A “Kingdom Triangle” for a Charismatic Reformation

November 1, 2011

J. Lee Grady is a prophetic voice among the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements (C&P). By “prophetic,” I not only mean that he credibly receives testable revelation from God, but that he has Spirit-filled courage to speak and exhort in truth for the sake of other people’s edification. His recent book, The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale (Chosen Books, 2010), is direct evidence of what I am talking about.

In honor of Reformation Day (that would be October 31st for those of you new to the game), Grady posted his own Reformation-like Theses to the internet’s “door.” His Charisma News article is called: “It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation.” I encourage you to read his full article here.

Although I have not met J. Lee Grady (I welcome the opportunity!), I suspect that we would have a lot in common, especially in light of what I’ve written in my book, Kingdom Triangle. Below is the gist of his Fifteen Theses, along with some further comments below each point, developed by me and Joe Gorra:

1. Let’s reform our theology. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God and He is holy. He is not an “it.” He is not a blob, a force, or an innate power. We must stop manipulating Him, commanding Him and throwing Him around.

Amen and Amen. We see three main contributions here: an institutional one, a methodological one and a theological one:

A) Institutional: The important role of Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars (yes, there are such humans, thankfully!), seminaries, theological institutes, and other thought leaders to help church leaders experience theological formation and development. This is not to say that only scholars or “intellectuals” are the ones who carry the torch of “truth” or “theology.” It is just to recognize that these leaders have a contribution to give to the rest of the movement’s pastors and laity leaders. As long as C&P’s permit “anti-intellectual” (or, even, “anti-educational”) attitudes and ethos to reign and pervade, the movement will not be sustained beyond the mere endeavoring of individuals. Education in a tradition is not optional. We need more exhortational books like Grady’s and also Rick Nanez’s Full Gospel, Fractured Minds (HarperCollines, 2005).

B) Methodological: C&P thought leaders and pastors should be leading the way about how to approach the interrelationship between “theology” and “experience.” If the Holy Spirit is a person and not an “it,” then we can come to have personal knowledge about Him and His work in the world and in the church. Here, we think that C&P philosophers should come assist in developing robust, realist accounts of personal knowledge.

C) Theological: C&P would profit from doing their theological reflection within a “Kingdom of God” framework. This, for us, has been the greatest theological contribution of the Vineyard movement, for which we are active contributors. A theology of the Kingdom, as a meta-narrative, can do tremendous work for thinking through our pneumatology questions and concerns.

2. Let’s return to the Bible. The Word of God is the foundation for the Christian experience. Any dramatic experience, no matter how spiritual it seems, must be tested by the Word and the Holy Spirit’s discernment. Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture. If we don’t test them we could end up spreading deception.

Amen and Amen. This is so crucial in at least these two significant ways:

A)    As was developed in Kingdom Triangle, scripture is an indispensable source of knowledge about reality. It’s not merely a religious book to norm religious experiences or practices. It is meant to norm our perspective of God, and our collaboration with God, in His world, wherever He is at work. If C&P leaders can recognize scripture as a source of knowledge of reality, then can be in a better place to “test their experiences.” Let’s recognize that people can be addicted to spiritual experiences as much as they can be addicted to ideas or drugs, sex and rock n’roll! We need our desire-fulfillment in our experiences to be normed and directed. Scripture plays an indispensable role here.

B)  C&P can help shape a Christian view of knowledge, by virtue of recognizing that scripture is ultimate but not the only source of knowledge about reality (our testable experiences can also provide knowledge of God, for example).

3. It’s time for personal responsibility. We charismatics must stop blaming everything on demons. People are usually the problem.

Amen and Amen. The “Kingdom Triangle” represents for us an ideal here: 1) the interrelatedness of “life of the mind” cultivation coupled with 2) personal character and spiritual formation development that is married to 3) empowerment in the Spirit. In short, this seems to us to be the proper context for realizing “personal responsibility.” We need all three areas working together.

4. Stop playing games. Spiritual warfare is a reality, but we are not going to win the world to Jesus just by shouting at demonic principalities. We must pray, preach and persevere to see ultimate victory.

