiful yes, but almost insignificant in its vulnerability, and yet a single flap of its wings can make the difference in the chaos (to our finite minds!) of the atmosphere between there being a hurricane (and the “love like a hurricane” of which the song speaks) or a mere breeze; and God wants those of us who feel small and insignificant to faithfully flap our small, vulnerable, but-to-Him-beautiful wings, and thus release these hurricanes of love!; and God wants those of us who feel like caterpillars to not be afraid that we don’t appear able even to flap, for he can transform us completely.

So I return to Cambridge re-inspired to let my little work of faith and labour of love become a Butterfly effect in the hands of Almighty God.

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(Photo Credit: Donald Jusa)

Report: A Week @YWAM Herrnhut

We had a great time last year taking our DTS to Norway for the School of the Circuit Rider, and so this year were again trying to work out a similarly awesome opportunity to leave British shore for a first foray into the nations! So when at the YWAM Western European DTS Staff Gathering (hosted by the King’s Lodge in August) I connected with Ian Gosnell, leader of YWAM Herrnhut’s Revive DTS, and he mentioned to me that they were having Dan Baumann to come speak and we would be welcome to bring our team– needless to say, I seized the opportunity with joy!

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The Journey
Herrnhut is not a straightforward place to get to, particularly when you’re trying to do it as cheaply as possible. Travelling from Cambridge to almost anywhere in Europe is usually fairly simple, as budget flights go to most major European cities from London’s Stansted Airport, which is just a short train journey from Cambridge. But although getting to Berlin was quite easy, we then had to get the bus from Berlin to Dresden, and the train to Löbau, before finally being picked up by someone from YWAM Herrnhut who could take us the remaining distance to the ‘Water Castle’ which is now the YWAM Herrnhut training base. And since the buses from Berlin to Dresden don’t run through the night, and our flight arrived at Berlin Schonefeld Airport late in the evening, we had to spend the whole night in the airport trying to get whatever sleep we could. (Or, if you’re me, using the opportunity to at last write up some blog posts — about this, this, and that — and a prayer letter.)

To make matters even more interesting, every single time some official needed to check the non-European visas, there was great confusion about Taryn’s status. Now, on the VFS website for Germany visa applications it states simply that you don’t need a visa if you are a partner (married or civil partnership) or child of an EU/EEA/EFTA national, if you hold a British “Residence Card of a Family Member of an EEA National” or a “Permanent Residence Card” – and only if you are travelling together with the EU/EEA/EFTA national. And so we had concluded, ‘married to EU national–tick!’, ‘Permanent Residence Card–tick!’, ‘travelling together–tick!’ — and assumed there should be no problem. The first official to check our documentation was persuaded, although it did take her fifteen minutes of behind-the-scene consultation. The second official, checking our documents before we boarded the place to Berlin, was not persuaded at all–but eventually his superior told him to let us through, and we were given a gruff non-apology and allowed to board the plane.

Now, it might be that this second official was actually right, for when we arrived in Berlin and tried to go through immigration, again we were met with confusion. ‘It doesn’t say Married on your Residence Card!’ — ‘No, but we could only get it because we are married! and the spouse visa which it replaced is still in Taryn’s passport with both our names on it’. We were told to follow a stern-looking black-shirted official down an empty corridor, and taken into a little upstairs office. We were the object of impenetrable glances, and some debate. (Though whenever the official would catch Isaac’s eyes, his sternness would melt, and he’d give Isaac a little wave!) Eventually they concluded that if they gave us a free one-day Schengen visa, to cover the moment of Taryn’s entry into Germany, then it wouldn’t be a problem once she was actually in Germany. ‘But,’ and finally they found a copy of someone else’s British ‘Residence Card of a Family Member of an EEA National’, ‘next time you should have one of these’. It had taken an hour after everyone else had gone through immigration–but praise God that we were all let into Germany!

YWAM Herrnhut’s Castle
Anyway, at long last we arrived at YWAM Herrnhut’s ‘Castle’ — which you can see in my photo above. The ‘Castle’ might not have battlements, but it is surrounded by a twelve-foot ditch which was once a moat, and can house more than a hundred people. We were treated to the full story of how YWAM came to own the place from Toni Bragg, one of the original pioneers of YWAM Herrnhut, and now the Western European DTS Coordinator.

