A Mennonite Seminarian Turned Pentecostal Intern Re-Examines an Anabaptist Approach Towards Signs and Wonders

lamen “Holy Spirit come with power, breathe into our aching night. We expect You this glad hour, waiting for Your strength and light. We are fearful, we are ailing. We are weak and selfish, too. Break upon Your congregation, give us vigour life anew.” (1)

“If you believe and I believe and we together pray, the Holy Spirit must come down and set God’s people free. And set God’s people free. And set God’s people free. The Holy Spirit must come down and set God’s people free.” (2)

“Praise the One who breaks the darkness with a liberating light. Praise the One who frees the prisoners, turning blindness into sight. Praise the One who preached the Gospel, healing every dread disease, calming and feeding thousands with the very bread of peace.” (3)

The words to these well-loved Mennonite hymns echoed across the room as we all stood to sing of the Holy Spirit who heals, restores, forgives, and nourishes us. As a congregation we beseech the Holy Spirit to come into our lives empowering us for acts of service and witness to the wider church, to help us rebuild and restore our common humanity. We have no problem believing the Holy Spirit is more than capable to do miracles, but we have a hard time believing that He will do miracles for us. Today. In the 21st century.

As an Anabaptist thinker I grew up being skeptical of such spiritual activity myself. I doubted that God would choose to send angels and other prophetic messengers, and the thought of speaking in tongues seemed prosperous, forget about the idea of raising someone from the dead. I thought that the gifts of healings, casting out demons, and receiving words of wisdom from someone we barely knew were all things of the past. Not at all important or relevant to our society today. However, over time, I have come to believe otherwise.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I began attending Tyndale University College and Seminary, a trans-denominational school in Toronto, Ontario. While there my eyes and heart were opened to a variety of spiritual experiences, and over the years I have been incredibly blessed by God to be able to speak in tongues on a variety of occasions, to give and receive prophetic words, and even once to be able to interpret the tongue of another person. Throughout the last five years, I have also received challenging dreams and visions, have experience both demonic and angelic visitations, and on at least one occasion have experienced supernatural protection despite being in geographic places of profound spiritual darkness and distress.

Now, as someone who once was skeptical of all of these activities myself, I know how easy it is for individuals to just write-off these experiences as fanciful imagination or attribute them to lack of sleep, but now that I have experienced these other-worldly encounters myself I have no reason to believe that they no longer take place. In fact, as I read the Scriptures and discuss theology with seminarians of a more charismatic persuasion, I am drawn to believe that God did indeed grant these spiritual gifts to His people and that He has not stopped doing so. For example, both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of Christ’s followers, both before and after His departure, being able to open up the eyes of the blind, to heal dreadful diseases, and even to raise sick individuals from the dead. This is further cemented by Jesus’s rebuke on more than one occasion to His disciples for not having the faith to accomplish miraculous feats. Most importantly, after Jesus’s ascension into Heaven, He promised the Holy Spirit to His children as an advocate and a comforter, although there are numerous statements (both implicit and explicit) before that of the Holy Spirit being a vital part of the Trinity.(4)

This preliminary understanding of my own experience with spiritual gifts, thus serves as a backdrop as I approach Micael Grenholm’s chapter in the new MennoNerds Anthology “A Living Alternative” entitled “Charismatic Anabaptism: Combing Signs and Wonders With Peace and Justice” (if you own the book you can find his chapter on page 247). In his chapter, Grenholm argues that spiritual signs and wonders still occur and that they can indeed be a method of producing peace and justice in our world. At first glance this may seem quite peculiar. Many individuals may wonder how and why signs and wonders are important to the Christian community of faith and how it even applies to peace-making. After all, most Pentecostals are not necessarily pacifists and most pacifists are not necessarily Pentecostal. Nevertheless, as Grenholm traces the historical movements of the Charismatic church, it becomes quite evident that Pentecostalism began as a largely peace-oriented church and through believing in the power of the Holy Spirit has been able to accomplish wonderful and rich evangelism which helps dis-empowered individuals at the same time.

