A few months ago it was my privilege to interview Rob Rufus. The audio version of that interview is available online, but thanks to two readers (Dan Bowden and a friend of Andrew Fountain) who both sent me transcripts of the MP3 lately, I am now able to publish the text version. It has only been lightly edited, so please do forgive us any grammatical errors that come from this being a conversation rather than careful writing. If you want to listen to the interview, the MP3 is available to download on the original post.
The Together on a Mission conference has just ended, but I’m here, together with my pastor, Tope, and we’re here with Rob Rufus. Rob is going to talk to us a little bit about how the conference has been for him, and tell us a little bit more about his own church and his own family of churches, and just really share with us about that. So he’s kindly agreed to sit down—he’s probably a bit tired—but we’re going to have a good time, hopefully, this afternoon. So, Rob, first of all, how has this conference been for you?
I think it’s been very staggering and astonishing in a delightful way because what I experienced here was almost like the reward of the fruit of a number of years of New Frontiers preparing themselves, building a good wineskin. And by “wineskin” I mean the kind of authority structures we build the church with—biblical values and biblical vision. We are now positioned to really see God come in an amazing way. So I felt there was such a liberty and an openness to God’s visitation, to the supernatural of God, and I think a lot of that’s got to do with the understanding that the churches have on the theology of grace—the understanding of grace—and the security that we have in Christ. So, it’s been an incredibly enlarging time here; just the spirit of faith among the people, the sense of a global vision, and yet doing it together as a team, doing it together in a sense of partnership. So, for me, the overall sense of the ethos and the atmosphere was one of a group of people very zealous, very passionate, full of vision, yet who haven’t kissed their brains goodbye, well-grounded in good theology, sound doctrine, open to the power of the Holy Spirit, and real people who are really friendly with one another and enjoy one another’s company, and that’s been a delight.
Excellent! Yeah, and it’s been great. Obviously, one of the features of this conference has been your own preaching, Rob. I just wonder for those who have not been at the conference, and perhaps have been following the blogs—how would you summarize your key message, just in a couple of sentences, of this conference—what you’d like people to take away, because, to be honest, taking notes hasn’t been that easy! (Loud laughter) Well, you could say that!
Yes, absolutely! I mean, I’m the worst person for writing notes myself, and then, of course, for people to be able to pick up notes, because I tend to be more spontaneous and impromptu. Probably what I’d like people to primarily take away in a few sentences is that, of course, God is turning up the supernatural—the volume of the demonstration of his power—not just for the sake of sensationalism for us to find ourselves popular or famous because of that, but because he wants to be glorified in the world, he wants to get the world’s attention. The primary essence I would like people to take away is that we don’t seek primarily the power of God, but we seek the person of God. We seek who he is, his glory. Because his power is what he does, but his glory and his presence is who he is, and that’s the only thing that will fulfill people—to know him personally. That sense of intimacy is such a delight; it gives us that fulfillment. Out of that he hides his power within his presence so you can live a supernatural life in a natural way because you’re not having to fast forty days to get the power—you can just walk with the person of God in intimacy and he releases his power out of that relationship with himself.
Yes. I guess that some Christians sitting at home listening to this—I mean, I get readers on my blog from all kinds of different backgrounds—they’re going to listen to that and think, “What is this guy talking about? A relationship with God? I thought we just had a relationship with a Book!” What would you say to those kinds of people?
Well, it’s like—when I met my wife for the first time I was at university so I couldn’t spend time with her because the university was in a different city. So during the first six months, I could only see her every second or third weekend. We corresponded in those days—it was a long enough time ago it was by letters, not e-mails!—(loud laughter) and although her letters were perfumed and I loved reading her letters, I didn’t have a love relationship primarily with her letters, but with the author of the letters. So I longed to get to see the person who was writing the letter and meet her. So the Bible is, in a sense, perfumed with the presence of God—it’s God-breathed; it’s really his love letter to us. It’s an introduction for us to get to know the Author of the Book. That’s the delight!
Yes, very good! So you are not one of those “charismaniacs” who want to throw out the Bible then, Rob?
Absolutely not, Adrian! That, I think, is the tragedy. Sadly the charismatics or Pentecostals (to some degree, not all!) have been known as a people who are kind of going on a binge of subjectivity. It’s all self-indulgent. You have got to have theological references to make sure that the supernatural experiences you are having are authentic because we do have the counterfeit in the world today; we do have deception in the world today. The Bible is the foundation that authenticates that we are having legitimate miraculous encounters with God.
Continued in part 2 . . .