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Lest we forget the mystical

(Thoughts inspired in part by: Barna - Is American Christianity Turning Charismatic HT: Brother Maynard) This post won’t be terribly cohesive, just a hodge podge of thoughts..so don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)

For those who don’t know, I grew up Assemblies of God and then Non Denominational Word of Faith Charismatic. I have also served in Charismatic Messianic (figure that one out hehe) and Foursquare denominations. This is my history and a huge factor in who I am as a Christian today. There is so much of Pentecostalism that I love and appreciate and in many ways think that all Christians need to acknowledge some of the positive things that came out of (and indeed continue to come out of) this powerful movement. I still consider myself charismatic or post charismatic (note: not ANTI charismatic)/charismissional as my friend Robbie Mac says, although in today’s climate I’d likely be more inclined to call myself a mystic.

However, while David also would label himself in this way, Revolution is not even CLOSE to being “charismatic” in any way that is traditionally recognizable. Primarily because we believe as leaders, part of our role is to raise the voice of the community to a level that can be heard and fleshed out. Charismaticism is not the voice of our community. Because of a) my history and b) my current faith community, this story at the Barna Group intrigues me.

This stood out to me in particular.

9% of both charismatic and non-charismatic Protestant churches are currently led by a female Senior Pastor.

Now, my guess is that if you changed the question to number of women in upper levels of leadership you’d get a different statistic because in my experience, while that senior pastor role is still the glass ceiling, Pentecostalism has been a champion of egalitarianism in areas of gender, socio economics and race/ethnicity from the beginning. But there has been a trend in Charismatic churches to take on the characteristics of the broader world of conservative evangelicalism…which is, in my opinion more of what’s going on here. I wonder if more people are becoming charismatic or if more charismatics are becoming “mainstream enough” to be found in the broader conservative evangelical world. Something I’m not making a value judgment on by the way.

Take for example the church we just left - which is charismatic and word of faith (in so far as it goes). I always assumed that when they appointed elders, women would be considered. Because growing up, I saw women everywhere in leadership. I assumed that they would be able to hear the voices of the women in our church. I also assumed we would have more diverse music and worship instead of just “white person music”. None of that was true in my experience. They didn’t recognize women in any leadership roles aside from children and women’s ministry and I didn’t feel the women were really truly HEARD. Because of these issues, I personally cannot classify them as pentecostal - to me it’s just a mainstream conservative evangelical church that happens to have some folks in it who speak in tongues and “prophesy”.

Now, this is all even more fascinating in light of an article written by Jason Clark and A Return to Tradition from US News and World Report In many ways, I see a lot of what’s going on in emerging as a revival of sorts - a combination of the “growth” of charismaticism and the “return to tradition”. So many of the meditative practices and “new traditions” (which are really just a “bringing forth” of the ancient) that are being revived remind me of charismatic prayer meetings minus the falling over and excessive emotionalism hehe.

On Sunday, David talked through the parable of the tenants (Matthew 21:33) and we discussed how wacky and counterintuitive that behavior seemed. And considering it was Epiphany as well, our opening prayer was an Epiphany prayer. Talking about God through the lens of the absurd and then thinking about the Magi set bells of in my head reminding me that we love and serve THE Spirit, worshiping IN spirit and truth and we are FILLED with the Spirit. This Spirit, this Man-God, this Holy Spirit who indwells is involved and present in the bringing about of God’s Kingdom on Earth … but Spirit none-the-less.

I don’t want to forget this. I don’t want to lose the miraculous. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think God speaks to us except on rare occasions. I don’t want to forget the experiences I have had and I don’t want to feel as if I need to dismiss them.

I’m not sure if more evangelicals are ACTUALLY becoming charismatic but I do think that the mystery and active involvement of the Divine is something strongly embraced by the post modern. Because a god that is ONLY here on earth or ONLY “there” in heaven does not accurately represent God and we would be wise not to forget it as we move forward in involving ourselves more holistically in the world. It is so true that serving the other is an act of the Spirit but there’s also something more there, something intangible that is involved that can only be explained as the mystical quality of God “above”, around, within and through His servants.

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  1. Jonathan Brink — January 9, 2008 #

    Mak, I regularly ask people who we begin to discipleship if they can even hear his voice. The resounding answer is no.

    And my question has always been, how can people truly follow Jesus if they don’t know where He’s going? They have to hear his voice to know.

  2. Erin — January 10, 2008 #

    I love this post, Mak. This is awesome. I, too, hail from charismatic backgrounds (mostly 4Square)…and I do miss it a bit since I have been out of experiential church. But I got VERY burned out on the excessive and the contrived and artificial “manifestations”…so I don’t know where I stand.

    But what you said about there being something more, something intangible and God being above around within and through…I appreciate that.

  3. Carlo — January 10, 2008 #

    hey, i have been on an emerging journey for a couple of years but am still part of an assemblies of God church. i still like it here. brian mclaren says in a generous orthodoxy why i am a blah blah blah…. that what he likes about pentecostals is that God is very much here and NOW.

    the weakness is that in practice today, many pentecostals still very much split the sacred and the secular ie. God is mainly to be experienced during the ‘worship times’ in a sunday meeting or when the worship CD is playing in the car.

    mystical thinking seems to be much much bigger. how about a hallelujah moment through a glorious sunrise, a piece of poetry or a glass of good wine? or as some angels once said, ‘holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty the whole earth is filled with his glory’. do i get an amen?

  4. Mak — January 10, 2008 #

    Amen Carlo! Preach! hehe

    Carlo, are you familiar with Earl Creps? AoGTS professor who is now planting a church in Burkeley and wrote a book called Off Road Disciplines. Good book, cool guy, has a blog that I’m sure you can find through google.

    Erin :) There are lots of us “under the radar emerging charismatic burn outs” out there.

    Jonathan - I think may people aren’t really sure what it means to hear God - that it’s not a booming voice from the clouds or a “go here, do this” all the time.

  5. Carlo — January 10, 2008 #

    yep - actually, off road disciplines was one of the first pomo christian books i read. i like that bit where he talks about reverse mentoring. i dip into his blog every now and then. he shows that you can be slightly older but still young inside.

  6. Mak — January 10, 2008 #

    yes indeed. he’s a good prophetic voice and bridge builder

  7. Carlo — January 10, 2008 #

    good voice + bridge builder that’s true.

    btw, have you got any book recommendations on this whole area of being conscious of the spiritual in the everyday? not in a charismatic, but in a more mystical kind of way? any guidance appreciated…

  8. Lori — January 10, 2008 #

    Mak, good post as usual! I have lots of thoughts banging around my head;-)

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