Archive for the ‘church’ Category

LS020106In the contemporary British Pentecostal and Charismatic scene, there has been a growing trend over the last decade or so for leaders to adopt the strategic ‘attractional’ model for church worship services. Often, to ensure that the meetings are ‘seeker-friendly’ it can mean that classical Pentecostal spiritual phenomena, such as tongues and prophecy, are actively discouraged in the public setting, based on the assumption that the visitor will find these spiritual gifts too bizarre. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian charismatics to ‘calm down’ so that the guests at church won’t think that Christianity is utter madness is brought to the fore (1 Corinthians 14:23), although it would seem that the apostle’s desire is for intelligibility rather than any embarrassment over spiritual phenomena, such as might be the case today. For Paul, authentic and accurate prophecy deployed in mission was most definitely ‘seeker’ aware (1 Corinthians 14:24).

Defending their charismatic pedigree, these leaders insist that the prophetic gift has certainly not been axed from the church’s DNA and is actively at work in small groups, prayer meetings and often during ‘altar time’ on Sundays. However, what can be observed is a very distinct and fundamental change in the practical outworking of the prophetic in the contemporary church, and one that does not often allow for significant evaluation of the words being spoken. In the old model, certainly among the British Pentecostals, the prophetic word would be spoken out by a church leader or member for the whole church to hear, either spontaneously or through the church microphone if approved. This ‘corporate moment’, where all were able to hear the word, often meant that the nature of the prophetic message was somewhat broad – it was, after all, intended for the larger congregation to hear. Thankfully, any dubious theology or over-stepping of the mark by the ‘prophet’ (e.g. harsh rebuke, or fortune-telling style guidance) could be instantly corrected by a mature leader, helping to bring the ‘judging’ or ‘evaluating’ element to bear upon the spoken word, in line with Paul’s Corinthian command (1 Corinthians 14:29). It is clear that at Corinth this was the approach and the speaking prophets were limited to three messages, probably due to time constraints.

As we jump forward to the twenty-first century, with its ‘ministry teams’ ready to pray and sometimes prophesy over people during the Sunday morning ‘appeal’, we see a very different model at work. Certainly, there could be more than three prophetic words shared, due to the nature of the event, but much more significantly, the prophetic gift is sometimes being used for personal instruction and direction, and in a very private context. Similarly, in the house, prayer or small-group setting, the presence of a mature leader, able to discern, correct or helpfully evaluate prophecy, is not necessarily guaranteed; even to suppose that prophetic words would be delivered corporately into that smaller setting if it is not being ‘modelled’ by the leaders of the larger church service. In short we have moved prophecy from mostly public to mostly private – from the dynamic declaration to the whispered word.

Now, this is not to suggest that personal prophecy has no New Testament foundation whatsoever, but it should perhaps be considered to be extraordinary rather than the standard practise. It certainly isn’t private. Agabus is our primary example, but he is a designated, Ephesians 4:11, capital ‘P’ Prophet with a track record of predicting future events (Acts 11:28). Even when he does speak specifically over Paul’s life (Acts 21:11) the surrounding context of the passage shows that it was not a private moment, but one in which other Christians were obviously present and listening. Similarly, the prophets at Antioch who provoke the timing of the missionary launch of Barnabas and Paul are clearly operating in a setting that at least includes all of the church leaders (Acts 13:2), if not the broader Antioch Christian community. These leaders rejoice at the word and commit any action to prayer (Acts 13:1, 3). This would appear to be the standard pattern for a New Testament prophetic ministry: prophets, of varying kinds, may speak, but never ‘in a corner’, and firm decisions are made by leaders (aided by prophecy perhaps), but never by the prophets themselves. Notice: Agabus’ incredible prediction of a coming famine leads to a decision made by others, not actually by him (Acts 11:27-30). Isn’t that interesting? He was a guide but no means was he the governor.

So here is my word of caution for leaders who, with all good intention, seek to retain the spiritual gift of prophecy within a seeker or attractional context – let’s be careful that in gagging the un-interpreted tongues-speakers to seemingly obey one part of Paul, we don’t unleash an equally unbiblical charismatic practise. Arguably, prophecy without evaluation is no better than public tongues without interpretation, with the ‘distinguishing of spirits’ the possible support gift to the prophetic in Paul’s mind. No Senior Pastor wants church people subject to untested, secret, personal guidance from a would-be Isaiah this coming Sunday morning or on Tuesday evening at lifegroup. While we as the shepherd lovingly seek the ‘one’ lost sheep in mission, let’s not feed the ‘ninety-nine’ to the prophetic wolves, albeit well-meaning wolves who may not realise the danger of their open mouths or the sharpness of their teeth.

I am certain that the Holy Spirit can help us to do all things well but it may be time for a re-think about how best and biblical to incorporate prophecy in attractional church models that keeps close to all the wisdom and direction that flows from First Corinthians’ wonderful fourteenth chapter.

