One of the resolutions I made coming back from my time at a church planters’ round table in New York (#6 on my “personal challenge” list) was to re-ignite the gifts of the Spirit in my life and ministry.
Many of those at the round table had come from charismatic backgrounds, and a common thread that weaved its way through many conversations was a two-fold truth:
- The gifts of the Spirit are absolutely vital for the ongoing mission of the church.
- We have no idea what that is supposed to look like in our new contexts.
The sad truth is that many modern expressions of the gifts of the Spirit are hyped-up, hoaky, and unhealthy. The temptation is to simply throw it all out, but if we do we’re left with the radically depressing task of attempting to engage in God’s mission strictly in our own strength. Like one participant said, “Without the Spirit, it’s our gifts against the city, and the city wins every time.” In “Christendom” you could get by without the explicit expression of the gifts of the Spirit, but I don’t think you can in a post-Christendom context. The early Christians didn’t turn the world upside down just by being a little nicer than their pagan counterparts; there was something supernatural happening in their midst.
I have a rock-hard theological conviction that the gifts are for today, but I also have an intuitive hunch that God is wanting to bring a new expression and vitality to the gifts. I believe the Spirit is brooding over the church right now, waiting to unleash a new wave of spiritual power, but I have trouble imagining what it might look like. In many ways I think we’re looking for a new expression of what John Wimber called “doing the stuff” and being “naturally supernatural.”
During one of the discussions someone threw out this provocative little phrase: In the New Testament, the gifts are for the body of Christ. Thus, maybe when the church starts acting like a body again (instead of a loosely-aligned collection of individual Christians), we’ll see some kind of new outpouring of God’s Spirit. And perhaps it won’t simply result in a few individual Christians feeling renewed and refreshed, but instead will become the kind of movement that brings about the cultural and societal transformation we’re longing to see.
There’s a lot about it that I don’t have figured out, but the combination of gospel-shaped community, missional living, and the active, non-goofy expression of spiritual gifts seems like a explosively fruitful cocktail.
What would it take for the church to start acting like a body? What kind of “ceiling” do you think the church in its current form has in terms of its ability to witness to the resurrection? What would it take for you to move in the direction of real, gospel-shaped community?