Thursday, April 11, 2013

Presenting Wesley's Sacramental Theology at a Pentecostal Church

Carolyn and I had a wonderful, Spirit-filled time at Genesis Church in Bloomington IN, this weekend. Pastor David Woodcock graciously invited us there to encourage his leadership group for Saturday breakfast, and preach both Sunday services.

The Saturday talk was entitled “Get ready for Revival!” I stressed that defeat in the culture war (have you noticed?) should not discourage Christians about God’s intention of doing a great work in America in a new revival.

Pastor David, yours truly and Carolyn

I pointed out that cultural and spiritual lows happened before in our country. An example of this was the post-Revolutionary War period, in which Deism was in ascendancy. Remember Thomas Jefferson and his hole-filled "Holy Bible,” in which he cut out the miracles of Jesus? But a faithful remnant prayed, and revival came in the form of the 2nd Great Awakening, (1797-1830). In Cane Ridge (1801) and many subsequent camp meetings, Christians replayed the Feast of Booths and turned American away for Deism and towards Evangelical Christianity.

We need a faithful remnant today to pray for repentance and revival in America!

The pastoral staff and congregation at Genesis are truly awesome. All three events were well attended and filled with the presence of the Spirit. Healings took place as Pastor David, the Genesis staff, Carolyn and I prayed over those who came forward for prayer.

The Sunday sermons described the Wesleyan revival as a model for effective revivals. (You can get it HERE) God moved, and the Wesley brothers wisely allowed the “manifestations” of the Spirit without either glorifying them or subduing them. This was the Jonathan Edwards position described in his famous booklet A Faithful NarrativeJohn Wesley read that booklet as he walked to a preaching "gig" at Oxford. Thus, when the Spirit fell with great power at Newcastle (1740) and later Wesleyan revivals, neither he nor his brother Charles were ever distracted or upset by the public's physical manifestations or dramatic outbursts.
With the Edwards discernment as a base,the Wesley brothers led a revival that blended consistent evangelization and discipleship, the quest for holiness, innovative sacred songs, and fervent sacramental worship. I outlined how each of these elements seamlessly combined to form the greatest and longest lasting revival of modern church history - and ultimately laid the foundations of modern Pentecostalism and other Spirit-filled movements..
What pleased me most about preaching at Genesis Church was how open the congregation was to my Anglican sacramental sensibilities. I outlined how Calvin and Luther had solid sacramental theology. However, modern Evangelicals have lost this with the acceptance of the exaggerated theology of Huldrych Zwingli and other radical reformers. Zwingli would have no part of "Catholic" sacraments, and renamed them "ordinances."  He believed they were things one did in obedience, but were not in themselves grace giving.
This was a BIG mistake and can be disproved by a careful reading of Luke 7:28-30. This is where Jesus comments on John the Baptist, and Luke comments on the grace given by John's baptism:
 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

Now several things. Most Evangelicals don't preach on this because it is too close to Catholic sacramental theology: entering into a sacrament gives a grace. Catholics don't like it because their doctrine states that Jesus is the sole originator of all sacraments. But this in an Old Testament man (John) who is already doing a grace producing sacrament! To boot, John got the idea from the rabies, who for a hundred years had used baptism as a rite of incorporating non-Jewish women into Judaism. Thus it was really the Holy Spirit who designed this sacrament! I go into this in more detail in my book, Forgotten Power: The significance of the Lord's Supper in revival (Zondervan 2002). 

I pointed out to the folks at Genesis Church that the Wesley brothers had a"high" view of the sacraments that was fully biblical.  Further, they discerned that certain covenant rites, not usually defined or accepted as sacraments, were also grace giving. The most important of these was the "love feast" mentioned in Jude 1:12. John Wesley saw this first done by Moravians when he was in Georgia, and was very impressed by the devotion it inspired. He understood it was biblical, and incorporated it into Methodist practice. The other major "covenant sign" cum sacrament that the Wesley's resurrected was the Old Testament rite of the "renewal of the Covenant." This is found in 2 Kngs. 23, and 2 Chron. 15. The Wesleys copied the rite from the Puritans who had discerned the need for it, and developed a rite a hundred years before. The Methodists practiced this at the first Sunday of the year.

At Genesis Church, both Sunday services were sealed and blessed with holy communion ministered by Pastor Woodcock. Those who had a healing need or special prayer request came forward for prayer. It was all wonderful.

On a personal note, Pastor Woodcock put us up at Cornerstone Inn in Nashville (IN), about half hour from Bloomington. This is a five star bed and breakfast place, founded and staffed by Christians.

Thanks Cornerstone folks!

Below is a picture of the room we stayed in, which had all antiques (except for the frig and micro-wave). .

Below is a picture of yours truly hitting the breakfast bar pastries. They have healthy stuff too, like yogurts and fruit, and I did eat a strawberry. Hey, if the Wesleyans in America often celebrated the "love feast" with tea and pudding, then this is a "high church" love feast! Next time I'll bring incense. Please don't email me to say I look like Homer Simpson here - I have already been informed. Yes, I also know that I need to eat less sweets - its a matter of Romans 7:19.

Ol’ Scratch tried a bit of harassment and vengeance for the successes and healings at Genesis Church. When we arrived home Sunday night late, most of the house was without electricity. The circuit breakers would not reset, and I had only the living room and dinning area with electricity. Wow to me! I was due at work early the next morning and had to take a mostly cold shower. My wife had to quickly make soup out of the thawing chicken and vegges in the freezer. (These sufferings will perhaps be noted in the next addition of Fox's Book of Martyrs).
The next day we learned that one member of our congregation (Faith Point Church) was an electrician. He is appropriately nicknamed "Lightening," and he came over and quickly diagnosed the problem. It was outside the house. He called in Atlanta Power, and they came in ten minuets and fixed the problem. I regained my peace (yes, I confess, home repair problems rattle me, as I am a poor handyman).

Thanks again everybody at Genesis Church and Cornerstone Inn, you folks are great!