Saturday, 27 June 2015

On Being (Quietly) Charismatic

The following was published in the Summer 2015 issue of the Anglican Renewal Ministries magazine, Anglicans for Renewal. Subscriptions available here.

Hi, my name is Gene and I’m a charismatic. I’m not a very loud one. Pretty quiet, actually. I’ve not shouted, rolled (as in Holy), shaken or stomach-crunched yet.

A few people have been blessed, a couple even healed when I’ve prayed for them. Quietly. No sparks or gold dust. Hardly anyone seems to have noticed, which is probably a good thing.

The LORD gave me the gift of tongues—a prayer language. Nobody has come up to me and said, “I didn’t know you could speak Mandarin (or Thai, or Hungarian or whatever)” yet, but I know it’s real because after being prayed for many times and trying to make noises myself all of a sudden one day it just took off with a fluency that surprised me. Again, no lightning or spectacular manifestations, just a switch thrown somewhere in my spirit or soul or heart and off I went. It took about two years of praying with various degrees of intensity for that particular gift until that switch was turned on. Reading Dennis Bennet’s Nine O’Clock in the Morning was what really got me going on it. But I know that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ touched me with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amazing. A reminder for me when doubts assail.

I’ve been “slain in the Spirit” a couple of times. Gently and quietly. I could have remained standing. I felt a weight pressing down through me—the weight of glory someone said. I found myself swaying and let go to fall back as if into pillows, but I’ve not yet experienced going down involuntarily as if shot. I’ve seen it but I haven’t had it happen to me yet.

The LORD also gave me some prophetic gifting; the 1 Corinthians 14.3 strengthening,  encouraging and comforting kind. I’m certainly not a capital P Prophet. Nobody is today, in my opinion. Nobody carries the office, but many people exercise the 1 Corinthians 12.10 and 14.1-5 gift. Every now and then somehow the Holy Spirit puts things into to my mind that I could not know about the person for whom I am praying and it blesses them because they know I couldn’t have known and their faith grows because they realize that God does know what’s going on their lives and cares for them. It’s amazing to be a part of God doing that.

My priest used to say we’ve drifted away from believing that God can or will really act these days and that the Holy Spirit has been lost in the ecclesiastical shuffle somehow. Today’s Holy Trinity is God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the silent partner. One of the reasons that has happened is fear, I suspect. People are afraid of extremes—people falling over, or laughing, or shaking, or saying, “Thus saith the Lord!” Some feel left out when nothing seems to happen to, or around, them when they pray, so they give up. Some feel criticized or abused by over-enthusiastic charismatics or people who have got charismatic things just plain wrong. The trouble is that all of church, charismatic or not, includes a fair dose of the world, the flesh and the devil. There will always be unhelpful disturbing behaviour.

Despite it all, however, the Holy Spirit is a major player in the Scriptures and in the Church. From his first creation appearance in the second verse of the whole Bible, to his last mention in the fifth to last verse, the Holy Spirit blows throughout and continues to do so. Most often he is a gentle, barely perceptible breeze, these days it seems, yet every now and then he blows things over and sets the church bounding across the waves.

So, my name is Gene and I’m a charismatic retired Anglican priest. I’ve not experienced anything that has been particularly spectacular. I suspect that’s because The LORD knows only too well how easily I could get full of myself. But I believe in it. I believe in it all. I believe that without the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in me, I can do nothing worthwhile. I believe that Jesus still miraculously heals and changes lives. I wish he would do it more often in ways that I can see, but that’s up to him. I believe that people really are strengthened, encouraged and comforted by ordinary Christians exercising the spiritual gifts God has given. I believe that every now and then God still even raises people from the dead. I haven’t seen it myself, but I’ve read about it. I believe in revival and hope to see another one soon—especially in the Anglican church. And that’s why I serve on the Anglican Renewal Ministries board and write for this magazine.

UPDATE: since this article was published in the magazine a couple of good folk have taken me to task over what I've written above about the office of Prophet with a capital P. Citing passages such as 1 Cor 12.28, Eph 4.11 and others they believe there are still Christian prophets and a prophetic ministry operating today  I have to confess that I had missed these rather obvious references to there being an active Christian prophetic ministry in addition to the gift. I agree that some people do exercise the ministry today. It would have been better if I'd included that, but I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of a capital P Prophet as an office in today's Church.