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.