Interview with Rob Rufus

One of the many ways that God has blessed me in Hong Kong is He has brought me a deeper understanding of the unfathomable riches of His grace. We will probably never grasp the full significance of the cross this side of eternity, but it is no understatement to claim that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the pivotal events of human history.

One of my favourite preachers of the grace message is fellow Hong Konger Rob Rufus. Tens of thousands of people regularly download and are blessed by his sermons (found here). I love listening to Rob for he stirs my faith in Jesus and I come away hungering for more of the power of God in my life, my church, my world.

For those who know little of Rob and his message, I have pasted below an abbreviated version of an interview transcript I found on Adrian Warnock’s site. The interview was two years ago but it has retained its flavour. In it Rob talks about the relationship between the Word of God and the Person of the Holy Spirit. Some churches emphasize the Bible, others the work of the Spirit, but – as Rob explains – we need both. To read the full interview, click here.

Adrian
The Together on a Mission conference has just ended, but I’m here, together with my pastor, Tope, and we’re here with Rob Rufus. Rob is going to talk to us a little bit about how the conference has been for him, and tell us a little bit more about his own church … Obviously, one of the features of this conference has been your own preaching, Rob. I just wonder for those who have not been at the conference, and perhaps have been following the blogs—how would you summarize your key message, just in a couple of sentences, of this conference—what you’d like people to take away, because, to be honest, taking notes hasn’t been that easy! (Loud laughter) Well, you could say that!

Rob Rufus
Yes, absolutely! I mean, I’m the worst person for writing notes myself, and then, of course, for people to be able to pick up notes, because I tend to be more spontaneous and impromptu. Probably what I’d like people to primarily take away in a few sentences is that, of course, God is turning up the supernatural—the volume of the demonstration of his power—not just for the sake of sensationalism for us to find ourselves popular or famous because of that, but because he wants to be glorified in the world, he wants to get the world’s attention. The primary essence I would like people to take away is that we don’t seek primarily the power of God, but we seek the person of God. We seek who he is, his glory. Because his power is what he does, but his glory and his presence is who he is, and that’s the only thing that will fulfill people—to know him personally. That sense of intimacy is such a delight; it gives us that fulfillment. Out of that he hides his power within his presence so you can live a supernatural life in a natural way because you’re not having to fast forty days to get the power—you can just walk with the person of God in intimacy and he releases his power out of that relationship with himself.

Adrian
Yes. I guess that some Christians sitting at home listening to this—I mean, I get readers on my blog from all kinds of different backgrounds—they’re going to listen to that and think, “What is this guy talking about? A relationship with God? I thought we just had a relationship with a Book!” What would you say to those kinds of people?

Rob Rufus
Well, it’s like—when I met my wife for the first time I was at university so I couldn’t spend time with her because the university was in a different city. So during the first six months, I could only see her every second or third weekend. We corresponded in those days—it was a long enough time ago it was by letters, not e-mails!—(loud laughter) and although her letters were perfumed and I loved reading her letters, I didn’t have a love relationship primarily with her letters, but with the author of the letters. So I longed to get to see the person who was writing the letter and meet her. So the Bible is, in a sense, perfumed with the presence of God—it’s God-breathed; it’s really his love letter to us. It’s an introduction for us to get to know the Author of the Book. That’s the delight!

Adrian
Yes, very good! So you are not one of those “charismaniacs” who want to throw out the Bible then, Rob?

Rob Rufus
Absolutely not, Adrian! That, I think, is the tragedy. Sadly the charismatics or Pentecostals (to some degree, not all!) have been known as a people who are kind of going on a binge of subjectivity. It’s all self-indulgent. You have got to have theological references to make sure that the supernatural experiences you are having are authentic because we do have the counterfeit in the world today; we do have deception in the world today. The Bible is the foundation that authenticates that we are having legitimate miraculous encounters with God.

Tope
I’ve got to say, I agree with you. Definitely for me in listening to all the sessions that you did, and for us as a church, having taken so many to this conference, and also as a pastor, having the privilege of speaking with other pastors—the response that I’ve been hearing back, certainly from my own perspective, has been that in the talks there has been a depth of theology, not just the push of an experience; there has been this depth of theology as the verses and the references have come out, but you have also told us of the experiences—what this would look like and what God can do. And beyond you describing this, we also saw what God did among us. So those two sides then—the Word and the Spirit—I would say we saw that, but I would say we also saw—I could put it this way—the Lion and the Lamb. There was a real confidence in the way I thought the talks came across, but also the gentility of getting to know the Person of the Holy Spirit. And I wondered—is this something that you’ve always had? Is it a style of preaching that you developed or what?

