Laughing at the lie – Another perspective from ELA 2016

Laughing at the lie

Last month (1-3 Aug) over 2000 leaders of ministries and churches of every conceivable persuasion from around 60 nations met for 3 days at Harrogate International Conference Centre to speak hope over Europe. There were Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals … in fact, a ‘right good mixture’, as their Yorkshire hosts might say! They gathered from across Europe and the world – but mainly from the UK – to pray, without political agenda, for godly leaders to rise up within the nations of Europe.

Together they made a daily declaration of confidence in the greatest outpouring of the love of God that will ever be seen across this continent, demonstrated through the Church, the marketplace and healthy families. They ‘laughed at the lie that Europe is a fractured continent’. There was the sense of understanding the Kingdom of God is bigger than Church, bigger than politics; it is family. The talk was of unity, reconciliation, hope and radical transformation of our communities.

Speakers this year included Bill and Eric Johnson from Bethel Church, Redding, California; Randy Clark from Pennsylvania – who took time out from a family holiday to address delegates, so strong was his conviction of its significance; and Heidi Baker from Mozambique, who said, ‘We are here as an offering, to bring change to a nation.’ All are seasoned leaders with enormous influence in the Church across the world and all believe we are about to see something extraordinary break out in Europe.

Bill Johnson commented that, ‘the person with the most hope will have the greatest influence.’ There was the sense that the Church is entering a season of unparalleled opportunity in the midst of the threat of terrorism and political and financial uncertainty. Now is the perfect time for the Church to rise up and transform our cultures into ones of radical hope.

This was the 4th European Leaders Advance, hosted by Tim and Sue Eldridge of Presence Church, Harrogate and the momentum is building with each gathering. Last year’s conference was held at Central Hall, Westminster and some of the speakers were invited into the Houses of Parliament to address MP’s during that event.

They have been hosting conferences for 15 years as part of the local church, first inviting Bill Johnson to speak at the Royal Hall as a one-off in Feb 2013. He was the only speaker on that occasion. There was no long-term plan or overarching vision but the Lord was birthing something that would ultimately impact the whole of Europe. There are now strong connections with many European leaders and groups.

Tim explains, “We’d been to Bethel a few times as visitors – to leaders’ things – but this isn’t about Bethel. We’re not Bethel ‘spokespeople’. This is about the Kingdom. It’s about serving. It’s about hunger and working it out within our own churches. It’s not about any one stream or network. ELA exists to envision and provoke. It’s a catalyst for those seeking to push on, regardless of denomination.”

I asked if he’d seen any changes in the church and the nation since then?

“The biggest change in the British Church in the last 10 years is that it’s found hope for the future; a rediscovery of Kingdom instead of Church. It’s less sceptical. The bulk of churches are now seeing God move in healing. They’re experiencing it for themselves and the majority are now on board. That’s the first big shift!”

“More recently there’s the feeling that Europe is ready for the gospel; with the refugee crisis, Isis, Brexit. There’s a new openness to spiritual things.”

(If that was in any doubt, pastor Yinka Oyekan shared briefly from the platform that since May 29 this year, 2029 people have been added to the church in Reading, Berkshire. ‘On the school run, on the way to work, at petrol stations, all over the town, on buses, people are praying and accepting Christ as Saviour. A Church of England verger was inundated with stories from staff at John Lewis who were queuing up in front of him to tell him how blessed they were at being stopped and prayed for.’)

“Leadership is also more relational, rather than structure-based. Leaders are crossing boundaries; they’re more prepared to partner with one another. They’re more vulnerable, open and accountable in terms of working together. Their focus in meeting is more for fellowship than it is on activity. It’s not so much about agreement as it is about relationship. People today are much less fussed about labels. I was recently speaking to a leader in Vienna, Austria who was approached by a Catholic Cardinal desiring that they come together as Church. That would have been unheard of a few years ago. But there’s a strong desire to see God visit, a desperation to see Him break in.”

“The other shift has been in prayer, in the rise of various prayer movements; 24/7, ‘red moon rising’, Ken Gott and ihop, the Moravians – they’ve all had an impact.”

“And lastly there’s the rise and recognition of the place of the evangelist. It’s not about big crusades anymore, but equipping the local church – especially in the last 2 years. This has led to more Christians being willing to pray for people on the streets. There’s more confidence and boldness. It’s more normal! And there’s no embarrassment if nothing happens. Non-Christians are just amazed anyone’s interested in them! Across Europe there’s a lot more happening than at any other point in our lifetimes. The Church is becoming much more missional.”

