The weekend before Easter we invited two speakers to join us for our annual Refresh weekend. They were Mark Stibbe, who spoke at the two main sessions on Saturday (as well as delivering a seminar) and Mick Woodhead, who spoke at the end of the weekend on Sunday evening. Both brought messages to us which they believed had a prophetic edge. The Scriptures tell us to test such things (1 Thess 5:19-22) and church leaders have a particular role in doing this. So here are my reflections.
Both Mark Stibbe and Mick Woodhead were given short briefs and did not know very much about the church. However they did know we felt the Lord calling us be playing our part in serving God’s transformation of the North and were asked to consider the theme of holiness and revival.
On Saturday morning Mark spoke out of John 14, about the Holy Spirit convicting those outside of the church of sin, and how we should be prepared for more unbelievers to be repenting and wanting to receive God’s forgiveness. Mark shared two particular ‘words’ (concerning ‘consecration’ from Joshua 3 and ‘going again’) which were also repeated in the evening session (see below).
In the evening Mark spoke of how he felt York was a ‘thin place’ – a place where the gap between heaven and earth is thin – and that there were certain things the Lord was calling us to do in response. He used Isaiah 6 as evidence for the kind of things one experiences in such a place. Whilst I recognise that the weight of biblical evidence for ‘thin places’ is such that I would probably not want to speak on the subject with the clarity and confidence which Mark did, his teaching helpfully raised our expectation of some of the more supernatural things the Lord does when he manifests his presence. Interestingly I had been to dinner a few weeks before with a man with a widely respected prophetic ministry, who was in York for the first time and sensed the Lord tell him that York was an ‘anointed’ placed designated by God to take a lead in seeing revival and transformation in the North.
For me, the most helpful part of the evening was the 8 prophetic words Mark shared at the end of his talk, all of which I believe are very poignant for us:
1. Do You Want to Go Again? The Lord is asking us whether we want to see again the kind of growth and impact that was seen in the 60’s and 70’s, but in a way relevant to the 21st Century. This is a message which many people both inside and outside the church have shared with me over the last 12 months.
2. A Paradigm Shift for the church and its leaders. The Lord has been telling me this for the last two and a half years – that there will need to be much change in the way we do church. The message I brought to the Church Weekend one year ago was just this, as I spoke on ‘What Time is It?’ – ie. it is time to get ready for a fresh season in St Michael le Belfrey, which will involve change and the need to trust.
3. A Fresh Call to Prayer. Mark felt this was a time for the ‘watchmen (the intercessors) to return’. I agree. For a while we have not had a group particularly set aside to intercede for the church. I have been asking for such a group to form, and they have just begun to meet. So this confirms what I have been encouraging.
4. An Increase in the Prophetic. Mark felt the Lord wanting to release more prophetic ministry within the church. Again, I agree, and I have been praying for this for some time.
5. Not just Visitation, but Habitation. Mark prayed that the Lord would not just visit us with his presence for a short while, but for a long time, rather like the 100 year blessing that the Moravians saw in the past. Roger Simpson and I have been talking and praying about just this, and recently when asked by someone what kind of transformation I was hoping to see in York, I said that I would rather it be slow, steady and long-lasting, than explosive and short-lived.
6. The Older folk should be aware that: the Best Years lie Ahead. That was a favourite theme of David Watson, and something I have said in my preaching on a number of occasions over the last year.
7. The Lord wants the Fire of Prayer burning continually (as in Lev 6:13). This seems to suggest a vision of 24/7 Prayer. I have been talking to the the Staff Team and Prayer Leaders about this as one of a number of long-term goals concerning prayer in St Michael le Belfrey.
8. Get Ready! Mark felt that the Lord had new things for us to be entering into, and that we needed to be prepared, particularly by making a Fresh Consecration for Revival. This message to ‘get ready’ has been important to us for some time, and is a message I reiterated in a message to the Staff Team just two weeks before. The call to a fresh consecration (from Joshua 3) was the exact word I felt the Lord speak to me the day before, and was the message I had already prepared to deliver the next morning.
All 8 ‘words’ from Mark resonated with me, as they were messages I felt God was already speaking to us. They were all confirming and raised my faith for what the Lord wants to accomplish amongst us.
On Sunday evening Mick reminded us that at St Michael le Belfrey we ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’ and that God wanted to come to us again, in a fresh way. He shared 6 foundations of revival that we should be looking out for, and pressing towards. So, revival is about a) Awakening; b) The Kingdom of God; c) Supernatural; d) Community; e) Courage; f) Faith.
Mick felt there was a particular call for us to be developing missional communities (ie. 15-40 people with a particular mission focus). He also sensed we need to be prepared to take more risks, to be filled again with the power of the Holy Spirit and to be willing to give everything for this, for to those to whom much is given, much is expected. He concluded by saying, ‘It’s our turn to change the world and to transform the North of England. And I believe it’s going to happen… Are you up for this?’
Mick’s words were prophetic, helpful and timely and It was lovely for Sam and I to spend some time afterwards with Mick and Trisha before they headed back to Sheffield.
I am grateful to Mark and Mick for all that they brought to us over the weekend. They greatly encouraged me and I hope they enjoyed being the guests of St Michael le Belfrey Church. The question is: are we ready to go again?