When simple terms like gentleness, humility, and meekness take on modern cultural definitions rather than culturally sensitive biblical ones, we will end up creating God in our own image. We will also likely create faith communities that reflect cultural values rather than biblical ones. We do not have to become Jewish nor import their culture into our world. But neither should we export our culture into the text and think we are being “Biblically faithful.” Jesus and the apostles were not white Americans from Nebraska in 1954. Gentleness, humility, and meekness can become grossly distorted in our day if we do not at least understand what the terms meant to the people of the day, before we try to live out an ethic that may have no biblical foundation at all.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
I have been a lifelong charismatic believer. This is declarative, confessional, repentant, and pejorative all at once. I have given my life for the issue of continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and the Eph. 4:11 ministries. However, the adjective “charismatic” has a lot of unfortunate baggage because of the debris it has accumulated over forty years of use.
To my fellows: There is a reason 1 Cor. 13 is between 12 and 14. Love without power is impotent piety. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be “loving” after a sort. We are supposed to be able to deliver something of a foretaste of a quality of existence that others cannot. Power without love is utilitarian. People become commodities for an expression of a phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon serving people. It does not have to be an either or matter, rather, both and: power contextualized and administered in, through, and by love.
Would you listen to, or value the opinion, of someone who has memorized a restaurant’s menu, can explain it in flawless detail, can argue why their restaurant preference is better than the restaurant down the street, but who has actually never tasted the food on the menu they are talking about? We do it in Christianity all the time. We think accurate mastery of Bible stuff = life and substance. We think because we can explain the life of Jesus or Paul, that we possess the life of Jesus or Paul. Not necessarily. Just because someone has a strong opinion on a trendy topic based on the latest book they’ve read, or can debate this or that doctrine, or understands the Bible, etc., does not mean he or she is worth listening to . . . even if their stuff is “right.” It is those for whom the word has become flesh, those who are living it, not philosophizing about it, that are worth being listened to. Any fool can have an opinion on the restaurant. Only those who have paid the price to eat a meal there, are worth listening to.
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A leader is not the chief visionary. A leader is not the chief executive. A leader is someone who accepts the stress and strain of the present inconvenience of service in order to bring the ones he/she serves to fullness of destiny.
The following true story was so poignant, timely, necessary, and clearly illustrative of why I no longer partake of common expressions of organized charismatic religion, I asked my good friend, Bryan Corbin, to guest-blog for me.
A recent incident, involving a young woman that Corbins have known for years, served to reinforce Bryan’s and my belief that much of what we call “church” misses the heart of God completely.
Abusive spiritual authority is epidemic. Reactionary responses to abusive authority are also epidemic. My friends Don Atkin, Greg Austin, and myself address what genuine kingdom authority looks like: a serving nation of priests, not chief executives and “visionaries” of an organization. In this installment, Greg Austin talks about the “descending priesthood” as a necessity for genuine NT kingdom authority.
I am thankful for forty years of charismatic heritage. I have experienced the best and the worst that universe can offer. If, like Paul, I had to show off my “supernatural credentials,” or my resume of “supernatural experiences,” I could hold my own. I choose to boast of something, er, Someone else. Today, the lust for manifestations, and self-centered, insecurity driven, need for a “touch” from His presence, etc., are leading more and more believers (especially naïve younger believers) into New Age, Gnostic, occult, and other pagan practices and “spiritual techniques” in the name of “being open to the Spirit.”