Can You Be a Southern Baptist and Believe in the Miraculous Gifts?

Can You Be a Southern Baptist and Believe in the Miraculous Gifts? June 23, 2016

CHARIS_TI feel like I’m pivoting away from my heritage. Could that be a good thing? Growing up a staunch Southern Baptist, spiritual gifts were whispered about at best. Following the ‘slippery slope’ logic, we didn’t dare go down that road lest we end up like our ‘crazy’ Charismatic brethren. We didn’t need spiritual gifts, we had the Bible. We were people of the Book. Ironically enough, that same Bible we so closely adhered talks a lot about spiritual gifts, including the miraculous gifts (miracles, healing, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and depending on how you define them, prophecy and apostleship).

I remember in high school being excited to take a spiritual gifts test. I had a spiritual gift? Something uniquely crafted by God and given to me to further the Kingdom? How cool was that! The excitement quickly wore off as five minutes after I finished my test and learned of my exhilarating spiritual gift, I asked a very important question, “What do I do now?” I did not live or worship in a religious environment where spiritual gifts were leveraged or put to use in a meaningful way. So for years my gifts lay dormant. But I couldn’t get away from Scripture.

Paul talks a lot about spiritual gifts in Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. Interestingly enough, he weaves the miraculous gifts in with the rest instead of separating them out. Any division between the evangelically ‘acceptable’ gifts and the ‘miraculous’ gifts are manmade. And if you read 1 Corinthians 13:8 in context (the verse given by many Cessationists to argue that the miraculous gifts have ceased, you’ll see that Paul clearly references the time when spiritual gifts will cease: Christ’s Second Coming, not the completion of the biblical canon as some would argue. Then look at Ephesians 4:11-13 where Paul gives us the purpose of spiritual gifts: to build up the church and to point people to Jesus. He also gives us a timeframe: until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet and won’t until Jesus comes back. So the picture we seem to get from Scripture itself is that all of the spiritual gifts are still valid today.

So why do so many evangelical denominations (including Southern Baptists) downplay spiritual gifts, including the miraculous gifts? Is it just because they make us uncomfortable? Is it just because we’ve seen them abused? Or is it a matter of control, not wanting to fully surrender and allow the Spirit to lead and move in the church as He sees fit? Just because we can point to a televangelist that has abused the miraculous gifts is not a solid enough reason to discount all of the gifts. Just because people die at hospitals doesn’t mean you stop going to them. The purpose of hospitals is to make sick people well. The purpose of spiritual gifts (including the miraculous gifts) is to build up the church and point people to Jesus.

Could it be one of the primary reasons that evangelicals and mainline Protestant denominations have failed to see a movement of the Spirit, lives transformed and churches grow is because we’ve denied and neglected the primary way the Holy Spirit moves in believers today: through the exercising of our spiritual gifts? I believe the two are linked.

QUESTION: What do you think? Can you be an evangelical and still believe in the miraculous gifts? Are they still valid today? Could there be a connection between our neglect of the spiritual gifts and the decline of so many evangelical/mainline protestant denominations?

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