Rob Rufus
That’s an outstanding question, Tope. As I mentioned in the conference, before I became a Christian I was a Hare Krishna. I was practicing strict Hinduism very aesthetically. One of the things that attracted me to Christianity was that when I went to a meeting where the power of God was being manifested—where cripples were walking and deaf ears were opening and the power of God was there—it made me realize that Christianity can never be reduced just to a philosophy, but it has to declare that Jesus is alive; He is a risen living Saviour. So I came into the kingdom of heaven through seeing the supernatural—I was birthed in the miraculous. But then I had mentors that loved the Scriptures as well. We were kind of like charismatic Calvinists, in other words we had reformed theology of the sovereignty of God and the attributes of God and the awesomeness and the transcendence of God and the love for Scripture. But along with that was this recognition that Paul, one of the greatest apostles and one of the greatest theologians you could ever imagine—raised the dead. He moved in signs and wonders, the supernatural. So I think it’s fraudulent to say we are walking in a New Testament apostolic life if all we are is into the Spirit because that gets quite unusual and flaky and unhealthy after awhile. Or it’s fraudulent to say, “I’m apostolic; I’m into the Word of God, but we don’t have a demonstration of power. Paul had both, and I think that’s what good theology is. I mean, Jesus was the theologian of theologians, and he said to someone—you’re wrong because you don’t know the Scriptures AND the power of God. So he married the Word of God and the Scriptures together.

Adrian
Very good! Very good! So for you, growing up into that whole kind of charismatic Calvinist thing, you sort of laughed when you said it. Did you feel like you were a bit of an oddity? Were you aware there were others out there like that? Or was there just a small group of you and you felt a bit weird? Because that was our experience!

Rob Rufus
Adrian, that’s exactly how we felt! I got saved in 1977, I think, so it was the tail end of the hippie movement. We all had long hair and all of that stuff, and yet with the gifts of the Spirit in operation, we would do expository preaching right through the Bible. We would study books at a time—go through the book of Hebrews chapter by chapter.

Adrian
So your preaching wasn’t always like it was this week?

Rob Rufus
(Loud laughter) Of course not! I was inducted into Christianity through expository preaching, and that wasn’t me; it was my mentor.

Adrian
So you do that kind of expository preaching yourself?

Rob Rufus
I do occasionally. I have been in the church plant in Hong Kong for three years and I haven’t done a book yet in expository form. But we will. That is something I do. But in the middle of all that expository teaching, there were gifts of the Spirit—very passionate outreach and evangelism in the streets. So reformed denominations for whom I have great respect (I really do) who love the Scriptures—they couldn’t quite work us out. We were a bit of a strange case! We were charismatic Calvinists. And yet I feel like in today’s world, I think what’s happening is that a lot of committed evangelical people who love Jesus, who love the Scriptures, are suddenly to their relief, finding out that people who are full of the Spirit and know the supernatural power of God love the Scriptures as well. And I believe it’s giving them a sense that a bridging is taking place. I think, too, that those people who are moving in the power of God and love the Scriptures—we need to be humble and realize that evangelicals have a rich legacy that we can learn from, and I think we can enrich each other.

Adrian
One of the things I find is that quite a few of the readers of my blog out there—they love the Word, they are Reformed folk—but they are a little bit bemused to discover that there are a ton of us [charismatics] who love the Word in the same way. Actually, a lot of them are quite drawn in, but they just don’t know quite how to make that connection. Perhaps they don’t live in a town where there’s a group they can go to. Maybe they’ve even been burnt by some of these “charismaniacs” we’ve talked about. What would you say to them? They’re sitting at home and are a bit intrigued, a bit fascinated. They want more, but know they haven’t really connected with the Spirit in that way.

Rob Rufus
Yes. Well, I would say—stay with the Scriptures. Never ever dilute or compromise your love for the Word of God! That is our foundation; that’s the bedrock. Then I would just invite the Holy Spirit to come, the Spirit of truth, because he breathed the Scriptures! They are God-breathed by the Spirit himself. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and just touch you and begin to lead you. And He will, because he really is faithful and wonderful. And then with technology today, this access to speakers around the world like the New Frontiers guys who talk about the Holy Spirit, but from a wonderful biblical place. I mean, I don’t think this fear today that the counterfeit, that the devil—and [the Bible] does warn in the last days there will be counterfeit signs, wonders, and miracles—but it doesn’t say that the ONLY signs, wonders, and miracles in the last day will be counterfeit. So if there is counterfeit, it means that the genuine will be there, and we need to find the genuine. We really need to find the genuine.

Adrian
Thanks for that. Just going back a minute then. There you were, coming—Calvinistic, charismatic, or if you prefer, Reformed Charismatic. (I always think the term “reformed charismatic” is funny because it makes it sound like we’re kind of an ex-charismatic group, doesn’t it?) (Section unclear because of loud laughter.) But you obviously did become part of a family of churches—you’re not part of New Frontiers, but you’re part of something—I think it’s New Covenant Ministries? Have I got that right?