Peter Cavanna will be teaching at ‘Voice in the City’ – a prophetic conference in Cambridge on Saturday 25th July 2015. For more information, go to

Church Rocks

Posted: July 19, 2013 in church


Jesus said, “on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). I often wondered, and still do, what is “the rock” to which Jesus referred. Discarding the view that the Lord is making His disciple a saintly key-holding figure, it seems to me we have three options:

Firstly, the rock could be the revelation process  – God’s supernatural transmission of information; the opening of our eyes to truth that otherwise we could not possibly grasp, and yet through revelation it becomes an anchor in our very soul. Jesus said that Peter’s words were not revealed to him by “flesh and blood but by my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Disciples are made (John 6:44), matured and mobilised (1 Corinthians 2:11-16) by revelation from the Spirit of God (Psalm 25:4). Without revelation there would be no living, growing and maturing church.

Secondly, the rock could be the truth that “Jesus is Lord.” It seems as though the commission to help build the church cannot be given to anyone who does not accept the Mastership of Jesus. His servants cannot build if He is not their Lord (Psalm 127:1). They cannot believe Him for great things and neither can they be “useful to the Master” (2 Timothy 2:21). Those who aspire and feel called to serve God in church building should ensure first and foremost that Jesus is their absolute Lord. If He isn’t, they may find themselves constructing another temporary tower in Babel-land.

Finally, the rock could be the yielded and available servant, in this case Peter but applicable to any follower of Christ. I am quite sure we should not think of rock as meaning ‘strength’ (Peter was not always strong: Luke 5:8-11) but rather ‘something to work with.’ Like Peter we will all make mistakes or feel inadequate, but the Master as always is not looking for ability but passion for Him made manifest in availability (John 21:15-17), qualifying us to become co-labourers and builders with him (1 Corinthians 3:9).

So which of these did Jesus mean when He spoke this famous words some two thousand years ago? It seems to be that a good combination of all three will allow us to become “living stones” in His ever growing and glorious Temple (1 Peter 2:4-5). Did you ever notice before which disciple it was who described the church as made of “living stones”?

Mattersey Hall

After thirteen years of preaching, teaching and serving in pastoral leadership at King’s Church Cambridge, I will be moving on and have recently accepted a full time position at Mattersey Hall, the Assemblies of God National Ministry Centre, starting January 2014. Young men and women come to the College from all over the world to be prepared for church leadership and I have been asked to play my part in mentoring and preparing them for the work of Spirit-filled ministry. Among my duties at Mattersey Hall will be teaching Christian Doctrine, Communicating and Understanding the Bible, and Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. I will also be the Archivist of the Pentecostal Library, the Donald Gee Centre, where many of the original documents are kept from the twentieth century Pentecostal revival. Most importantly, I see my role as inspiring, fathering and encouraging students in grasping good biblical truth while learning how to move in the power of the Holy Spirit.

From September 2013, King’s Church will enter into an exciting period of transition. Jane and I will often be ministering on Sundays, but room will be made for a new team to be established under new leadership. The name of the new senior leader at King’s Church will be published shortly before Christmas 2013.

We ask all our dear friends to pray for these next few months as the transition takes place and for God’s blessing to be upon all! These changes are never easy but there is a good sense of anticipation at King’s for the future and we are confident that the Lord is with us all!

The Ark

2 Samuel’s sixth chapter reports a funeral in the middle of a renewal. This tragic event, namely Uzzah is struck dead simply because he tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant (verses 1-8), has something to teach us about how to handle a move of the Holy Spirit today. Uzzah’s error was not so much that he ‘touched’ the Ark, but more fundamentally that he neglected to know and/or obey the requirements of the Word of God, even during a wonderful revival. The Law was clear: the Ark had to be particularly handled (Exodus 37:5; Numbers 4:6,15); but in the midst of ecstatic worship and anointed celebration, it is still possible to neglect the principles of the Word. Perhaps David was just as responsible as Uzzah, having not taught Uzzah the appropriate way to deal with the Ark. This should be a sobering thought for all of us today, especially leaders, who wholeheartedly love the Lord’s Presence, as represented by the Ark, and want it to come to our city.

I serve in a church where we value the moving of the Holy Spirit, and, yes, the adrenaline rush when experiencing the undeniable activity of a powerful God. But if we forget about obedience to the Word, applying its principles in reverent and holy fear, then a time of renewal can very easily become a funeral. To be sure, God’s goodness is to be thoroughly enjoyed. We’ll no doubt be criticised for our foolish abandonment to Him. It’s not a ‘cool look’ for the Michal’s in today’s church to see the passionate receive the touch of God (2 Samuel 6:20-23). But obedience to God’s Word will not be suspended during a revival; not then, not now.

