Confessions of a Convergent Charismatic

I was a pure-bred pentecostal.

Dedicated on the eighth day, of the people of the church of Pentecost, Pentecostal of Pentecostals; as to the law, I spoke in tongues early; as to zeal, a weeping worship leader; as to righteousness under the law, I was a third generation pastor’s son; as to the gifts, Charismatic.

All jokes aside, that really was me.

By the time I resigned from my first pastoral position this person, this me, had died. I was now a disenchanted charismatic. I was done with it. I had seen too many people hurt by manipulative prophecy, was tired of trying to earn His Presence through my earnest worship and was sick of hearing people say, “God told me to…” whatever. A statement that was too often followed by some convenient Scripturally opposing stupidity.

So, how can I be Convergent when Convergence is being Charismatic? My answer: Because I’m Convergent. Allow me to explain.

After my disenchantment with the Charismatic I went where every disenchanted Charismatic goes; the Evangelical Church. Why? Because we all want security, safety and consistency. Where the Charismatic church prided itself in “you never know what’s going to happen” I needed somewhere that I knew exactly what would happen; the Scriptures. It was here that I was introduced to such preachers as Timothy Keller, Chuck Smith, John Piper, and theologians such as Stott and Packer. Under the tutelage of the Evangelical Church I fell in love with the authoritative, inerrant and sufficient Scriptures. I found meat and a much needed foundation.
I found everything I was longing for and more. I found a theology of Jesus.

As I grew in my understanding of the Scriptures in their sweep, context, and ultimately its perfect Revelation of God in Christ I found myself unavoidably trapped. Trapped between my hurtful experiences with what I thought was the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit that Jesus honoured.

“I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” -Jn16:7

If I had the choice between Jesus remaining on earth, visible, tangible, and physically accessible, versus the invisible and seemingly intangible Holy Spirit I could not help but want Jesus in the flesh. But the more I learnt about the identity of Jesus and his redemptive works I could not help but desire for those things to be in me. From Genesis to Revelation we see God’s plan of Salvation worked out by God through Jesus, and though I loved the fact that the Holy Spirit had inspired this chronicle to be written I needed more. I needed it to be true of me. All that this Christ had made possible, I now needed to be actually within the deepest parts of me. There is only one thing worse than not knowing about Jesus and that is knowing about His power and not seeing it in you. The Spirit, I suddenly realized, is the one who makes that a reality. It is He who brings all that Jesus is and has accomplished and applies it to me personally and specifically. The Gospel truly became good news when I believed in the Holy Spirit.

What I failed to realize was that by rejecting the Holy Spirit I was rejecting the Trinity, for God is inseparable.

“Whoever does not honour the Son does honour the Father who sent Him.” -Jn5:23

In my fear and misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit I was losing both the Father and the Son because I didn’t even want to understand the Trinity. I wanted to avoid it. “I’ll just stick with Jesus.” Well, you can’t stick with Jesus without Him leading you to the Father who desired and planned this redemption and to the Spirit that apportions it to you. It was here that my heart began to thrive. Opening myself to the Spirit opened me to not just knowing but experiencing all the benefits in Christ. The love of the Father, the saving work of the Son and the comfort of the Holy Spirit were no longer intellectual possibilities, they were real life actualities.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” Rom8:16

It was in this Scripture that I was taught of the Presence of God dwelling within me, proclaiming over me my adoption; the summit of Christ’s work for me. Instead of seeing the Holy Spirit’s primary role as dwelling in me for miraculous ministry I now saw His primary role as bringing Jesus into me. I have come to see and believe that the Spirit has brought Jesus closer to me than I am to myself. Jesus, by the Spirit, has been united to me at my core and beginning; pre-existent and pre-eminent to who I think I am and to any of my sins, traumas, or future struggles and failures. The Spirit says to me, in the quiet moments of grief and the overwhelming moments of chaos that I am one with Christ. That I am the Father’s. That all that Jesus has earned and achieved is available and accessible within me and for me.

This changes everything. If the Good News is this miraculous and this otherworldly how can I continue to hold to a non-miraculous and plain ecclesiology (belief about the Church)? I have been united to God! I have been given His perfect nature! I am righteous! God is present within me! There is no greater miracle than this and there is no greater gift than this.

