Wednesday, June 11, 2014
"Guarding the Good Deposit." a debrief from Terry and Wendy Virgo's visit.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Tim 1:13-14
I regularly get requests from gifted speakers and musicians to do a 'guest slot' at Southlands. While I'm not against that from time to time, we have a much higher value of ministry coming from a foundation of authentic relationship and recognized gifting. There is something so healthy about someone who is known, who knows us, and whose apostolic track record is known too.It ends up being more than the sum of it's parts, more than just an anointed worship set or message. It ends up, in the words of Paul, as a good deposit. We continue to enjoy this kind of ministry from couples like the Wienands, the Martinez's and the Proctors who live closer by geographically, and we're hugely grateful for that.
But when I felt prompted in a dream to invite Terry and Wendy Virgo from the UK to be with us for a whole month in this way, it meant a bit more of a logistical challenge. After discussion with the elders and the Virgos, we landed on a month around May. I'm so grateful to the Holy Spirit for His leadership, and for a team that is wise, yet willing to risk with some of my unusual impressions and impulses.
We've been enriched in so many ways this last month, and I'm aware that we are called to guard this good deposit that has been entrusted to us with the help of the Holy Spirit. Guarding it means remembering, keeping, and putting into practice what we've seen and heard.
So how would I describe the deposit that they've left with us?
Firstly, they've made a deposit of apostolic affection. Their genuine care, attentiveness, and willingness to relate beyond meetings was remarkable. It cuts so powerfully across a Christian culture fixated with celebrity. I chuckled to hear that one night when Terry was preaching at a large church midweek, Wendy decided she would rather stay home and attend Josh and Jess Fowler's life group! Their willingness to spend hours after meetings praying for people individually was also phenomenal. One couple they prayed for told me, "We had a conversation with them two weeks prior to them praying, and they referenced this conversation in detail, which meant they had listened and remembered what we'd said, and were able to pray and prophesy into that. I also enjoyed the fact that they were completely unreligious. Their sense of fun and enjoying life was contagious. Their affection leaves us with a fresh resolve to be a people of God, distinguished by our love for one another.
Secondly, their commitment over 50 years to preaching sound doctrine, has produced incredible freedom and health in hundreds of churches around the world. Their gracious, yet unwavering commitment to Biblical truth has kept them from building sentimentally or pragmatically, and has given us fresh confidence to take God at His Word, believe Him for His promises and rest assured in His amazing grace. In a culture that is increasingly intolerant of any claim to objective truth, and a church context which tends to edit unpopular passages in the Bible, lets contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Faith is a fight and they have imparted courage to fight with grace.
Thirdly, their engaged faith means they are not just contending for the faith, they are actively trusting God to move powerfully through them by His Spirit. Although sound doctrine is vital, our aim should't be perfect theology. It should be faith working itself out through love. The numerous physical healings we have witnessed have given many an increased sense of expectancy that God wants to work through His people by His Spirit. I have loved that people have not merely been spectators of prayer, but have been equipped to pray. We learn by doing not by watching! Their prayer lives are quite inspiring, particularly when it comes to praying though the prophetic promises God has spoken over them. I've been stirred to do the same for myself, for my family and for my church. Quite simply, we would all do well to talk a little less and pray a little more!
Fourthly, Terry spoke repeatedly of living with a clear conscience, reminding us of how often Paul spoke about serving the Lord with a clear conscience. One of the more memorable points he made from his series on Moses was that Moses refused the pleasures of Egypt by faith. Faith is not only about inheriting what God wants for us, it is also about refusing what He doesn't want for us. He talked about conscience as something to be obeyed not reasoned with, and that the more we reason with it, the more dull it becomes until after a time we have seared it. I would say a key to their fruitfulness over 50 years is that they have enjoyed God's grace, but maintained a sensitive conscience. Like sorbet cleanses the pallet at a 5 course dinner, so the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from becoming dull!
Finally, Terry has really encouraged us as elders to establish a more clearly defined partnership with the churches we work with. At present, we care for about 15 churches in different ways and at different levels. It has been my joy to see Southlands continue in this call to be a resourcing church, but I am fairly thinly spread in this regard and am needing to find priority within our relationships, in terms of churches we care for and those for whom we are responsible. This is key if we are to remain on mission locally and in regions beyond us with our 3 in 3 vision.
So let's guard this good deposit with the Holy Spirit's help, and trust that it pays big dividends is the days to come!