Singing New Worship Songs in Church

My following post is actually more or less a reaction to an article I read today which you can read for yourself here. In the article they make a lot of good points, but I varied a bit in opinion. He’s my response to it:

While I think these are good thoughts and I’m sure there’s truth to it, I wouldn’t agree with everything you’ve said due to my own experiences. Some people care about familiarity, others don’t. There is, I believe a balance that should be held. “New song overkill” is just that: overkill.

But in this article you said, “People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?”

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While that statement seems to make sense, I noticed something strange last month. Our worship band played a song that I had written and only the band had heard it before—no one else. And yet so many people (specifically college students) picked up on it so quickly that when people (including my wife) found out that I had wrote it, they were confused. They figured they simply didn’t know the song because those college students were singing it so loudly from the get-go. They had no idea it was the first time anyone had heard it.

The way we do music in our churches today has definitely changed, but I think the generation who has grown up with that change has adapted to it. Those from an older generation and a traditional or evangelical church background didn’t latch onto the song I wrote as quickly as the somewhat charismatic/pentecostal-like college students did, but it still was sung and it still worked out great for worship.

I don’t believe today’s generation cares about having musical notes to follow. They pick up on songs all the time without it. They’re driving down the road listening to the radio and before the song’s half-way over they’ve already learned the chorus and the melodies to everything. Many young church-goers today are aural harmonists—they hear the music and they know how to reciprocate it. They feel it. They don’t need the music theory portion.

That especially hits home for me because I eventually had to drop out of my worship arts major in college partially due to the fact that I could not wrap my mind around music theory. I’ve never been good with math and numbers. But hand me an instrument and tell me to lead worship and I can do that like someone who knows the theory.

I add new songs into our worship sets all the time. I also, however, pay special attention to those songs the first 2-3 times we play them. Some catch on with the church easier than others and those ones stay. If they don’t catch on and I don’t feel a special calling to continue playing it, I’ll put it in the pile I don’t typically touch.

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My Worship Journey

When you’re a kid, you have big aspirations. You want to be a firefighter; an astronaut; the president of the United States—and nothing is going to stop you. And yes, I suppose I went through all of those stages, but for whatever reason, when I was kid, I planned on being a pastor. I know, it’s strange. Perhaps I just wanted to follow in the footsteps of my dad and my Grandpa, or perhaps it was an early calling that I didn’t understand quite yet. Whatever it was, I was pretty firm in it, but for some reason, I must have not told my parents until about 7th grade. I remember that around this time, I told my mother my hope to be a pastor and her face lit up. She seemed surprised and incredibly excited. Sometime later she had me explain it to my Grandpa and his face immediately lit up as well.

But then came the comedic timing. Sure, I had been pretty convinced I was going to be a pastor my whole life, but then I came into contact with something I had never come in contact with before: a guitar. And so started my journey to become a musician or a worship leader, before God brought me back to the desire to be a pastor.

I suppose I had always enjoyed music growing up, but I was a bit caught off guard when one day, I had the desire to play this instrument. After all, I had very apathetically tried my hand at music in the past. At our old house we had a piano that I would loudly bash on with both of my arms and I had always played trumpet in band class and didn’t really care for it.

One day, while my whole family was in the car, I told my parents of my hope to learn this stringed instrument and soon start a band. They seemed a bit surprised and reminded me of how I didn’t care for that old piano and how I didn’t even love trumpet. But for whatever reason, I was certain I would love the guitar. Maybe it was the allure of being in a rock band; maybe it was because girls thought it was awesome; or again, perhaps it was an early calling. Whatever it was, I was fairly hooked on the idea.

It wasn’t long before my aunt found out and loaned me her old Spanish guitar. It had a giant fretboard and plastic strings but I was determined to rock that thing out like I was a part of DC Talk.

And so with that, I popped open a beginner’s guitar book and went to work. Like every good musician, I learned the chords G, C, D, and… well that was about it. Fortunately, worship music at the time was just that: G, C, D.

Seriously. Every song.

I became a guitar beast in the worship realm the day I learned how to incorporate Em into that collection of chords. I was a bit slow to learn how to strum, but with the help of my youth pastor I learned quite quickly. It wasn’t long before my weak guitar playing abilities were incorporated into our ametuer youth group worship band. It was there that I began to just scratch the surface of what worship is.

