I'm Your servant

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last week - we have been decorating my son's bedroom. We've had some help from a good friend (my DIY skills are virtually zero). Its done now and it is excellent, but it has taken longer than we planned.

10 days or so ago I posted a brief description of the links to other blogs. I started today's post as a description of the website links, but - as the first link is about my own church - it has turned into something of a mini-biography! So I shall leave it at that for today! I hope it is interesting!

Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church

This is the church that I pastor - in a small corner of South London, UK! The current website is very out of date, but I am reliably informed we are going to have a new site soon (same address)! {Edit 2013:  The website was updated but then our hosting company stopped hosting.  There is now a holding page and the rest (I am sure!) will follow in the next few months.}

I became pastor of Lansdowne four years ago after six years as assistant pastor (three of them "full-time" and three while I was working as an accountant). Apart from my time at university and a four-month stay in Washington DC, Lansdowne has been my home church. I first heard the gospel at university in Leeds, some 200 miles north of London, through the son of an elder of Lansdowne Church - yes the very church I am pastoring now! Prior to university I had lived a few minutes away by bus - but the sovereign Lord sent me to Leeds to hear the gospel and then brought me back home - to Lansdowne. After a couple of years I was baptised there, became a member there, and grew there, mainly under the excellent teaching ministry of Peter Cockrell.

Initially, I was half in London and half in Leeds. During my Leeds time I attended Leeds Reformed Baptist Church. Here I sat under the ministry of Peter Parkinson and Errol Hulse. I was taught reformed theology with fire! At the same time I was discipled by the dear brother who had led me to Christ. He insisted on me reading Christian books. The very night I was converted I was just so amazed that I read the first two gospels and a book about a soldier in the Soviet army called "Vanya". Then I read "God's Smuggler". Then he got me into theology and JI Packer and Dr Lloyd-Jones! And we did regular Bible study - including a verse by verse study of Ephesians. I have never forgotten these days - they laid a vital foundation for the rest of my Christian life.

During the early days at Lansdowne (before Peter Cockrell came) the church was at a low ebb. I was even encouraged to leave and find fellowship elsewhere (something of a lack of faith)! But the Lord convicted me so clearly to stay. So I did. And under Peter Cockrell the church began to grow and open up to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Many, including me, began to see that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were for today, and began to find new joy in worship. I was challenged about being baptised in the Holy Spirit. A study of the scriptures showed me that I hadn't "got it all at conversion", but I needed to be "endued with power from on high!" I sought the Lord, actually for a long time, and then the glory of the Lord filled my soul!

Right at the beginning of my Christian life, I had a sense that I would preach. That just grew and grew. Another elder from the very early days at Lansdowne, Clive Anderson, took me with him to preach at various small churches and chapels in South London. They were precious days - and I thank God that I was given the opportunity to preach. It wasn't about fame - many of the congregations were less than 10 people - but it was about getting before the Lord and opening His Word, and learning how to share with the people and feed them.

After a number of years I had a sense of call specifically to Lansdowne. I had been nurtured by Peter Cockrell, initially with a view to moving elsewhere, but the Lord clearly led me to stay. And then after Peter moved on, the call came from the church to be their pastor.

It is an awesome privilege and a great responsibility, but God is so faithful to us. We are currently relatively small, and yet there has been a great heritage. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 1,000 people worshipping at Lansdowne. We are now less than 10% of that number, but the Lord has given us a promise: "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former... and in this place will I give peace" (Haggai 2v9).

We stand on this promise that the Lord will do great things for us, and for the community where He has placed us.

We are totally dependent on His grace. As pastor, I am just a man and I struggle like everyone else - but God is faithful. At my induction service in March 2003, this song was sung, which has spoken to me powerfully ever since I first heard it a few years before:

Now into Your presence Lord
I will boldy come
It’s only by Your grace O Lord
It’s nothing I have done
Grant me Your servant heart
That I might live like You
And as you set me apart
I will humbly share the love
I found in You.

I’m Your servant here I am
Bended knees and open hands
Lord I hear Your voice today
Lord I hear and I obey
When I’m weak will You be strong
When I’m lost will You lead me home
Though I struggle on the way
Would You use me anyway
Lord I give my life today.

© 1998 Parachute Music CCLI # 2396374
PO Box 108 223, Symonds St, Auckland, New Zealand
Ph 64 9 366 1627 www.parachutemusic.com

My prayer remains, whatever happens in the days that lie ahead, Lord "would You use me anyway."


Baxter's Boy said...

This was really interesting!! It's amazing that I've known you for five years and there is still aspects of your history that I haven't really known. Thanks for sharing this.

I was particularly interesting in the aspect of your past that I would describe as "Foundations". You mentioned coming from a hyper-Reformed background with Erroll Hulse which obviously has affected you in some ways and benefited you in other ways but my point is - given you a certain slant in your theology and ecclesiology.

I'm fascinated as to how that compares with my background which is more pseudo-charismatic but with again a hyper-Reformed background. I can remember heavenly times of worship when I was a child which seemed to go on for ages interupted every now and then with gifts of the Spirit being manifested, yet there was always the strong emphasis on the preaching of the Word!!

Yet obviously gradually throughout my growing up time there was a definite march away from the openness to the Spirit of God with a greater control and a definite quenching of the Spirit.

I just wonder to what degree that affects where we are today and in what ways that benefits us? Or is it more as our hero ABPWD says, our decisions NOW that govern where we go and what we do?

Again - great post!

Peter Day said...

I would say that my foundational years in Leeds negatively left me with a suspicion of charismatic things (but not a total rejection) - that sadly came later when I began to read papers like Evangelical Times and heard people like Stanley Jebb and Alan Morrison on the Toronto Blessing. God dealt with me on these things later, though.

I believe my early reformed foundation was of far more benefit than a problem. It taught me a love of expository preaching - both listening to it and learning from seeing it modelled. It taught me to fear the Lord - He is gloriously sovereign and so awesome. It showed me how sinful I am, and yet how lavish His grace is. It showed me that I am secure in Him. And it gave me a real hunger for His word, for study and for reading good Christian books.

Of course, my decisions NOW are vital, and I have to an extent moved on from those early foundations as I have evaluated certain doctrines in the light of my own study of scripture. But the bulk of my foundation has never left me, and I thank God for it.

I thank God that He has brought me into a experience of His Spirit, and I happily embrace all that the Lord desires to give in charismatic experience. However, I am not leaving my reformed roots - they are God-given. Even now reading Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon and the puritans (I am just re-reading Packer on Among God's Giants) my heart soars in worship - what an awesome God He is!

If it possible, I would desire to be 100% reformed and 100% charismatic. Some would say that is impossible, but it seems to me to be the Biblical tension - rock solid in the Word and drenched in the Spirit.

James B said...

Yes!! Jesus Himself was 100% Man and 100% God - how can we fail in striving to be 100% charismatic and 100% Reformed?! The two are not enemies!!