When I first received my copy of “A Living Alternative” I was immediately drawn to reading my own chapter (hey, there’s something special about having your work in print!), but as soon as I finished that, my next stop was to read Grenholm’s chapter. By way of explanation, Grenholm publishes frequently on topics of charismatic gifts and the Holy Spirit and has a blog and YouTube channel called “Holy Spirit Activism” which you can check out here: https://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/category/holy-spirit-activism/. A self-proclaimed Anabaptist thinker, Grenholm is one of the few scholars I have met who is able to meld both charismatic and Anabaptist ideals together without keeping them distinct. That’s because throughout my life when I started exhibiting more charismatic experiences many (though certainly not all) Mennonites disagreed with me that such things were possible and many did not want to continue the dialogue at all. Contrarily, on several occasions Grenholm and I have read each other’s literary works, have agreed or disagreed on certain points of theology, and ultimately have furthered dialogue within our individual circles because of it.

Reading through Grenholm’s chapter in “A Living Alternative” recently once again produced points of contention and fostered awareness of what the Holy Spirit is indeed capable of. It is hard to do a chapter full of such good scholarship justice in only one blog post; however, I’d like to highlight just a bit of what Grenholm shared in his chapter that I really resonated with.

Firstly, as I already alluded to previously, Grenholm traces the charismatic renewal through the centuries in the first few pages of his chapter. Here he references some of the best known occurrences of Spirit-filled worship including the Azuza Street Revival and the Toronto Blessing. The Toronto Blessing, now manifested in the Airport Christian Fellowship (also known as: Catch the Fire) is a movement that is still going strong in Toronto, Ontario. I have had a few opportunities to attend this church myself, and while I largely do not agree with the theology they espouse or the way they proclaim it, and while I believe that pastors should have more education than what their pastors currently possess, I have, like many others, been quite impressed by the sensationalism of the whole experience. It is hard for me to sort out what is truthful or not because I have never been to any of their healings, but without limiting the Holy Spirit, I do believe that certain occurrences are quite possible. My only caution with attending churches like this is to beware of emotionalism (meaning that belief and theology in healings and miracles must be both emotional and intellectual) and to ensure the testing of all such activities. The Apostle Paul himself warned to “test all things”.(5)

Secondly, I resonate with some of Grenholm’s words of caution on the testing of so-called spiritual experiences. I, personally, have been asked on more than one occasion if I believe that prophetic utterances still exist today. My answer: sure they do! HOWEVER, there are two criteria that I always keep in mind when someone tells me they have a word of the Lord for me personally or for the church. First, prophecy cannot contradict the Scripture (6). As the Bible tells us, no one can say “Jesus is Lord” and at the same time say “Jesus be cursed.” (7) A house divided against itself cannot stand (8). Therefore, everything that is claimed to be prophetic must be in accordance with what Jesus said and with the message of peace and justice that He proclaimed to the world. Secondly, prophecy must come true.  The Bible tells us that we will know a prophet based on whether the words take place as he or she espoused or not (9). In certain cases this can be quite difficult to ascertain based on the time frame they give us, but we should always be cautious of accepting all prophecy before it can be faithfully proven to us. We need to be alert and vigilant because many false prophets exist who only provide words of comfort which “tickle people’s ears” but in essence lead them astray. (10)

Finally, I found the personal encounters of the Holy Spirit that Grenholm uses in his chapter to be both encouraging and inspiring. Although it is easy to dismiss these experiences as legitimately happening, they remind us that the Holy Spirit primarily works in personal ways and that He is not confined or limited to our understanding of who He is or what He can do.

Like Grenholm, I truly believe that when we allow the Holy Spirit access into our lives, He truly will do great things through us. I am not of the persuasion that this looks the same for everyone, as I do not believe that every individual has the ability to speak in tongues, to be prophetic, or to do healings (in fact, Paul himself said that tongues was the least important of the gift (11). Nevertheless, I do believe that every believer does possess gifts which they can use to benefit and further God’s Kingdom here on earth in an attempt to bring peace and justice.

