A Serious Question

The question itself isn’t necessarily serious, but I am asking it in a “seriously want to know what you think” manner.

In an emerging/missional context, what do you think distinguishes a post-charismatic missional person from a cessasionist missional person?

I know that my friends here come from both sides of this fence, not that I think there should be sides or a fence. My hope in bringing this up is for understanding perspectives, NOT for creating boundaries or divisions. I’d love to hear answers from both perspectives.

You don’t necessarily have to identify yourself as charismatic or cessasionist in your response. I’m mostly wanting to hear your thoughts on this, as you see it, without wanting to apply labels to everyone.

Many of the post-charismatics involved in the emerging conversation are often no longer part of a charismatic congregation and aren’t interested in recreating that style of church experience.

I have a feeling that as we move forward into emerging/missional expressions of community, we will find ourselves working together, no longer divided by traditional boundaries.

When I originally wrote the term charismissional, I defined it as spirit-led missional living. However, I am well aware that spirit-led describes most of the voices in this conversation, including those who hold to cessasionist beliefs. (I’m not sure if cessasionist is the term I should be using here, but I couldn’t think of another.)

For the post-charismatics, do you think there is a uniqueness to your expression in this conversation because of your charismatic background? What from your charismatic tradition do you think will continue to play a part in your life as a missional believer? More specifically, what do you think would be a visibly charismatic aspect of this?

For the cessasionists, are there areas of the conversation with charismatics that you don’t relate to or turn you off? Do you see discussions of prophecy, signs and wonders, or the supernatural as distinctly charismatic?

I optimistically believe that we can appreciate the unique perspective and expression that each one brings to the conversation while recognizing the life of the Spirit that we see in one another.

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8 thoughts on “A Serious Question

  1. I think the most effective witness and service and authentic Christians will be characterized in their being “naturally supernatural” (a term I heard in a sermon many years ago). To me it means that as with men and women of faith in the bible, that these Christians will believe and expect that God is alive and well and working through them today. If they are listening to the Spirit, they will be prompted to do whatever is needed to be a blessing to others whether that be an act of mercy or justice or healing or witness or whatever else the Lord calls them to, including the raising of the dead. When my wife had a recent heart episode (they have not called it a heart attack) she called our children in before she got in the ambulance and told them she loved them and in case she did die that she would be with the Lord. Of course that freaked them out. Later, our eldest daughter (19 years old) told my wife that if she had died in the hospital that she would have come down and prayed that the Lord would raise her from the dead. She was very matter of fact and very much serious about it. That is the picture I think faith might look like in the future. At that age I know that would have been about the farthest thing from my mind.

  2. inheritor,
    Thanks for jumping in. “Naturally supernatural” sounds great! Do you think the openness to the supernatural is something that is distinctly charismatic?

    I regret that I’ve not presented this question in a way that is easy to answer. Perhaps I should not have framed it as a comparison, yet I was hoping for participation from both perspectives.

    Having been in the charismatic realm for so long, I really don’t know what seems foreign or over the top to others who don’t have that background.

    For me personally, I guess I am trying to get a better picture of what my charismatic experience will look like in an emerging/missional context.

    At this point, what I would consider my charismatic expression is mostly behind the scenes and in the closet. Or maybe it’s just so much a part of who I am, that I don’t recognize it in everyday life.

    Anyway, I was hoping to draw from other perspectives to help clarify my thoughts on this subject.

  3. It seems that the charismatic type folks I meet tend to be more open to the supernatural than the average person who says they believe in Jesus. It also seems those folks who have served as missionaries in other countries also seem to be more open to the supernatural as well. Being open to the supernatural is perhaps different than believing God may actually choose to act in the supernatural realm through me. This is perhaps where the charismatic and missionary types I think have an edge over the Christian in the pew over there.

