Some have begun to think and write about a post-charismatic theology. I wanted to enter the fray and add my two cents as things pop up in my head. So I’m starting a series of posts on some thoughts relating to the expression of spiritual gifts and charismatic phenomena within an emerging/missional church context.
One thing that charismatic theology is big on is the expression of spiritual gifts, especially the "supernatural" ones, like healings, miracles, prophecy, etc. (I actually think the nature/supernature dichotomy is a false one, but that’s another post). Charismatics have been impressed with the "sizzle" of spiritual gifts, things that make you go "Wow!" as opposed to things that make you go "Hmmm". An emphasis on and expression of spiritual gifts is not a bad thing at all, but I think past and current charismatic culture is way too focused on and impressed with the "big names." We’re star-struck, and we think it’s okay. We have our celebrities, our rock stars, and we love it.
If we’re going to progress to a place of health and proper expression of spiritual gifts, we’ll need to get over being impressed with the guy who can prophesy in the wavering voice night after night, and start being impressed when prophecy becomes a very natural and easy part of a normal Christian’s life. "You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged," Paul told the fledgling church in Corinth. But how many of our meetings really look like that? Usually it’s the Prophet-with-a-capital-P bringing the Word-of-the-Lord-with-a-capital-W. Where’s the part of the service where we all get to prophesy? Where are the true prophets who are teaching and training others to prophesy?
This is really just applying the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to the area of spiritual gifts. Now, I know there are bright spots (I think our church is one of them, actually). There are places and people who really have a heart to "equip the saints for the work of ministry," and they are doing it to great effect and fruitfulness. This is really one of the main values that was instilled into our church by John Wimber. He had a huge heart to release ministry, to see everybody get in on "doing the stuff." So in the formulation of any post-charismatic theology, I think that there will need to be a radical focus on the priesthood of all believers, on leaders releasing and blessing others to minister, instead of using their giftedness to make them into charismatic rock stars, traveling from place to place impressing people with their miracles and healings show.
One thing we struggled with in our attempts to encourage ministry by everyone was the opinion that we had taken something “special” and made it ordinary.
Many people seemed to feel that ministry by the ordinary folks was less qualified or anointed, and they still referred to “real” ministry as from the rock stars.
Benjamin, you’ve hit exactly on the dynamic that I’m hoping to address in my post-charismatic writing. A radical return to the priesthood of all believers, instead of charismatic rock stars — that’s a very accurate image, by the way!
To respond to your earlier post (which I just found tonight as well), I agree that naming things “post” anything sounds like we’re talking more about what we’re NOT than what we are or are wanting to pursue becoming.
I have many friends who have been burned by charismania, and today want nothing to do with anything that might be called “Spirit-filled”. Really, it is for these friends that I am undertaking this project.
It is my hope and intent to strip away some of the cultural trappings (and bad theological underpinnings) of charismania, in order to point people back to more relationally-based, equipping-the-saints, Spirit-led communities of faith.
I hope to have everything online within a couple of weeks. I’m also helping open a brand-new Starbucks next week, which is exciting but tends to interfere with blogging and writing, but at least Starbucks is helping to pay the bills. 🙂
We struggle with the same thing. I suppose the rock star thing is so firmly ingrained into the cultural milieu that it’s very difficult to help people understand the value of learning to operate in spiritual gifts, especially when they compare their first halting, stumbling attempts with the charismatic rock star who gets in right every time.
I think it was on your website I first heard the term “post-charismatic” so thanks for sparking that line of thought for me. I look forward to reading what you have written, and I hope the Starbucks opening goes well (don’t they open a new store every 15 seconds or something?)
Tim ODell says
I have wondered how those who are not “in full time ministry” are ever going to be allowed to fulfill their gifting. As one person noted, “rock stars” are the ones who have gained the forefront of the church ministry and very easily relegated the ministry of the word to themselves. I have been told “you need a platform to speak” – but how can one of the “non-in-full-time-ministry” believers get a platform when it seems that only those who are in “full-time ministry” have the platform. I wonder if believers are going to have to move into small groups before there will be any manifestation of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Most of the current Pentecostal/Charismatic churches either don’t permit any room for the Holy Spirit to manifest or they have relagated Him to an “afterglow” service. How sad – God has been ushered into a side room to manifest what was needed for the whole church. Thoughts?