Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Makes Me Sad about Revivalism...

Todd Bentley is getting a lot of traffic in the blog-o-sphere lately. I think Scott gives a really good treatment of the whole situation. For those of you who know me, I have real mixed feelings about the whole revival idealism that has overtaken the Charismatic world to which I still claim to be a part. But the problem I have is with that word revival. I was a lot more comfortable when we used to call these movements renewals.

I noticed this shift during the Toronto Blessing. For a long time we called it a renewal and felt that it was a time of God refreshing the Church. In fact, I was really refreshed through that movement. But it started to take itself far too seriously - and they switched 'r' words. It reminds me of what happened on the mount of Transfiguration. Which I think simply reveals a human tendency to camp around experiences. What our greatest need is not to do away with experience, but to learn how to reflect on these experiences in a critical way.

But the big problem is that most of my beloved charismatics have run reason and education off their lots, chasing them away with shotguns blazing! I think this is why I appreciate Mark Noll's work so much, especially the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (which I will buy for you Todd, just let me know.)

I'm a charismatic. I believe in healing, deliverance, prophecy, power encounters, the works. But I'm also using the brain God gave me to its full potential. You might say I'm intent on having my cake and eating it too - but in this case I know I can. The reason is I've experienced it. That doesn't mean it is easy. There are times when you need to just give your self to the experience, and there are times when you need to think before leaping. But not because these are mutually exclusive domains, rather because as Westerners (in particular) we have trouble bringing out full attention to more than one thing at a time.

I think Scott's offer to Todd (end of his
) is really good. I have yet to see one of these movements pastored well. I actually thought Toronto was pastored well in the beginning, but it felt like the Pentecostals got in there after a while and sorta railroaded things. I still have lots of respect for John and Carol Arnott. I know firsthand how hard it is to pastor in the midst of a renewal. So I have a few recommendations of my own:

1) Distinguish between teacher and pastor. Teachers should be encouraged to study and communicate theology. They should have the ear of the congregation and the pastoral body.

2) Stop picking and choosing from history. Teachers should help the whole movement reflect on what has gone on before and how the church responded. I think we'd save ourselves a lot of grief if we even knew a little about the great heresies of the past.

3) Stop picking and choosing from scripture. Charismatics are horrible exegetes. There I said it. This was Wimber's warning to Toronto - don't try and justify experiences with proof texts taken out of context. Yet, they did it anyway.

4) Stop the cult of personality. That is a frigging plague on our movement. How many of our idolized personalities are going to fall before we realize this? I think about Todd and Shonnah and I'm convinced that this is a part of the problem. It makes me angry because I see so often marriages that become casualties to ministry. There are a lot of facets to this issue, and I'm in no way justifying Todd's actions, but the model it flawed folks and we keep getting wake up calls but not listening.

5) Stop trying to make revival happen. Sure we can pray for revival. Personally, that word is tainted for me. I prefer to line up with Jesus' and pray for the Kingdom to come. Because that doesn't end up as a localized culture ghetto phenomenon. That is what happens in real life, amongst real people. We get into this love of manufactured excitement and miss that God chose a pretty mundane way to reach us. Doesn't mean that the Kingdom never broke in - that is pretty evident. But there is a lot of the story that is just life. I am convinced God wants us to appreciate that and let God show up there rather than in a stadium.

I'm praying for ya Todd. I know folks who have been blessed by Lakeland. I also know those who are frustrated by it. At some point this will blow over and another so-called revival will take its place. But will we learn from this one?


Stevie B said...

Such a good post.

I too call myself a charismatic, and all the things you said I also believe in. I went through the ministry training school that was birthed out of Brownsville--in Pensacola, Florida, and it changed my life. You may have heard of it and/or are familiar with the brand of repentance and holiness that trademarked it.

That being said, I'm often saddened and amazed at how such flakiness happens in the Body of Christ--like it's a bad thing to be grounded in the word and not in the clouds or lofty revelation and angelic encounters. I was too stiff for some of my friends.

Anyway, I'm just really posting to say I appreciate this post of yours.

Blessings and fire on your head--the good kind of fire that is,

One of Freedom said...

Thanks Steve. Glad to have you drop by. I think a lot of us with Pentecostal/Charismatic backgrounds are hungering for a more wholistic (including our God-given minds) approach to our faith.

roger flyer said...

Thanks. I'm a former Vineyard emergent.

I've danced on the streets that are golden, been a worship leader in the Ruiz-Prosch stream, prophesied, fell down countless times in the renewal, and was called to be a pastor--in which role I served for seven years.

In the ministry, I saw dysfunction, incredible immaturity, control in pastoral leadership. I began seminary and using my mind. I am now in the borderlands. No fellowship. No role. No title.

My theology has been blasted. I am still standing, still a believer, but only the Lord knows where I am going...and there are MILLIONS of us out here.

One of Freedom said...

I was guest lecturer in a class on Religion, Culture and Diversity the other day. I was discussing the evangelical personality and some of the historic issues associated with evangelicals and academia. What really surprised me was that in this class, at a Catholic seminary, the class was about half folks who have some connection with evangelical traditions and movements. That's a big leap in just the nine years I've been studying there. I think in some ways evangelicals are starting to come into their own. Theologically they are starting conversations that are very old in other movements (the emerging church example is incarnational theology that challenges the sacred/secular split). But at least they are starting to have these conversations. Much to be encouraged about. But when we see the blatant disregard for history and theology there is also much to be discouraged about. The evangelical personality (if I'm right about my Jamesian assumptions) makes us particularly vulnerable to huge swings in worldview - and some don't survive having their salvationist worldviews crumble. So there is a lot of fear around education. You've probably seen the disdain for education swimming in the streams you have. But this weakness is also our strength - with more evangelicals choosing to think deeply (which is our heritage if you go back further than the 20th century) there are many more of us who can help others make the transition and realize there is life after hype - and that life is good.

bless you Roger!