Thinking Out Loud

May 15, 2016

Open But Cautious

There’s a phrase that I think I first heard used in some Christian and Missionary Alliance settings about the gifts of The Holy Spirit: “Open, but cautious.” Simply put, it represents people who are open to Spirit-led expressions of faith and doctrine but with the caveat of keeping their eyes wide open (or perhaps having one eye on scripture).

While my wife and I don’t attend weekly worship in a Charismatic or Assemblies of God-type of setting, I would say I am very much onside doctrinally inasmuch as I (a) am not a cessationist1, (b) believe in the limitless power of God to do the things people count as impossible2, and (c) believe that the things of God should touch our emotions as well as our minds3.

That said, when info about this camp came across my Twitter feed last night, I found it disturbing:

Signs and Wonders Camp

As regular readers know, I’m a huge believer in summer camp ministry. Find a camp, make sure it’s affiliated with Christian Camping International or Christian Camp & Conference Association or your denomination; and then send the kids as soon as they’re able to be away from home for a few nights. (I even wrote recently about some long-term benefits to be gained, apart from the spiritual immersion value.)

I also recognize that in Children’s Ministry (or KidMin as its now often referred to) there needs to be a point in the curriculum where you emphasize the distinctives of your doctrine, and if your kids are being raised in a Charismatic church, you want them to both have an education and have experiences with different facets of that environment.

So, I like Pentecostals, like camping and like KidMin. So what’s the problem?

Open, but cautious.

I’m not sure; I would just rather it was an adventure camp, or a horsemanship camp; or if you must title it after the teaching theme, a discipleship camp or a Christian leadership camp. I’d rather pin the emphasis on the giver rather than the gifts. I would prefer to focus on the normal Christian life rather than the occasions where God breaks in with the supernatural. I also don’t want to raise expectations for kids about the whens, wheres, whys and hows of sign gifts that could lead to disappointment.

Maybe I’m just a lousy Charismatic. Maybe I’m not attuned enough to the language and culture of some of today’s popular doctrinal streams.

Hopefully I am a realistic Christian who still believes in the ability of God to do the impossible; but with the awareness that the thing that makes the exceptional the exceptional is that it doesn’t happen every day.  So parents, would you send your kid to Signs and Wonders camp?

Signs and Wonders IHOP


1 I have actually never owned a Cessna, nor do I have a pilot’s license. More seriously, I do not see the end of the apostolic age or the completion of the canon of scripture signalling the end of certain gifts.
2 This said, my faith can be as weak as the next guy’s in certain situations, not to mention a trademark Canadian pessimism that at times permeates my prayer life.
3 The things of God should touch our hearts and our emotions, but often they don’t. Spiritual complacency and apathy are always crouching at the door, and when a preacher tries to rev up an audience into emotional frenzy, I am often the first to want to shut down completely.

3 Comments »

  1. Simply, no. If the charismatic denomination I was a leader in put one of these on, I would have had the entire church boycott it. It is wrong in so many ways.

    Comment by Jim — May 15, 2016 @ 10:02 am

  2. Some things I didn’t include in the article, but noticed on Monday when I was tweeting out the link:
    * The camp is for ages 8-12 (residential) or 6-12 (day camp)
    * There is a “Little Edition” in weeks 1 and 3 for kids age 3-5, who must be potty trained.
    Remember kids, you’re never too young to start honing your prophetic gift.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 16, 2016 @ 9:37 am

  3. I was part of the Vineyard movement for a long time (layman and ordained) and I always liked it because of the balance between orthodox evangelical and charismatic. However, around 2010 I noticed a definite trend of churches moving towards more of an IHOP (the sponsors of this camp) and Bethel model of theology with their heavy emphasis on training people to do “power ministry”. By 2013 Vineyard had made peace with Randy Clark, warned the more liberal churches to tow the line, and set up their own school of Kingdom Ministry. It was a little scary to see how quickly it all went down and how easily people bought into it all. Vineyard is still pretty loose and the individual churches are still autonomous, but I when my church went that direction I felt I needed to part ways with them.

    Comment by jeffrey jenkins — May 17, 2016 @ 8:40 am


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