A very short anecdote about this would be from my own experience. As someone who grew up in the church and who has thankfully never experienced much hardship, it is easy for me to believe that my testimony is boring, uninspiring, or unable to bring people to Christ. After all, how can street youth, battered women, or deviant adolescents truly connect to a “good little church girl” who did everything she was supposed to do? Yet, a few months ago I started fervently praying allowing the Holy Spirit full permission to use any parts of my personal story that would benefit the church and bring glory to God. Although it did not happen right away, the Holy Spirit took me up on the offer. Soon I was asked to preach and in particular to share parts of my testimony, I was asked to write, and individuals were placed in my path with whom I could discuss and encourage. This may not be as profound as raising someone from the dead, but it did bring my attention to the fact that the Holy Spirit is a powerful force and one we cannot ignore because He is persistent.

I want to thank Grenholm for reminding all of us that the Holy Spirit is alive and active and that He woos each one of us closer to the heart of God. I also want to thank Grenholm for his courage in discussing a topic not always well thought out in the western Anabaptist church and for his honesty and integrity in exploring these concepts further. I hope that if you have the opportunity you will read his chapter in “A Living Alternative” for yourselves. I look forward to further dialogue on this topic with you :).

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1) “Holy Spirit Come With Power” (Text: Anne Neufeld Rupp, 1970; Music; attributed to B.F. White; copyright 1970)

2) “If You Believe and I Believe” (Zimbabwe Traditional; copyright 1991 WGRG The Iona Community)

3) “Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness” (Text: Rusty Edwards, Music: American Folk Melody; Copyright 1987)

4) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14%3A26&version=NIV

5) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Thessalonians+5%3A20-21&version=NIV

6) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Peter+1%3A20&version=NIV

7) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+12%3A3&version=NIV

8) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+3%3A25&version=NIV

9) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+18%3A22&version=NIV

10) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+4%3A3&version=NIV

11) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+14%3A5&version=NIV

To purchase a copy of A Living Alternative: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Alternative-Anabaptist-Christianity-Post-Christendom/dp/0989830411/ref=asap_B002BMG086_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417959721&sr=1-9

Reflections of a Mennocostal – My IHOPKC Experience (An Introduction to A Blogging Series)

Image This NOT this Image

INTRO TO IHOP: No I am not talking about pancakes…although I do love the IHOP restaurant which I frequented during my days as a seminary student living in Indiana…yum… I drool just thinking of it.  Instead I am talking about an international prayer movement which is spreading around the globe and which the Holy Spirit recently used to break me, wreck me, and mess me up (in a good way).  Let me introduce this movement to you in the next few paragraphs.

Every year tens of thousands from over 100 different nations around the globe flock to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.  Tens of thousands more join the IHOP movement through a live online web streaming of their 24/7 prayer room (which you can access here: (http://www.ihopkc.org/prayerroom/).  IHOP has also gained momentum over the years even offering a university program focused on intercession with majors in media, ministry, music, and missions.  IHOP also offers inner-city and prayer internships, has helped develop several well-known musicians including Misty Edwards and Jon Thurlow, and offers vibrant ministries for children, as well as deliverance ministry for those affected by the sex-trade (known as Exodus Cry: http://exoduscry.com/).  IHOPs are located in many other locations across the United States and a few IHOPs are being formed in both developed and developing countries around the world.  There is also a similar movement in Toronto called THOP (Toronto House of Prayer: http://www.thop.ca/). 

With all of these ministries, it would appear that he Holy Spirit is in this movement, however, not everyone thinks so.  Toted as a revival movement by some and a cult by others, leader and founder, Mike Bickle (http://mikebickle.org/) and speakers associated with the ministry such as Lou Engle are both loved as well as scorned.

Throughout the years, people have, however unfortunately and unrightly, developed inaccurate representations of what IHOP is and I admit that when I went to the One Thing young adult’s conference from December 28th-31st, 2013, I was anything but sold out on the movement.[1]  I was skeptical at best and cynical at worst.  Being a General Conference Mennonite, I’ve always been cautious about charismatic worship, even though over the past 4 years, God has been leading me deeper and deeper into manifestations of the Spirit which I can’t ignore.  I came to IHOP because I was curious – I wasn’t really expecting much.  I literally thought that people would roar like lions and that there would be gold dust and proclamations that people can raise from the dead.  But that’s not what I discovered!  Instead I discovered beautiful new friendships strategically placed in my life, believers passionate about prayer, and a deepened journey with Christ in my own life.

