Monday, June 9, 2014
The crowd dynamic
Love Wycombe crowd looking out from the platform alongside the majestic bell tower of All Saints church
Acts 2:1 (NIV)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
OF COURSE, the first Pentecost was a one-off – that type of ‘tongues of fire’ empowerment never happened again, although there have been occasions in history when the Holy Spirit fell mightily.
In fact, even I have experienced some. I can think of meetings where virtually a whole roomful were on the floor while the Holy Spirit did His work. The John Wimber meetings in the early 1980s were characterised by a flow of words of knowledge, followed by healing encounters – many of them. The so-called Toronto Blessing of the 1990s, which in this country seemed to have been ignited by a particular talk by London vineyard leader Eileen Mumford, were characterised by an unusually strong sense of the presence of God, and a fair amount of physical and emotional response to that. In my experience it left a good residue – I knew many who became much more free as a result of those times.
The presence of God was evident, perhaps working in a different way, in yesterday’s gathering in front of All Saints, High Wycombe, which drew a very large crowd – about as large a crowd as could occupy the space. With sung worship to begin and end, it amounted to a couple of hours’ worth with a tightly-organised core time of varied content around the theme, involving people from across the churches and age groups. I felt slightly embarrassed that our relatively small fellowship had an unduly prominent presence in the leading of it, but there were good reasons for that to do with the theme of Christian responses to the problem of debt.
So that draws a picture of a sunny , vibrant and crowded event. Perhaps the first Pentecost was as well. At that time, we know that there were many strains of Judaism rubbing shoulders. At yesterday’s gathering there were many flavours of Christianity from the town and beyond, Roman Catholic and Protestant, liturgical traditions and free, charismatic and conservative, contemporary and more traditional. This blended into a happy gathering, diverse yet with a real sense of unity, and agreeing on a purpose in following up on the theme and accepting the call to be agents of transformation.
There’s something in the way this was planned and led, the prayer preparation that went into it, and the way it impacted the gathering and released joy and faith – that we should capture as an individual week-by-week congregation. What is it?