In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I feel strongly both ways

In the last post I was thinking about how I, wrongly, let my bad experiences affect my participation in Christian gatherings where Believers participate in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Today I want to look a bit closer at my experiences, what the Word says, and what that means.

In that last post I said that I'd been in a church for three years where things ranged from well meaning Believers who, simply because of that charismatic culture, made "power of the Spirit" things happen, to downright misuse of situations to manipulate people. I want to look a bit closer at this because writing helps me process my thoughts, because I hope that some may be able to relate to my experiences, and because thinking about concrete situations helps make conceptual ideas real.

An example of a well meaning cultural make-happen was this couple that I knew. These were wonderful people who really loved God and desired to minister His love, grace, forgiveness, salvation, and power to people. This couple ministered in jails, prisons, hospitals and homes. They truly were good people. But one day I was watching them pray for people. Each person that they prayed for was "slain in the Spirit" and fell over. But there was one young woman who was very new to the church and the culture and they prayed for her; she obviously did not know she was supposed to fall over, and she did not. But the funny thing was that the wife in this couple had her hand on the woman's head as they prayed and kept firmly pressing. So what ended up happening was the young woman being prayed for would keep stepping back and the woman doing the praying would keep pressing forward; it ended up that they were practically doing a walk-back around the room. I quickly realized what was happening and, for some reason, caught the husband's eye (he had been praying with his wife for the young woman). He and I shared one of those super brief moments when you realize what the other is thinking and we were both amused.

An example of a manipulation was a specific prophecy over the church janitor by the Sr pastor's wife. This was a large church that had their own 2 year school of ministry that was attended by people wanting to become ordained and go into full time Christian work. The janitor attended this school. One morning the Sr pastor's wife called the janitor up in front of the church for a "word from God". I don't remember all of it but it was very encouraging to the man; all about how he had the cleanest hands in the church and how God has new, big things for him right around the corner. Two weeks later the Sr. Pastor and his wife had a supposed revelation from God that the three other pastors were meant to "leave the nest" and no longer be pastors at that church any more. Again, because I was privy to much of the happenings behind the scenes and knew all three of those pastors who received that word that day, I knew that none of them had felt that they were meant to leave that specific local church. But all three of them had been asking questions about some financial situations that just didn't seem right. It sure looked to me as if they were getting rid of the "trouble makers" and paving the road for the janitor to become a new pastor. The janitor had no idea about any financial misdeeds. I also happened to know that the janitor was a good guy who was in severe denial and struggling intensely with an alcohol addiction that would have prevented him from being able to minister until he dealt with that and experienced some time of sobriety.

When I look at these situations now, in light of what I've read in Chan's book Forgotten God, I see things a bit differently then I did at the time. At the time I figured that this church represented most charismatic churches and decided to attend a non-charismatic church. But now, as I'm looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24, I see that God calls me to test the spirits. This scripture does not say to just believe whatever you hear as long as it's said in a church; it calls Believers to specifically test prophecy and to hold onto what is good. I did the opposite. In a sense I did test the spirit and see that it was wrong, but I held onto what was wrong and let it prevent me from continuing to participate with other Believers in prophecy in the context of community and accountability as God had intended. What I should have done was let go of that one bad prophecy, perhaps even that one corrupted church, but continue to have my heart open to God speaking to His people through prophecy.

I find today that I really am open to doing that, but continue to have difficulty finding a group of Christians that participate in all the gifts of the spirit in a healthy manner. It seems as if the pendulum swings from one end of the continuum to the other. My experience with local churches is that they either over emphasize the gifts and abuse prophecy or on the other end of the continuum they ignore it all together.

Am I the only one with this experience? Do you see a polarity in the local church with regard to practice of all the gifts of the Spirit?

In light of this challenge, I'm sure grateful for the 23rd and 24th verses in this Thessalonians passage:

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. "

These words remind me that I don't have to sweat it because it's not all up to me - it's up to God. He is faithful and He will bring me to where He wants me to be.


Tony C said...

Absolutely Tracy. I'm so glad we can rely on God in this manner because I'm far too inconsistent to be effective for Him.