  4. Grace, i don’t want to put a spin on your thread here or take it into a realm you did not wish to go, but i think your question is a powerful one in more than just the charismatic sense. lately, whenever i hear about those involved with the charismatic movement i am reminded of Richard Foster’s book “Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith…” as i am sure you are familiar, this book rocks the six main traditions of the Christian faith:

    the contemplative tradition

    the holiness tradition

    the charismatic tradition

    the social justice tradition

    the evangelical tradition

    the incarnational tradition

    as the emergent community of faith wrestles with its identity, these streams have come crashing together in brilliance and force. like that of a great revival, a lot of personal doctrine and spiritual heritage has been pushed aside for the greater good. when placed together, this is a new flood… a flood of ideas and perspectives. ultimately, we each come from one or maybe a blending of two traditions listed above. but even with so much diversity, there are purists among us… and for a purist, the flood described above is not only a deluge, but a diluting of a truth one may hold dear, even to the point of saying someone else was not a part of that purist’s “family.” those are powerfully difficult words to hear, and they happen every day… even in the emergent context.

    in my experience, i have seen the charismatic element restrained a little in the emerging context … i have seen the evangelical tradition restrained a little, as well… i did experience a rise in the contemplative and social justice traditions, though… and come to think of it, the others listed as well. ultimately, i suppose everyone’s experience is different, but all of this is not really my point. :) my point is that even in our blending of the streams, there are still lines drawn in our humanness that separate us. many times, these lines are drawn in reaction to our own experiences… as the emergent movement has more chapters in its story, lines will be drawn. we are seeing the pendulum go in a new direction, but it always seems to eventually turn around and smack us in the backside. ;)

    *whew* where did that come from?

    back to your original question:
    i love my post-charismatic friends… i love my cessasionist friends, too. i would only hope that we all find a home. perhaps we need more discussion on that topic between the two camps? like all things, a little dialogue works through the whole batch of dough. :) i think there is room for both.

    David Cowan:

  5. inheritor,
    Very interesting point about missionaries in other countries being more open to the supernatural. It makes sense, since they experience more miracles.

    Dave,
    It was great reading your comments. It was exactly what I was trying to say. What does it look like when our streams converge into something new? Will there still be individuation within the new combined stream or will we morph into some new hybrid form of our former stream? I loved your thoughts about pursuing the greater good.

  6. Post-charismatic? Another new term for me today, along with liminality.

    I am not charismatic, nor do I consider myself dispensationalist/cessasionist. I believe that God’s gifts are alive today, but I also believe that much of what passes for His gifts today is self-delusion. That perspective comes from the fact that my experience with charismatic manifestations happened in a New Age cult before I became a Christian. Tongues, prophesy, healings, signs, etc.

    That being said, I would hope that post-charismatic missional people and post-dispensationalist missional people would have more commonalities than differences. Maybe it’s just that I am so tired of running into Charismatics who treat me as if I am not quite saved because I don’t speak in tongues or that I am spiritually immature because I don’t roll on the floor during the worship service (yes, I’ve been told that.) — and I am equally tired of dispensationalists totally dismissing the possibility that the Holy Spirit might be active today in ways outside of their narrow systematic theology, and who view all Charismatics as emotionally unstable, immature fanatics.

    I know that’s not really where you were going with this. It’s just that I really agree with your statement, “not that I think there should be sides or a fence.”

    Grace, I am really curious as to what you mean when you use the term “post-charismatic”. I am just beginning to start to think of myself as possibly being post-evangelical, but that term has such fluidity that I am not quite sure if I am comfortable with it.

    Thanks for such excellent, thought-provoking posts!

  7. gary,
    My husband doesn’t really like the jargon.

    I heard liminality about a year ago, but didn’t understand it. Now I see it as a necessary stage in the journey as we transition out of what we’ve known into something new.

    For me, the biggest shift has come in accepting liminality as part of God’s process rather than rejecting it as an unhealthy phase to be avoided.

    I’ve read some of your new age experiences and found them very interesting.

    When I use the term post-charismatic, I mean no longer fitting the traditional charismatic gig.

    I don’t use ex-charismatic because much of what I learned as a charismatic is still a part of who I am and will be incorporated into what I become.

    I really do hope that the disrespect towards one another’s streams will end and that will be a healthy change that we see in the body of Christ.

    Thanks for your interesting comments! It’s always great to hear what you have to say.

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