Wesley Wells of Revival
by Rev David Carr (Renewal Christian Centre, Solihull, Birmingham, England)
Summary of Keynote Address given at Annual Conference of the Free Methodist Church in the UK on 15 May 2004
I was requested to bring this address by Superintendent Allan Ellershaw, following a two day meeting in Oxford with Allan, Rev Andrew Gardner (Fulwood Free Methodist Church) and Rev John Townley (Helston Free Methodist Church). At this meeting John brought a prophetic word:
“Open up old wells, do not delay, time is short, I will help you and I will uphold you.”
Open up old wells – this infers that the wells are closed at present. Do not delay, time is short - this infers the time is now!
I will help you and uphold you – this confirms a divine plan. God will support us and He has the strategy. Genesis 26 v 12 – 22 tells us that Isaac dug again the wells of his father Abraham. The death of the visionary can soon lead to the filling in of the source of the anointing. Yet Isaac’s desire was to reopen the wells and retain the names originally given to them. Faith and truth remain the same regardless of time and circumstance. Tradition changes but truth never changes.
The benefits of a new well should be obvious to all, and yet, just as then, there are many today who do not wish to drink from wells established by men of anointing. As Isaac reopened his father’s old wells and fresh living water again started to flow, quarrels erupted and strife and conflict were stirred up. Isaac tried twice to maintain the opening process, yet the conflict and lack of understanding necessitated a ‘new strategy’. So he moved away to Rehoboth, (which means ‘room’) and there found that the well he reopened was appreciated and there was room to be fruitful in the land. It was a well that did not cause dispute – the water was the same but the location was different. God’s Holy Spirit can move in different styles within Free Methodism as long as we are all drinking the same living water from the wells of holiness and righteousness and sanctification.
Just as then, even now whenever there is a new wave of the Holy Spirit, there will be contention and controversy. Division occurs over ownership and interpretation; problems occur regarding doctrine and tradition. Isaac refused to quit unblocking his father’s wells, because each well discovered the same fresh water – and he was not prepared to argue about ownership, and so he moved on to where he was accepted, and the water flowed freely.
For the Free Methodists to be fruitful in the land, we need a Rehoboth - we need to rediscover the living water that flowed in the times of the founders of Methodism and Free Methodism. We need a new wineskin that can hold the new wine that God wants to bring.
BT Roberts, under the power of the Holy Spirit, saw revival on the scale of 50-100 being saved every night for 8-10 weeks under his preaching. John Wesley used to ask two questions of potential preachers, to test their calling:–
1) Had anyone been saved under their preaching? If the answer was ‘no’ Wesley concluded that they were not called to preach;
2) What responses were evident at the meetings they held? Wesley expected not only hearers to experience conviction of sin and the converted to be filled with the Spirit, but demons to be cast out and the sick to be healed.
Few ... leaders today would qualify by Wesley’s standards! According to Billy Graham we should be expecting two things to be evident when revival comes:
1) a new sense of holiness of God,
2) a new sense of the sinfulness of sin.
Another closely related indication of revival would be a new working of the Holy Spirit.
When John Townley brought the prophetic word, Superintendent Allan Ellershaw asked me what wells needed to be opened. I gave him the following seven suggestions:
For us to achieve these historic values, change needs to start now, in accordance with the prophetic word given.
Rehoboth needs to become a prophetic reality – we need to operate with a wider mindset, and a wider administration. If we are to be ‘fruitful in the land’ and expand beyond our boundaries - if we are to become relevant to the wider body of Christ - we need to make bold, big decisions.
Although John’s word challenged us ‘Time is short, do not delay’, it is true that at this present time the Free Methodist movement does not have the in-depth size or infrastructure to reach the nation. However, with the Ministry of Power meetings which Renewal is conducting up and down the country comes the advantage of raising the profile of the Free Methodists - who we are, our ethos and our values. Many who belong to independent fellowships may begin to realise the call to be under covering at this time and be attracted to Free Methodism, wishing to be a part of ‘opening the Wesley wells of revival’.
The ‘opening’ has started: where we go from here is known by the Lord. Yet it must be instigated by us. May this Conference be the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Free Methodism.
Will our values change? No. Will our ethos? Not necessarily. Will our methods and structures change? They will have to! New wine demands new wine skins – Jesus said so. We must be careful not to lose the wine because of disagreements concerning the skin. The skin must be supple and flexible so that the growth of the wine is not inhibited. If the skin is not ready, the impact of the new wine/open wells/fresh water will bring split and ruin.
The word John has brought tells us that now is the time for action. The very essence of leadership is that there must be vision. When Joshua was called by the Lord to take charge of the nation and lead them into the promised land, he was told to be courageous. When sharing the call with the leaders, they also exhorted him to be strong and of great courage.
We as leaders in the faith need to receive the vision set before us and then change the circumstances that prevent it becoming a reality. The promises, the land, the opportunities, are laid out before us – it is up to us to now possess the land. To take new territory demands warfare. Spiritual land is taken by spiritual leaders of violence: violence of prayer, preaching and praise.
There will be problems, objections and danger up ahead; and if we ‘play the system’ of one vote per tribe we will become like the Methodists. Joshua would not rely on democracy, but he sent two spies who lived in vision into the promised land for confirmation that God was going to give the land into the Israelites’ hands.
The majority vote kept them in the wilderness for forty years rather than eleven days! The disciples voted to replace Judas – yet we never again hear of Matthias. Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people (Abraham Lincoln). Theocracy is government by divine guidance, or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. The question is – ‘What is the Spirit saying to His church?’
The Spirit moved on the leaders of the founding Free Methodist Church because they had a burning vision for equality of rich and poor, white and coloured, liturgical and Spirit-led worship: – it was upon them that the Holy Spirit moved.
Those who maintain the centrality of the Word cannot be selective in their belief. Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of His day as performing signs and wonders by Beelzebub (Luke 11:15): it is not surprising that opposition and criticism abound in revival times when God is moving. To worship the written Word of God above the risen Word of God is to be on the verge of idolatry. To teach and believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only a dispensational phase until the Word was written down, is to deny the Scriptures themselves (Mark 16:15-18). If these signs are not following the preaching of the Word, it is not because they have passed away, it is because we are failing to preach the Word as Christ expected!
It is clear that Free Methodism needs to change, because the Church as it is today is having little impact on society. Is there room for traditional and contemporary fellowships? I believe so. The wells that Isaac dug had retained Abraham’s names and values – yet, Isaac gave them over, to avoid conflict. The Free Methodist Church needs a Rehoboth (room) to be a place of fruitfulness in reaching the nation. If we don’t quite see eye to eye with one another, yet perceive God to be moving, it is time to move in grace and ‘talk each other up’. We must strive to live in unity and harmony and go forward together.
Jesus said ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (Luke 19:17). Success is measured by our fulfilment of the Lord’s vision for our calling; ‘good’ is to be successful. We should strive for excellence in all things.
When God calls He gives direction. When He gives direction, He gives destination, when He gives destination we live in destiny. May we do that at this Conference.