I have a passion to see churches minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. I draw a lot of strength from the ministries of John Wimber and the Vineyard, the New Wine network of churches and HTB and the Alpha Course. In our city of Sydney though there seems to be a confusion about, and suspicion of what exactly charismatic is. Just the other day a friend told me about how their church was on the more charismatic end of their denomination. All he could point to though was occasional raising of hands in worship and contemporary music. While that is a fantastic thing, it is not to be confused with charismatic expressions of church and ministry.
Before I get to what I believe is the difference between charismatic and contemporary, let me state why I believe it is so important that the church moves more effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was the source and type of Jesus’ ministry. While it is great that some churches want to be missional by being involved in sports clubs and schools and so on… to be truly missional is to do the ministry of Jesus like Jesus. For him this was proclaiming the kingdom through preaching, healing, casting out evil and doing miracles. We also need to be charismatic because this is how the early church was commissioned and acted in the first century. They continued the ACTS of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the world. Finally we must seek the power of the ministry of the Holy Spirit because I believe that is the truest expression of ministry today. While I affirm social justice and missional ministry, the stuff that I truly believe changes our communities and lives is seeing the ministry of Jesus happening today through his church.
On Tuesday night at Alpha a young guy from a Buddhist background had a strong experience of the Holy Spirit during the ministry time after a talk on healing. His question to me afterwards was how do I become a Christian? It was the power of the Spirit at work in him that is leading him towards wanting to follow Christ. What a joy to give him a bible and begin the walk of faith with him!
So here is just two common confusions between what is contemporary and missional and what is charismatic?
– A Christian befriending a person or community group is being missional… praying for them for healing or having a word of knowledge that leads to evangelism is charismatic.
– Waving your hands in the air to a modern worship band is contemporary… experiencing the power of his presence or being filled with His peace in worship is charismatic.
None of this is to downplay the importance of a whole range of ministries and ways of reaching out or being the church. My passion though is that we will be a body of believers who take the continuing ministry of Jesus, powered by His Holy Spirit seriously. We are to be lovers of his presences, seekers of his power and servants of his gospel – for the sake of the coming of His kingdom and the redemption of the world.
What do you think?
3 thoughts on “Confusing Charismatic with Contemporary or Missional ministry”
I really like this post Tim. “Charismatic” used to be a scary word for many ( not all) evangelicals but has become less so. It troubles me when the “missional conversation” sometimes (not always) does not seem to not pay enough attention to the power of Jesus and the Spirit.
Great post! I also know that some non-charismatic Christians that haven’t heard about Vineyard or New Wine or the like think that Charismatic ministry is all about hype, hysteria and preacher worship, and then they don’t want anything to do with it.
I have one remark though, on when you say “Finally we must seek the power of the ministry of the Holy Spirit because I believe that is the truest expression of ministry today. While I affirm social justice and missional ministry, the stuff that I truly believe changes our communities and lives is seeing the ministry of Jesus happening today through his church.” I wouldn’t create this distinction between power, love and missions and argue that one is more important than the other in ministry. Paul said that he proclaims the Gospel in words, deeds and in the power of the Spirit (Rom 15:18-19). He doesn’t put these three in a hierarchy, he simply uses them all.
Still I have heard people over and over again who put them in a hierarchy. A year ago a deacon told me that nothing is as effective as evangelism through love and action. Calvinists have told me that preaching is the only true form of evangelism, social justice and miracles are unnecessary bonuses. But I refuse to create such a hierarchy.
That is why I shouldn’t say that power is the most important aspect of biblical ministry. Jesus didn’t only heal people, he preached a lot – both about His mission and about social justice. When the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost, He did not only bring tongues of fire but also radical economic equality and a powerful sermon to Peter. Everything that God does is important. We cannot single out one thing as having more value than others.
Beside this, I really enjoyed your article.
God bless you!
Thanks for your comments. On reflection I agree with your clarification. Someone else pointed this out to me as well. I like what the South African missiologist David Bosch said. Basically that the church needs to embrace “a “multifaceted ministry in respect to witness, service, justice, healing, reconciliation, liberation, peace, evangelism, fellowship, church planting, contextualization and much more”
True that hierarchies dont help. My only concern is that for many in the missional movement, charismatic expressions of ministry are not even on the radar.