So what is the key to handling the move of the Spirit well? Perhaps this is best represented by what happens in 2 Samuel 6:10-12. David wanted the Ark, the Presence, to go directly to his city. A noble and pure ambition. But, first, it had to go home (in this case, to the home of Obed-Edom). For the Lord of revival to take root in a church, He must first go home with all His hungry seekers. Revival can’t go directly to the city – to the places of influence and power, to the estates, to the schools, to the streets and marketplaces – not without first going home after Sunday service. Jesus is the Lord of the believer in his or her private place, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, as they enjoy God and know and obey His Word. That’s good soil for something very special – a fountain flowing deep and wide!


Often in the New Testament we read that upon encountering Jesus or the Early Church the people were “filled with awe.” We’ve had a saying in Cambridge for a while – hopefully, not a catchphrase or soundbite, but a heartfelt prayer – “Lord, we need the awe back!”  Despite common usage, few things in life are really awesome. According to Webster’s Dictionary, awe is: “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder, that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” Another reads: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.”

In the Bible, great acts of God inspired a deep awe in the people, leading them to praise God (Matthew 9:8; Luke 5:26; Psalm 65:8); sense God (Luke 7:16); share God (Luke 1:65); and seek God  (Acts 2:42-47). That’s why we need things to be awesome; not to entertain the crowds but to transform people’s broken lives. Awe speaks louder than anything to say: “God has come to help” (Luke 7:16).

This week, one of my prophetic friends was at work, making casual conversation with a builder in the men’s toilets. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit revealed all manner of private and personal details about the builder, which my friend dared to share. He was a complete stranger to him and completely unchurched. Everything was accurate, and the man – totally shocked and grasping the taps – exclaimed: “How do you know all this stuff?” My friend went on to pray for him and assure the man of God’s love. He pointed him to his local church. Awesome!

This may sound incredible but it leaves one suspecting the Holy Spirit might want to do much more, that those who come to church might say “God is truly in this place” (1 Corinthians 14:25) while others with whom we mingle for the Gospel might say, as they did in the Bible, “We have seen remarkable things today” (Luke 5:26). After all, it’s not just a song. Our God is an awesome God!


It is exciting to be around modern day people with a genuine gift of prophecy. I’m persuaded that some of my friends and colleagues in the Christian ministry are bona fide prophets, as described in Ephesians 4:11. This has been my special privilege for the whole of my Christian experience and I am convinced that wherever I go, whatever I do, I will be in their company. They are usually very ordinary people. They don’t have ‘prophet’ on a business card. They don’t carry a holy staff, or even have beards. Most of them are just humble, ordinary people.

I am concerned, however, that there is very little resource to encourage these modern day prophets in their gift, especially ‘face to face.’ Those who plant churches often mingle with fellow church planters; pastors have their Ministers’ meetings; but for the prophet it can be a very lonely business. Like any heavenly gift, it is freely given and is of grace. But it does not arrive as a fully working download, ready to go. There are no ‘plug and play’ prophets. The gift has to be developed, stretched and exercised. There is much to learn; many mistakes to avoid! We can learn to hear the Spirit in a clearer way. We can develop and improve – we ought to, given that we are representing the Lord in a very direct way.

I recently had coffee with a fellow practitioner in the prophetic ministry. We had both been experiencing the word of knowledge lately and we spent some time encouraging one another to be braver and try to go further in this ability. It was quite a unique conversation, and left me hungering for more.

So here is my question: Are there any UK prophets out there (or ‘those who often prophesy’ if that is easier to say) who would value some special time together? Iron sharpens iron, so prophet sharpens prophet. Perhaps we could create some safe space in which to meet, pray, provoke , support, love – even correct – one another. So that we can excel in a gift that God wills should build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

If you’d love this, please make contact with me and let’s explore.  Could be spiritually profitable!

Spirit Level

Posted: May 1, 2013 in church, healing, holy spirit, prophecy


Whenever the Holy Spirit is at work, supernaturally, in a local church, His activity always inspires a broad variety of reactions, both from inside and outside of the Christian community. It is comforting to consider that this was exactly the same during The Acts of the Apostles. For example, speaking in tongues is met by some with mockery (“They have had too much wine” 2:13); healing the sick and miraculous acts led to hostility (“They threatened them…” 4:21) and even fear (“Great fear seized the whole church… No-one else dared join them” 5:11-13). Pentecostals should not court controversy or be insensitive to guests and seekers (1 Corinthians 14:23), but it should not come as any surprise when a genuine move of God produces fear and opposition. Thankfully, Acts also affirms that the Spirit-filled church is likely to also surprise and impress a sceptical world (“They were astonished…” 4:13) and to grow numerically. Luke records: “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” (Acts 5:14).
Let’s believe for that too!