It’s an amazing story which started with just a few of them responding to God’s call to start a YWAM training location in the same place where Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians had maintained a one-hundred-year prayer vigil. They prayed and sought God for a permanent location–but the first place that seemed suitable was also being considered by a Charismatic group wanting to use it for a House of Prayer. So the little group of YWAMers gave that group their blessing (that place is now Jesus Haus, and there is a great relationship between them and YWAM Herrnhut) and continued seeking the Lord for a different place.

Their attention was drawn to the ‘Wasserschloss’ (‘Water-castle’) in Ruppersdorf, an enormous manor house that was being used by the Red Cross as a children’s home. The YWAMers approached them to ask if it was for sale; they were told ‘No’–YWAM could rent the place, but the Red Cross wanted to continue to own it. Again the YWAMers prayed, and this time the picture God gave them was the simple image of someone going into a shop and buying some milk. They received this in faith–God was going to make it possible for them to buy the building, and buy it outright! They went back to the directors of the Castle to tell them they weren’t interested in renting, they felt God had told them to buy the property. They were told its value was 2.1 million euros, but they could make an offer and it would be considered. The YWAMers went away and prayed again, and felt they should offer 230 thousand euros (less than an eighth of the suggested value!) Miraculously, this offer was accepted!–but even after having negotiated such a bargain, they still needed to raise 230,000 euros! The story continues with them praying, and pursuing various strategies to try and raise the money, none of which seemed to be working. Someone had offered an interest-free loan of the necessary amount, but going back to the word about buying ‘the milk’ outright, they felt that this wasn’t God’s plan, and so refused. Finally, less than a week before the deadline, a businessman gave about 200 thousand euros to them outright as a gift, and they were able to purchase the property! And the miracle stories continue, because then the place needed some renovation, as well as beds and mattresses for the DTS which was about to begin…

Dan Baumann–just another ordinary guy
I’d heard Dan Baumann speak in Harpenden, while we were staffing the September ’12 DTS there (this was Bethany‘s DTS), and so knew that it would be great for our Cambridge Revival & Reformation DTS to get to here his teaching.

He must have been in YWAM for about thirty years now, but he has a really youthful simplicity and enthusiasm to him. He is also one of the most laid-back people I’ve ever met, which combines in fascinating ways with his energetic excitement. He’ll be calmly recounting the details of one of his personal stories, and as he comes to the bit where God did something unexpected, his upper body will start rocking back and forth with increasing vigour–and then suddenly his eyes will blaze with fiery passion, and his mouth will explode into a delighted grin as he delivers the concluding point of his story:

“God wants to surprise you! He wants to BAM! you with His love!” [Tweet that.]

Dan’s ‘claim to fame’ is that he was imprisoned in Iran, and since the students of YWAM Herrnhut’s Revive DTS had already heard Dan share this story, he gave our team a special session talking about how that came about and what he learnt through it. But when you meet Dan in person, and when you hear his story, you realise that there’s nothing glamourous about him, and certainly not about his experience of being an imprisoned missionary. Yes, there’s the story of how, when he was eventually brought on trial, the Spirit suddenly gave him the words to proclaim that he had come to Iran to share the love of Jesus–and with that he launched into a passionate evangelistic appeal to those in the court-room gathered to accuse him. And there’s the story of him saying to prison guard who beat him each day, ‘Look, if we’re going to see each other every day, then let’s be friends! What’s your name?’ The guard broke down in tears; it turned out his name was Razak; and he wasn’t beaten by him again. And he emphasises the way that the experience taught him about how the goodness of God is present and accessible in every situation. But he does this without shying away from the hard reality of the experience: at times emotionally devastating (Dan almost committed suicide), at times mind-numbingly dull.

Above all, what I love about Dan is his ordinariness. He has been used by God in incredible ways–but in all of his testimonies God gets all the glory. And he manages this quite deliberately, by sharing not just his testimonies of divine success, but of personal failure. And I was struck during this particular week of teaching by the revelation that the incarnation of Jesus makes all the ordinariness of human life sacred.

The Moravian Heritage
The reason I had heard of Herrnhut, before I had even joined YWAM, was because of the hundred-year prayer vigil that took place here. I guess I came across it first in Pete Greig’s book Red Moon Rising. Among those involved in the contemporary prayer movement, it’s an epic and defining moment–but in the wider church Herrnhut and the Moravians are mostly unheard of.

It turns out that even within Germany the place is quite unknown. While we were waiting for Taryn’s immigration situation to be sorted out, one of the officials asked where we were going. ‘Herrnhut’, I told him. ‘Where?’ ‘Herrnhut!’ But he had no idea where that was–apparently he had never heard of Herrnhut.

What this makes all the more astonishing, is that the very first person that Taryn and I met in Germany (a man who struck up conversation with us while we were in the immigration queue), not only knew of Herrnhut but came from a family that was from Herrnhut. His father had been involved with the Herrnhutter BruderGemeine (Fellowship of Brethren), and had been forced to leave Herrnhut because he refused to cooperate with the Nazis. When the Nazis were defeated he had returned, only to find that life under the Soviets was just as difficult for a principled Christian, and so he had moved with his family to Berlin.

Once in Herrnhut it was arranged for our team to be given the tour of the Moravian heritage sites by a member of the local house of prayer. He told us the story of how the Moravian pietists, led by Christian David, first asked the aristocratic believer Count Zinzendorf if they could shelter on his land; then the story of how revival broke out when Zinzendorf challenged the Moravians to sort out their disputes and be reconciled to one another; and the story of how the children came together to pray for this wonderful tangible sense of God’s presence not to be withdrawn, and were praying so loudly that people in the neighbouring village were complaining about the noise. We saw the bell which was tolled whenever someone would leave Herrnhut as a missionary; we saw the graveyard and the simple flat square tombstones which mark the Herrhutters’ graves; we went up the watchtower which overlooks the whole area.

I had not realised before that the prayer watch wasn’t localised in a particular place, but that people would do their hour from home, or even while at work–for example as they were weaving. What this would look like in today’s world, where work is more often brain-work than manual labour? I also hadn’t realised how important handicraft was to the Moravians. Herrnhut was full of the distinctive Moravian stars, and it turns out that the Christingle so beloved by Anglicans was also a Moravian invention!

Coming home
We left YWAM Herrnhut on Saturday afternoon, and had a fairly straightforward car/train/bus journey to Berlin.

In Berlin I was able to taste the glories of the jam doughnuts which are a local speciality — the Ein Berliner made famous (or at least made known to me) by JFK’s speech expressing solidarity with the people of Berlin (which, contra Eddie Izzard, was perhaps not a gaffe). I was also given the chance, in the airport souvenir shop, to purchase a fragment of the Berlin wall. For fifty euros you can have a substantial slab, for five you only get a pathetic little piece.

But these two things made me realise how recently it was that all of East Germany was still behind the Iron Curtain and under Communist Rule. And now look! Where once there was persecution of Christians and intense suspicion of pretty much everybody, now YWAM has there most popular European training base, from whence people are going to share the love of Jesus with some of the most broken people in the neediest places on earth: kids living in the rubbish dumps of Addis Ababa, for one. Praise God for what he is doing!

Reflection: On a DTS Trainee Deciding to Quit

On Monday we had to wave goodbye to one of our DTS trainees, who informed me on Saturday night that due to what they felt were irresolvable issues with YWAM Cambridge, they had decided to leave the DTS. goodbye
I want to respect the person involved–but I’m going to post a few reflections on the issue here, for three reasons. Firstly, I have committed myself to a high degree of transparency in explaining and communicating the various things involved with the strange job I do. Secondly, and specifically, I’m accountable to those who receive our prayer-letter, who I try to keep informed about what’s happening with our DTS–both positive and negative! Third, I need to get this stuff of my chest because if it stays in my head it will drive me crazy.

#1 Do I need to clarify my theology of the Holy Spirit?
The ‘irresolvable issues’, as far as I understand, were to do with the manifestations of the Holy Spirit–specifically, speaking in tongues and hearing God’s voice. And feeling an unhealthy pressure and condemnation to do those things. Which leads us to the overwhelming question of what made her feel like this!

For while I definitely believe in the continued operation, usefulness, and even necessity (not–please understand!–necessary for personal salvation, but for the accomplishment of the kingdom assignments God gives us to fulfil) of the charismatic Holy Spirit gifts, and I also believe that to be baptised in the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming reality distinct from that of being born again, I reject the idea that the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be speaking in tongues.

Let me repeat, I have no desire to make anyone feel condemned for not speaking in tongues. And if I have done anything to allow any such impression, then maybe I need to explain myself more clearly.