In the following paragraphs I want to share with you just a taste of what God laid on my heart at this conference and why I feel like if I keep it in it will be fire to my bones.[2]

The amazing think about IHOP is that it is a ministry consumed by a passion for prayer.  They do evangelism, social justice, and worship, but everything revolves around an attitude and posture of all day and all night prayer.  This is a unique ministry for although all ministries which are of God pray fervently, very few have someone sustaining it through prayer literally during every hour of the day and night. 

What also surprises me about this movement is that people keep coming back and every year the ministry grows exponentially.  When I asked a young woman from my group who attended her fourth One Thing conference what the draw was she replied, “It’s the longevity.  The fact that it’s the oldest prayer movement in North America, and Francis Chan is speaking.”  She also remarked that One Thing has incredible worship and people are so touched by it that they share that excitement with their friends who then become curious.  Almost everyone in attendance at the conference is there because they have experienced the worship before and loved it or they have heard of someone else’s experience of worship and wanted to join in.

These two things surprise me, but perhaps the biggest surprise is how people who have never even attended IHOP think lowly of this movement.  I DON’T agree with some of the doctrinal theology or priorities which encompass this movement, but I also can’t deny that God has ministered to thousands here – which is why they keep returning, sometimes more than once a year.  We wonder where the youth are in the church but when over 31,000 young adults all gather to worship in one place we disregard it as a cult rather than glorifying the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the thing: If God would have made me want to love Him more, but not given me the Holy Spirit, it would have been enough.

If God would have poured out the Spirit, but not given me a specific missional calling it would have been enough.

If God would have given me a calling, but not spoken into my brokenness, it would have been enough.

If God would have spoken into my brokenness, but not filled me with a love of worship it would have been enough.

But God in His mercy showed me all these things and so much more!

 

It’s incredible how I went to IHOPKC with a group of about 50 young adults ages 18-30 and in sharing testimonies with each other throughout the conference was encouraged to discover that each one was challenged by God in a different way and for different purposes.  Each and everyone from our group has left changed – with a greater passion to know God and a greater desire to do the Will of the Father.

Personally, I left knowing that I want to fall in love with God in the same way that Jacob fell in love with Rachel.  He loved her so much that he worked for 14 years but to him it didn’t even feel like a day because he was so consumed by his love for her.[3]  That’s what I want my relationship with God to look like.  I want to start spending more time WITH God rather than just FOR Him.  I want to go and tell others all that I have seen and heard, how the lame now walk, the blind now see, and the deaf now hear.[4]  I want to see women receive their dead back to life![5]

So, was it worth it to drive 20 hours to the Midwest with a bunch of people I’ve never met, live off of 5 hours of sleep for 6 days, and leave all technology at home fasting from social media?  I think it was.  Allow me to share why in the next several blogs.

KEY LEARNINGS FROM IHOP: I have decided to devote the next several blogs on ZwiebachandPeace to the work that the Holy Spirit accomplished in my life through attending IHOPKC.  I do this with the understanding and discernment (through listening to the voice of the Spirit) that although there are some things which are meant to be of a private nature, between God and I, there are also many things which God confirmed to me would be an encouragement to other believers from around the globe.

My next few blogs will address: 1) A Four Part Series on the Following:

A)     Developing and Remaining in a posture of prayer at all times. 

~ Learning how to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and fasting.

B)     Expecting great things and revival to happen

~ Great things may happen in miraculous ways, but more often than not they happen in the stillness of our souls and in the sound of sheer silence.[6]

 

C)    Delivering a Prophetic Vision

~ Prophesy is perhaps the one gift that requires the most discernment for there are many false prophets.[7]

~ Many people believe that prophesy is fortune telling so they regard it as ungodly, however, more often than not it is about confirming stirrings which others have already started to feel, encouraging them about where they’re at in their walk with God while making them crave more, and boldly declaring the Scriptures through rightly dividing the Word of Truth.[8]
~ Rev. 22:6

 

D)    Cultivating the Multicultural Reality of Heaven on Earth

~I live in Toronto – the most multicultural place in the world.  There are many times when I am the only visible minority on the bus BECAUSE I AM WHITE!  But compared to Heaven, Toronto is pale, not tastefully colourful.  Heaven is a way more multicultural reality than what any of us can experience anywhere on this earth.

