The Democratization of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

As I wrote yesterday, I have a pretty long history in the charismatic expression of Christianity. I truly treasure my past because I wouldn’t have come to Christ apart from seeing and experiencing the power of God in the present. I truly believe that the power of the Holy Spirit is critical to seeing apostolic Christianity restored to the Earth.

So it was curious for me several years ago when I was reading Alan Hirsch’s book “The Forgotten Ways” that he mentioned a missing ingredient of the missional church was the Pentecostal experience:

What is still largely missing from this emergent phenomenon is any sustained and explicit Pentecostal presence, with all its passion and fire. While it’s true that Pentecostalism taught us the true value of apostolic ministry, the Pentecostals have not been a noteworthy expression of [emergent missional church], as far as I am aware. This is probably because Pentecostalism is still basking in the relative success that church growth praxis brought them.

Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways (Page 270)

I would say that Hirsch’s experience of a lack of Pentecostals or charismatic experience in the emergent missional church mirrors my experience with house churches largely outside of our network.  And while I may be off on this, my perception is that very few house churches are started with those from charismatic backgrounds.

This is sad to me because charismatics should feel the most at home in house churches.  House churches exist to allow every member of the body of Christ to participate in the gathering. The meetings are small to intentionally facilitate interaction, especially the sharing of gifts.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.” The kind of organic church Paul describes here allows for the power of the Holy Spirit to move among different members of the body.

Pentecostals and Charismatics should believe in the democratization of the Holy Spirit. That’s a big five dollar word that describes that idea that the Holy Spirit gives Himself to each and every believer. Because every believer gets a measure of Christ’s gifting through the power of the Spirit, every believer should be participating in a meeting of believers with the Holy Spirit leading like the director of an orchestra.  The democratization of the Holy Spirit means every believer can participate in the work of God.

Peter best articulates this for us in his famous message to the Jews in Jerusalem after Pentecost:

No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:16-18

What Peter is saying in this message is that a day that the prophet Joel had predicted has come to pass: God is pouring out His Spirit on everyone. Prior to this, God had poured out His Spirit on special anointed individuals, mainly kings and prophets. The Holy Spirit’s activity was unique and happened only among select people. But now, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, everyone could have access to this elusive Holy Spirit. Men and women, young and old, even the servants–all would be able to move in the gifting of God.

These are the verses that launched the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century. A desire to be filled with the Spirit and experience God personally marked places like the Azusa Street revival.  But over the last 100 years, the movement has grown increasingly comfortable with letting ‘anointed’ men and women do the hard work. It’s not uncommon for attenders in charismatic congregations to have never experienced the Holy Spirit in any way outside of the pastor or preacher’s ministry.

All of this, then, is a giant appeal from me to those who believe in the gifts of the Spirit to put into practice the democracy of the Spirit. Do you believe God gives gifts to His church? Good! Then gather believers together in their homes and have meetings like they were described in 1 Corinthians 14. Let members of the church practice sharing their gifts from the Holy Spirit with each other. Don’t be content with someone else exercising their one gift for the entire body. Keep pressing into the Spirit until every member of the body of Christ is participating in a meeting of believers with the gifts God has given them.

The result will be the strengthening of the church.

Photo Credit: Descent of the Holy Spirit by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.


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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

7 responses to “The Democratization of the Holy Spirit”

  1. John Spencer says :

    Yes – reading the testimony of azuza street you have described it beautifully – each took turns as the spirit directed to sing, or prayer or preach. It was only when some came in to “bring order” that this orchestral masterpiece was interrupted.

    • traviskolder says :


      Thanks for stopping by and leaving the confirmation. It’s sinister to me how some of our most well-intentioned actions apart from surrender to Jesus actually hinder what He’s doing. There’s always room for more surrender, isn’t there? Lord, protect us from our well-meaning flesh that stands in Your way.

  2. gunnarlarmstrong says :

    I agree with what you have written. However, it seems to me that much of the charismatic church is be running all over looking for exciting worship and gifted people to follow rather than the less exciting and harder work of building relationships and in in the local church. Not to pick on charismatics — most of the contemporary church is busy looking for excitement and big name preachers and big programs.

    • traviskolder says :

      Gunnar…as always, you and I are pretty close here…in fact I think that you are more right than I am in that you notice it in other sections of the church. I truly believe though that there are many charismatics and Pentecostals who joined the charismatic or Pentecostal movement out of desire to flow with the Holy Spirit, but we so quickly trade our inheritance for a bowl of stew.

      • gunnarlarmstrong says :


        Thanks for your response. I do agree. But as a Charismatic, I am frustrated by the tendency to focus on the big name prophets and healers and worship leaders and loud music. I am sure that the Lord’s heart is for an unending number of small groups of believers walking in the fullness of his Spirit, and in their giftings, healing and prophesying and speaking in tongues and interpretation, working miracles, casting out demons, without fanfare and without big audiences other than the poor and the needy and the hungry.


  3. :) says :

    The LORD has been an adventure for me… Growing up in a Baptist home where faith was every bit as “living” as any Charismatic or Pentacostal experience (I’ve experienced them all in my journey, and the Mennonite and the Catholic Charasmatic… They’ve become quite interconnected. There is a core faith and doctrine that upholds and connects them all…; He faithfully pulls His Bride ever-closer to His Heart…

    Your blog really touches on where my heart believes He’s leading us – into something raw, vibrant, living…real. Wonderful and…deep.

    I’m listening. I’m really listening…

    • traviskolder says :

      Thanks for this wonderful reply. I do believe the Lord is drawing us into something we could have never imagined ourselves but is much more real and vibrant than we could ever imagine. So glad to hear you’re encouraged.

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