Which I may try and do on this blog at some point in the near future have now done here. And I did try and do when the person involved eventually announced that they were leaving (thus, for the first time, inviting a proper discussion of the matter). But by then it was obviously too late to affect anything. Which brings me to my next thought.

#2 Please share your struggles with your leaders!
If only there had been an open willingness to bring struggles and concerns to the DTS leadership then I think we could have worked through this issue and resolved the matter.

But I think actually that this point can be put more forcefully. I think there’s a biblical imperative to speak up to try and bring change when we think something needs to be changed. Note that I’m saying when you think something needs to be changed, rather than just when you’d prefer something to change–I’m not calling for a generation of chronic mumblers and grumblers. But when we think something is actually wrong (rather than simply not our preference, and here we need discernment!) then we need to speak up!

It might be that we actually have the power to do something about it, in which case we should take the necessary initiative. Or it might be that all the power to bring change rests in the hands of a group of leaders of which we are not part. Nevertheless, in that situation we must still — like Ezekiel — speak out, or risk having the guilt of the sin we perceived rest upon our silent passive selves.

#3 There’s more to life than DTS
Anyway, it’s happened now–so I don’t want to dwell on the negative. I am filled with hope for all involved, and filled with faith that God’s hand is in all this. There is much more to life than DTS, and the DTS certainly has no monopoly on the possibility of encountering God’s presence. Furthermore, I refuse to accept that leaving a DTS before it finishes is necessarily a failure. In fact I am fully convinced that in some situations a person may rightly feel God leading them to do a DTS, come, receive the thing God for which God brought them to DTS, and then rightly feel led to move on before the DTS programme has been completed.

While I was staffing with YWAM Harpenden, there was a guy doing a DTS (this wasn’t a DTS I was working with) who had just come clean after some serious drug addictions. I met him a couple of weeks into the course and he seemed to be thriving–hungry for God and eagerly engaging with the teaching. I was then involved with some other things for a few weeks, before again being able to connect with the group of DTS trainees. But he was nowhere to be seen. I asked around and was told that he’d quit–at which I was surprised, because he had seemed to be doing so well! But further questioning revealed that he hadn’t left out for any negative reason, but rather he had had so much breakthrough so quickly that he felt that he was ready to go home and get straight into the ministry there that he felt God calling him into. The DTS leaders were unsurprisingly disappointed and a little perplexed at the decision, but from my outsider’s point of view it seemed he’d made a good decision.

#4 YWAM Cambridge isn’t for everyone
‘So, do you feel like it’s YWAM in general that you have issues with, or YWAM Cambridge in particular?’ I asked this question, and the response was one of awkward silence, before the soft-spoken response finally came: ‘YWAM Cambridge’. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m not offended by this comment, and in some ways it even makes me glad. Again, a story might help you to understand my thinking.

The summer before we started the Revival & Reformation DTS, we were at Momentum, manning the YWAM stand and trying to give the people there a vision for serving God in mission, specifically through perhaps doing the DTS. I got talking to a girl who had just finished university, and was undecided as to what her next step should be. So I started explaining to her how the DTS might be a good next step for her–and was in particular enthusing about the merits of the 9-month DTS, which of course we were about to start in Cambridge. She listened with interest and took a flyer, but I heard nothing more from her.

Then a few months later, at the Evangelism Gathering of all the UK DTSes, I spotted a face that was somehow familiar–but I wasn’t sure from where. Finally I had the chance to ask, and she explained that she was the one I’d spoken to at Momentum. And she’d been inspired by what I was saying about the DTS, and particularly about the longer version of the DTS. But her conversation had also left her feeling that she’d rather not be on my YWAM Cambridge DTS!

And again I need to say that I’m not offended by this. YWAM Cambridge has a specific flavour, and it is a particularly strong flavour. We share the Foundational Values with every YWAM ministry, but the way we express those is more intense than most — and that’s okay. And I am encouraged by the knowledge that it was through us in YWAM Cambridge doing our thing with passionate intensity that this girl found her place in YWAM with someone else. We are just a catalyst–we are not the complete picture.

#5 Divine acceleration
To return to the original issue of the person who’s just quit our DTS–I had known that this person and also another have both been struggling with some aspects of the teaching and emphasis of our DTS. But what’s interesting is that their responses have been precisely opposite. Just the day before I heard that this person had decided to leave, the other had arranged to talk with me. And she explained that she wants to commit to join the YWAM Cambridge team for the next couple of years, but wanted to make sure the struggles she’s had wouldn’t be a barrier! This sort of strange symmetry seems to me to be that sort of neat little turn of events that must involve God.

