Not your typical babys’ babble

One of my readers at Spirithome.com asked me this question about 6 years ago :

>> My parents recently told me that when I was little (3-4 yrs old),
>> sometimes at night I would speak in tongues. They’re
>> not religious or anything. I don’t remember
>> this at all, but then I don’t remember much from back then.

I’m assuming they’re talking about a time after you started
talking a lot in regular English. It’s common for little
children to speak that way. Psychologists say there’s no
special meaning to it, though it does seem to have patterns
like talking does. I like to think of it as still remembering
what it was like to be with God and trying to relate with Him
as they did before they were born. I didn’t lose that sense
until I was about 7, so I was more aware about it than most are.

>> I’d like to know if I should try to get that ability
>> back or uncover it again. Considering I am a Christian but
>> I don’t spend a lot of time or effort in the religion, I want to
>> know if it’s worth it or if I have an obligation to use it because
>> God gave it to me for a purpose.

God does not oblige you to do such things. God gave you all that you have, and gave it for a purpose, but you’ll use it (or choose not to) when God puts forward the opportunity. Please don’t feel guilty about not using tongues or for that matter, about how much time or effort you put into the faith. 15-year-olds like you rarely do, they’re too busy living and growing up. I do hope you set up a pattern of praying each day, that’s one thing that will be helpful between you and God and for your own peace of mind. Just set aside some time whenever it’s best to do so, pray your main concerns, then just be still for a while, and think about something about Jesus. Most folks who do this find themselves being more steady and confident in what can be a confusing time of life. And you’ll have a better sense of God’s timing.

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Charismatic report card — 2007 pt 1

How is the charismatic movement doing in regards to some of its most basic aims or signs of the Spirit’s work? Not too good, from where I’m watching.

Let’s take one of the aims : “Spontaneity, openness, freedom and joy in
praise and worship.”

When I first wrote on this one in 1996, I was taking note that many mainline-church charismatic congregations were stiffening. Since then, that process has definitely continued. In many cases, the stiffening has taken them away from charismatic freedom to a rather frozen form of liturgical orderliness that feels like what they were originally objecting to. (This can’t be blamed on the mainline liturgical renewal, a separate thing which is also beginning to show signs of stiffening and has never really been friendly to any charismatic input — to its serious detriment, as I see it. They both in some way attempt to address the same situation in worship — a palpable lack of spirit.) In any event, worship in many formerly charismatic mainline congregations has become, well, lifeless. It took on liturgical forms, which can be good, but then left the Spirit at the door, which is deadly. When returning to liturgy in freedom, the most important thing is that they use each traditional form based on what it means and what it does, and then feel free to modify the traditional form so it can better carry out that form’s core purpose(s).

To be blunt, with the exception of some Anglican circles, mainline-Protestant Charismatics have not only failed to bring freedom and joy into their denominations’ worship, they have for the most part lined up with leaders whose actions have been killing the Spirit in worship for decades — the very ones who created the dead atmosphere that mainline Charismatics used to rail against. Instead of real spontaneity and empowerment of local worship leaders, they’re straitjacketed into watching the ‘experts’ for the next ‘acceptable’ new thing. Those who didn’t line up that way have for the most part headed out the door to independency.

Add to that a sense among Christian leaders that the mainline Charismatic movement’s time has passed, and thus they are free to totally ignore them. The former part is true, unfortunately. The latter part is a continued serious breach of the near-absolute responsibility and duty to listen to, understand, bring to bear, and fully and fairly account for, all the parts of their church, whether in vogue or out of vogue. (But that’s for a different rant….)

The independent churches and church networks have a different problem. They are not aware of their own set patterns of worship – they don’t think they have any. Thus they don’t know when they’re just vamping for time, or when they are not maturing from an earlier set of experiences. Many of the newer worship leaders are keenly aware of charismatic worship’s obsession with “me” and “I”, and are working hard on ways to keep that sense of “my” intimacy with God and yet also be into “You” and “us” and “together”. They’re a promising development. Yet when the newest hit worship song makes the rounds, it’s still usually an “I me mine” song, or is prone to misstate God’s promises as if done by push-button. HELLO — God is not focused on just you!! Worship leaders also have to be careful that certain false teachings about prosperity or about the end-times do not start worming their way into the worship service. Also, they must be more cautious about talk of receiving divine power — power-talk can breed power-addiction.

So there are still signs of worship life in the independent circles. There may yet be some new positives coming from there. But for the most part, the non-Anglican mainline-Protestant charismatics have lost their first love. It’s sad, but it’s true. And if you’re one of the exceptions, as a mainline-Protestant charismatic and/or a worship leader, you need to think hard and pray harder, in hopes that maybe you can be a part of a new and different thrust within the mainline churches, less stuck on worship rules and more firmly connected to the Holy Spirit as found in Scripture. A thrust that is self-consciously not an extension of the previous movements.

Another look at charismatics, 12 years later

Looking back on the points made 27 years ago by Charismatics at Geneva, I can only feel a great sadness. For I look at the landscape of what had then been the the robust, energetic Charismatic movement, and what is there now, the mainline part of it becoming either spent (Lutherans, for example) or reshaped and tamed in a manner better suited for the powers-that-be (like Catholics and Methodists). The ‘Third Wave’ part of it isn’t in much better shape, for while there are many congregations within it that are better than ever, the overall impression is that they’ve lost their vision, and are being blended into a veriety of new mini-movements, or are being taken up by some larger movements that have little to do with following Christ.

I’ll use the points from Geneva that I addressed 12 years ago as a starting point. When I do this, please remember that I am an outside observer, a mainstream Christian who is clearly not (by nearly all of the movement’s own self-definitions) a charismatic, and never has been. I am simply a believer in Christ who insists on being in dialogue with a movement that, even at this stage, is still the main shaping force for many millions of Christians the world over. A believer in Christ who believes that mainstream Christian leaders are still seriously shirking their responsibility as Christians by choosing not to be in real dialogue with them.

In 1980, Charismatics at one of their many conferences saw a series of marks of the Spirit that they believed were present in their movements. These included :

  • New openness toward the healing power
    and the lordship of Jesus;
  • Renewal of spiritual life of the church in
    local congregations;
  • Spontaneity, openness, freedom and joy in
    praise and worship;
  • New interest in the Bible as God’s living
    Word;
  • Deeper experience of the reality, holiness,
    and transcendence of God;
  • Deeper interest and new openness in regard
    to the essential doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, his
    death and resurrection, confirmed in experience;
  • Renewal of the service of healing for the
    sick;
  • Lay leadership;
  • New incentive for evangelization, missions
    and witness in the power of the Spirit.

I’ll be going over these in upcoming weeks.