I was now a Charismatic because I was Evangelical.

It was at this stage in my journey I was introduced to the Sacramental beliefs of the Historic stream. A Sacrament, as defined by St Augustine, is a “visible sign of an invisible grace.” What this means is that the ancient acts of baptism and communion (to name a couple) were visible and physical acts that are not only symbols, but tangible signs that point to what has happened and is happening in the invisible.

So, not only does the Spirit testify to the grace of Jesus within me He is also present and distributing grace to me at baptism and the table. He takes remembrance of Christ from an intellectual exercise into a holistic participation. In our tasting, touching, and eating, we participate and take into ourselves the grace of Christ, by faith. The things we know to be true in the spiritual sense are now shown to be as real as bread, wine and water.

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?”-1Cor10:16

By the Spirit, our celebrations of communion, for example, become heavenly participation. This is not dead ritual but real time engagement with what is happening eternally in the heavenly temple. In the presence of God we confess our sins into Christ; the slayer of sin, and the righteousness of Christ takes its place in our hearts, minds and bodies. We receive forgiveness and favour directly from the Father. In thanksgiving, we literally join with the heavenly creatures in worship and awe of the One who came for us, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” All of this, miraculously done by and in the Holy Spirit.

I was now a Charismatic because I was Historic.

I started to see that what the Evangelical church believes about the Spirit’s role in the Scriptures, the Historic Church believes about the Spirit’s role in the Sacraments. In my quest to get away from the Charismatic I was running right into a deeper and higher view of the Charismatic than I had ever had before. Not only was I learning new things about the Holy Spirit in the other streams, but I was being healed of the wounds of my Charismatic homeland. I could see where the solution for the unhealthy experiences of my past were in the Evangelical and Historic, and my Charismatic inheritance was equally essential for health in the deepest held beliefs of the Evangelical and Historic.

I now saw the Holy Spirit ministering the nature of Christ in the Scriptures, in my own heart, and now in the sacraments. If I can believe His presence can minister through these means how could I not believe His Word when it says that He has chosen to minister to His Church and the world by giving gifts to His beloved children? Gifts that are miraculous in nature and function. Even gifts that sometimes feel not of this world, even alien. If He would give my brothers and sisters His righteous nature would He not also give them His miraculous nature in the form of gifts for sharing in His ministry?

“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”
“He gave the apostles, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the whole body of Christ…” Eph4:8&11-12

If the greater miracles; our salvation and participation with Christ in the sacraments is true, how much more so the little miracles of healing, tongues, and prophecy? It would seem logical to me that the Church with a Gospel this miraculous and magnificent residing within her would have a miraculous nature and expectation in her life and worship gatherings. Maybe our problem is not that the Charismatic is to extreme in its expectations but that it’s expectations are not extreme enough.

If the Church is truly to be full of Jesus it must be full of His Spirits gifts, Scriptures and Sacraments. We cannot afford half measures and words alone. The Church, for her life, must be fully, functionally and genuinely Charismatic.

I am now more Charismatic in my theology, practice and expectations than I have ever been…
Because I am Convergent.

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6 Comments

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  1. Thx for sharing your journey in this way, Ryan! Really enjoyed and resonated with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was fantastic. I agree with Jeff. That really hit something in me in a good way and I really relate to your story. If you do anything beyond this blog, say like get a group together to fellowship around this theme of CONVERGENT CHRISTIANITY, I would be into it.

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  3. This resonates with me as well. I was raised Catholic, but I was led in praying a “sinner’s prayer” in the living room of a charismatic Methodist insurance salesman and responded to an alter call at a southern Baptist revival he one summer that changed my life. Returning to the Catholic church back in college, I was at the same time drawn in by the discovery that they actually read Scriptures in mass every Sunday! and the emptiness of the white-washed tomb of ritual for ritual’s sake. So I went seeking – Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of God and then found an independent, Charismatic church. I spent the next 10-12 in various independent Charismatic churches before escaping to a “safe” (and huge) Pentecostal church and then to nothing. I was empty and burned out, disappointed and disillusioned – and most of all, I was wandering in my own wilderness.God is faithful, though I am not! I have not yet become Convergent (again), but maybe spring is coming. I hope so!

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