Renewal is happening NOW!

When we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we say the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” It’s a fine idea to believe in the Holy Spirit, and, of course, it is essential to proper Christian doctrine. But what are the practical implications of this affirmation? What does the Holy Spirit do in the life of the believer? John Wesley once said that one could be as orthodox as the devil, and just as lacking in the true religion of the heart. An encounter with the Holy Spirit is, I believe, the key to the religion of the heart that was so crucial to Wesley’s theology.

As I walk alongside other United Methodists, as well as Christians of many other stripes, I don’t often see a great deal of emphasis on the power and work of the Holy Spirit. Too often, God seems to function as a construct that gives weight to our ethical principles, but we do not see God as an agent who actually works in our lives.

Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to the work of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. This is a renewal movement within the UMC that is often identified as charismatic. Yes, I know the term “charismatic” carries a lot of baggage, but it simply refers to a way of being Christian that involves a strong sense of divine agency and the belief that God gives gifts to the church. Paul talks about these gifts in 1 Cor 12:4-11:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

I just returned from three days at the ARM annual conference on Spirit-filled living. It was three days where Christian brothers and sisters came together simply to worship God and learn from one another about the ways in which the Holy Spirit can work in our lives for the good.

ARM 2015

One of the highlights of the conference was a sermon delivered by Cuban bishop Ricardo Pereira. He is a powerful, compelling, and Spirit-filled preacher. I’ve written before about the Cuban Methodist revival, which I was privileged to see first hand last January. It was great for folks at the conference to get a glimpse of what is happening there.

Pereira 2

Bishop Ricardo Pereira, along with Rev. Jacquie Leveron, who translated for him.

There were a number of very fine breakout sessions, including one by my friend and colleague Peter Bellini that related to his book Truth Therapy. My wife Harriet and I presented together in a couple of sessions on the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in raising a child with disabilities. Later, I presented by myself on reading the Bible for growth in the faith in anticipation of a book I’m writing on this topic. You can see a list of all the conference speakers by clicking here.

My older son, Luke, attended a concurrent meeting for teens called the Gate. He’s a pretty shy kid, so I wasn’t sure how he’d like it, but he LOVED it and can’t wait to go back next year. (THANK YOU, Gate folks!).

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Aldersgate Renewal Ministries is the most important thing going in the UMC today. The Holy Spirit is the driver of all true renewal in the church, and ARM is helping us to recover pneumatological aspects of our tradition that have been lost to modernity, including signs and wonders, a full-bodied concept of conversion, prophecy, and words of knowledge and wisdom.

I know many people who are praying for renewal in the UMC and beyond, and we should continue to do this. But what we need also to understand is that renewal is happening now. You just have to know where to look for it. And in the UMC it’s happening through Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. Thanks be to God.

12 thoughts on “Renewal is happening NOW!

  1. I have been a UM pastor for many years and have also attended Aldersgate conferences every year possible. One of the many blessings that accompanies these conferences is worship that allows the Spirit of God to touch each person as each person is willing to receive. I have found that in many churches the Spirit of God is stifled but at these conferences all that God desires to do within our hearts is given freedom to happen. Speakers and teachers have all experienced the powerful movement and healing power of what has been available since Jesus walked on this earth…and their desire is to equip others to know how deep God desires His love for us to be experienced. What happens is all up to God…and that is truly a beautiful witness to scripture and what being a part of the Body of Christ at Aldersgate and other ARM conferences is all about. There is order and balance in all that is done. Participants become equipped to build up the church through the love of God in each one of us. These events have been life changing for myself and many others that have attended of whom I know! Thanks to all who so faithfully work for God’s Kingdom to be experienced and known this side of heaven!

  2. View from the pew: When I distanced myself from all things church and started reading different things on my own, including John Wesley, the Heidelberg Catechism and three modern books bout the Heidelberg I discovered the existence of o God worth worshiping; the triune God of holy love who is most definitely way more verb than noun; an unfathomable God of mystery who is determined to love us, even me, more than we could ever hope to love ourselves. I was left wondering why nobody had told me about this God before now.

  3. Pingback: David Watson: United Methodist Renewal is happening NOW! - Juicy Ecumenism

  4. If I don’t cry out the rocks are going to cry out! I think God is using the charismatics and Pentecostals to get the job done where the rest of the church is failing. The Pentecostals are evangelizing the Third World and getting the job done.

  5. I hope you’re right but I fear that you are wrong. Charismatics have been active in the UMC for 40 years yet we continue to shrink and become more worldly. Once General Conference okays homosexual marriage all will be lost and that could come next summer.

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