INTERVIEW – Nathan Fellingham on New Word Alive and Being a Reformed Charismatic

PhatfishIn yesterday’s segment Nathan and I discussed the importance of theology in worship songs. Today we move on to talk a little about the event we were both attending and his thoughts on being a reformed charismatic.

Adrian
We’re here at this New Word Alive event, and obviously have heard all sorts of teaching from some of these big names like John Piper, Don Carson, and others. I don’t know how much of it you’ve been able to get into with everything else you’re doing. Have you been in many of the sessions?

Nathan
Yeah. I’ve gone to all of Don Carson’s morning Bible readings so far, which I think have just been astounding—really, really good. Don’t ask me anything about it, but . . .

Adrian
No, no. I suppose what I was thinking—what I was going to ask you actually—when you come here from the context in Brighton, a lot of people think of charismatics as being kind of airheads. Are you coming here and thinking this is just totally alien to what we’re used to, or are you thinking, “Yeah, We’re learning stuff, but this is very consistent with our heart and where we’re at?” Where we’re from?”

Nathan
Yeah, I think theologically it feels very much in sync with where we’re at. I think in terms of people’s expressions of worship, I think it does feel a lot more conservative to what we’re used to. So, yeah, I think I would love for, in some ways, to be able to bring some fresh expression to the worship in a place like this. And Stuart’s the ideal guy for leading worship. Because of the songs that he writes, people warm to him very quickly, but he can also push things out a little bit and take people further on. That’s probably the biggest thing really—just how people express their worship. Obviously, people can express it in different ways, but there are some pretty strong words in the Psalms about exhorting us to praise and knowing a little bit about how the Hebrew people would have done that, with a lot of body movements and a lot of excitement. Obviously cultures are different, but I think there’s something in praising in a very kind of vocal and “full of energy” way that just seems right to me.

Adrian
Yeah, I guess so as well. I mean, the thing I’m feeling is that the people here are really deeply in love with Jesus, but maybe they express it in a slightly different way. Were you picking that up as well in the worship? I really felt like, in your gig for example, as the gig went on you could see that people were warming up and getting into it, and actually in their hearts, they were really really enjoying it.

Nathan
Yeah, I think so. We certainly feel very at home here. The feel of the site proved great.

Adrian
There’s no one swinging from the rafters yet, is there?

Nathan
No. That’s right, that’s right.

Adrian
Was it not “swinging from the chandeliers?”

Nathan
Yeah, yeah. No, there’s none of that! (Laughter) But, yeah, we don’t feel at odds with anyone here, so it’s great.

Adrian
It’s actually really exciting to see in this event a marrying of the charismatics like us—nutters like you and me—and people who are not really from that background at all. To see everybody here together, respecting each other in that way, is quite cool.

Nathan
Yes, it’s wonderful. Yeah, very good, very good.

Adrian
Just a little bit about the whole charismatic thing. You seem to be quite unusual, to some people anyway. I mean, I’ve grown up with it and it’s quite normal for me, I guess, but this notion that we want to marry reformed theology with a sort of vibrant experience of the Holy Spirit. Do you want to talk more about what that means to you as an individual and to the band?

Nathan
Sure. Again, I think that Terry Virgo’s distinctive really is that he is reformed theology, but very charismatic. I know that’s what people always say about him. And in a sense, it’s Terry’s church, and groups of churches that I’ve grown up with. So, in some ways you only begin to learn what you are by hearing other people say it. “Oh, right. That’s what we are! I thought we were just getting on with it.”

Adrian
It’s a bit like if you were color blind, isn’t it, and you’ve never seen color. And then one day something happens and you can see color. And you’d say, “Oh, right! So that’s what it is!” Or the other way around. If you lost color and people started saying, “Hang on a minute . . . ”

Nathan
Yeah, for sure. It’s just what we have known, really. But we’ve seen a lot of diverse expressions of Christianity in our travels over our time, and been very comfortable with people who are even more nutterish than we are. We enjoy that from time-to-time and then . . .

Adrian
You go both ways. Sometimes they’re more nutty and sometimes they’re less nutty.

Nathan
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. The whole spectrum of nuttiness where we fit. But, yeah, I think certainly seeing Terry’s passion for the Spirit, and for the gifts of the Spirit, and for charismatic worship, coupled with not a kind of flakiness in our theology, and not a kind of looseness with that, I think, is wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Adrian
I think there’s one of your sort of more “bandy” songs, if you like, rather than worshipy songs, but I’m not sure where that distinction always lies. I’m not a musician at all. I’m just not quite sure. I used to play the guitar a little bit, but I never got . . . . It’s funny. I got to the stage where I knew all the chords, but I never could quite learn how to do the rhythm properly. I mean, I could do it in theory, but . . . And I was like—something’s got to give. So, in fact, it was really when I got married. My wife was like, “Adrian, this is very loud and not very helpful.” So I stopped practicing. But anyway, I just have no rhythm, you see. (Laughter)

What was I going on about? I’m losing it. It’s been too long. Oh, yes—the songs! One particular song, and we must finish soon. But there’s one particular song from your more bandy ones that really, I think, expresses that whole kind of Holy Spirit
thing—it is that song called “Holy Spirit.

Nathan
Yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

Adrian
I have to say, the first time I heard that I was actually listening to the CD that it’s on. I don’t remember what the name of the CD is—what’s the album it’s on?

Nathan
It’s Guaranteed.

Adrian
From Guaranteed, yes. And I was just in the car, and was actually just driving, listening to music in the background, and not really thinking about it, and that song came on. I had to stop the car. I was just in tears, overwhelmed and it’s like there was a hunger within me for more of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s power—that whole thing. I just wonder if you could share a bit more about that song. Where did it come from? What does it mean to you?

Nathan
Yeah. It was actually Mike, our keyboard player, who wrote the song. I think I had a little bit to do with some of the melody, but it was really his. The majority of the words were his. Yeah, I think it’s a great song because it has that refrain at the end—“Fill me up each day, Fill me each hour, Fill me with your love, Fill me with your power”—so something kind of simple and “Come Holy Spirity,” but the whole rest of the song is really talking about who the Holy Spirit is, what he does. It just goes into more depth. It’s kind of something I think might challenge us because we don’t sing that much about the Holy Spirit, and we kind of sometimes don’t really know that much about him. So he just had a real heart to write a song which was a bit more comprehensive. Actually, Matt Redman, listened to it once (I was in the car with him) and he said, “I think that’s the most comprehensive song on the Holy Spirit I’ve ever heard.” And I think it is quite unique in that way. You’re not allowed to say ‘quite unique’ are you, so it IS unique. (Laughter) We did it at the concert here the other night. I was really keen to do it because I had some friends here who are kind of less charismatic. A friend of mine said to me, “After hearing that, it was like, it was not that any things have changed necessarily, but it’s like I can’t argue with any of the stuff that’s being said there. It’s just truth.” And then, again, the response at the end for us—“fill us up.” We need more of the Holy Spirit. So, yeah, it’s great. I think it’s a very important song, actually.

Continued in part 5 . . .

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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