Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

It’s a quiet day around here. I probably lost a few subscribers with what I posted yesterday. But it happened. It’s part of my past. I spoke in tongues. Or, if you’re not sure about all this, ‘He thinks he did.’

By calling myself a post-Charismatic — I still use Evangelical as a primary descriptive despite its liabilities — I’m saying that my Evangelicalism is product of a particular movement but one with which I no longer identified.

Why not?

I guess my issue is the excesses of that movement. When John and Elizabeth Sherril wrote They Speak With Other Tongues, they were describing something new and wonderful that was taking place in unexpected places. God used the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans to teach us about the limitless work of His Spirit. Miracles and prophecy and words of knowledge weren’t new to the Assemblies of God folks. Their movement started in the first decade of the 1900s. What took place in the 1970s was new to us.

So where did my journey take me next? The logical place would have been to hang out with the like-minded. A Pentecostal Church. A Charismatic Church. But after staying in my church about a year later, my longing-for-something-more took me to a… wait for it…

…Baptist Church.

This one was known for the excellence of its pastor’s preaching ministry. Well researched. Well delivered. Very applicable. And for a year I holed up there, not going to any social functions or midweek events or youth meetings or potluck dinners. Just Sunday mornings with my Bible and notebook open, drinking it all in.

Forgive this over-simplification, but at that point I had spirit and now I needed word. Despite spending my spiritually formative years in what was at the time Canada’s only megachurch, and being exposed to North America’s top speakers, I think for the first time I understood what would be come a passion for great preaching. And you don’t have to have a nationally renown pastor to get that. It can take place — and definitely does take place — in any church in any size city, town or village.

I did continue to connect with the growing Charismatic movement, but usually at other times and places. I am grateful for both. Someone put it this way:

Too much of the word and not enough of the spirit, you dry up.
Too much of the Spirit and not enough of the word you blow up.
A balance of both and you grow up.

My one need met simply exposed another need not met.

Of course the story continues, but we’ll catch up with that another time under a different headline.

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June 23, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

Myself and a friend had traveled all through the night in his bright red AMC Pacer after visiting with some newfound friends in Pittsburgh following a large outdoor Christian festival north of the city. Our destination was CBN, home of The 700 Club, back at a time when Pat Robertson’s name was held in higher regard than at present.

There was something there that was not present in our church, and we were determined to find out what it was, bottle it up, and take it home with us.

CBN of that day was not the present facility, but a less imposing Channel 27 studio on Spratley Street in Portsmouth. We were met at 5:30 PM at the door by an off-duty policewoman in uniform, who showed us around every inch of the offices and studio and introduced us to “Pops” who functioned as a security guard. “Pops” proceeded to play some hymns for us by inducing variable pitch feedback on his hearing aid. This would be deafening for most of us, but if your hearing’s shot, it’s shot; so he had nothing to lose.

Our tour guard, who also volunteered as a counselor asked us if we came from a “Full Gospel” church. My friend quickly informed her that our church preached the gospel.

I tried to gently amend our answer, saying “I don’t think that’s what she means.”

She tried again, “Does your church teach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

I informed her that it did not and that we’d seen some things on the program that were somewhat foreign to our typical church experience.

Then she asked, “Would you like to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

To which I replied, “I think that’s why we’re here.”

In fairness, there may have been a qualifying question as to basic salvation, but it’s the above conversation that I remember.

Let me say at this point that while my answer may have sounded confident, I did approach all this with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. I wasn’t sure what we were getting into, even though I’d done some reading.

My biggest fear was the whole slain-in-the-Spirit thing. This was around the time Benny Hinn had started his original meetings back home in Toronto, so this type of thing was not unheard of. I had always pictured my head splitting open on hitting the floor and figured it best not to do that voluntarily. But she had another plan.

She told us to begin to focus on God and who He is and to worship him audibly. I did as I was told. She said to then begin to let syllables form on the tongue and just let them come out. ‘Surely I’m just making this up’ I thought. But my pre-Pentecostal mind had already begun to formulate the idea of tongues as a bypassing of the intellect so I figured I was on safe ground. I can still remember some of the phonetic nature of what I was saying and I could attempt to reproduce that here in writing, but we’ll simply skip that part. To you it might sound like gibberish.

“Now,” she said, “I’m going to lay you out.”

I’ll never forget that wording. I’m not sure if I had been standing or kneeling to that point but very gently and without injury I found myself lying on the floor. I felt like I was being obedient to something that God wanted. But it didn’t seem especially supernatural.

This was back in a time before BankAmericard (now known as VISA) or MasterCharge (now known as MasterCard) so we were traveling paying for things with American Express Traveler’s Checks. I remember at one point placing my hand over my front pocket to verify that they were still there, the way men often reach over a pocket to verify they have their wallet. In other words, I wasn’t off in some distant astral plane. I was calm, awake, aware, rational, and trying to tell God I loved Him while seemingly nonsense syllables were pouring out of my mouth. In other words, maybe this wasn’t such a big deal. Perhaps I was making the whole thing up.

We thanked our uniformed counselor and proceeded to find a motel for the night, returning the next day to watch a broadcast of the show. Because of my interest in television production, I got to watch from the control room, while my friend arranged for an audience seat next to ‘Moose Smith and The 700 Club Band.”

We drove back talking about all types of things, making notes, looking up scriptures, and determined to bring the things we had bottled up back to our friends at our home church in Canada.

Three days later, we would share our story at a large Tuesday night interdenominational Bible study that met in a home. As I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. It was my friend. He wasn’t going to be there. He had to pack and make travel arrangements as he was leaving in 48 hours for South Africa to do a six-month tour with an international music group that had its roots in Oral Roberts University. He had a call waiting when he got home, and despite being very young, on learning another musician friend was going to do the trip, he had said yes.

So much for bringing change to our home church. Didn’t Jesus send the disciples two-by-two? I thought we were a two but now he was leaving for Africa with another friend, creating a different two. I started to tear up, but remembering all we had learned at the music festival, decided it was better in the long run to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, so I thanked God for this new circumstances and opened my mouth, and some strange syllables came out.

The same syllables.

Up to that point, I would have challenged the validity of my experience in Virginia. This time, the circumstances were different and for me, that three-days-later experience was a confirmation that what I had experienced was not entirely of my own manufacture. I know there are people who read my blog who will want to analyze this and tell me that it was all borne of emotion — there’s a reason it’s taken me nine years to share this story on the blog — but I know the viability of what took place.

…It’s been a long time since I last spoke in tongues, but while I consider myself a post-Charismatic today, I do so recognizing the things I gained from being part of that movement. I am not a cessationist. I believe God is working in the lives of people in unusual and supernatural ways. Aren’t they all just making it up? Some are. But you can’t have a counterfeit $20 bill unless there’s a real $20 bill in existence. There is a genuine experience of worship, obedience and the Holy Spirit that is tied up in this thing called speaking in tongues. I don’t believe it’s the only possible evidence that God is at work in someone’s life, but it’s definitely one of a number of possibilities.

 

 

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.

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