Rob Rufus
Yes, New Covenant Ministries International.

Adrian
So, how did New Covenant Ministries International come about? Tell us a little bit about the history of that.

Rob Rufus
Sure. It was back in the early 1980’s when God was really moving in ways, I think, across the world, and particularly in South Africa (we were based in South Africa). My friend who actually mentored me, and fathered and birthed NCMI—his church grew explosively. And whatever happens, you know, whenever you have some success, pastors around the country want you to come and tell them about it.

Adrian
So who was that? What was his name?

Rob Rufus
It’s Dudley Daniel. He started traveling around South Africa and teaching about what made his church grow. Then God spoke to him one day on the plane and said, “It’s wonderful what you’re doing—you’re blessing pastors and that, but do you want to spend the rest of your life just blessing, or do you also want to help pastors build the Church?” Because blessings are short-lived, but if you build well, you can sustain the blessing. And God began to speak to Dudley about finding biblical patterns—what are the biblical wineskins? How were churches really governed in the New Testament? He began to see that there were some traditions that we had inherited that were not in line with Scripture, done by very sincere, good leaders. So he began to relate this to some friends. He threw his home open on a Monday, and pastors that were alone, looking for friendship, started coming and relating. And out of that came a kind of a motto that we developed: “Friendship before function.” We have a function into the earth, but we want to be friends; we want to do it with friends relationally, like Jesus did with his guys, his friends. (Too much laughter to hear what is being said here.) God showed us that we are the offspring of Abraham, and that we are (unclear) forces—we’re the heirs of the world. And that from the seed of Abraham God wanted to make the blessing to all nations! So the Great Commission really just complements the oath God took to Abraham—God took an oath that all nations would be blessed. When you take an oath, it’s—what’s the word I want to say?

Tope
Binding?

Rob Rufus
Yeah, binding. So God bound himself to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham. So if the Church balks on that, or hinders it, or stands against it, then God will precipitate a crisis, like he did with Jonah to get the Gospel to Nineveh. So we realized that God was calling us to go to the nations, and we built—with a national team of friends, we developed a mixture of prophetic, apostolic evangelists, teachers, pastors, etc.

Adrian
You used that word “apostolic,” and I’m very aware that some of my readers will wonder, “What do you mean by that?” Can you explain your perspective of what that means?

Rob Rufus
Yes, and I think that is a very good question, because people are asking that, and it really is something people want to have clarity on. Often people think apostles are those who write Scripture, and that if we’re claiming we’ve got apostles today, we claim that the canon of Scripture’s not closed. But as we know, it IS closed, and that [New Testament] Scripture was written only by apostles in the first century. So we have pre-ascension apostles in the Bible and post-ascension apostles. Anyone who believes the Bible is God’s inspired Word will realize there must be apostles around today—they’re not pre-ascension apostles. The pre-ascension apostles are the twelve apostles of the Lamb that were called primarily to be witnesses to the baptism of Jesus, his life, his resurrection. But after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended on high (Ephesians 4) he gave some to be apostles. So there are post-ascension apostles as well, and he says they will be in the earth until the Church comes to the full measure of the stature of Christ. We know the Church is not at the full measure of the stature of Christ currently, so we will need apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the equipping of the believers, the saints, for the work of the ministry until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and to the full measure of the stature of Christ. So apostles need to be “until.” That word “until” offers the key word.

Adrian
Yes, very good. I think it’s Matthew Henry who looks at that passage and says something like, “These gifts (or rather some of them) will continue until the end.” It’s an interesting approach, I guess. If the apostles stop, why doesn’t the pastor stop?

Rob Rufus
Exactly! Exactly!

Tope
Yes, absolutely. I think you put it very, very well, and in a very helpful way because, certainly I know that for us, just working as we see the Bible order these things functioning together with apostles in the midst and all the other gifts, it’s been an incredible help. Near the end, it does say he gives these as gifts. He must know that we need these gifts. There’s something very powerful there. Every time we align ourselves with the biblical order that God has put in place, goodness and blessing come out the other end. So we’re all learning this.

Rob Rufus
Very good, Tope! I agree. I agree. I think when people hear of apostles, they kind of think of some sort of hierarchy and almost a controlling dictator-type where apostles are self-appointed and really think they are the big bosses of the church, you know, but actually Paul says, “We, the apostles, come at the end of the line.” There is nothing dictatorial, although Paul was incredibly anointed in such power and theology and revelation, he came amongst the churches like a father—he said almost like a nursing mother to the Thessalonians. And he speaks about of his affection for them and his friendship for them, and the care for the churches. So there is a hierarchy there. But Paul wouldn’t even put the word “apostle” in front of his name. He always put it behind his name: “Paul, called to be an apostle.” He is saying “apostle” is not my title, it’s my job description. So you’ll never see the word “apostle” in front of Paul’s name, or any of the guy’s names. Even at home, I like to say to people, “Look, I’m Rob, called to be a pastor to you.” Pastor is my job description; it’s not my title. People say, “I’ve got to call you “Pastor Rob” because that’s a sign of respect.” And I say, “Well, then, I’ve got to call you Mechanic Henry. Or Housewife Jill.” I don’t show you respect by calling your job description as your title. I think every sincere person who loves the Scriptures—we need to say the Bible plus nothing, the Bible minus nothing—and we build our theology, our church practice—not only our doctrine of Hebrews 6: faith, repentance, you know, all of the doctrine. But the government, the way church is governed, needs to come back to Scripture as well.