~ Scripture Verse: Revelation 5:9-10

2) Invitation to be an Intercessory Missionary and to Join the Night Watch

~ Practicing 24/7 prayer here on earth so that when we get to heaven we will be used to it and look forward to it (Revelation 4)

~ Revelation 21:22-26, Revelation 22:5

3) Reclaiming the Art of Biblical Fasting

 

WHY THE BLOGGING SERIES? IHOP really messed me up in a good way.  It made my faith so much more of a priority for me.  God taught me so much from this conference.  In 4 days He taught me more than I have learned in the past four months!  He confirmed so many of my searches and gave me assurance for my doubts.  I honestly felt like every time I thought I had maximized the teachings of the Holy Spirit that God showed me something else.  I am blogging because I believe that God meant these lessons to be digested by our generation.  There are many things that God meant personally for me, they are private, individualized instructions and calls to confession and repentance.  Obviously I won’t share those, but I will share the other words God gave me which He confirmed were meant not just for me.  They are meant as encouragement for the faithful and an admonition to wake up for those asleep in their sins.[9]  I share because I believe God wants this generation to move and impact the world.  I believe God wants this generation to be mighty for Him, constantly heading His call.  But I believe it doesn’t start and end with us, no!  I believe our hearts will be joined with the faithful saints of old and with the mighty generation of believers coming after us.  I share these thoughts as an offering to God because I believe the Mennonite church needs revival.  I believe the Catholic, United, Anglican, and Lutheran Church needs revival.  I believe the Baptist and Reformed churches need revival.  I even believe that the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches need revival!  We’ve been stagnant and lukewarm for far too long and God is tired of it![10]  He is calling us to so much, only a fraction of it which He revealed to me.  In the last days He will reveal so much more of His vision to any man or woman who boldly heeds His call and is truly willing to impart those truths to the nations.[11]  Just like Jesus said to Philip when he recognized Christ as Lord and asked that he be able to see the Father “are you for real?  You and I have been tight for so long and yet it’s like you don’t even know Me. Whoa-oh, Baby!  You ain’t seen nothing yet!  You’re going to see so much more than just this.”[12]  In this House of Prayer with the hearts of thousands intertwined with God’s in prayer, worship, and genuine intercession God began to reveal to me the deepest longings of my own heart.  I hope you will also be able to experience such heavenly joy and delightful laughter in your own lives.

CONCLUSION: It’s an understatement to say that I went into IHOP with many prejudices. I went because I was curious – my charismatic experience confined to only a handful of experience of tongues, dreams, and visions.  Having been brought up in churches which do not engage in the gifts and often discouraged by church leaders when I pondered charismatic thoughts with them and shared my own experiences.

I was expecting Holy Laughter, people being slain in the spirit (looking like they were having seizures) and miraculous wonders.  Instead, what I saw was real people who are real in their relationship with Christ – totally sold out on Him.  I had many biases, but God used my lack of understanding in the prophetic to humble me.  I still don’t agree with all of the teachings, but it has left me seeking more.  Unsatisfied with where my years of theological education have left me and wanting my spirit to join fully in God’s unfinished mission.

 I could have chosen to let my inability to fully accept manifestations of the Spirit hinder me and hold me back, but then I never would have experienced Christ’s love impacting over 30,000 young adults all from different walks of life.  I may not understand everything that IHOP stands for, but the Holy Spirit is heavy upon this place.  Come see for yourself.  Come experience rapturous grace and the beauty and mystery in the fact that the Holy Spirit is simply too magnificent to be placed in the box of human comprehension.


