Pivotal points in Renewal

I was talking with someone last week who told of how their life was completely changed as their eyesight was healed. After many years of living with pain and limited sight and needing the help of drugs a suprising offer of prayer made all the difference. It was a very liturgical and formal in style, picking up on James 5, yet the results that followed were tested by the medics and no drugs have been needed in the decades since. A cause for praise and celebration! A turning point in one person’s life that later led on to a call to a particular ministry. Looking back we can see times in our lives that are pivotal and shape all that follows afterwards. It is as if renewal becomes focused on an instant of transformation that is so deep and yet only really appreciated by its effects afterwards.

Such pivotal points tend to be linked with particular people – the person who prayed with us, the author whose book opened our eyes, the preacher whose word struck home to our hearts. Renewal is relational and the Holy Spirit leads us into truth in relational ways that involve both actions and thoughts. Such is the way of Jesus. Some of these people who are special to us become pivotal in the lives of many because somehow their story and ministry speaks to many different people, summing up both their struggles and hopes. These then become recognised leaders in renewal who are often looked at from afar and yet made who they are because of their relationships with ordinary people.

For me there were friends who enabled me to experience the Spirit in ways that drew me to Jesus and changed my who outlook on life. Reflecting back I can see how these particular people were guided by the wider charismatic renewal shaped by David Watson, one of the pivotal leaders recognised by many. Watson greatly enabled Anglican and ecumenical developments in charismatic renewal, highlighting the need for renewed churches and not just renewed individuals. The Spirit draws people relationally into renewal and hence into fellowship with others, often across the differences that seem to divide us. Watson also introduced John Wimber to the UK and he empowered further renewal through his emphasis on the Spirit’s gifts given to all.

Yet pivotal leaders can only be recognised over time and often come as rather a surprise. When Watson arrived to pastor a church of less than 20 people it would have been hard to imagine what was to come. He didn’t always get great support from the wider church or encouragement from other leaders. More recently he has faded from the memory of many as other more charismatic leaders have taken his place. But this does not take away from his influence that is perhaps best measured in the people he got to know and who were changed as the Spirit worked through relationships.

We often look and long for new moves of the Holy Spirit, new points that will become pivotal in our lives and the life of the church. Yet rather than the dramatic and most in the news, perhaps we are best looking for the relational – who are we drawing close to? who is enabling us to encounter the Spirit? which others are being changed in a similar way? We need to examine what is happening in our lives through others. In this we can be helped by remembering back to pivotal moments for ourselves and the wider church – these encourage us and help provide the wisdom needed to discern the significant moves of the Spirit. Then in time we will see how something everyday became part of a wider move of God.

The Spirit comes to remind us of the Lord’s work and words in the past; the Spirit is beside us in communicating relational truth; the Spirit will show us greater things, pivotal times that will change us and through us help transform the world. Let us seek to look back wisely, discern truthfully, and walk confidently with our God.

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