[Source: Evangelism Today Published: Thursday, 1 August, 1974]
by Dick Perfect
Rev Noel Stanton has been minister at Bugbrooke Chapel for 18 years. The first 13 he describes as having been "traditionally evangelical but very lively". The last five have been very evangelical and very, very lively but not at all traditional – as I soon discovered when I visited the Bugbrooke Fellowship recently.
I asked Noel Stanton what had sparked off the chain of events of these last five years and led up to a situation where today what is happening at this little village chapel is proving newsworthy enough to attract TV, radio and national daily press coverage.
"It all began" he told me "when I felt the need for the fullness of power which the New Testament speaks of, and saw the hypocrisy of much of my belief. I got tired of saying to people the way of revival is to get filled with the Spirit. I was aware that I wasn't living in the fullness of the Spirit – and therefore felt quite incapable of guiding my people into it. I hat this time a determination to get into the reality of God, at all costs. His kingdom was hardly being established in power and glory amongst us at Bugbrooke and I felt a poor shepherd.
"This brought me to the position where I decided to search my heart before the Lord and cry to the Lord, and search the Scriptures. This ultimately led to a realisation that I need to ask and receive the Holy Spirit, which of course I'd been loath to do, because any idea of any second experience of God had been taught out of me. At Bible college I was told that when you were converted you had all the fullness of the Holy Ghost.
"However, after a great deal of searching and seeking and repentance and belief I reached the point where I asked for the Holy Spirit and had this tremendous experience of being filled with the Spirit of the Lord. This experience for me was very much as Finney described his experience. Certainly it was so intoxicating and so exhilarating and particularly so intense that I felt I just wasn't going to live anymore. I became filled, with the intensity of God. This went on for hours and hours. I moved into speaking in tongues and praising the Lord. It was a tremendous experience of life and fullness from which I didn’t come down for a long, long time, and this was the changing point in the whole of my Christian life. Never before had I experienced anything so real of God – though of course I have many times since. That was five years ago, last January and that was when things began to move here."
I asked Noel how he made his experience known to his flock. "I preached it very strongly" he said "and a week later another young fellow was baptised in the Spirit. Then the Deacons one by one were baptised in the Spirit – all except one or two. After a time virtually all the congregation were baptised in the Spirit and things really began to move along. The gifts of the Spirit became more and more real amongst us. Our Saturday fellowship has grown from about twelve to around 306 in these five years. The great secret is that we ourselves should be living humbly before Him and depending on Him.
"Baptism of the Spirit is part of the conversion experience" he went on. "It is a beginning experience and not a terminating experience. It is the beginning of the new creation, life in Jesus on a new level – that is not of course to say that previously one was not in life." Then came a caution: "As you move into this fullness of life the battle becomes much, much harder."
Commenting on the very full programme of the Fellowship Noel said "We seek to move into the varied gatherings of the New Testament. There is the Assembly gathering – where the gifts of the Spirit are displayed, there is the
Pentecost type of gathering where there is basically the proclamation of the Gospel, then there is the Teaching gathering and the Prayer gathering. We seek a New Testament balance in these various gatherings.
"Recognising one another as brothers and sisters we firmly believe that where God is at work He will build up a local body which will be a full expression of the risen, exulted Lord. There should be a full body containing al1 the ministries of the New Testament and therefore being an absolute full expression of the body of Christ so that that body can move in the power of Christ Himself.
"Lots of people" he went on "have moved houses and come to live in this area. Then the Lord has led us into community understanding by which we have learned that we can practice the sharing of possessions and have all things in common, distributing to all in need. And this has meant quite: a revolution. Whilst the Spiritual family is supreme the natural family has to be safeguarded so there is never any question of relaxation here. With everybody contributing according to their ability, so long as we move in the will of the Lord there can be no question that there must be prosperity and increase. As long as we honour God, God will honour us.
[Picture of Bugbrooke manor]
Bugbrooke Manor, bought by the Fellowship at auction for £67,000 last month was built in 1815 by the squire of Bugbrooke and this was the first time it had ever been sold. The Fellowship already owns two other smaller houses in Bugbrooke and two in Northampton. Several others owned by Fellowship members themselves are also run as "Jesus Houses" – in these homes new converts are "shepherded" in their newly found faith, and helped to find and keep their feet on the Christian walk that follows.