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2 Samuel 6:14-16
14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.

My first real experience with worship had been about a year before this time. It must have been the fourth time I got saved at Somerset Beach Campground. It was my first year in the teen tent and my mind was completely blown. For whatever reason, people had their hands raised during the worship time. I had rarely seen this before. On top of that, people’s faces looked desperate, as though they were encountering God or something. This was nothing I was too familiar with as I had grown up in quite a traditional church. We would sing a few hymns, have prayer and listen to a message, but the music portion never seemed too meaningful for anyone. It was like a duty or something. We had to do it in order to move onto the next part of the service. But at this camp meeting, people weren’t waiting to get to the message. They had to worship God. They had to show Him how desperate they were for Him.

At one point during this camp, the worship leader asked everyone to turn around and kneel at their chairs and worship God as they continued the music. This was perhaps my first moment of showing any kind of physical expression in my worship to God and so something as simple as taking this posture, moved me so deeply that I knew in that moment true worship required some kind of reaction on my part—whether it was giving or recieving. It didn’t have to be a physical reaction necessarily, but it did have to be a reaction.

Sure, these physical expressions of worship may sound minimal, but for me they were life-changing. And I blame my Bible teacher’s for that. See, I had always had this conception that worship in many churches was lacking and it largely came from being told the story of King David. You probably already know what story I’m talking about. It’s fairly popular.

David—a king—dances around in his underwear before God—and everyone else. What humility! I mean, seriously, who does that? No one at my church, that’s for sure. Heck, we just stood there like rocks and sung. It brought a whole new meaning to “the rocks will cry out.” I defintely never saw anyone start stripping in church because the worship was so intense.

My family moved shortly after this experience to a church where lifted hands was more the norm. It was during my time there that, as I stated earlier, I learned guitar. It was also during my time here that I saw the closest thing to David’s display of worship I had ever seen up to that point.

It was during a Sunday morning service like any other. The pews were lined with people and the upbeat, celebratory worship songs were being sung as everyone was clapping to the beat. Then, out of nowhere, this lady that I don’t think anyone had ever seen before ran up to the front of the Sanctuary and started dancing and yelling.

All of the sudden, I understood how awkward the people who saw David dance must have felt. How is it I could have nothing to do with this lady dancing, and yet feel so incredibly embarassed by it? It’s the same kind of embarassment I feel just about everytime Michael Scott talks on the Office.

No one knew what to do with this situation. I was at the front of the Sanctuary and therefore couldn’t see what I imagined were many disturbed facial expressions and hand gestures behind me. So we all just stood there and watched.

And while I was incredibly embarassed for this lady, I was also in awe of her. Truth be told, I was jealous—jealous of her unashamedness. Jealous of her courage. Perhaps even a little jealous of her dance moves. I had never met anyone willing to run up in front of hundreds of people and just let loose in worship to God. I could maybe lift my hands higher than everyone else, but that was about it.

Eventually the pastor approached her and whispered something to her. She then turned around and left.

Comfort then returned to the sanctuary—a sigh of relief if you will. The embarassing, radical, unashamed lady that I was strangely jealous of had left the building and now I could get back to worship—that is, if I could get past the conviction.

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A while later I was removed from the youth band I played in for being prideful. Essentially, I didn’t look at the chord sheets very often as I thought I knew what I was playing and I screwed up a song pretty good one night. I was hitting wrong chords all over the place and was scolded pretty hard after.

This was the beginning of a long journey for me. Up to this point, I hadn’t really considered that I had been that prideful when helping out with or leading worship. I mean, I understood that there were moments where I was maybe thinking too much about the song we were playing and not enough about God or maybe about how I looked or sounded than about God, but those were things I was working on. I didn’t think that I was always intentionally being prideful.

But with the accuasation came a lot of hurt and pain and my worship life began to suffer and change. The conviction of pride followed me into every service. I couldn’t raise my hands without thinking that I was trying to get attention. I couldn’t fall to my knees without judging myself of trying to look holy. I couldn’t avoid a chord chart without thinking I was trying to show off my memorization skills. I couldn’t raise my voice without wondering if I was trying to impress people.

Pride followed me everywhere. I couldn’t escape it. I thought I might be a pharisee, though now I imagine that pharisees rarely questioned their motives behind things. I think that’s part of what made them pharisees.