Amen and Amen. C&P (and evangelicals for that matter) would benefit from a more robust concept of “spiritual warfare” that sees “ideas raised up against knowledge of God” as much (if not more) part of the terrain of spiritual warfare activity than shouting at demons.

5. Stop the foolishness. People who hit, slap or push others during prayer should be asked to sit down until they learn gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
6. End all spiritual extortion now. Christian television ministries must cease and desist from all manipulative fundraising tactics. We must stop giving platforms to ministers who make outlandish claims of supernatural financial returns, especially when Scripture is twisted, deadlines are imposed and the poor are exploited.
7. No more Lone Rangers. Those who claim to be ministers of God—whether they are traveling evangelists, local pastors or heads of ministries—must be accountable to other leaders. Any who refuse to submit their lives to godly discipline should be corrected.
8. Expose the creeps. Churches should start doing background checks on traveling ministers. Preachers who have been hiding criminal records, lying about their past marriages, preying on women or refusing to pay child support should be exposed as charlatans and shunned if they do not repent.
9. Stop faking the anointing. God is God, and He does not need our “help” to manifest Himself. That means we don’t sprinkle glitter on ourselves to suggest God’s glory is with us, hide fake jewels on the floor to prove we are anointed or pull chicken feathers out of our sleeves to pretend angels are in the room. This is lying to the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen. #5-9 are an important grouping of exhortations. If for no other reason than for PR reasons, the foolishness should cease! More seriously, though, it’s a little ironic that C&Ps can have a relatively high view of the body to want sickness to leave from it yet they are willing to treat other people’s bodies as commodities to be pushed and tossed around the room. Weird. What might it reveal about a theology of the body (or lack thereof) to inform ministry practices?

It should be the case that if C&P leaders can’t agree to #5-9 they really should not be representing C&P. Charisma, among other C&P media outlets, should be on the cutting-edge shedding light on these areas. If C&P movement leaders can’t rightly judge themselves in these areas, they will suffer the embarrassment and shame of being exposed by “outsiders.” C&P should develop their own interdenominational network/association that monitors these things (maybe an “accountability council” of sorts).

10. Let’s return to purity. We’ve had enough scandals. The charismatic church must develop a system for the restoration of fallen ministers. Those who fall morally can be restored, but they must be willing to submit to a process of healing rather than rushing immediately back into the pulpit.

Amen and Amen. We need to regain a sober intentionality about God and His mission in the world. “… develop a system for the restoration of fallen ministers” is absolutely important. This is not optional.

11. We need humility. Ministers who demand celebrity treatment, require lavish salaries, insist on titles or exhibit aloofness from others are guilty of spiritual pride.
12. No more big shots. Apostles are the bondslaves of Christ, and should be the most impeccable models of humility. True apostles do not wield top-down, hierarchical authority over the church. They serve the church from the bottom up as true servants.

Amen and Amen. The power of C&P celebrity culture must be broken!

13. Never promote gifts at the expense of character. Those who operate in prophecy, healing and miracles must also exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. And while we continue to encourage the gift of tongues, let’s make sure we don’t treat it like some kind of badge of superiority. The world needs to see our love, not our glossolalia.

14. Hold the prophets accountable. Those who refuse to take responsibility for inaccurate statements should not be given platforms. And “prophets” who live immoral lives don’t deserve a public voice.

Amen and Amen. It seems that all of these accountability problems are also institutional problems. The C&P church as institution is not doing it’s job. The C&P seminary as institution is not doing it’s job. Given the explosion of non-denominational C&P churches and organizations, they don’t seem to have any other organization to be accountable to. There’s a big, moral accountability vacuum here.

For those people/organizations that have a media related ministry (on the radio, TV, internet, etc), they should be accountable to some sort of internal C&P group, again, at least for PR purposes.

15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will focus on God’s priorities.

The developing world, especially the “Global South,” is counting on a credible, authentic C&P witness. Will they be left discouraged by the distraction of “charismatic sideshows”?

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