So how can the Church partner with the Holy Spirit to sustain the current momentum? “We need to encourage, support and envision younger leaders and potential leaders. We’d love to see churches bringing more young people with them to future ELA gatherings.”

Next year’s event is from Monday 10th – Wednesday 12th July with Bill Johnson, Shawn Bolz, Banning Liebscher, Jean-Luc Trachsel – a firebrand from Switzerland – and Mattheus van der Steen from the Netherlands.

“We need to continue taking the gospel into the market place. Ed Silvoso’s church in Mexico has recently been given $5 billion by their local mayor because the council’s experience tells them the Church is their best hope for bringing transformation to their city.”

“Lastly we need to keep hearing and sharing testimonies of healing. They are at the heart of envisioning. It’s said that Azusa Street started to fizzle out after their mailing list was stolen, following a break-in at their office. For as long as the testimonies were going out, the ministry kept growing.  A pastor who attended this year’s ELA went home and told his wife about everything the Lord was doing. She felt so uplifted and inspired she went to work the same afternoon and led one of her colleagues to Christ.”

This is an exciting time to be alive. But as Tim pointed out, “ELA is just one piece in a much bigger puzzle.”

Bill Johnson and the Bethel leadership have also had a vision for Europe. There have been prophecies about them partnering with the Church here to support what will spread from the UK across the rest of the continent. From his first visit to Harrogate, Bill Johnson felt this was ‘the right landing-pad. It felt like home.’ There was a common vision with Kingdom values and a focus on alumni and leaders which also felt good. It probably helps that Bethel isn’t a church-planting movement like Vineyard or NFI so they can support and encourage and speak into the Church without being perceived as a potential threat.

With this end in mind, Bethel are releasing one of their senior leaders, Paul Manwaring, and supporting him to relocate to the UK in the New Year. Paul currently oversees Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry’s 3rd year programme. He is a registered general and psychiatric nurse and spent 19 years in senior prison management here in the UK before moving to California 15 years ago.

He will initially be partnering with Eastgate and North Kent community church at Gravesend, running Living Fire, a training course for church leadership teams, along with leaders from Eastgate, starting in January 2017.

He is founder of Global Legacy – a relational network which connects, encourages and equips revival leaders everywhere, in every type of career or vocation, to see the Kingdom of God advance. Through relationship with others passionate about bringing heaven to earth, the aim is to resource leaders in churches, ministries, organizations, spheres of influence and geographical regions to see transformation and experience worldwide revival.

This is a significant move and evidence, I think, of Bethel’s conviction that it is time for the UK to prepare for revival. Paul is not the only Brit being moved back to Europe.

Wes Hall, from Forerunner Christian Fellowship, IHOP Kansas, also recently relocated to Germany with his wife, Carol, and four young children. Wes was part of the leadership team at IHOP since 2000, and a faculty member of the International House of Prayer University since its inception. He was formerly a practicing lawyer in the City of London.

So what’s going on? What is God currently doing in the UK and the nations of Europe? Paul explained, “There’s been a marked increase in leaders being encouraged by what they see and hear in the UK. There’s a stirring; a hunger. We’ve always been hungry for revival but now it feels like it’s owned by churches in the UK and isn’t dependent on people going to revivals or on leaders coming from other countries.”

 

“In the last few years, I’ve seen the erosion of divisions between the streams in the UK & European Church; a growing passion for evangelism; a desire to get involved.”

 

I asked him about his vision for returning to the UK. What will his role be? “I’m being sent by Bethel and I’ll continue to serve Global Legacy in Europe. I’ll also be encouraging BSSM alumni as much as I can and supporting Bethel’s influence in government. Plus I’ll be pursuing the call and passion on my life for Europe; to help develop the strategy for evangelization of Europe with many other leaders. I’ll travel and minister across a wide range of gifts. I believe my focus will be equipping leaders in every sphere of life. I want to empower ‘ordinary’ Christians to know they are valuable in what God is doing today.”

 

Finally, I asked Paul how he believes the Church is being called to partner with God to keep the fire burning? “My passion is that the church equips the Saints to do Kingdom. It’s time for reformation in every sphere, to erase the secular/sacred divide and marry the natural with the supernatural. ‘Awakening Europe’ is an incredible new movement. I can’t believe I’m involved in it! It’s Europe’s time, it just is – 500 years since the reformation, it’s time! I’m excited to be alive and know my journey these past four and a half years has been for Europe.”

 

There are large gatherings planned at Oberhausen, Germany at the beginning of September and Awakening Europe Scandinavia is at Friends Arena Stockholm October 28th-30th.

Jesus Culture Europe follows here in the UK at Manchester Central Convention Complex on 11-12th November.