Recently I had the privilege to do some teaching in a charismatic church. After my sessions, the pastor asked if I would consider coming back again to do more teaching. Knowing his was a charismatic church I said: ”Well, I can’t do the signs and wonders stuff but teaching I can do.” He replied: ”Don’t worry, leave the signs and wonders to me. You come and teach.” I smiled and thought about how far we have come in the relationship between Pentecostals/Charismatics and more traditional Evangelicals.
I am old enough to remember when the charismatic movement first hit our churches in this part of the world. I recall a charismatic telling me that evangelicals worshipped the Father, the Son and the Holy Word, not the Holy Spirit. I felt pained and defensive. I recall some of the early charismatics exhibiting what I felt was some degree of spiritual elitism; that they had encountered God and His power in a special way, which the rest of us had not — and they were waiting for us to catch up.
On the other hand, I recalled many evangelicals reacting by pointing out the weak biblical basis for some of the charismatics’ positions, and that much of their teaching was based on personal experiences rather than clear teaching from the Bible — and we all knew from church history how dangerous that could be. Such an approach had led to destructive wrong doctrines entering the church. However, biblical fidelity could be a source of spiritual pride too.
The little exchange I had with my friend, the pastor of the charismatic church showed how far we had come. There has been a lot of maturing happening on all sides of the debate and while we may not yet agree on every issue, we realise that there is much we can learn from each other. Here is a quotation from an article in The Gospel Coalition:
I sometimes daydream about what could happen if the passion of the Pentecostal for the power of God and the passion of the Calvinist for the Word of God could be combined to accomplish the work of God. The world just might see the glory of God. (Adam Mabry, “Why Charismatics and Calvinists Need Each Other,” The Gospel Coalition, July 5, 2016)
The writer understands that this might not be a neat collaboration.
Charismatics and Calvinists need each other. We don’t have to agree to be agreeable. We don’t have to compromise our consciences to effect change. And we don’t have to sacrifice biblical faithfulness for spiritual power. We can have both, but to get both we’ll probably need to get around each other.
I think that some of us have gone beyond getting round each other. We may not agree on everything but we stand side by side in our commitment to God and His purposes. We understand that mutuality is central to the Christian life, that we were meant to learn from each other.
I look forward to returning to my friend’s church to do more teaching — and to be inspired and empowered by his community.
*Image from samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net