The usual warm spirit was evident as conference members assembled at The Hayes, Swanwick,
earnestly desiring to know the Lord’s influence through the ministry of his Word.
They were not disappointed.
Graham Harrison from Newport gave three addresses. He began by justifying the need
for revival both from church history and today’s scene. Then he expounded Malachi
3:1. Malachi foretold God’s herald, John the Baptist, and also the divine messenger
(or angel) of the covenant. After Malachi there was no prophet for 400 years. God
had nothing more to say to his wayward people. But a few such as Simeon and Anna
clung on to his promises and awaited the Saviour.
One pervading theme in the Old Testament is God’s presence. We see God’s glory in
Eden and at the opening of Solomon’s Temple, but by Malachi’s time the divine glory
had departed from the Temple. Then after 400 years the Lord suddenly returned to
his Temple — the Church — and 3,000 were converted on the Day of Pentecost. But in
today’s evangelical churches there is a lack of God’s presence.
What do we have if we don’t have God’s presence? A beautiful building maybe; or a
fine liturgy? But nothing is needed apart from God! Without his presence we are a
despised people, and rightly so. Ministers become the vicars of ‘Dad’s Army’!
Mr Harrison dealt with Old Testament theophanies, or physical representations of
God, such as the Man whom Jacob wrestled with. The supreme theophany is Christ, God
manifested in the flesh, or Immanuel. Our need is to experience his presence. ‘Present
we know Thou art, but O Thyself reveal’ (Charles Wesley). We are to pray earnestly,
for Malachi promises that ‘the Lord, whom you seek, will come’.
Aneurin Bevan described the many closed Welsh chapels of his day as ‘rows of extinct
volcanoes’. Some Romans had said this of a literal volcano in A.D. 78, but the next
day it erupted and many were burnt to death! The Lord is powerful. But Mr Harrison
warned that revival is not a panacea for all the church’s problems.
Gwynn Williams from Cardiff took Isaiah 64:1 as his theme for his three addresses.
The text is to do with revival: its words are a prayer, and we live in days when
we need the working of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah is crying ‘Oh!’ because he is deeply
and passionately moved. ‘Oh!’ is seldom heard in prayer today.
Two ingredients caused Isaiah’s explosive cry to God: a realistic view of the situation
confronting him and an understanding of the sort of God he had. The people of God
were in great trouble and could not cope, as is the case today. Many believers live
as if in a leisure centre rather than a barracks. We are still called to fight the
Mr Williams enlarged on the inner weakness of believers. Our sensitivity to sin has
been deadened. Our moral indignation has been lost. We are no longer shocked when
we ought to be. There is a doctrinal slide and a hardness of heart, creating insensitivity
to the movements of God’s Spirit, and a lack of zeal, leading to the death of prayer.
But in chapter 64 Isaiah meditates on the nature of God. He is the Creator, the mighty
one, everlasting and unchanging, He is our Father and Redeemer. Isaiah prayed!
Tony Lambert gave two addresses on the church in China past and present, and showed
some most interesting slides. There is a genuine movement of God’s Spirit in this
the most heavily populated nation on earth. One village saw an increase of believers
from 8 to 800 within one year. A recent baptismal service took 9 hours, with 1,100
James Fraser of the China Inland Mission started gospel work among the Lisu tribe
in south-west China in the 1920's, and now half this idolatrous and drunken tribe
of 500,000 are believers.
Chinese believers are devoted to Bible study and prayer. But there is also persecution.
Massive revival is not sweeping China but an amazing gospel growth is occurring.
There are perhaps 50 million Christians, which is 4% of the population. In some situations
there is true revival.