Great reflective Scriptures.

David-FireAndGrace said...

Well, I suppose this is right up my alley. I have been a part of the Charismatic church for 30+ years. Here are some bullet points.

- The gifts are meant for loving on others. If your prophecy or healing prayer isn't is love, shut up!

- The gifts have been abused, so has the Bible, the name of Jesus, the care of the poor, and many other forms of ministry that have started in Jesus, and ended in the flesh. The problem is humans, the devil and religion.

I have seen lots of abuses, but the truth is, at this point in life (and I have been a part of it), I have seen loads of blessed people through the use of prophecy, miracles, healing and the use of spiritual discernment.

- Like every denomination and movement, people tend to stuff a certain amount of religion in with their revelation about who God is. It sucks.

The answer is this. If we have a strong 5-Fold structure in our churches (not a corporate ladder), if we had good teaching on the gifts, and strong relationships, and and people dedicated to discipling by example and sacrifice, a lot of the abuses and character issues would evaporate.

In our church we have leders and a pastor, along with a 5-fold team of equippers and trainers of which only one is an elder. The pastor and elders minister to the church members. The 5-fold ministers teach and train for the church and the region. We teach apostolic principals (IE: pick the elders, lay a foundation of Scriptural truth, identify spiritual gifts, and empower local ministries), we teach teachers and mentor them from home-group to pulpit, we train evangelists both in and out of the church. We equip pastors for the work of leading the sheep and protecting the flock. We teach those with the gift of prophecy to prophesy. THe pastor, and our 5 meet every month for lunch just to hang out. We know each other, love each other, and are friends. We love what God is doing in our midst, and we are not worried about money, power, prestige or control - because we know that Jesus can do it all if we obey.

How successful is the biblical model of church? We've already been invited to do it in two more regions.

RCUBEs said...

It is true what you said and it's sad that many shepherds are leading their flock blindly, without the flock not even knowing it.

In our church, it's not only the pastor deciding on things but they always pray together, with the elders and 2 other pastors when it comes to matters. They're not afraid to rebuke (in loving ways) if they see any actions that do not reflect a Christ-like manner. Everything is focused on Jesus. Young as the pastors are, but they seek no recognition.

The Bible warns us that lack of knowledge destroys us. I'm glad we have His Word and if we know this Truth, it's easy to see or discern what's not.

I pray the Lord will lead you to a church who truly glorifies no one but Him. God bless and I love your honesty.

Andrea said...

Blessings and prayers,

John Cowart said...

Hi Tracy,

I think the most telling sentence in your post is: "I want to look a bit closer at this because writing helps me process my thoughts, because I hope that some may be able to relate to my experiences, and because thinking about concrete situations helps make conceptual ideas real".

That is such a good thing.

You're on the right track.

John Cowart

JD Curtis said...

Hi Tracy, my thoughts are as follows...

First, I am very wary any time charasmatic happenings are offered up as if their regular, repeated occurrances are (pardon the pun) gospel truth.

I don'y mean to put God in a box and unequivicolly state that He absolutely would NOT work in such a way, but I am of the firm opinion that if such instances are actually happening, then they occur MUCH less often than many within charasmatic circles tend to believe. It seems that the power of suggestion is reinforcing their WANTING to believe in such matters. But what do I know?

I wish you all the best in your new church. Listen carefully to what they teach and pay close attention to where they are Biblically. I prefer a small church myself, but once a month I attend a larger one for some fresh perspective.

Afsoon and Shapour said...


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My husband and I are Iranian and live in the UK. We love Jesus and our weblog is mostly about our Lord. Since we are Iranian we have added some Persian articles to the weblog, but you can read and watch English ones.

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John Cowart said...

Hi Tracy,

This comment has nothing to do with your blog; I've already commented on that. But I'd like your advice on a family situation because of your background in social services.

Please take a look at my last two postings and if you have any suggestions about how I can handle the situation, I'd appreciate your input.

John Cowart

Tracy said...

John-Because I've been working super long days at my new job with no days off, I've just now come on and seen this comment. I went back to your posts written prior to August 29 but can't seem to find the right post. Can you direct me to which day?

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