One of the reasons "power evangelism" struck such a deep chord 20 years
ago (!) was as a bible-study-and-prayer-fuelled reaction against 1) dry
reductionist, intellectualist dualism; 2) avoiding the call of Jesus to
discipleship- not a program, but as Willard describes, actual
apprenticeship to Jesus (There’s a well-known story about Wimber as a
new believer asking a church elder, "When do we get to do the stuff
Jesus did?"); 3) ignorance of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God and
reluctance to grapple with the Gospels
I think this brings up a salient point in discussing a "post-charismatic" theology (and again, there has to be a better name for it – maybe it’s just an emerging theology of spiritual gifts): in charismatic/Pentecostal circles, spiritual gifts are basically equated with what I’d call "power manifestations" or the "loud" gifts (healings, miracles, speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc). In other words, spiritual gifts are essentially "supernatural" and always have a "wow" factor to them. The other basic belief in charismatic circles is that these kinds of things are what the church desperately needs today, to the point of practically excluding or belittling other spiritual "quieter" gifts, like mercy, hospitality, helping others, and the like.
Because of when the charismatic movement first took off, I believe those "loud" gifts were important because of the culture they were being expressed in. The miracles and healings that happened in association with movements like the Vineyard served to blow apart a lot of the boxes people had put God in. They were important in revealing that God was still very much at work in the world and was quite capable of dealing with things like cancer and AIDS.
But somewhere in that process, I think we’ve come to a point where we love the "wow" factor of the "loud" gifts and end up poo-pooing the "quiet" gifts. Because of this, lines have often been drawn between the two. Either you’re a church that performs signs and wonders (usually at the "ministry time" at the end of the preaching), or you’re a church that practices the quieter gifts. But I am promoting a both/and theology; a destruction of that imaginary line between loud and quiet gifts. I am dreaming of a church that values and honors both loud and quiet gifts, and that can express the loud gifts in a culturally sensitive way, so that the outsider doesn’t feel like they have to learn an entirely new language and way of being to "join the club" (Too much charismatic practice today is exclusive and "insiderish" – there is a certain way of talking, a certain way of praying, or worshiping, that makes no sense to outsiders and serves to push them away. The unintentional message is "You can join the club if you learn how to act like we do." Too much of it is over-the-top religious and needs to be reformed. Why can’t we practice spiritual gifts in a normal way? Why can’t we pray like we talk? Why do we adopt a different tone for prayer, or for talking about God? Okay enough ranting on side issues – but maybe it’s not such a side issue, and will become post #4 on this subject).
Question: are church numbers falling because of a lack of ‘power
manifestations’, or because people see the church lacking simple love
and understanding? I’d go for the latter. Sceptics will always
disbelieve power stuff. But no one can resist genuinely warm
In general I agree with him, but I think he may be confusing the issues of fruit and gift. But if you continue to read his posts on this subject, he is advocating a much wider view of "gift" than is normally thought about. So on that level I can concur (defining gift very broadly), but I don’t think there is a dichotomy between "power manifestations" and "simple love and understanding." I would say instead that power manifestations (loud gifts) and more subtle manifesations (quiet gifts) ALL need to be practiced with simple love and understanding. It’s not like we have to abandon power manifestations in order to embrace love. In fact, love and compassion should be the main motivation for performing the loud gifts, just as it was with Jesus. So many times in the Gospels, we see Jesus "moved with compassion" and then healing, performing a miracle, feeding hungry people… But he never responded in the same way when people just wanted to see some magic ("Show us a sign!").
I fear in the charismatic church today most of us would totally ignore the 38-year paraplegic and respond all-too-readily to the challenge to "show us a sign". If we’re going to advance in the things of the kingdom, I think we need to start acting like Jesus did: performing powerful miracles, but always from a motivation of compassion and love, never in order to impress or flaunt. But then we also need to follow Jesus into his quieter activities, which were just as much fueled by the Spirit as were the loud ones… things like teaching people, announcing the kingdom, challenging corrupt authority, demonstrating patience and love for his disciples (whom he calls his "friends" at the end of his ministry), teaching his students to love one another ("this is how the world will know you are my students, that you love one another").
So I’m dreaming about a church that will naturally flow in all sorts of spiritual gifts, a church that will honor the quiet gifts as much as the loud (the one great in hospitality will be given as much respect as the one great in healing), a church that can successfully express spiritual gifts without all the stylistic baggage associated with it (wavering voice, saying "hallelujah" every three words), a church that can both welcome the outsider and be faithful to God’s call to be a people set apart.