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 14:26 “When 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.
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.
Yesterday I discovered myself leafing through my copy of “Houses that Change the World” (Affiliate Link). In my head I added it to an imaginary list of books I’ve been wanting to read or re-read for a long time.
So I thought I would share my list of “need to reads” and see if anyone else wanted to share theirs.
If I had all the time in the world to read, here’s what I’d be reading:
- Listen to Me, Satan! by Carlos Anacondia
- The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church by Rolland Allen
- The Starfish and The Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
- The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
- Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson
- The Starfish Manifesto by Wolfgang Simson
(Those are all affiliate links, by the way.)
So, just out of curiosity, what have you been hoping to read lately?
I just finished reading a really good article by Alan Hirsch that describes seven practices (or disciplines, as they are traditionally known) that cause a church to thrive in the midst of chaos. Alan loves “living systems theory” and believes the church will thrive best when she is constantly operating in a crisis mode. This crisis mode causes her to trust Jesus and not be encumbered by distractions that easily shift our gaze from Him. But obviously, to survive in the midst of crisis continually is difficult and so he suggests the following practices for a church trying to live near the edge of chaos:
1. Infuse an intricate understanding of what drives organizational success.
2. Insist on uncompromising straight talk.
3. Manage from the future.
4. Reward inventive accountability.
5. Harness adversity by learning from prior mistakes.
6. Foster relentless discomfort.
7. Cultivate reciprocity between the individual and the organization.
Alan is also very clear that these disciplines must integrated. To have one without the other six or even six without the other one leads to problems. But here’s my question: What does this look like practically in the life of the church? How have you seen these sort of practices fleshed out between human beings in the church to which you belong? I think the answer would be helpful for us all.
I was going to ask Alan on his blog, but you can’t leave comments there. So now, I’m asking you, my faithful readers, what you’ve experienced. And if Alan should happen to stop by, he could leave a comment as well. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge)