I have been sharing my story rather slowly this past year. Back in Feb. I begun with part 1 and part 2, it wasn’t until March that I shared part 3. Since as one of my commentators pointed out blogging is not a profession I probably shouldn’t apologize for the length of time it has taken to get to part four, but I will anyway! So here is part four of my story-
Moving home away from my friends, and the church I had so loved growing up in was tough. Suddenly I discovered that there were different churches to the one I had grown up in. Actually, that’s not quite true as previously I had been aware of the dry Anglican church that had been linked to my primary school – but the subtleties of the different nuances of church was something I would discover over the next few years. Over the following ten years I attended a couple of independent charismatic churches, an Elim Pentecostal, and St Helen’s Bishopsgate where I loved the preaching but hated the worship style!
I went through a hard time at school, since my Grammar school friends really didn’t seem to know what to make of this crazy Christian. Actually the hard time didn’t really start immediately as when I arrived I landed straight in the nearest thing to a revival I have ever experienced. The kids were praying. I don’t know how it started, but we met for prayer every morning before school. Revival is often characterized by protracted seasons of prayer (which incidentally is one reason I am so thrilled by what is happening right now at my church in London, but more of that in another post).
These kids had decided quite spontaneously a few weeks or so before I arrived to begin to pray. And boy did they pray. And the presence of God was in the room in such a weighty manner. I can only remember a handful of other times in my life when God has felt as close as he did at those times. There was a seriousness as well as joy about it all. It was this seriousness that marked it out from what I would later experience in the so-called “Toronto Blessing“.
The Toronto blessing incidentally seemed to be a joyful time of refreshing which had limited impact on the outsider- there were not large numbers of conversions as far as I am aware. The experience I had in a grammar school lacked the phenomena of Toronto but it did have salvations. People would come to the prayer meetings not quite knowing why and would be saved there and then. There were tears sometimes. There was a sense of God undoing you in the room – he revealed himself in his fearful holiness and boy did you want to get yourself sorted out. There weren’t hundreds of people saved, but there are times even now when I look back on those days and say “do it again lord!” (UPDATE – I received an email from someone else who remembered these days at King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford)
Sadly those times of blessing didn’t continue for long and before I knew it most of the boys who had been saved in such a way had left the school and I was left running what was left of the Christian Union after it had decided to split from the nearby Girls High School CU. I would stand up in school assemblies and announce meetings people could come to. I would propose to the school debating society subjects for debate of a Christian nature. I even managed to organize a mission week which involved a whole team taking over many lessons and saw a number of people sign up for just looking classes. I learnt much at this time- including depending on God for resources -funds for the mission week came in to cover the last penny of expenses.
But, I was only too painfully aware of two things. One, that for all our efforts God was not so obviously present with us owning what we were doing. Two, the majority of the kids in the school seemed to hate me for no apparent reason other than that I was the leader of the “God squad”.
There seemed to be little fruit at the time, but in later years I discovered that wasn’t really true. One of my most angry opponents in the school debating society decided on arrival at his university that he would check out for himself the truth of what we had bandied around. He said that he had never understood how I could continue being nice to him whilst he was nasty to me! Within weeks he was powerfully saved. Another guy reported that he sat in meetings thinking “Am I the only one this is making sense to?” and became a Christian at Greenbelt the summer after leaving school. Hearing of these late fruits from what we did at that school was a great encouragement to me- we never know the impact we are having on the people we share with.
But, deep inside at that time I felt rejected, and alone. I was angry even with my parents as I wished we hadn’t moved. I wasn’t really enjoying my church even though they had been gracious enough to give me my first preaching opportunity whilst I was in my early teens. I am sure that the problem largely lay in me rather than anyone else.
I felt like no one in the world loved me (which was not of course true!). I remember my arm was broken by school kids, and I was not invited to many parties during those years. One day, I was hiding in the school library and discovered a book by David Wilkinson – I am almost certain it was “Have you felt like giving up lately?”
The message of the book seemed to me to be that I needed to learn to depend on God alone- if you like, make God my “one thing“. I remember so well saying to God “Are you saying I have to get by on your love alone”. Graciously I felt God say to me, “yes, but trust me to provide others who will demonstrate my love to you”
This was a radical departure for me, and changed my life. Shortly after that I joined a different church and met some very dear people who impacted my life massively. We were in a “youth group” which had people from 13 to 30ish. I was able to get involved in the leadership of that group and more importantly meet some great friends. One of them, the church pastor, greatly encouraged me in my sense of call to some form of ministry. He prophesied that I would go on to effect thousands of people- I have been astounded at the way that the amazing growth in readership of this blog has led to that prophecy being fulfilled. I find it humbling to realize that these witterings are now so widely read, I hope with some benefit at least to some. I know that at the time I was given this prophecy I would never have believed it- since I still felt that I was just the kid in the playground no one wanted to play with.
By the time I was in my late teens my life was going really well. I had been given more experience of leadership than most of that age, I had preached several times, including once to around 300 people. I had done well at school and was about to head off to Medical School to train to be a doctor – although I was secretly convinced someone had swapped my exam papers over and so someone else was mystified as to why they had failed! Life was sweet- although I never did get many friends at school. With the confidence of youth I little knew what plans God had for me around the corner when I moved away to university- I was about to be surprised once again.
…..continued in part five.