There have been many key moments in KT’s history, both recent and in the distant past. 25 years ago I found myself in charge of one of Britain’s finest and largest churches, Kensington Temple. Wynne Lewis, my predecessor, was a human hurricane. Since his arrival in 1980 he had torn through KT bringing radical change, fresh vision and an extensive building programme.
The elders were nurturing a plan to make the KT building more functional and favoured a three-level configuration. This meant the main church was to be limited to the ground floor area, and the balcony and the basement were to be developed for social outreach purposes. While the proposals for social ministry were welcomed, the architect’s plans would have reduced the congregational seating capacity to a few hundred – adequate at the time, but totally inadequate for the explosive growth that was about to happen.
I was on the church leadership team as a minister in training when Wynne took us away to the Elim Bible College (then in Capel, Surrey) for a day of prayer and seeking God for his mind on the building development. At the next leaders meeting the decision was made. The balcony would remain and the basement would be expanded. Wynne Lewis was delighted. He was 100 percent growth orientated and knew that the church would soon be full.
Shortly after that, I was sent to lead a church in Bournemouth. It was a time of “exile” for me and Amanda. But, after four years, Wynne invited us back to assist him in the now rapidly expanding church. The renovations were complete. The basement area had been excavated and developed, its ceiling elevated to create more headroom, and a new floor had been laid on the ground level. The main building now seated 850 people, with extensive facilities for youth and Bible Study activities in the basement, a bookshop and about a dozen other small rooms and offices. Every square inch had been developed to capacity.
The church was also now full. I remember Easter 1985. Amanda and I had just returned to London with Elizabeth, the two-year old addition to our family. We were expecting our second child. The transformation in the KT building and family was amazing. Now, multiracial, with scores of new nationalities, KT boasted a black majority congregation with all the flavours, sights and smells of Africa and the Caribbean. Each national group hosted the church for lunch after the 11am service. Over the weeks we enjoyed a gastronomic gallop around the world of international cuisine. As the sermon reached its conclusion each Sunday, the savours would waft up from below. Then hundreds would descend to the lower hall for food. Many who knew nothing beyond standard English fare were soon tasting foufou and moi moi from West Africa, curried eggs from Ethiopia and halo-halo from the Philippines. We learned that spice is nice. Then as now, chicken and jollof rice was everybody’s favourite. Wynne’s leadership was outstanding.
The rapid growth in attendances meant that we soon had to start multiple services, first the 9am, then the 2.30pm were added to the 11am and 6.30pm services. As each successive service was filled it became apparent that we had to expand outside the building. In the mid-eighties the church planting programme was born. Amanda and I made our way each Sunday evening to Barnet where a nurses’ Christian fellowship had just become a “church”. It was the first official satellite church of KT. Others soon followed as we adopted the goal of becoming 2,000 churches by the year 2000. By the end of the decade we were over 600 groups of churches, ministries and fellowships. This was short of our goal but nevertheless a significant achievement. It was real move of God bringing growth, salvation and healing to thousands.
It was into this flow of the Holy Spirit that I was plunged as senior leader in 1991. Wynne Lewis took on the national position of General Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal Churches. We had always been proud of our Elim identity. George Jeffreys was both the founder of Elim in the UK and the founder of KT, his headquarters church in London. We particularly identified with these early days of Elim. Now with Wynne at the helm of the Movement, what would happen to KT?
My return to London from Bournemouth to join Wynne was the result of a particular call from the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to describe, but there was definite spiritual connection between us. He was my spiritual father, my mentor and I felt as if I was a Joshua to a Moses, an Elisha to an Elijah. I never dreamed that as those leader-servant relationships led to succession, so one day I would succeed Wynne as Senior Minister of KT. Stepping into the position vacated by my mentor, it was time for me to put all my training and the things I had learned into practice.
