Locating Renewal on a Different Map
by Dan Siemens
Our God is a God of history who reveals himself through events in time. The Scriptures are the record of God’s revelation through one event after another. Isn’t it wonderful that God has also given us the capacity to experience him in actual historical events that occur in time and space such as in the Charismatic Renewal?
It seems that God initiates such outpourings in order to enable his Church to keep in step with the Spirit. Without them it would be impossible for us to fully partner with Him in accomplishing his purposes on the earth. These events are like huge “grace downloads” that flow from God’s prophetic timetable and where we may receive corporate revelation for a specific purpose.
Yet, as impacting as renewal movements are, they are not part of the normal, day-to-day processes of our spiritual lives. Rather, they are extra-ordinary and irregular gifts that God initiates-gifts that we can neither predict, cause, nor fully explain when they come. (For more on this, see Seeing God in the Ordinary by Michael Frost).
Whether we are talking about the Azusa Street Revival, the Charismatic Renewal, or the Toronto Blessing, we must be willing to realign our perspective for a new season. As Frank Damazio aptly notes in Seasons of Revival, “Transitioning into a new season does not mean that we lose what we have gained in a previous move of the Spirit, but we must sustain what has been gained by new application.”
The Holy Spirit was not sent to renew ecclesiastical structures, nor for us to derive our Christian identity and life purpose from our renewal culture. The Spirit was sent to serve the purposes of the King. Only in the environment of the Kingdom will renewal find its true missional purpose and ultimate fulfillment. Have you ever wondered why, despite all of the wonderful renewal movements of the past, the Holy Spirit’s greatest corporate expression of power has not yet been seen? I wonder if it is because He cannot fully express Himself through the Church until we are positioned for ministry in the Kingdom context.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
There is an awakened interest in the Holy Spirit these days. With Alpha active in churches around the world, those who are newly initiated in the faith, as well as mainline evangelicals who would never consider themselves “charismatic,” are suddenly showing interest and even hunger for the deeper things of the Spirit. Those who formerly had no experience, or had even distanced themselves from the Charismatic Renewal, want to know more about the substance that God downloaded in the renewal events of years past.
For those of us already in renewal, the key to ministry in the future is to relocate what we have learned in past renewal events to a totally different map. When we move renewal to the Kingdom map, rather than it becoming minimized, we actually find that the Spirit gains even more prominence and importance to those who desire to enter into the Spirit-filled life. Why? No one can be about the family business of the Kingdom without being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Look at it this way. In Matthew 4:23, Jesus is depicted as going about the ministry of spreading the gospel of the Kingdom. This was the family business that he was called into by his father. We are called into the same “business” as followers of Christ. Yet, doing what Jesus did requires both proclaiming and moving in the power of the Spirit to validate the Kingdom’s message. Jesus proclaimed, demonstrated, and also incarnated the Kingdom of God in, and through, his person. He called himself the “Son of Man,” a kind of prototype believer who was able to accomplish the purposes of his Father because he was totally filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit fills and empowers you and me!
Our map perspective is not mere semantics. If you were to ask an evangelical, for example, if he was interested in being “charismatic,” he would most likely decline and might even take a step or two away from you. Why? Because “charismatic” is associated with a particular event in history that means many things to many people, both positive and negative. Whether or not these objections to renewal are justified is not the point.
But, if you were to ask that same person if he would like to be an integral part of the family business of Jesus-which is Kingdom driven and missional to its very core, where the filling of the Spirit is absolutely essential and not an option if one wants to authentically follow in Jesus’ footsteps-how would he respond? Many, if not most, would answer with a resounding “Yes!”
This means that we can invite those who were not a part of a past renewal movement, including both evangelicals and new believers, to apprehend in a fresh way the incalculable worth of the Spirit’s empowering as it is re-located in its true context: proclaiming, demonstrating, and incarnating the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It actually gives renewal even more prominence than as a significant historical event in church history. It becomes the necessary initiation by which one enters into the exciting work of the Kingdom, something into which every believer is called to participate.
Therefore, the question we ask is no longer, “Are you charismatic?” but, rather, “Would you like to participate in the family business of the Kingdom? If so, then . . . you must be filled with the Holy Spirit!”