What is it?
Manifesting the Gifts of the Spirit (‘GOTS’) was the title for the 2018 Christian Leaders Conference held by All People’s Church (‘ APC’) in Bangalore. It ran from Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th January from 9:30am to 5:30pm, with a morning coffee break, lunch and afternoon tea break ( food and beverages provided). The cost was INR 500 (£6) for all three days.
I am at the APC Bible College in Bangalore studying for a Theology Diploma. All students were required to attend the conference and there would be no classes at Bible College for the duration of the Conference. Boarding students were required to serve and assist at the conference.
Bible college is usually from 9:30am to 1pm and in Hennur, around 30 minutes journey in the morning traffic. The conference was being held centrally at the United Theological College in Benson Town. That’s a 45 min to an hour journey in the morning. Logistically its a nightmare as we have one car. Thankfully we have carpooling arrangements with our friends and neighbours for the School run (drop off and pick up for those of you not from the UK!). The easy part was arranging for Zahra (and the other children) to be collected and looked after whilst I was at the Conference.Rez goes to work at 7am but our driver could not take him and get back for me to get me to the conference on time (the usual crappy Bangalore traffic prohibits this). Thankfully a neighbour lent me her car and driver to get me there on time. (We have super expat neighbours in this complex – they’re all fabulous and kind.)
The initial logistical nightmare dealt with, I could think about the Conference. The first thing that struck me was how incredibly cheap it was. INR 500 is roughly a days wage here for the upper working or lower middle class. So actually quite expensive for local wage earners. The accountant in me still can’t get me head around how the church can hold such a huge conference, fully catered, for such a small fee. Obviously it is heavily subsidised by the church, but even so, APC has about 470 adults in 5 congregations spread over all of Bangalore. It’s a huge amount of money coming in from the congregation to subsidise this and make it accessible.
As the conference approached I wondered what it would be like. I have never been to a conference here. How big would it be? What would the facilities be like? (They are very basic a Bible College). Are the toilets useable (it’s like playing Russian roulette using toilets in Bangalore! Always have tissues and hand sanitiser with me.)
Conference Day 1
After arranging for Zahra’s forgotten locker keys to be delivered to school by our helpful neighbour, I set off with her car and driver to find the conference. It’s at the United Theological College in Benson Town in the city. Google maps was rubbish. It took us 30 mins of driving around the area to find it. We stopped several times and asked for directions- the final time we were actually outside the college. It was across the road from where we had stopped. Both me and the driver looked around to see the smallest sign ever for a large college which could only be viewed if you are driving in the right direction. Useful. (And that’s British sarcasm in case you don’t recognise it!)
I was dropped off outside the hall at 9:15am and was pleased we had left plenty of time for the journey as I was able to register, find the wash room (more on that later) and settle in before the conference started at 9:30am.
9:30am and the conference is a quarter full. The band played and we sang worship songs as the rest of the delegates drifted in on Indian time (ie always late).
The conference is on the UTC grounds in a building which is truly an old style church hall. The entrance has the washrooms and where the registration desk and (free) book stall was. The hall itself sloped down to the front of the stage. The floor is tiled in beige with a strip of maroon carpet running down the centre. Each side has plastic garden chairs for seats. (These are used widely in India as chairs- they are lightweight and easy to clean and transport).
I sat with my college colleagues. After some very short announcements Pastor Ashish took to the lecture to deliver the first session on Supernatural Ministry. At 11am we had a tea break and at 11:30 Pastor Ashish continued with Introducing the person of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1pm was a lunch break with rice, roti, chicken curry and curd served. At 2pm we reconvened for a short time of praise in Hindi and English. Then Pastor Jeyakumar jumped from the stage from playing guitar to talk to us about Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Pastor Ashish continued with The Love of God our Motivation and How the Holy Spirit Initiates the release of the gifts. 3pm was afternoon coffee and the final session at 3:30pm was a practical session. This is were the pastors of APC gave a practical demonstration of listening to the Holy Spirit and delivering what they heard to the congregation. People were also immediately healed of ailments. It is amazing to see God at work. Seeing really is believing.