Adrian
Yes, and I think that’s so right. It seems like, I guess it’s almost like we have blind spots—where we want the Bible up to this point, but no further. I guess church history is a bit like that—you look back in church history and you see some of these guys in the past, and you think, “How could you see so much great stuff and not this?!”

Rob Rufus
Yes! Very good! Yes! Yes!

Tope
I think the real enemy just tries to blind us and stop us from seeing certain things and living in the good of certain things. But God is still on the throne and seeking to bring recovery to everything.

When you talk about Paul there, and his movement in church planting—you’ve moved now from South Africa and you find yourself . . . where do you find yourself these days? (Laughter)

Rob Rufus
Well, we planted a church in South Africa and led it for twelve years, handed it over, and then we re-located to Australia to help Dudley, who started the NCMI family of churches and apostolic team. We worked with him there for thirteen years. He actually handed the church over to me and he headed to the United States for awhile—for a number of years—so I led that church for seven years and then handed the church over to Tyrone Daniel, who is Dudley’s son. And then for three years we traveled full-time internationally equipping and training churches in evangelism, and signs and wonders, and doing crusades around the world. And then God spoke very clearly and said, “I want you to go plant a church in Hong Kong,”—which was a real challenge to me because I don’t speak Cantonese or Putonghua, which is Mandarin. But we very clearly heard the call to go. So we started with five people in Hong Kong—no one knew us, knew our history! But God has blessed us here. In three years we have seen local Chinese people saved and added, so we are enjoying it and beginning to move into the China mainland as well and help plant churches in the mainland.

Adrian
Praise God! That’s really great. So, within your family of churches, is that quite an unusual thing to go church planting? I mean, do you just have a few churches or what?

Rob Rufus
We’ve been going from probably the mid-80’s, so it is just over twenty years, and a number of guys and girls together on teams are relocating, planting churches internationally. And more and more we do want it to have a total indigenous flavour. We don’t want it to be—we’re not exporting South African culture that’s for sure! We want it to be Kingdom culture, so when the culture of the country we go to is consistent with the Kingdom culture, those elements of the culture, we say let’s celebrate that. But where the culture contradicts the culture of the Kingdom, then the Christians need to make the adjustments to conform to the culture of the Kingdom. So, yeah, there is that spearheading—more and more people going into different nations and planting, but we also kind of plant and parent. There are churches out there going—we really need to be connected with an apostolic team that can help us build foundation into the life of our churches We never own those churches, but work as friends with those churches through the invitation of the leaders— only through invitation of the leaders. There is no headquarters that says, “We own you and you’re just another statistic. If you don’t line up with us, then we’ll take your building, kick you out”—none of that! We don’t own any buildings. The local church is the highest governing authority; they own their buildings. We build friendship with them and relationship, so we also have had, over those twenty years, probably (we don’t know, you gotta be careful) I’m going to say some thousands of churches, but that represents throughout most of Africa, we have churches. In one year we had 500 churches planted in Malawi alone, but it just happens in Africa. It just happens. But in the Western world, no, we don’t have thousands; we’re talking hundreds in the Western world.

Adrian
I’ve taken quite a lot of your time and I guess we should draw this to an end. But I’m just wondering—Are there any final things you would like to say in closing to the people listening, who come, really, from all over the world—all kinds of different backgrounds. What would you say to them in closing, Rob?

Rob Rufus
I would say that these are amazing days, and Jesus is so wonderful, and don’t be robbed of your inheritance. You are alive on the planet now, not by coming to him, but because you have been hand-picked, selected by God to be alive at the climax of the consummation of the ages. So don’t be hijacked or seduced or hurt through bitterness or disappointment, because there is all of that happening. We have all been hurt. We’ve all been disappointed. We’ve all been there, but we must keep our eyes on the prize. And he is Jesus. He is so wonderful, and he’s so glorious, and he’s building his Church in such a wonderful way—he hasn’t finished yet, so don’t be disappointed with the Church! He has not finished yet. He is preparing us for great things in these days! God bless you guys!

Adrian
Amen. Thank you very much!

To read the complete interview transcript, click here.

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