There is a groundswell taking place, a grassroots Christian movement if you will, that centers on renewing charismatic and Pentecostal faith for the twenty-first century. And I think this movement just might be the most exciting area of emergence in the American church today.
While this groundswell is diverse, there are some common threads that I want to identify and celebrate. Some of us who are a part of this growing trend have taken to calling ourselves “New Charismatics” — by no means a formal label or category, just one way to describe what we find ourselves caught up in.
So, here are 10 things I want you to know about us:
1. We are spiritual . . . AND religious.
While the infamous “nones” are known for avoiding organized religion in favor of an independent spiritual path, New Charismatics are seeking a both-and way. On the one hand, we understand our faith primarily as spiritual experience, or rather, Spiritual experience. On the other, we are passionate about rooting our faith in the Great Tradition of the church, so it is both historically connected and futuristically sustainable.
You can find some of us New Charismatics inhabiting liturgical or traditional churches and denominations, and you can find others of us bringing liturgical rhythms to our evangelical churches, seeker churches, or charismatic churches.
2. We are Eucharistic holy rollers.
While we resonate with the passionate worship styles that charismatics have largely innovated, we are seeking a deeper, contemplative center in the regular practice of the Eucharist. We meet and receive from Jesus uniquely in this quiet but intense moment — a moment that grounds the charismatic tendency to seek a shallow or contrived spiritual high.
3. We’re not impressed by big and powerful, and we’re kind of obsessed with small and ordinary.
Older charismatics saw God’s favor and blessing in the big things — big worship services, big churches, big conferences, big spiritual manifestations, big leadership lifestyles. The result was a highly consumeristic brand of religion and, sometimes, a grotesque and oppressive “prosperity gospel.”
But New Charismatics love to see God powerfully at work in the small things. The ordinary things. The quiet manifestations of the Spirit, the routine traditional prayers and liturgies, the enjoyment of nature and recreation, the pleasure of relationships, the everyday opportunities to serve and love neighbors.
We envision a simple lifestyle as the ideal, and we see the Kingdom as a whole new economy that prizes equality. All that to say, it’s the little things — and all of it is spiritual.
4. We believe in theology, intellect, and the Spirit-led mind.
Some of us grew up in an environment that pitted the mind against the Spirit, based on an unfortunate reading of some passages written by Paul. But we believe that the only way to be truly Spirit-filled and Spirit-led is to engage with God in the fullness of our humanity: spirit, mind, and body.
We don’t check our minds at the door, but commit our intellects to take part in discerning the “deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2). Learning theology is as important as practicing pneumatology.
5. We’ve got a new revelation of what it means to be prophetic.
As charismatics we believe in the continuing gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, including prophecy. But as one who grew up in the “prophetic movement,” I have come to view the prophetic gift and office completely differently than I once did. And many of us have taken this step.
Instead of foretelling future events or reading someone’s mail or maybe just getting revved up and a little weird in the pulpit, the prophetic gift is about preaching powerfully into the church’s inconsistencies and hypocrisies. And true prophets are those who call the church to a greater integrity of worship and social justice through their Spirit-filled preaching gift.
6. We don’t mind being labeled progressive, but we’re not crazy about it either.
The last point especially tends to get some New Charismatics labeled progressive. We don’t mind that so much, but we’d honestly rather have our identity rooted in the Spirit who empowers and gives meaning to our works of service in the first place.
7. We don’t mind being labeled evangelical, but we’re not crazy about it either.
Because we’re committed to heartfelt, passionate, orthodox faith and worship, we sometimes get labeled evangelical, too. Again, we don’t mind it, but we don’t care much about fitting into typical evangelical categories either.
8. We’re missional, not antagonistic.
Among other things, our charismatic forebears were often marked by the sin of antagonizing the “worldly” culture around them instead of engaging that culture for the sake of the gospel. This antagonistic impulse created ingrown and ineffective churches over time, concerned mainly with keeping a “holy” status intact and maintaining a spiritual buzz.
New Charismatics seek to joyfully join the cultural conversation. We see God as being “on mission” in the world, and we aim to follow him, discerning where the Spirit is at work in culture and calling our friends and neighbors to the King and his Kingdom.
9. We think emotional health is as important as spiritual health.
Lots of us New Charismatics have needed the help of psychology and therapy to recover from our own past experiences, and through that have come to see the importance of emotional health.
Spiritual health and “deliverance” are not a replacement for tending to our places of deep emotional pain and dysfunction and working towards true healing over the long haul — because denial is not just a river in Egypt.
10. We’ve left the violent End Times behind for a Jesus-looking God and a Gospel of peace.
For New Charismatics, gone are the days of an eschatological worldview where a bloodthirsty God requires militant pro-Israel support and violent American nationalism. Even as the 2016 GOP primary race heats up, we are more determined than ever to leave this behind for a God who looks like Jesus, that preacher of peace who taught forgiveness, equality, and nonviolence before he submitted to his own death on the empire’s cross — not a heavenly warlord hell-bent on running a cosmic drone strike at the end of the age.
Because for New Charismatics, what’s driving us at the center of everything is following our King Jesus and producing the fruit that he requires of us, which is, of course, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).