And I recall that when we were first praying for the individual concerned, I had the word ‘acceleration’–and prayed that God would begin to work more quickly in her than she even expected! Obviously I wasn’t expecting her to ‘finish’ the DTS six months early, but God’s ways are not our ways!

And if it’s God’s will that’s being done, then may it happen more and more quickly!

Report: DTS Gathering @YWAM Bristol

The DTS Gathering is always a big event—all the different YWAM Discipleship Training Schools in England and Wales (and often Scotland too) joining together for a week of evangelism training and outreach. And its usually in a city where YWAMers are just beginning to dream dreams and see visions of pioneering possibilities. I’ve been to DTS Gatherings in East London, in Glasgow, in Derby—and now in Bristol!

The vision for YWAM Bristol has long been in the hearts of Kyle & Rossie – who used to be the vital force within the ‘Forever Team’, organising DTS Gatherings in all the Olympic cities of the country. But the team has only recently actually come into being, as the Forever Team’s work was finally completed and the two were thus released to move to Bristol and begin the rough but rewarding work of pioneering. And their team now includes three others: Phil & Abbey, and Marlen.

We took the long-distance bus from Cambridge—and before we even reached Bristol, Connie had sat next to a university student and led her to the Lord. So we arrived full of faith for all that the week had in store for us, and found our way to St Paul’s Church, which was hosting us for the week.

Monday began with Yan Nicholls imparting his heart for sharing the gospel:
“Evangelism isn’t an activity, it’s a question! And the question is, how big is your heart?” [Tweet that].

Typically for a DTS Gathering, the schedule each day included worship and teaching each morning and then outreach in the afternoons. Outreach the first day meant heading out to various parts of the city to prayer-walk, asking for the kingdom of God to come in power over the following days. I somehow found myself in the team going to Clifton Suspension Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in the world and a beautiful viewpoint for looking out over the city.

clifton-suspension-sun

Photo Credit: Alex Nail

Then in the evening I had the chance to do some simple Gospel Bracelet training, sharing a few of the stories from our recent street evangelism, equipping people to actually share the simple gospel message, and inspiring people with a vision for the power of the message of Jesus impacting people’s hearts and minds.

Tuesday afternoon was the first scheduled time of evangelistic outreach, and I partnered up with Tim, a young American doing the DTS at Harpenden. He’s eager to share the gospel but just beginning the journey of learning how to do so. We had a number of conversations with different people, and finally met a couple of teenage girls. I introduced myself: “Can we talk to you? My friend Tim has come all the way from the USA to share the message of Jesus with you!” And Tim used the Bracelet to share with them. It turned out one was already a joyfully confident Christian—and after Tim had finished she turned to her friend and, grinning, said “Now you have to become a Christian!” I was able to explain that becoming a Christian is a simple matter of faith and repentance. “Just say sorry for the things you’ve done wrong and then thank Jesus that he died so you could be forgiven and tell him you want to trust him and follow him! I could lead you in a simple prayer like that right now.” And so she took that first step of faith – at which all of heaven rejoices!

On Wednesday, YWAM Cambridge’s own Connie Taylor was teaching on Fear of God and Fear of Man – pursuing the former and breaking free from the latter. The session ended with a powerful and extended time of people coming to the front to take the microphone and declare their commitment to walk free from whatever lie of the enemy it was that had been holding them in bondage. Afterwards, Inga May (a fiery young Norwegian missionary who had been on my team doing street evangelism the afternoon before) comes to me and shares her desire to respond by doing some open-air proclamation of the truths of the gospel.

So rather than just using the Gospel Bracelets in one-on-one conversations, that afternoon we took the amp and mics out with us into the city. The place where we’d been told to go was very close to the site of the very first ever Methodist Chapel to be established in the Wesleyan revival, so we took the opportunity to go there before we began, thrilled by the inspiring heritage of that great movement that began with the open-air proclamation of the truths of the gospel.

wesley-chapel-bristol

Photo Credit: FisherBelfast

There’s actually a statue of Wesley on horseback just outside the Chapel, and around it written various Wesleyan quotes – “An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge!”, “The whole world is my parish!” — so we stopped there to pray for that same revival fire which ‘strangely warmed’ Wesley’s heart to come upon us.

