Today is the first day of the conference; spending the weekend in the church as has really been important in the run up to this. I feel much less suspicious and more relaxed going into it.
The worship in the morning was pretty dreadful. I mean, it all sounded ludicrously perfect and the guy leading was like Mariah Carey in drag, but it felt like we were all just singing awkwardly along to songs we didn’t know at a concert or something. After being at the church meeting on Sunday, it wasn’t what I had been expecting. However, the teaching that followed was absolutely brilliant. Potentially life-changing. It was Chris Overstreet and is well worth a listen. The conference is called Revival Lifestyle and he was basically saying that the most crucial thing we need to get sorted is our identity as sons and daughters and that we don’t actually have to do anything to earn that – we’re not striving to get a testimony, we ARE the testimony. He went on to say that God isn’t interested in a performance – that we can get so far in our own gifting, but if this isn’t in our foundations then we’re screwed.
After lunch we had Kevin Dedmon giving his trademark drinking and leaking spiel. There was a lot of it that I agreed with – that of course we need to be hungry and thirsty for God ourselves and taking in his presence until we’re overflowing in order to give it away – but also a few things that I couldn’t quite. He made the statement that we repent once and then we need to start living like in heaven and stop moping about stuff and repenting about stuff. This to me is just totally wrong – of course we want to live in the fullness of joy that being saved and forgiven brings, but we need to continually repent for the new crap we do every day and remember the cross in our daily living, and at times that is going to mean that an encounter with God’s presence is going bring us to our knees in repentance. Anyway, that wasn’t the main point of his talk so we’ll just gloss over it and take the good stuff.
In the evening the worship was great. Really vibrant with artists on stage and strapping young hunky boys doing amazing break-dancing which was a pretty refreshing alternative to the liturgical dancer. The preach was Kris Vallotton talking about eschatology. It was highly confusing. At the end of the day he’s presenting a view. And its one I have never heard before in my life. But he seems like a good man. And he’s read his bible and looked at this which, to be honest, is more than I have done. So I did my best to understand what he was saying. I think he was suggesting that the world should not be getting worse in the build up to Christ’s return, but should be getting better, and that that is down to us being light to the darkness and being who we’re called to be. And if its getting dark then do something about it. Don’t quote me on that.
Today was a big fat day off. Main object was to sleep as much as possible and visit God’s greatest expression of goodness on the earth: the Mall. Perfect.
Being a duo of gingers, Phil and I are always being asked what planet we’re from and what we’re doing here. What was amazing here was that when we told people we had come from Scotland to visit Bethel church, everyone knew the church and spoke resoundingly positively about it. Many of the shops we visited had someone from Bethel working in them and one shop assistant who wasn’t from Bethel, commented on it being such a brilliant thing for their city to be known for. The people of the church really do have a positive influence in their city. That gives them some serious credibility.
Today we went to church TWICE. And it wasn’t even that bad.
Bethel is basically just a really great church. It’s just got a big team of leaders and lots of resources and so can do lots of great stuff. It’s just got on with it. It’s been there a really long time just getting on with it. It feels pretty normal. It’s not performancey and it’s not trying too hard. It isn’t what I thought it was.
What seems key is that they have a big strong leadership team where everyone is operating in the thing they do best. For example, Kevin Dedmon (that guy who’s always trying to force people to laugh and get ‘whacked’) would absolutely drive you bonkers if he was leading your church, but surrounded by others who are really good pastorally and are really good, strong bible teachers, what he brings is, dare I say it, quite important. Actually I’m not sure I do dare say that quite yet, but the effect is certainly overall less damaging (!!) Won’t it be great to increasingly see great men and women in Hope Church doing their stuff in all its fullness for the benefits of our church community and for Glasgow and for Scotland. Mint.
Kris Vallotton spoke in the morning and after reading his book in small groups I was prepared to cringe but what he said was genuinely insightful. I learnt a lot actually. And laughed. He was properly funny. And he dared to speak on homosexuality, and maybe it’s the heat, but it really didn’t offend. He seems like a really good man. (maybe the last few chapters of that book were just a blip. Ha. Joke.)
