My online friend, Pam Hogeweide, recently attended a conference in Seattle about the Holy Spirit. I asked her to share her thoughts about it, and I am posting her thoughts here as a guest post. I hope you also enjoy reading about this event.
I(Pam) have been on the outskirts of Charismania Land for many years. From time to time I would come visit, and for a short while, even lived there. I love the Holy Spirit, who is a good Friend of mine, and in Charismania Land the people celebrate His presence.
Some people, when they feel him in the room, get so excited that they have physical responses, like crying, which is really common and very acceptable; but others have been known to twitch, shake, bend over, fall down, shout, or jump up and down. Some people will even do a variety of things, and if you have a room full of people having physical responses to the presence of the Holy Spirit it can resemble a circus.
When are manifestations real and when are they contrived? Is it permissible to have a physical or emotional response to the presence of God? Can we tell the difference from hype versus encounter?
At the “Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit?” conference in Seattle, David Ruis and a few others spoke about these concerns. I liked how David put it, that the Holy Spirit is always about people and not power. In our mistakes, in getting things mixed up, have we opted to marginalize the Holy Spirit out of cynicism or fear of extremism?
Some of the speakers addressed the notion that Spirit-led ministry became platform-driven ministry, with the Holy Spirit experts leading the meetings and dazzling everybody with their gifting. It became about the cult of personality rather than the beauty of Jesus.
The conference dialogue brought out the desire of peope to see encounters with the Holy Spirit that result in transforming our lives, our communities. I think David addressed this when he spoke about the Holy Spirit manifesting himself in our community life, not being confined to a service or a platform.
After the sessions, I had the privelege of sitting down with Pastor Rose Swetman, who co-pastors a Vineyard church with her husband in a suburb of Seattle. Several women gathered together, and we enjoyed a small, round-table discussion. We asked Rose to share her thoughts with us about the Holy Spirit. Rose told us of how she realized that all the physical manifestations don’t add up to much if your life is not being transformed. I agree!
I felt so validated as she shared how she herself has experienced strong physical reactions to the presence of God. But we cannot let the physical responses become the end-all of our encounters with God. Who really cares how much you shake and quake? It’s when you get up off the floor and walk out the door, get in your car and go home that the powerful presence of God in your life needs to manifest…and it will be love, not twitching, that indicates what was a true encounter and what was emotionalism and hype.
Sitting with a bunch of women the conversation naturally turned to women in spiritual leadership. Rose is a pastor. She said something that has wrecked me forever. I have strong convictions that women are not barred from any place of leadership by God. I do not think it is biblically accurate to say women cannot be pastors or elders. For all these years I have settled into the notion that this is simply my theology and I must not get to bothered by those who disagree (which is most of the church in America).
Rose said to us, “For me, it’s not a theological issue but an issue of justice. Would we have said slavery was a theological issue? No, it was an issue of justice.” That messed me up. Because it means I cannot ignore this injustice as I could theological differences. I will very likely be writing about women and leadership in the future.
When will men(and women) in the church release women and bless women to lead and be the way God has called them? Even in Charismania Land many areas of leadership are off-limits for women. If you do not have a penis, you may not enter in. I do not think God intended it to be this way, though I do think God himself is forced to bypass women at times because the culture he is trying to reach will not listen to a woman. There is much more to say about this. It was a good discussion with Rose and the other women about these things.
One last note, we also talked about humility and meekness and the value of character over gifting. Rose pointed out that character needs to be greater than gifting. There have been numerous scandals over the year of big ministers, the television kind, who seemed to have had more gifting than character. Humility and meekness, I think, would be natural safe guards against such things.
Thanks Pam for sharing your experience with those of us who couldn’t attend. Like you, I agree that we don’t want to move forward without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe that He is leading us to manifest His power in ways that are life-transforming rather than simply sensational.