I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural.
When I was in my early teens, living in Perth, my parents developed a close friendship with a British couple. We’d catch up regularly, and invariably the conversation would move quickly to astrology and the occult. We’d talk for hours about astral walking, seances, and star signs. I read books on astrology and became quite an expert on the various star signs, the characteristics, cusps, and compatibilities.
One of my mates was a Christian. He and his family attended church weekly, and when I stayed with them, I would go too. It was a traditional church, and it struck me as dull and irrelevant. I certainly didn’t see or hear anything about supernatural things. I concluded that religion in general and Christianity in particular, held no interest for me. In any case, I was an atheist. My beliefs and practices with the supernatural world were separate from religion.
Things changed for me in my late teens. I graduated from high school, worked for a year, completed Radio Announcing School, and started my first job on a Top 40 commercial station in Western Australia. A good mate was hitchhiking around Australia, and he asked me to go with him. So, with a backpack and sleeping bag in place, off we set. You can watch the whole story here.
In Northern NSW, I hitched a ride in a truck heading to Sydney. The truck driver, Malcolm, told me he was a “born again Christian”. I had no idea what he meant, but I knew it wasn’t good! I was stuck in a truck for a day with a religious zealot! About two hours into the trip, we were involved in a head-on collision with another truck in which two guys died. Malcolm and I were rushed to the hospital, but remarkably neither of us was seriously injured. A few days later, Malcolm’s wife, Lynne, arrived to drive us to Sydney. I stayed with the family for a few weeks while I recovered.
Lynne and I hit it off big time, playing Scrabble, chatting, and drinking tea. Lynne was allergic to cigarette smoke, so I finally gave up smoking while I was staying with them. Invariably our conversations drifted into the realm of the supernatural. Lynne was a new Christian with all the zeal that one would expect from a recent convert. She spoke of the supernatural elements of Christianity. I was fascinated. I’d never heard of speaking in tongues. Lynne talked about God speaking to her, healing their marriage, and changing their lives. She said Jesus was a real person in the here and now – not just a historical figure. I was hooked.
After a few weeks, I asked if I could go to church with them. Of course, they said “yes”, so off we set. Bethel Foursquare Church was a small congregation with all the enthusiasm demonstrated by Malcolm, Lynne, and their sons. The service made a significant impact on me. When the invitation was given to commit my life to Jesus, I responded. When I was being prayed for, I felt like I was going to fall over. I thought, “I can’t fall over in church!” But later, I found out that it would have been okay. It was another manifestation of this supernatural God.
Malcolm passed away in 2000, and three years ago, Lynne was diagnosed with cancer. I went and visited her in Port Kembla on the NSW south coast. We spent three amazing days together talking about the past 40 years since that fateful truck accident. I recorded a brief video chat with Lynne that you can watch here.
So, it was the supernatural elements of Christianity that first attracted me to Jesus. And it’s been those things that have kept me on this journey for over four decades. Now I can hear some people saying, “your faith has to be built on the Word, not on experience.” I partly agree. The Word (Christian-speak for the Bible) is essential for growing in maturity, understanding God’s nature, and how to live a God-pleasing life. But the Word is also full of peoples’ experiences of God – his power, his presence, his prevailing on their behalf.
I thank God that we get to feel his presence. That our faith doesn’t just rest on facts and head knowledge but heart experience. In Romans 10:2, Paul described his own people this way: “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” In other words, they were people that had a great passion for God. Their minds were excited about God, but this zeal was not based on knowledge (Greek. “epignosis”).
“Gnosis” in Greek refers to head knowledge. “Epignosis” is heart knowledge or deep inner experience of God as a supernatural bring. I don’t doubt that many people sincerely believe in God and Jesus. They may know a lot about God, but the knowledge is head-bound. What’s needed is a theological landslide from head to heart, from facts to experience.
Since my Christian conversion 43 years ago, I have continued to develop a supernatural faith. And it’s this faith that led me to pioneer Bayside Church 28 years ago. Out of one of the most challenging seasons in my life, God called. Prophetic words flowed from five different people. God was letting me know that what he’d spoken to me about in 1988 was about to be fulfilled.
In my observations of the Christian church as a young man, I often questioned why some churches were strong on the Word but didn’t give room to the Spirit, which the Word taught about. Other churches were strong in the Spirit but weak in the Word. Why I asked God, can’t a church be strong in the Word AND the Spirit? God told me, “Go and start one.” So, I did, and the rest is history.
Today, two of our Bayside Church Core Values are:
“Living and loving the Word of God,” and
“Contending for the supernatural.”
Sure, there are seasons when one has been emphasised more than the other. But we have stayed true to the initial calling to be a church of the Word and the Spirit.
I am grateful to God for leading me to Malcolm and Lynne and the legacy they left in my life. I am thankful to be introduced to a supernatural faith through a little church in Sydney’s western suburbs. I am humbled to be guided by God these past 43 years and continue to see his supernatural presence transform, heal, intercede, and provide.