Worship in the Spirit and in relationship
Noel Robinson's music is not dissimilar to his personality. Bold, gospel-centred and easy to listen to are all suitable words and phrases to employ.
The past six years have seen Noel develop an event called The Renewal. The vision has always gone far beyond holding yet another 'worship conference'. While glorifying God is certainly front and centre of the agenda, it's the team's passion for both unity and diversity that has made it stand out.
With The Renewal due to take place again in Wood Green, London from 22 to 25 January, I caught up with Noel to find out what delegates can expect.
What gave you the vision for The Renewal?
Noel: It started a long time ago. I first had a glimpse of some of these things playing guitar for Graham Kendrick in the 90s. I'd travel the country and the world with him. We went to the Middle East and America and saw different people worship and I thought, 'What would happen if they all sang together?'
I began to look at London and we all grew up knowing about each other - Tim Hughes and Matt Redman - when they were at Soul Survivor and Noel Richards and all those guys, I built relationships with people.
The heart of the kingdom is always relationship. Nothing happens without relationship. I didn't realise God was getting us to build relationships over the years for a season like this where we can stand on the same platform with our different styles and different revelations of who God is and share that and let people see it modelled in that place of community that doesn't look like each other and doesn't sound like each other, but actually what makes us the same is the theme of Jesus.
What's the theme of the event this year?
Noel: The theme this year is keeping the flame alive. The things that have kept generations going in the body of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives on a regular basis.
We're in a season of technology and great explorations and inventions of humankind. The truth about God moving can be lost in technology. Knowledge has increased. One of the things we're trying to do is bring the Spirit that brings revival to the Church and also that brings transformation to the community.
What are you hoping people will get out of the event?
Noel: We want to encourage worship leaders, worship teams and people involved in worship and who are worshippers to encounter the presence of God. My guitar doesn't stay in tune, it always has to be tuned up. Likewise in our Christian walk we always have to be tuned up. It's not once tuned, always tuned. God wants to use us and we need to be tuned up to what God is doing.
The event has always attracted people from all kinds of different church backgrounds. Tell me more about that.
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Noel: I believe there's something special about the body of Christ coming together and Christians from all different denominations, colours and expressions.
We believe in this season of the Church where God is restoring. Colossians 2 says he's reconciling everything back to himself. Jesus came to start that reconciliation of our souls and spirits back to God but there's also a place of reconciliation for the Church. The Church started as one Church in Acts 2 but through the intervention of man we have denominations.
There's nothing wrong with denominations because most denominations were formed when new revelation came about specific parts of the gospel that brought life to the Church. So there's a reason the Methodists are called Methodists and the Baptists called Baptists and Pentecostals called Pentecostals. But the truth is that God wants to reconcile that back to himself as one Church.
The Bible says he commands a blessing. So I'm really excited to try and provide a platform for thousands of people to come along and share their walk and their expression of worship to God. That's part of the journey for me.
Who will be leading worship?
Noel: We've got Hillsong, Tim Hughes, Muyiwa, Mark Beswick, Lara Martin, Graham Kendrick and others. We've got a youth night where I believe there is a legacy of spiritual things that needs to be transferred to the young people of this generation because they won't do it in their own intellect or minds. They will only do it by the power of the Spirit.
We're just days away from The Renewal 2014. How should people prepare their hearts?
Noel: Come along with expectation and hope and wanting to encounter the presence of God. And come to worship.
I'd encourage you to come from whatever church background and community. Don't let the fact that what it looks like doesn't look like what you normally do hinder you from encountering the presence of God.
I learned something many years ago as I stood in a village in India and the guy sang a song I didn't understand the words. He also began to sing and it didn't make any sense to me because it wasn't European melodies but I saw a move of God in that village where the presence of God knocked people out and they were on the floor. People were touched by God's spirit.
I want to be someone who understands the Spirit. Not a musical style or a language but I wanted to know when the Spirit was in the room. It goes beyond our culture.
It's a bit like a baby in the mother's womb. The womb is the baby's world. When it is birthed into the world its like, 'Woah I'm seeing new things!' God wants to birth us into new relationship in this season and in this generation. Some call it revival. I call it revival. I call it renewal. To see the body of Christ worship together is awesome.