Dr. John Charlton III
Pastor at Harvard Park Baptist Church
Early in 2007 I felt a strong desire to go to the Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries Conference at Green Lake, Wisconsin. It had been years since I was last there, so the desire was a bit unusual. I didn't know enough about HSRM to anticipate what might happen there. I just had a need to go. My wife Barb and I knew no one who had ever been to the HSRM Conference and admittedly we are both rather reserved individuals. Our exposure to the Holy Spirit movement had been colored by "wild Pentecostal" expressions. Needless to say, God blessed us at Green Lake. There were wonderful speakers and opportunities to converse with the leaders one on one. We were lifted by the worship events and the sweet fellowship. We were comforted and encouraged as we experienced an acceptance of a wide variety of expressions of commitment to Jesus Christ.
Strong in our hearts were times of sharing faith with Clay and Cheri Ford. When I asked when they would have something in Springfield, little did I know that God had already been formed a plan. Clay said: "As soon as you invite us!" Back at home, God's plan began to unfold. Discussions with my Diaconate and then our Church Board set in motion an invitation to the Fords. On the first Saturday in March we had a lunch session with selected church folk who have been leaders among our congregation. The entire congregation was invited to a Saturday night worship service and Clay spoke during our regular Sunday morning service. Fully 85% of our attending church body was in one or more of the sessions.
During those three sessions the Holy Spirit began a mighty work. Clay's ministry was gentle and warm and won the hearts of our people. He led us to an awareness of the presence of the Spirit among us, calling us to openly respond to the Spirit's leading, and hinting at what could be our future through the power of the Holy Spirit. Attitudes have changed from critical to openness, expressions of compassion have blossomed, and an eagerness to move ahead with the guidance of the Spirit has begun to spread. We have since decided to form a grand plan to renovate our worship center. The importance of this is a movement from saying "we can't do that!" to looking forward to a MIRACLE SUNDAY when God will affirm His continuing plans for us (Jeremiah 29:1-14). We are no longer asking "how much longer can we keep the doors open." Instead, we are saying: 'I wonder what God will do next!" We are beginning to live in the presence of God as never before. We have not had any "wild Pentecostal" experiences -- a quiet movement of God's Holy Spirit changing hearts and souls step by step is more like it. There have been a few tense moments. Satan has been at work trying to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) what our Lord has started, but the Holy Spirit is bringing new life to the Harvard Park Baptist Church. I can't wait to see what God will do next!