It was a lot of fun having two mics, as it meant that I could intersperse the preaching with a less intimidating and more conversational approach, asking Inga May her story and giving her the chance to share to those passing-by why it was that a Norwegian would be on a high street preaching in Bristol.

street-rap

The next evening we again used the amp – this time to do some street-corner hip hop. I’d discovered that Andrew, who is doing a nine-month DTS in Derby, is an enthusiastic rap lover and performer. And since I also have a little gospel rap, we decided to see how it would work using it to help us share the love of Jesus. And it worked a treat! We even had a guy passing in his car, turn round, park, and come join us. He was a black Pentecostal who himself did some rapping, and when he heard the lyrics of Lecrae (well-known Christian rapper who appeared on the recent Billy Graham film, The Cross), he immediately decided to join in.

The DTS Gathering came to its official end on Friday morning with a time of praying specifically for all of those who felt God calling them to “do the work of an evangelist”.

But for those willing to go the extra mile there was the option of staying an extra night to be involved in some extra outreach—particularly since it was Halloween. For the last few years Halloween in Bristol has involved hundreds of people donning (fake-)blood-splattered costumes (see this video) for an hour-long ‘Zombie Walk’ through the town.
bristol-zombie-walk

As we walked, I got chatting to a zombie nun (!) whose name turned out to be Adam. “I wasn’t expecting to have such a profound conversation when I came out for this!”

The official Zombie Walk finished, and the costumed undead scattered into the town to continue with whatever their plans were for the rest of the evening. For us, we stayed out on the streets giving away free hot drinks, blessing Bristol with the love and explaining the message—of Jesus!

Report: YWAM European Evangelists Consultation 2014

Tuesday 21st October
5:30 am

On our way to the first ever YWAM European Evangelists’ Consultation. Had to wake up at 4.30am to get to the airport on time. The only cheap flights were either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and when the gathering is less than forty-eight hours long (from its start on the Tuesday evening to its finish with lunch on Thursday) missing the first evening seems like a bad idea.

Especially when we’re going all the way to the Netherlands, and especially when I’ve never been to Holland before. An early flight means that we can spend the day in Amsterdam seeing some of the city, before getting the train to Dordrecht in the afternoon, where we’ll be picked up and driven to the village of Bleskensgraaf.

I’m travelling with Connie, who has had less sleep than me, having been speaking at YWAM Reading’s Discipleship Course the night before. But even without sleep she is an unstoppable personal evangelist, striking up conversations with whoever happens to be closest to us.

9:30 am
(or thereabouts, I’m not sure whether I adjusted the time on my watch)

We have arrived in Amsterdam!

Now to get the train to Amsterdam Centraal station. The automatic ticket machines don’t even require you to choose English as an option—they assume most people here are foreigners, and that the locals won’t mind having to operate in a second-language. The Dutch are fantastic with languages.

Connie is again talking to someone about Jesus. He is not interested and attempts (unsuccessfully!) to walk away from the conversation. As Connie scurries down the platform after him, I find myself talking to a lady from Liverpool with a marijuana sticker on her fingernail. Her and her partner have left their eight-year old child at home, babysat by a grandparent, while they come here for a couple of days and get high.

10:30 am
As we come out of Amsterdam Centraal station, it is raining determinedly. We walk a hundred yards out of the station and are distinctly damp. We stop in a McDonalds to work out a plan of action. My main plan had simply been to try and see YWAM Amsterdam’s Prayer Room, which they call the Tabernacle of the Nations. The weather looks like it’s not going to get better any time soon, so we take that as confirmation not to try and squeeze any sight-seeing alongside that #onething.

The Tabernacle is just a few minutes’ walk away from the Centraal train station and so, the rain having eased off slightly, we start heading in its general direction. As we walk down a backstreet lane I am unavoidably reminded that this is the Red Light District of Amsterdam—neither of us is quite sure where to look.

But we make it to the Tabernacle without any trouble. The Urban Presence DTS have just finished their daily two hours of worship and prayer (love DTSes like that!) and are heading back to the big YWAM Amsterdam base (De Poort) down the road. And there is another two-hour prayer meeting just getting started.

The Tabernacle of the Nations is a beautiful long room: there’s a harp and bowl mosaic on the back wall; there are guitar, keyboard, microphones and sound-board permanently in place; there is an abundance of beautiful big maps of the world and its various continents; there are cushions neatly placed around the perimeter of the room to make yourself comfortable.

