On to the conference and things after: The day before the conference started, I ended up bringing the three speakers to New Creation’s healing service by Pastor Henry (24th February). My friend who organized the event mentioned that they had heard about New Creation and wanted to attend the healing service. After all, the whole conference they were doing was all about healing (inner, physical) and this was the area that they were into. The leader of the group didn’t really know about Pastor Prince but wanted to check out New Creation because one of his close friends highly recommended Pastor Prince’s ministry, mentioning him as the “Apostle of grace”. Since no one was actually going to bring them to New Creation, I gladly gathered some friends to show them some Singaporean hospitality :) Of course, I was also greedy – greedy to learn :) I wouldn’t have passed up the chance of getting to know these people from whom I could learn much in the things of the Spirit. After all, I would never be able to get to know the leaders from my own 20,000+ member church and learn much from them personally. And New Creation did things quite differently from the typical charismatic church. The leaders of the cell groups I’ve been to were never taught to move in the Spirit in the kind of way I’d be learning in the conference – more on this in the next post.
So anyway, having got to know the speakers for just a few minutes and lining up for tickets to get into the main auditorium at around 5pm+, Ron (the leader of the three and the one with healing gifts) asks there and then in the queue if he could pray for a friend who was clearly in pain in her foot. He prayed a short prayer for healing, asked if my friend got better (there was a bit of improvement) and then asked if she would be willing to spend about 5-10 more minutes so he could pray for her complete healing. I was quite impressed. This is what we Christians should be doing, isn’t it? Praying for the sick and believing God will heal as we pray. We don’t need to wait to get into a healing meeting to receive our healing. And we could pray for healing anywhere. And Ron prayed really believing that God could heal my friend there and then. And even if it didn’t happen the first time he prayed, he believed that the healing would come as he continued to minister to her and pray for her in the next 5-10 minutes.
More on the pain in the foot and healing later, but during dinner in the food court at the basement, the speakers started ministering inner healing and deliverance to my friend. The food court was getting crowded and this was getting exciting. Exciting because I was already beginning to be in the midst of people “doing the stuff”, as John Wimber of Vineyard would say – i.e. doing the stuff Jesus did like healing and deliverance, etc. I wanted to learn and I was already learning even before the conference started. And this was a beautiful start to the rest of the week when I had ample opportunities to learn – observe, ask questions and practice.
It’s not that I had never encountered all this before. I had been a charismatic Christian for 15 years and had been to many charismatic services and attended a few charismatic churches. I had been to teaching sessions and knew a bit about all this stuff. But I never really practiced all this. Partly because even in the charismatic churches I attended all this was never a huge part of what a Christian ought to know and practice. Maybe the leaders knew and practiced all the stuff, but the laypeople were never equipped to move in this area.
And I learned a lot also because the group was really small. The average number of people who attended the 9 sessions over the three days was probably around 10-12 per session. This allowed me lots of time between and after sessions and even after the conference ended to get to know the speakers personally and to learn from them. Not only was I able to pick their brains and ask them hard questions, but Ron was like a mentor to me during this short time. He didn’t just do the stuff and pray for people. He got me to practice what I was learning. He got me to pray for the sick and taught me along the way. He even had little debrief sessions after ministering to people and explained what happened and why he did things the way he did. It was altogether an awesome learning experience that a layperson like me would never have been able to get if the conference was attended by 50 or 100 or thousands of people.
One of the highlights of the conference for me was on the first day when Ron started to pray for people. There was some time left after the teaching session and he decided to call people up to pray for them to show us how he ministered and prayed for people. I was the third person called up and he prayed for me and spoke words over my life that resonated deeply with my heart and were quite accurate. I didn’t feel anything great and there wasn’t any great manifestation. But I was touched by the words he said and felt it was God affirming my gifts. It wasn’t just some general words that could apply to everyone, but the words were quite specific and I knew he couldn’t have known them apart from really tapping into what God was saying. I’ve never had anyone speak over me like that. Maybe I’ve had some general words of encouragement which I don’t remember and which didn’t impact me that much, but nothing that touched my heart like this.
I also had other words spoken to me during the conference. Some are accurate, some not so and some I don’t know. But I’ve recorded in my prayer journal all the words spoken over me and will continue to pray through them and am open to see how God speaks to me through them.
The day after the conference, which was a Sunday, two of the Speakers wanted to visit Church Of Our Saviour (COOS). Unsurprising since COOS is definitely a church to visit with regards to healing – they have been greatly influenced by Bill Johnson and his church – Bethel Church. That Sunday, the focus of the service was on youth and youth ministry. Before the sermon, about 20 youth or so gathered in front of the church and gave Words of Knowledge regarding what God wanted to minister to. Many people went to the front and were touched by God as the youth prayed for them. The senior pastor, Derek Hong, also had this prophetic vision of someone nearly drowning years ago and God wanting to heal the person of that experience. This was of course a very specific vision and someone came forward to him to be prayed for. It was a great experience to see God using young people. I dunno if they allow the gifts to flow like this every meeting, but I think it’s wonderful to see lay people encouraged to practice these gifts and God using them to touch lives.