All Things Charismatic – A Mennonite’s Perspective on Visions, Prophesy, and Miracles

Image If you read this article and you like it, you can check out some of my earlier thoughts on the Charismatic movement by reading this blog post: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/a-mennonite-who-speaks-in-tongues/

In our modern world, the Charismatic movement has gotten a somewhat bad rap unless you are Pentecostal yourself.  There are two main ways of thinking of the charismatic movement according to the Christians that I have met.  The first way is to view it as a super incredible movement which is the answer to all of life’s problems.  I see this view played out all the time by churches which claim that they have raised people from the dead (I sincerely have my doubts about that one), go on mission’s trips with no other purpose than to preform healings, and have youth meetings where the only purpose is to receive Words from the Lord for one another.  Although these churches do provide a certain excitement around what the Spirit is saying to the churches[1], I actually feel this is doing a huge disservice.  Placing the expectation on youth and young adults that EVERYONE has the gift of prophesy or speaking in tongues not only adds a lot of pressure but is simply NOT Biblical.  The Bible does teach us that prophesy and speaking in tongues are both gifts,[2] yet by the same token it teaches us that of all the gifts speaking in tongues is the least important.[3]  Looking through the Scripture passages about gifts, we notice that there are many gifts but the same Spirit.[4]  Each gift (if used correctly) can be useful for edification of the church, but no one person has all of the gifts.[5]  In fact, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if everyone in the Body of Christ were an eye we would have no ears and if we had no ears how would we be able to hear?[6]

Yet, when churches make it sound like everyone should be able to receive Words from the Lord they are in effect saying that those who do not have the gift of Special wisdom or prophesy are somehow inferior Christians.  When I was at Tyndale, many of my charismatic friends believed that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life.  Speaking in tongues is indeed a Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 we read that in the first Pentecost this is exactly what was taking place.  People were speaking in tongues and little flames were dancing above their heads.[7]  Yet, for as much as Speaking in Tongues is a Baptism of the Holy Spirit it is only one mode of baptism among many.  I would say that the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit is when your life becomes completely consumed by Christ’s Word and when you begin to live a life that daily exemplifies His character.  After all, when contemplating what true faith is, the Apostle James writes that, “true and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep one’s self unstained from idols.”[8]  Looking at this verse reminds us of what the Baptism of Christ truly looks like – it is about doing service and acts of kindness to others, consoling them in their hurt and need, and focusing solely on Christ.  In a world that pushes for fame and recognition we are to keep ourselves pure and only care about the reputation we have in Christ.[9]

The second way of viewing the Charismatic movement is to view it with disdain as if it has no place in the church and in fact distracts from the true message of the cross.  I have no doubt that certain televangelists and teachers do distort the truth.  Their entire message is only one to get them fame and power, they do not actually follow the teachings of Christ.  Yet, at the same time as I disagree with these televangelists, to think that God no longer uses charismatic gifts does not make much sense in my opinion either.  Why do I say that?  For one, I find it hard to believe that God only granted the gifts of prophesy, healing, and miracles for a certain time period – why would He all of a sudden abolish them?  Why are they all of a sudden not important?   Second, how can we be negligent of the fact that the charismatic gifts are still happening all around us every day?  I have seen great things accomplished when my friends have laid hands on other people.  A few times I have received timely Words from the Lord that really spoke into my situation without the other person even being fully aware of what was happening.  Yet at other times, I also have received visions and have spoken in tongues in ways that have edified the Body of Christ.

I did not grow up in the Charismatic movement by any means and when I was younger I also had a negative view of Pentecostalism because I didn’t understand what it truly was.  I saw no point to rolling around and barking like dogs – in fact, I still don’t.  I still have my reservations on many things – gold teeth and being slain in the Spirit included.  Yet, as I have spent time at Tyndale I have come to learn that miracles still do take place and God has often spoken to me in dreams.

I think part of our resistance to the Charismatic movement is the fact that our worldview (if we are from the West) does not welcome these types of responses.  Our first response as Western Christians tends to be to attribute everything on science.  When someone is miraculously healed of cancer we thank the good doctors and surgeons who looked after them.  When a person is told they only have 6 more weeks to live and 6 months later they are completely pain free and moving on with their lives we say that the doctors misdiagnosed them.  We are human and we all make medical errors.  I’m not saying that skilled doctors and nurses don’t deserve our praise, but the truth is we don’t give credit where credit is due!

