By Frank Billman
“I couldn’t believe I was in a room of Methodists. I’ve never seen us so alive. I want others from my smaller church to experience it!” “The highlight for me was watching the people we brought experience Aldersgate and the presence of God. Every face was lit up—every heart filled with fire!” “Aldersgate has been a life-changing event for me as a pastor of 33 years.” The conference “refreshed my call—rekindled my faith—refined my vision!”
These are just some of the testimonies from Aldersgate ’09, a national family conference on Spirit-filled living sponsored by Aldersgate Renewal Ministries (ARM), an affiliate of the General Board of Discipleship through The Upper Room. More than 1,100 children, youth, and adults, from 36 states and several foreign countries, gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina, July 1-5.
“I believe the strength of the conference is that it not only teaches about the person of the Holy Spirit, but also allows participants of all ages to immediately take steps to implement what they are learning,” observed Jonathan Dow, newly-appointed executive director of ARM. “Aldersgate is as it says: a conference on Spirit-filled living.”
More than 380 people attended a 24-hour pre-conference session under the theme of The King is Coming—Prayer that Invites an Encounter with the Living God. A Concert of Prayer model for the pre-conference provided opportunities for personal, small group, and corporate prayer interwoven with times of worship and praise. Along with a message from Margie Burger, ARM Director of Prayer Ministries, an 8-year-old boy testified to the power of God to heal.
Greetings were brought to the conference from both Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and Bishop Alfred Gwinn Jr. from the North Carolina Annual Conference. On Sunday morning, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa from Zimbabwe served as the celebrant for Holy Communion.
Highlights from the plenary sessions included:
• Pastor Suzette Caldwell, associate pastor for Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, teaching on the person of the Holy Spirit and challenging participants to surrender their agendas and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to make God-honoring decisions in every area of their lives. “If you’ve got dry places, dry situations, dry relationships in your life,” she said, “then speak what God has already said, watch the word of God.”
• The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, co-pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in downtown Houston, calling on United Methodists to reach out in God’s love to the hurting and those who are different from us with the love of Jesus Christ;
• Evangelist Craig Marsh from New Zealand testifying to being healed from cancer and having a new stomach miraculously created within him at a United Methodist pastor’s meeting in Florida; and
• The Rev. Dr. Scott McDermott, lead pastor at The Crossing: a United Methodist Congregation in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, praying for a new anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on the crowd and for a breakthrough for the pastors in attendance. “God has not called the church to be a museum for yesterday’s miracles,” he said.
Along with participatory worship, times of ministry were offered through prayer teams, a prayer path, prayer stations, and in prayer circles. Testimonies of inner, physical, and relational healings came from the prayer ministry and workshop sessions.
Nearly 300 children and youth participated in specially-designed, age-appropriate events at Aldersgate. Along with receiving teaching, ministry, and worship at “The Gate,” the youth were sent out in groups at the conference site and into the surrounding community to minister to people. Two girls that were witnessed to at the mall came to The Gate on Saturday night, and two other people gave their lives to Christ right in the middle of the mall.
One adult participant commented that the youth prayer she received was an “awesome experience—one I’ll never forget! I’m at a loss to describe the power of its impact.”
“I have now found hope for the Methodist Church,” testified Marilyn Lipscomb, a conference participant. “I have prayed for so long for renewal through the Holy Spirit and I have seen his presence in this group this weekend. There is hope for our denomination and for our individual churches! Praise God! Keep the flame burning! Oh, Lord. May it burn with such intensity that it ignites churches all around the world!”
Frank Billman is director of church relations for Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. Aldersgate 2010 is set for the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, July 14-18. Visit www.AldersgateRenewal.org or www.gateyouth.org for more information.