1:30 pm
The prayer-time finishes and we discover that underneath the Prayer Room is a kitchen and cosy little café. We sit down and introduce ourselves to the musicians who have just finished leading worship.

Robin – who had been playing keyboard – is a tall Dutchman (yes, tall even for a Dutchman!) with a passion for prayer, worship and intimacy with Jesus. As well as being involved with YWAM for a long time, him and his family have also spent some time at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, USA. He tells me the story of how the property which has now become the Tabernacle of the Nations was first obtained, not neglecting to mention the long years of waiting between immediately confirmed divine promise and final fulfilment.

Koryn—who had been one of the singers—is an American girl in her twenties. She has spent several years at IHOP, and is now spending a few months in Amsterdam with the Tabernacle of the Nations. She starts telling us about how they’ve been praying for heavenly justice to break out in the midst of the Red Light District—and then forty-seven of the brothels that are right in the vicinity of the Tabernacle were shut down. Hallelujah!

6 pm
Having had a late lunch with Koryn, and then caught the train from Amsterdam to Dordrecht, we’re now being driven through the beautiful Dutch countryside towards a village called Bleskensgraaf, home to the European office of the Impact World Tour, who are hosting the Evangelists’ Consultation.

The Netherlands is stunningly picturesque. Glistening canals everywhere. Flat and fertile fields stretching out into the wide horizon. Beautiful Dutch farmhouses with thatched roofs. And it turns out we are staying in one. Outside the door sits an impressive pile of homegrown pumpkins.

We walk in to find twenty evangelists sitting round the table having dinner.

7:45 pm
The evening begins with a welcome from Steve, and then a time of worship. Steve’s wife Willy shares a brief word from Psalm 37:23-24: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong for the Lord upholds his hand.” She reminds us that God doesn’t mind when we stumble along—he just delights in us stepping out in faith!

Yan Nichols – who it turns out is perhaps the most widely respected YWAM evangelist in Europe – then shares the heart and story behind this first Evangelists’ Consultation coming into being, before asking the different ministries represented to share what they’re doing and the fruit they’re seeing. We hear about Lance share about the Impact Crew in Spain, using dance and hip hop to draw crowds to their evangelistic events; we hear Bart talk about the God-Story in Holland, doing a similar sort of high-octane evangelistic youth event, and also particularly focusing on then connecting people into longer-term multiplying discipleship groups; we hear Yan talk about what he’s been doing with starting the strategically-placed DTS Gathering weeks of evangelism training.

And Connie shares about the Gospel Bracelet, and the way it’s helped us in Cambridge equip each member of our team—students as much as staff—to be effective soul-winners.

Wednesday 22nd October
9:30 am
The evening session the night before had just been held at the guesthouse where we are all being hosted, but today we are going to gather at the Impact World Tour offices. They too have an amazing story of how God provided the space.

I’ve been asked to begin the day by sharing a brief word. I talk about Mary’s anointing of Jesus in Mark 14, and Jesus’ incredible pronouncement in verse 9 that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her”. And so evangelism is not complete without whole-hearted worship! Just as it’s absurd and impossible to clap with just one hand, so we can’t do evangelism without its aim and its fuel being worship. For the Father doesn’t desire converts, but worshippers, “who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

The day continues with a discussion of YWAM’s evangelism training, particularly in the context of the DTS, but also as regards spotting and nurturing up-and-coming evangelists.

3:30 pm
After a day of intense discussion, we head out to a local skatepark to try and so some evangelism. I quickly discover that there are two hurdles I must overcome in this location: I can’t skate, and I can’t speak Dutch. Fortunately, there is a football cage next to the skate ramps. This is a language I can speak.

After the game I find myself talking to a seventeen-year old Dutch youth who wants to become a policeman. He asks about what I do and I’m able to talk about the joy of following Jesus and gathering and training people to do the same. ‘Would he like to follow Jesus?’ But open though he was, he was also well aware of the cost of becoming a real Christian: ‘My life would have to change’.

Yes it would. And maybe it will. I pray for him that he would know that the worth of Jesus exceeds every cost.

7:45 pm
After dinner back at the guesthouse we again gather in the living room for our evening session. We are talking about what YWAM Evangelism in Europe could and should look like. Steve has a list of Europe’s 300+ cities with populations of more than 120 thousand. We split up and talk about what the vision is that God might be stirring in each of our hearts.