During the conference, I got to know a young guy who’s hoping to go to Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry this year. (I’m very envious of him – if I were much younger, I would probably go and who knows, God may make a way for me to go one day!) He’s a young prophet who’s being mentored by Rusty Russell. After the conference, I met up with him and talked a lot to him about the prophetic. He introduced me to a cell group he got to know and has been attending recently. The leader of this group is also a student of Rusty and was a cell leader at New Creation many years ago. His cell broke up when he left the church but recently many of them got back together and have been meeting at least once a month. It’s not your typical cell as the focus is just seeking God, receiving from Him and prophesying – and encouraging everyone to move out in the gifts and minister to each other. I’ve been there about twice and had some words spoken over me. I’ve also spoken a lot to the people there about the prophetic and healing. I’m quite excited to continue to attend and learn to move in the Spirit there.
Since the conference, I’ve been mostly attending New Life Vineyard (where the conference was held in) in the mornings and New Creation in the afternoons. New Life Vineyard is a really small church of about 10-15 people. I’ve been experiencing first hand how Vineyard does things and I quite like it. It’s nice to have a small community too, something I’ve been looking for for a while. I’m still not sure if I’ll attend this church but will see how God leads. I also don’t know if I’ll continue to attend New Creation because it can get quite tiring to attend two churches. If I’ve learned anything the past two months, it’s that I need to spend less time outside and more time with God alone if I’m to know more more intimately, hear His voice and move in the Spirit. Even if I don’t go to NCC so often, I’ll still continue to buy Prince’s sermon CDs. Anyway, the past two months or so I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a few Vineyard pastors (from here, Australia and Thailand) and have been asking lots of questions, discussing and learning a lot – and doing a bit of practical stuff too.
A bit about the Vineyard church association and tradition. Not that this conference was a Vineyard conference, but since the model of charismatic Christianity promoted during the conference I think is very Vineyard-like (and though two of the three speakers are not from Vineyard, they do have relationships with Vineyard churches) and it was held in a Vineyard Church, I thought I’d write a bit about it. I mentioned here that I thought John Wimber, one of the founders of Vineyard, would probably be remembered as the most balanced, respected and loved charismatic Christian of modern Christianity. I followed Vineyard from the earliest years of my Christian life until Wimber died in 1997. Vineyard’s worship at that time was awesome and like what Hillsong is today. But what was really so wonderful about Vineyard is that it brought together the best of the charismatic and non-charismatic Christian worlds by introducing a more biblically balanced form of charismatic Christianity to the Christian world. And this is what I’ve always admired of the Vineyard. It was probably them that stirred my desire for many years to become a Bible College lecturer specializing in bringing together the best of both the charismatic and non-charismatic worlds. But I have to acknowledge that from after Wimber’s death in 1997 until the conference, I hadn’t really kept in touch with what had been happening in the Vineyard. After 1997, I moved more into Reformed theology, then social justice issues and emerging church Christianity, then missions, then New Creation’s grace teachings – though all the while never forsaking my interest in charismatic Christianity. I’m pleasantly surprised that Vineyard has been going strong all these years and that one of their distinctives besides “doing the stuff” is their passion for social justice. There also seems to be some Vineyard leaders/churches quite progressive in their theology and into the emerging church movement – which I’m a bit surprised (pleasantly, I guess) because this means there’s a bit of diversity in the Vineyard. I wonder how the Vineyards which appreciate the emerging church tradition combine that with “doing the stuff”.
One thing I really appreciate about the Vineyard besides their balanced charismatic practices is that they are very strong on grace. In fact, my first encounter of teachings on the Father’s love came from Vineyard. The Toronto Blessing (closely related to the Vineyard because the church associated with it was once a Vineyard) I think was really an emotional/inner healing revival. Unlike many other revivals based on a strong conviction of sin, repentance and weeping, the Toronto Blessing’s characteristics were the focus on the Father’s love and laughter. Lives were transformed through encountering the love of the Father healing the wounds of people. And so the Vineyard form of charismatic Christianity is very grace-based and I was very happy when Ron (though not a Vineyard pastor) preached during the conference that Christians have even their future sins forgiven – good stuff! Of course, Ron just said that that’s no big deal as that’s mere classical Christianity – and the guy has a PhD from Oxford in Historical Theology so I think he should know! But still many Christians still don’t live with assurance that their future sins are also forgiven.
Yes, Ron moves in the Spirit and has a PhD from Oxford in theology – I really, really like that combination! We need more of such people strong in the Word and Spirit. I’m going to stop this post here because it’s getting long. If anyone is still following, my next and probably final post in this series would kind of bring together all my experiences regarding healing and the prophetic and offer some thoughts and questions – especially regarding the differences in charismatic beliefs and practices between New Creation and Vineyard (which I’ll take to represent many other charismatic churches).