Since 1985, I had followed Wynne closely, serving him at all times and listening intently to what he had to say about church life, growth and leadership. He was in many ways a tough leader, but there never was a dull moment. His methods were cutting edge and unorthodox. He was fearless and never backed down. He was “Wynne” by name and “win” by nature! God used him powerfully, not only to bring revival to KT but also to shape and form my spiritual life. In many ways my time in Bournemouth had been a spiritually dry season. Early stirrings of the Holy Spirit in my life had been replaced by doubts about spiritual gifts and their relevance for today. Pentecostalism was not the most vibrant from of spirituality in those days. Coldness, formalism and fondness for the past had taken over many Pentecostal churches.
My return to London coincided with the visits to KT by such ministries as Benson Idahosa from Nigeria, a man who had raised the dead. Several prophetic ministries, such as that of Charles and Paula Slagle who specialised in giving words of knowledge and personal prophecies. Also, it was the era of John Wimber’s visits to London, who had founded the Vineyard movement. Wimber was known for his laid-back neo charismatic style and was warmly received by Anglican evangelicals and Roman Catholics. God used all these people to bring me into a new awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.
With great encouragement from Wynne and under his watchful eye, I began to experience and develop fresh expressions of the Holy Spirit in my life. The words of knowledge and discerning of spirits became both real to me and frequently experienced. Wynne would often hand me the microphone in the services and ask me to prophecy to the people. God gave us some remarkable experiences as KT exploded in manifestations of the Spirit. Following these breakthroughs all who came to KT were soon released into the same manifestations of the Spirit’s power.
Another dimension was shortly to be added. It came through an unusual and painful experience in our family. Laura our second daughter, born in 1985 suffered severe brain damage in hospital soon after her birth. She required 24/7 care throughout the 16 years of her life. Amanda, Elizabeth and I were devastated and yet God used that experience to birth a supernatural healing ministry. We sought God night and day for Laura’s healing, which never came in this life. However, this focus on God’s love for people and his delight in healing those afflicted with pain, injury and sickness gave us great faith in the healing power of Jesus.
God began to move in KT and in our ministry overseas. In 1987 we saw remarkable miracles in Kenya which according to the local people had not been seen for decades in those regions. The era of KT short term missions was born. From that time on we began to send thousands of people to experience the power of God in Africa, Asia, South America and India. It is still our dream that every single person who is associated with KT might join us on these lifechanging ministry journeys abroad.
Wynne Lewis also encouraged me to start a KT Bible college which I did in 1987. The IBIOL became a major training centre for Africans and South Americans who came to London to study and to plant churches. Training was at the heart of everything that we did at KT. We focussed on passion for souls, world mission, discipleship and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Thousands have been equipped over the years to serve God in Britain and abroad in church life and in the wider society.
Above all, what I learned under Wynne, was the value of servanthood. Much was expected of me as I deputised for him as his assistant in KT and further afield. I would have been content to continue under his leadership forever. Even in recent years, shortly before his death in March 2009 we were talking about continuing working together and sharing in the ministry.
His style of leadership was forceful but benevolent. His character was impetuous but wise. He was pugnacious at times but always compassionate. Above all Wynne heard from God. Too impatient for long times of prayer, he looked for the action needed to make things happen. This would have been dangerous if it were not for his keen ear for the Holy Spirit’s direction in his life and in the church. Two features of Wynne’s ministry remain not just as a memory, but as on-going values in the life and work of KT. These are nonconformity and taking the limits off God. Doing what people are not doing and setting the pace for others is one of the ways God has always used KT both within Elim and generally in London. If they say, “It has never been done that way before” or “It cannot be done” – we ignore them and go ahead and do it anyway. Sometimes we fail, but many times we succeed.
I was present at Wynne’s last meeting with Elim France at Nevers, near Paris. He preached on Psalm 78 – “taking the limits off God”. He said “there is no limit to what God can do through your life – if only you break out of the limits you place on yourself.” This approach to life and living is still the driving force of KT membership and ministry.