Thursday 23rd October
9:30 am
It is the final morning, and we are trying to actually get done some of the things that have been talked about over the previous couple of days. A list of people who could be asked to speak and train DTS schools in evangelism—tick! A plan for what the rhythm will be for how often this gathering happens, and when the next one will be. Ways of improving mutual communication and sharing resources.

2:30 pm
We are on our way back to Amsterdam, getting a lift from a guy who is connected with the local discipleship training that the IWT team does. His friend Richard is also travelling with us, so me and Connie are taking the opportunity provided by the close confines of our shared back-seat to try and impart to him a vision for evangelism and multiplying discipleship.

4.30 pm
We arrive in Amsterdam and they suggest that we head to the YWAM Café. It’s just outside Amsterdam Centraal station, and its building has Jesus Loves You written in big blue neon lights across its front. It turns out it’s not longer technically a YWAM Café, having now been sold on, but it still has a verse from the Psalms decorating the wall. And to our surprise, it has Thomas – who did the Chronological Bible Core Course with YWAM Cambridge last year – serving as a waiter!

Following that we head towards the actual YWAM Amsterdam base. We don’t have long to stay, as we need to get back to the airport in time for our flight home. But it turns out that the forty-five minutes that we’re there coincides perfectly with their community dinner-time. So we decide to sneak ourselves some soup—and before we know it we’re being introduced to the whole community. Across the room I catch the eye of Mirjam, who did her DTS in Harpenden while me and Taryn were staffing there. Another unexpected rendez-vous! And I also got to meet Ranier, who is leading the base and the afore-mentioned Urban Presence DTS.

And then we were off, speed-walking back to the train station, and then on our way to the airport. It was a fantastic few days—but we have work to do in Cambridge!

Jesus: The Focus of Revival

Both this and last year, I’ve had the privilege of doing an extended series of teaching on JESUS. These slides don’t include my own stories and testimonies, but give a good idea of what I was trying to cover. If these are helpful to you, please feel free to use them. And if you would like me to come and teach (on these or any other topics) then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

We Want To See Jesus

Plus:
Poem: The Vision
Audio: We Want To See Jesus (from the previous year)
Message: The First Commandment

The Meaning of the Cross

The Truth of the Resurrection

Handouts:
Biblical Testimony to the Resurrection
Non-biblical Evidence of Jesus
Plus:
Video: Life of Brian’s Sermon on the Mount
(I didn’t actually use this, but I think it’s a hilarious and thought-provoking launchpad into the whole topic of the Historical Jesus.)
Message: The Undeniable Evidence of the Resurrection

God, the Trinity, & the Divinity of Jesus

Plus:
Video: That’s My King
Video: St. Patrick’s Bad Trinitarian Analogies

The Implications of the Humanity of Jesus

Plus:
Blog Post: More Incarnational Implications–‘The Dignifying of the Ordinary’

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I love preaching. I love the privilege of declaring the glorious truths of the word of God. I love the joy of the Spirit that courses through me as I do so.

But the moment after you’ve just finished preaching can be tough. You’ve just waged war in the heavenlies with all the might you can muster, you’ve just poured out your heart and soul, you’ve just bared your darkest secrets so that the light of God’s truth might shine as clear and bright as possible–and you can’t possibly immediately see the long-term fruit of God’s word taking root in people’s hearts and minds.

This is the case even with just a sermon–how much more with seven and a half hours of preaching to the little team of people that have signed up to spend nine months running together with you for the kingdom of God to come in power?

So it was an incredible blessing on Wednesday afternoon, just after I had finished my final teaching session, to then be able to hear our trainees begin to share their testimonies. If anything they were more raw and vulnerable than I had been in my sharing from the front. But the best part was the moment at the end, after we’d concluded with a few songs of worship, and I’d said that the scheduled time had finished and people could leave if they wanted–but no-one did. Such was the hunger for Jesus, the desire to have eyes opened for a greater vision of him, that everyone stayed for another hour and a half of passionate worship. There were tears, there was dancing, there were new songs–and in the end it only finished because me and Taryn were going out to have dinner together, and so people needed to leave our house.

So to everyone on the Revival & Reformation DTS — and those from last year, who got to hear my first attempt at teaching this subject — THANKYOU!