Yet, on the other hand, in my studies of Global Christianity I have become aware to the many medical and spiritual mysteries that are taking place in certain African and Asian countries where medical equipment is lacking.  Muslims from Africa who have never even heard the name of Jesus have often received visions of Him in their dreams and turned to Him as a result.  There was even one case that I heard about at Tyndale of a young woman who was illiterate and had never even heard of the Bible who received a vision before her (similar to the one Muhammad received) of an open Bible which she was able to read the pages on!  This woman converted to Christ and now evangelizes to others within her tribe!  How can we ignore the fact that these things are taking place and turn a blind eye to the fact that the charismatic movement is still sweeping our globe?

So, what do we do with these two conflicting views and which one is correct?  I would say they both are correct to some extent.  We should not fear the Spiritual gifts of prophesy and tongues, nor should we extoll them as being the important gifts thus insisting that those who have never received these opportunities are somehow less valuable to the Christian church than we are.  At all times, we need to test the Spirit because we know that Satan can use what is good and edifying as a way of destroying the church.[10]

How do we test the Spirit?  This is something that the churches I grew up in never taught me to do, but yet, without testing the Spirit we are opening ourselves up to potentially fatal consequences.  When you test the Spirit you need to first of all determine if what the person is saying makes any sense.  If what they are saying clearly goes contrary to the truths of the Scripture than it is not a true prophesy or vision.[11]  Secondly, their message needs to be timely and relevant to the person who it is being spoken to – if it is overly vague you should have some reservations about it.  Third, you should do your own research to determine if the word spoken to you really was meant for you and how it will play out in your life.  If you continue to be unsure about it ask trusted friends and mentors who have walked the Christian faith longer than you have, talk to your pastor or spiritual director, and continue to wrestle with Scripture on your own.

I would add a fourth idea for testing the Spirit even though I know some people would disagree with me.  In my own experience, I believe that receiving a word from the Lord needs to come out of some pre-existing relationship that you have with the other person.  It should be spoken out of love and concern.  This is not to say that strangers can never offer you a Word from God.  On at least two or three occasions I have received prophetic words which were very timely – one from a complete stranger at a church the other from students at Tyndale who had only seen me in the hallway a handful of times but never struck up a conversation with me.  I still cherish those encounters and believe God used those people to bring light to the experiences I was having at the time.  So, do not discount the fact that God can use anyone to speak to you, but at the same time, be very careful of someone who has no pre-existing relationship with you who is claiming they have some great truth from God to bring into your life.  Many times, these people are little more than false teachers and basing your life off of what they say can end rather poorly.[12]

Especially be cautious of churches or individuals which claim that they can receive a Word from the Lord for anyone as long as you ask them.  When I was in Indiana I visited such a church.  I was invited to sit in a little room with two elders who recorded our conversation on tape and made me sign a waiver form saying that I would not do anything stupid to make the Word of the Lord happen.  The example they gave me was that if the Lord said I was to become prosperous I would not rob a bank and then say that the reason I had done it was because this church told me I would become wealthy.  There is definitely some truth to this.  I think of the story of Abraham and Sarah who were promised a son and when it didn’t happen right away they took matters into their own hands and got themselves into a huge mess which still has consequences today.[13]  On the other hand, this church had no idea who I was and yet they were claiming that God could immediately give them some type of special knowledge about me.  If you experience such a church, RUN AWAY!  These churches have a tendency to have cult-like characteristics, their pastors being little more than a wolves who run around in sheep’s clothing.[14]

So, by all means, do not write off spiritual gifts as being for a different time and a different place.  Encourage one another to use their charismatic gifts and if the Spirit is leading you continue to develop your own gifts in these regards.  BUT be very careful, use common sense, and do not ignore what the other Scriptures teach us.  Charismatic gifts have much to offer to the church, but they have as much potential as being harmful as they do of being beneficial.  In all things, seek the highest aim which is the love of Christ, and only then will the other gifts help to make this happen.[15]


[4] 1 Corinthians 12:4 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2012:4&version=ESVUK

[10] 1 John 4:1 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%204:1&version=ESVUK