Nearly threw up after lunch. Americans can EAT. I didn’t even know it was possible to fit 500 gazillion calories between two slices of bread. Saw Carissa, which was great. Excited to have her with us next year.
Again, the prayer meeting was not what I had expected. I’m sure I had been led to believe that it was totally out-there and had imagined people writhing around on the floor wailing and blowing trumpets and walking round in a circles cackling like crazies but it was just some people in a room. I don’t think anyone even told us to pray. Some people were just sitting about and others were walking round the room. It’s sounding increasingly like we could have been in the wrong room. I’m not sure why they walk round in a circle. It does help you not fall asleep. If that’s the reason, then that’ll do.
The evening service was good too. I blame the burger for the fact that during worship all I wanted to do was lie on the ground and sleep. Danny Silk was preaching. If he learnt to speak just a tad faster, his message wouldn’t have taken 74 hours to deliver, but what he said was good. They use a lot of spiritual jargon though. A LOT. Some that even Phil couldn’t translate for me, which proves it was EXTENSIVE. Once you’ve sifted through all that, the gist was good. Important even. About how best to do transition in church, how to prepare for the future and keep momentum, the importance of apostolic leaders and the fact that we need more of them if we’re not just going to end up as a museum of hope church in 100 years time. We should get onto that.
Life is mental. Can’t believe we’re now in California. The past few weeks have been so busy that if I’m honest, part of me wishes I was having a week off work to sit and watch tv and read magazines. But here we are, Redding, and so far it seems like there is literally nothing else to do here but think about/talk about/go to events revolving around, Church (unless you what you’re looking for is a Taco Bell or some spare parts for your pick-up), and the TV in the house has no signal. Disaster.
This morning I just felt exhausted and pretty anxious. I was slightly freaked out that having got in at half 1 in the morning, Phil was leaving me at 9 to go off to be ‘sozo’-ed, wondering what some crazy lady was going to do with my husband, and if I would still recognize him when he came back. I felt like I hadn’t had time to prepare myself, that our feet had barely touched the ground and we were straight in at the deep end.
While Phil was at Sozo, Jonny, Elli and I headed to the healing rooms. I see that the others have said that is wasn’t weird in there. That is remarkable. It most certainly was. I wondered if they set this up in Glasgow whether people would behave in the same way. Maybe they would. But despite initially wondering what the hell I was doing there, what I began to realise was that people really were free. And by that I mean free to blow a horn in someone’s face or twirl around the room or scream and jump around or flip around on the floor like a fish, but, more importantly, equally free not to. I was probably just sitting there staring at people, but no one made me feel like I needed to be doing anything different. This, I thought, was refreshing. They didn’t seem to have an idea of what free looked like and were going to pray for you until you did something crazy; they genuinely wanted you to be free to just be you, and seemed pretty non-judgmental about it.
On my way into Sozo, on one hand I thought the anonymity of it was going to be helpful, on the other hand I was crapping myself about being in a room with a total stranger for 2 hours with no idea what to expect, and feeling unsure whether these were people that I agreed with or trusted. Actually, it was OK. All she really did was ask me questions and I answered them. Sometimes as a result, there were things highlighted that I felt about myself that I know weren’t true and that God didn’t agree with. I felt like I understood God and myself a little better and felt a lot more peaceful and relaxed.
Everyone has been saying to me that I’ve just got to take the good from being here and see past the stuff that annoys me but it is hard!! Actually, my experience of Sozo was good, but why does it have to be called Sozo and is it right that its so expensive? Does doing a clap actually break ‘soul-ties’ and close doors on things that are bad in our lives? A clap??!
At the end of day one I feel more relaxed and more ready for the week. I am sure that there are going to repeatedly be things that do my nut in, but I really do want to let God do what he wants to do in me and I want to show these people honor and respect.
Welcome to my blog. This month me, Phil and Johnny & Elli are going to back to Bethel church in America.
Here I'll talk about my experiences and what I'm looking forward to when we get back.
Please feel free to leave comments or questions.