There are a few hundred people at this conference and the Building has two toilets for women, one western and one Indian. They were basic and dated but usable, (unless the previous occupant decided to shower with the toilet hose and wet the floor, walls and toilet seat – I’ll never understand this behaviour). The western toilet had a tree growing through the open window and was constantly wet, due to the dripping tap at calf height. The church provided toilet roll and hand wash. There was a filthy dirty mop (no bucket) and a sink that was dirty and falling apart but useable. A dirty curtain covered the entrance to the washrooms which also had a filthy cloth mat. At least they didn’t smell but the church had also provided a can of air freshener just in case. (I provided a towel and some soap the next day.) Now this is a conference facility which is paid for – why are the toilets so basic and dirty? I just don’t get it. Why did the church have to provide toilet roll and hand wash? Another #IncredibleIndia moment.
This was a bit of a blur as the speakers were great, good practical sessions and really demystifying the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit. Pastors Nancy, Ashish and Brian spoke today. The lectures were on words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing and working of miracles.
The practical practice session at the end of the day was working miracles and the gift of healing. We prayed for several individuals, all of whom had physical ailments needing treatment. All were healed. Now I know the majority of readers will scoff at that statement and ask for evidence. Seeing really is believing. I won’t be able to convince anyone who wasn’t there that physical healing actually took place, but it did. It was miraculous and it was unbelievable but it happened.
Lunch was provided for the delegates each day, outside. Lunch was chicken, rice, roti and curds with biryani served on Friday. Everyone who had registered and paid for the conference was given a meal voucher each day to collect our meal. There was an orderly queue (surprising for India) and people sat and chatted whilst eating.
This is when I was cornered each day by a couple of elderly gentlemen preachers telling me about their ministry and asking me to pray for them. They did this at the tea and coffee breaks to and never left my side. It was quite unnerving. On the last day I was given a business card and a medical report. Both wanted contributions. I was an easy target being white. The assumption being that every white person is loaded. I was saddened and disheartened that this happened at a Christian Conference when there was ample opportunity to seek assistance from the many other delegates in attendance.
I arrive early and sit in the gardens drinking my flask of tea (how British!) listening to the variety of birds singing and chirping and squawking whilst the band practice “Come now is the time for worship”, one of my favourite songs.
As usual, the conference started with a period of worship promptly at 9:30am and allowed those adhering to Indian Standard Time to drift in. Expectations were high after yesterday’s miracles; God was really moving in this place.
Pastor Ashish and Pastor Brian lectured today on the gift of faith (rather than ‘normal’ faith), developing the gifts of the Spirit, proper foundation for releasing the gifts, being a channel for the spirit’s power, flowing with the anointing (and what ‘anointing’ actually means) and unusual manifestations and how to respond. All the lectures were super useful, plain speaking and again demystifying the terminology.
The last practice session today was letting the spirit flow through us to hear from God. Pastor Ashish requested that those who heard from God to go to the front and validate it i.e. tell everyone what you heard and see if anyone could relate to it or if it was about them. This is a very scary and risky thing if you have never done it before, but that was the point – getting us all to practice in a safe non judgmental environment where mistakes could be made. As it happened all those who spoke had their words and pictures confirmed by someone else in the room. It was fascinating to watch.
Then it happened. I was sat quietly concentrating and praying, when words flashed into my mind clear and strong. I picked up my notebook and pen and wrote them down, closed my eyes and it happened again. Then again and again and again. I had a poem. I showed my college colleagues who insisted I go up to the front with it. With a pounding heart and shaking hands I picked up the mike and sat down on the chair (so no one could see me) and read the poem. I delivered it and scurried back to my seat.
Others continued with words and pictures. At the end of the session Pastor Ashish asked us to explain how it happened and what we saw so others could benefit. How do you explain that these words just popped into your head? So that’s what I said – I can’t explain it, the words came and I wrote them down.
This was the end of the conference. There was a final tea break and those requiring prayer from the pastoral team queued and queued. There was a lot of delegates requesting prayer.
I was asked to record ‘my testimony’ for the conference. This means a different thing from the UK – they were asking me to give feedback on the conference and what I enjoyed about it. I was filmed telling the audience about my first Indian Conference and my experience. They then asked me to read the poem to the camera too, which I did. I have no idea what it is going to be used for.
It was such a good conference and I learnt so much about the Gifts of the Spirit and practising using them. It really did demystify things. Now I need to practice, and keep practising.
My heart is leaping
Bowing down to you
You made me new
You made me new.
You are God
You are Lord overall
You shine anew
You shine anew.
Your gifts are free
Free gifts for me
Accept and see
What I can do, in you.
You are God
You are Lord overall
You make me new
Anew in you.
Some of my Bible College colleagues
The APC website has loads of free resources – books, sermons, videos, tv programs – take a look: http://www.apcwo.org