This is getting tough now. I am building up to "number one" which is a no brainer to choose, but the rest are vying with each other for importance.
The next one wasn't even a sermon as such, but rather a "seminar". David Holden, Brighton Conference 2007, and for once you can actually listen to it if you want to here.
Now this stirred something in me, not just for the merits of the content of the talk itself, but for what God was, and is doing in me, at the time I heard it and through to the present.
Rob Rufus was speaking at the conference regarding the work of the Holy Spirit and even though I didn't engage with everything he said there was a real sense of God stirring something of a desire for His glory, for His presence.
Dave Holden had come to speak at our regional celebration meeting (A termly meeting of the churches in Shrewsbury, North Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Stafford, Rugeley and Telford) and had given a similar encouragement / challenge / provocation which the seminar added to.
- Are we "charismatic" because we have a "contemporary style" or because the "charismata" are present? Is it guitars and PA systems or spiritual gifts that really express the presence of God?
- Are "prophecies" and "words of knowledge" becoming just too fluffy and huggy to bring about any real consequence? God does love and care for us - wonderful - but what about stuff that is more directional, more challenging, even rebuking. Why is that becoming rare?
- Is the full weight of the bible behind the words given? Could we aim for more public reading of scripture as God puts in on our hearts?
- Where are tongues and interpretations? Paul gives instructions for when there are many at one time, not irregular and from the same people every time.
- Do we "perform" worship or do we sing out psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? That is a question for the congregation as much as the worship band. Is it too prescribed, too closed?
- Is the way we "do" worship times too restrictive? When is the last time someone other than a worship leader has started a new song? How can we all be more deeply involved in shaping the time of worship?
- Has our worship become so focussed on "music" that there is less room for other forms of expression?
These are all open questions.
I see cell groups as an opportunity for people to express some of these things more fully in a smaller, safer context. But I want to see these things in the wider settings too.
I guess the underlying question is this: Has the thirty five minutes of 1970s "soft rock" songs that so defines many charismatic churches actually become a blockage to the work of the spirit in our meetings? Has the very thing the "new wineskin" of the charismatic movement sought to redefine itself from actually re-occurred but just in a more contemporary way? Are we charismatic because we sing Matt Redman or because we exercise spiritual gifts?
For example, I know I have the gift of tongues and interpretation but have only used it twice in public meetings in the last twelve months and not on a Sunday morning. This sermon / talk / provocation remains outstanding in my life - and that is why it ranks in this list, because the challenge of it pursues me and keeps calling me to account.