Alec Rowlands had a childhood experience of God’s presence while growing up King William’s Town, South Africa. As an adult and as a pastor he wondered how to keep the vitality of that experience in his life and ministry. He then sets out on a journey through studying historic revivals, recovering his prayer life and giving his attention to the winds of the Spirit.
Today Rowlands is the senior pastor of Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, Washington and has a D.Min from Carey Theological College. In The Presence: Experiencing More of God, he explores the nature of spiritual experience, cultivating a friendship with God and an openness to the surprising ways in which God works.
Growing up Pentecostal, Rowlands is open to the Spirit’s work in sometimes ‘weird’ ways. As an old-school-evangelical he is a student of revival (Keswick, First and Second Great Awakenings, early Methodism, etc). However on neither score does he fall into the error of baptizing all ‘spiritual experience’ and revival. He points to examples. historic and contemporary where spiritual manifestations no-longer aided believers to sense the Spirit’s presence and leadership but became a distraction. He also spurns techniques and methods for manufacturing revival. While it is true that we can cultivate our awarness of God’s presence, the Wind blows where it may and revival is always fundamentally the Spirit’s work. God’s presence, not God’s presents.
Underneath Rowlands’a search is a hunger for a deeper experience of God’s empowering presence in all of life and ministry. This is the gift of this book. He stokes our expectancy for more of God’s presence, he gets us to be mindful of the what God saved us from, he exhorts us to cultivate our love for God through a vibrant prayer life, he opens up the surprising ways the Spirit works, and invites us to participate in God’s mission. This has both personal and corporate implications. He sometimes writes of his own spiritual life, and other times the ways God has helped him to lead or grow his congregation (or early on discern when God was leading him to a new congregation).
Another thing I really liked is how thoughtful this book is. Rowlands is rooted in history, philosophy and theology. While he may invite us to chase a personal experience of God, he also maintains a place for reason.
At the close of each chapter, there is a text book about revival. These sometimes seemed to fit the theme of the chapter, but not always. I am not sure what they actually added to the book as a whole other than giving a short thought about revival which you could print on a mug or t-shirt. On the whole, good engaging book on the Spiritual life. I give it four stars.★★★★☆
Notice of material connection: I received this book from Tyndale Momentum in exchange for my honest review.