Uh oh…’Charismatic Ryan’ has come out to play…
One reader asks, “Is there anything positive about the Charismatic Church or is it all just a bunch of crazy sinners who need a saviour?” Well first of all, it is not “the Charismatic Church” it is not a denomination or a group of Churches. It is a movement within churches and denominations. Second, we are all just a bunch of crazy sinners who need Saviour. You and I, need a saviour just as much as anyone else. So I guess all I have left to answer is the part about is there anything good about it. I was tempted to say, “Just focus on yourself and your church and stop judging others and…” But that would make for a very boring post. 🙂
“Uh oh…’Charismatic Ryan’ has come out to play…” This was one of the funniest things I have ever heard someone say about me. I was at a brother’s home discussing some things about Christianity, about being reformed, about sin…you know, all the things I love to talk about. He said it tongue-in-cheek as it was in reference to my enthusiasm for our Lord and evangelism, and my heartfelt longing to see my brothers and sisters on fire for things of God. He is an elder in my congregation, and he knows that I am Reformed in doctrine and life. But…he also knows the passion I have for the things of God. The passion of really living the doctrine we Reformed Christians claim to believe. Now, the funny thing is that I did grow up in a church that was part of the “charismatic movement,” so I saw both the negative and the positive points of this movement.
There are many aspects of the Charismatic movement that I do not agree with, such as the teaching of baptism with Holy Spirit as a “second blessing” distinct from regeneration/salvation, their views on spiritual gifts, their experience-oriented way of interpreting scripture, and the overwhelming influence of Arminianism in their soteriology. Even though I cannot participate with Charismatic Christians in these things, I can still learn from them and recognize some things that are certainly commendable. So in this post I am going to present some positive adpects of this movement. I can hear the gasps from orthodox reformed readers, and I can hear the “hi fives” from charismatic readers (and I hope some of each stick around to finish reading this.)
For the most part Charismatic Christians have a profound enthusiasm for the things of God. They have a boldness to praise the Lord in public and in private. They are not ashamed to speak of the Lord before both Christians and non-Christians. Charismatic Christians put most orthodox Christians to shame when it comes to being salt and light in this world.
They seem to have a spiritual dynamic which is sadly lacking among many orthodox Christians. When you think of Charismatic people you normally do not think of dead orthodoxy. These people are lively and enthusiastic, excited about their faith, emotional and vibrant. They often have a zeal for serving the Lord which is second to none; although their zeal is often not according to knowledge but according to experience. Should not reformed believers be excited and enthused about the things of God? Surely His grace imparted us wretched sinners should excite us as well!
Often Charismatic people display an amazing kind of, joy and happiness in being Christian. Their religion is definitely not a dead ritual. It is personal and real to them. They do what they do because it is meaningful to them and because they enjoy it. Not because they are expected to do it out of custom or because the elders or their parents might say something to them if they don’t.
Charismatic Christians show warmth and love for one another that puts us to shame. They believe in the communion of the saints and participate in each other’s joy and suffering almost without fault. They are typically friendly and outgoing and are not afraid to talk to new people in the church building on Sunday, they will routinely tell others about the Lord and what He has done for them. If a homeless man walks into a charismatic church he is usually greeted with open arms and offered a place to have lunch. What would happen in our churches if the same homeless man walked in? Would Jesus approve of our response?
Personal devotions and Bible study are remarkably important to Charismatic Christians. They see their religion as a relationship with their redeemer, and they take great joy in bible study. Typically they like to get together in small home groups and Bible studies. They enjoy getting together for fellowship, and singing praise to God. The issue with Charismatic Bible study is that they let their subjective personal experiences direct how they interpret the Bible. But still, I will certainly commend them for the desire study the bible and to have a personal and real relationship with Jesus.
While we must test this movement by the Word of God, and steer clear of any unbiblical teachings, we should also recognize what is good about the movement. We can learn from the positive aspects of this movement. May God help us to be doctrinally sound and continually reforming but let us also pray that we avoid a dead orthodoxy – which tends to occur in doctrinally sound churches. We do not want to have doctrine without life and we do not want to have life without doctrine. True doctrine will always be “according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3), that is, according to God-fearing lifestyles.
So, let us be zealous and fervent in spirit serving the Lord. As it says in Romans 12:11:
“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. “
Isn’t salvation wonderful? Isn’t the mercy and grace of our God amazing? Are we not called to be salt and light? Isn’t Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism something to be enthusiastic about? It is exciting! It is amazing and awe inspiring! Let’s be Reformed in faith AND in life! No, “Charismatic Ryan” is not coming out to play. “Reformed Ryan” will, however, endeavour to see that God is glorified in my life and in the lives of those around me, both in doctrine and in practice. Let us in all things glorify God.
Yes I took the time to present the positive aspects of this movement but I still assert that we should focus on Glorifying God where we are, in our Churches. If we are continually looking over the fence wishing that our Churches were more loving or more “alive” or more lively then we are not focusing on God and on our congregation where we can make the difference. If you want our churches to be more loving or warmer or friendlier…what are you doing about it? To quote myself from another post:
Instead of worrying about what other churches are doing or not doing: whether it is more appealing to you or less appealing to you, be it more biblical or less biblical, “better” or “worse” we should focus on our own churches and especially our own congregations. I am not saying that we should only be inward looking, or sectarian, far from it! We certainly should look outward to the community and the society we live in and shine with the light of Jesus. … we need not waste our energy focusing on other churches, what they are doing wrong or right, or whether we are “keeping up with the Joneses.” We should focus on God, and the local Christian body in which God in his sovereignty has placed us.
Next time…I will show how charismatic Christians can learn from us so called Reformed “robots.” 🙂
Here is a funny picture I posted a few months ago, which I think is relevant to this topic. Enjoy!