Thursday, May 29, 2008

the new charismatics: revival and evangelism

firstly apologies...a long time no post! so if anyone is out there my thought has been in the book I've been writing...and now am editing. the good news is it has got me seriously thinking so hopefully much to follow here too.

this post is sparked by a number of things one is the Florida revival and friends of mine who have been there and posted, positively i want to hear more, and others who have been more questioning. but then i got onto Mike Morell's blog on some other 'new charismatics' check here not only some interesting material but also a good post exploring how 'emergent types' might respond.

so what about revival and evangelism or for that matter the charismatic and the post-modern/the emerging church?

well i think 'revival' is itself an interesting term. it is geared to 'reviving' something. you revive something that is expiring so you are working on what already exists, not on something new. I think this is telling. revival is 'Christendom mode' it's an outpouring in a Christian place that thus has major effect and indeed when one thinks about it the Church has been invigorated for centuries by various revivals. but when the issue is a post-Christendom, post-Christian culture is a revival what we need? well if it transforms the church into a body that actually becomes a witness in the world and an agent of transformation for the good, yes indeed it is. the trouble is all recent revivals seem to have done nothing like this.

i am pleased when God blesses people, makes them feel special, and especially so if they are healed in body mind or spirit. but what i keep seeing is outpourings of the Spirit that do this but instead of sending people into the world as a blessing to the world keep them returning to increasingly charged church services like junkies looking for the next spirit fix. the reality seems to me that the various revivals have become a christian drug culture, not at all an agent of God's mission to the creation God loves. so when i see people 'toking on the baby Jesus' (if you didn't follow that link now you will ;o) i go, well yes. actually i am beginning to wonder if those guys are about to 'come out' as fakes exposing the charismatic culture...or have i really become too sceptical? well there are plenty of really clever 'Christian fakes' on the net already!

But here's the rub for me. last weekend i was at the big Mind Body Spirit Festival in London as part of Dekhomai tens of thousands come looking not for some intellectual religious debate, or religious tradition, what they long for is real encounter, spiritual reality that can be felt. Many have left the Church because it offers none of that reality, it feels to them a dead religion going through the memory of past faith. These people and i think most people in our emerging culture will only find authentic a Charismatic Christianity. This is i think the real challenge, both to the revivalists, most of whom would never enter a Mind Body Spirit fair, and though they have the experience of the Spirit so easily turn into something that endlessly blesses themselves and so starves the world. but also to the 'emergents' who may too easily reject the Charismatic and find themselves in the world totally ill equipped against the burgeoning New Spiritualities that may well simply 'show them up'.

somewhere in there is the faith i strive for, fully Charismatic and fully engaged, rejecting the dualist theology of so many Charismatics for full Christ incarnation, really equipped to be Christ's Body with the world and not hidden from it or against it. and honest too, i think that matters.


Question of Identity said...

"tens of thousands come looking not for some intellectual religious debate, or religious tradition, what they long for is real encounter, spiritual reality that can be felt."

About time you were back - don't do it again! (LOL)

Are not these tens of thousands who are longing for real encounter, not just the same as the new charismatics in that (assuming the new charismatics are not having an authentic encounter with God)because of their involvement with the occult they show that they lack any discernment and therefore any spiritual encounter will do?

I was wondering if there Is a danger that even if they have an authentic encounter with the Holy Spirit, when they get bored with Him, they will will move on to the next adventure unless they also first accept the teachings of Christ which demands complete allegiance and commitment to Him?

Steve said...

a good question
yes i think many may well also move on from a genuine encounter with God (and not sure if you meant to suggest the new charismatics where not having a genuine encounter...i suspect they are) the problem for Christian and non christian in such encounters is the encounter becomes the thing, and you are right to realise the encounter is not enough. i found myself at the MBS often talking to people about how Jesus told us we need to love God with all our mind, all our spirit, all our body and all our heart. a deep conenction in spirit requires the others too. so engaging with mind, and with body in how we understand and live are also needed. i just think for many the spiritual experinece ia the doorway, but it is not the end in itself.

Question of Identity said...

"I think that the prophetic role of the Christian is to model an alternative that deconstructs consumeristic spirituality. I am not knocking the types of spirituality on offer here, all that I am saying is that the market place approach to faith needs challenging and by being there we are not challenging it but affirming it."

I was very surprised to read the above quote on Bed Edson's blog regarding MBS Festival and wondered about your thoughts on this.

Steve said...

thanks for that. i must go find the original post on Ben's blog. it perhaps helps explain why he pulled out of the work at the MBS! sadly he's never given me an explanation just said it wasn't what Sanctus wanted to do, but perhaps i never asked!

so i hope i haven't taken Ben out of context in what i reply to you. i get worried when people make comments about alternative stances to the world around and therfore end up pulling out of the world around. if we want to change things and see them transformed in anyway the only place i think that can happen is from within. Jesus got accused of hanging out with all the peopel the religious establishment dissaproved of, they would have said to him 'whem you a rabbi hang out with such people don't you know people get the impression you approve of their lifestyle? you should stay away from them and model the law and the prophets teaching'.
or take Paul, he speant time debating in the market place (literally) and visited Pagan Temples so he could talk of his faith in the ways and places the Greeks explored it, 'becomeing like a Greek'.
i really can't see either Paul or Jesus talking the line that we shouldn't be at MBS fairs cause we look like we are affirming consumerist spirituality.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this. I think it’s a very important topic. You may be interested in a post I wrote some time ago which asked “Can your spirituality be too incarnational?” It lays out some of my own thoughts on “missional pneumatology”.

In essence I think the problem with the charismatic movement is not that it emphasizes spiritual experience but that its view of the Spirit is not big enough and too “house” focussed.

Also of interest might be my post here on worldviews

This is an attempt to graphically illustrate some of the challenges in theologically engaging with alternate spiritualities. I think it is imperative that emerging churches learn to grapple with some of this stuff and move beyond the ecclesiological focus.

Matt Stone