Around 9 months ago I sat down with our Baptist Pastors Conference team and prayerfully discussed what the theme and vision for this years annual Baptist Pastors Conference in WA would be.
This conference is something I am involved with under the leadership of our Director of Ministries in WA. His heart is that our denomination would experience and know more of God, not only in our minds, but in our hearts. To experience the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment.
Thus we said our theme would be ‘Speak’. To hear, to listen, to ask God to speak to us, to take us further in our faith journey.
Our speaker would be Allan Demond from New Hope Church in Melbourne, a Baptist church that has gone from being known as an ‘anti-charismatic’ church to one that is open to hearing from God. Allan gave such a gentle, good humoured message over the three days. It would be easy to think with the laughter and warmth that nothing too provocative was being said. Far from it. What Allan proposed is a significant shift for many. As evidenced by a excersise he gave us to place ourselves and our churches on a spectrum of being ‘open’ to more of God or ‘closed”. I felt like shouting amen as he spoke and was clearly aware of how confrontational his clear presentation of the scriptural narrative and his own ministry story was.
Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when he spoke about the Apostle Peter, who wrestled with God when the sheet came down from heaven full of unclean animals. Peter was uncomfortable with what God was saying, and how it was being said. Are we like this? I know I can be. Allan encouraged us to wrestle and stay in that uncomfortable moment where God may indeed be stretching us.
I believe this journey of our denomination is something we really have to offer to the wider church. I believe our strength is our biblical understanding and reverence for the word of God. If we can continue to grow in our experience of that which many of us have not yet experienced of God, how much stronger in Christ we will be. Let us continue to wrestle in that uncomfortable place and think on this. Just because we have not experienced something does not make it unbiblical. In fact so much of the Bible is not our experience. While we might try to explain away or indeed categorise away much of the biblical story, to do so does the text and story a disservice. And may indeed do our Christian journey a disservice.
My own story mirrors the story of Pastor Allan Demond. Being open, placing myself in a position where I can hear from God. This is my desire.