Years went by and the pain of the constant question of pride followed me everywhere I went. In fact, it still follows me to this day. I am glad that it has caused me to truly examine myself as many a great leader has fallen from this issue, but the pain it has caused in my life has been more than I think it was supposed to be.

With this, another issue was brought to my attention: the issue of emotionalism. Before this time, emotion in worship was mostly genuine. Wherever you looked, people were being real in their surrender to God—ESPECIALLY the ones who were the most radical in their worship. Now, I felt like many were trying to convince me that this emotion was not the movement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I felt as though I was being persuaded to believe that the more radical someone’s worship was, the more fake it was. Such emotion wasn’t people being overwhelmed by the Spirit, it was people being overrun by their emotions—fanaticism if you will.

All of the most intense worship moments in my own life began to lose value. Could it be that the best moments of my life with God; the most intense movements of the Holy Spirit in my life were no more than me acting out of my own emotion?

I could feel the validity of past experiences melt away. Soon I was no more than a prideful, emotionally misled individual who knew nothing about worship. Between these two aspects of my worship life, I really couldn’t worship at all. The questions were too confusing. I’d just find my thoughts yelling at each other constantly:

Raise your hands to God, show Him you care (No, don’t, people will look at you and think you’re prideful).
Sing loud and exalt His name (Careful, people might hear you. Worship in your closet).
You’re hungry, eat some bread (No don’t, bread makes you fat).

Okay, that last thought may be off topic.

But the truth is, these two questions of pride and emotionalism haunt my brain to this day—nowhere near as badly as they used to, but they still do.

A few years later, my family moved again and eventually, I ended up getting a job as a worship leader in Dearborn (about an hour away from our new home). Because of the hike, I was hired to fill in for about a month or two until they found a closer worship leader they could employ. Three years later, I was done with this position, and I had learned a few valuable lessons in relation to pride and emotionalism.

What I came to find in relation to pride was that the less I thought about it, the less prideful I was. One of the biggest problems with my pride dilemma was simply that I gave it too much airtime. If I just stopped thinking about it, it really didn’t become an issue. After all, pride is more or less you thinking about yourself in some way or another. If you just stop thinking about yourself and even about the issue of pride itself and just focus on God, it becomes much easier and authentic to worship. Sure, it’s not a bad idea to check yourself, but too much checking can almost be more hazardous than it is good.

On the other side of things I learned quite a bit about my struggle with emotionalism while at this church because I met a man with completely dead worship. He was the Leonard Nimoy of worshippers and it drove me crazy. Every Sunday he was there, he would sit right up front. And when worship had begun, he would stand up (perhaps hesitantly) and then cross his arms and stare at me, waiting for the music to be done.

I’ve come to find that the point of closing your eyes in worship isn’t so much to look holy. It’s purpose is more so you don’t see things like this. These kind of expressions are not only insulting, but a total killjoy.

But the thing that annoyed me most was that every Sunday, when the service was done, he would come up to me and tell me how much he loved the music that day. I’d smile and acknowledge his compliment and immediately walk behind a curtain and yell at God.

“I don’t care if they like the music! I’m not up stage for the sake of pleasing their eardrums! God, this is not why I’m in worship ministry! I’m here to teach people to draw closer to you! To be a living sacrifice! I’m not here to play good tunes!”

Truth be told, by the end of my time at this church, I had to go on a walk around the school in which we met in, everytime I finished a worship set. I was so angry. I felt like I was giving my all to lead people deeper in worship with God. Time after time I gave motivational speeches to show people how worthy of worship God was and saw little reaction of worship to anything I had to say or do. It seemed that the better the band sounded and the more professionally we did things, the weaker the atmosphere of worship was.

By seeing a lack of emotion in worship, I learned that emotion did, in fact, belong in worship. Thankfulness. Gratitude. Praise. Honor. Adoration. Love. Affection. All of these aspects of worship require emotion. And honestly, how can you worship without such aspects? Who wants to be emotionlessly loved? Can you even call love, love if love is emotionless?

Truth be told, I think God got sick of such worship centuries ago. Amos 5:21-24 reads:

21“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

As I said, after three years, I left this church. The people there were amazing and truly loved God and sought after Him. Unfortunately, I was a bit worn out from what was now an hour and a half drive, and after three years, I felt as though I was having little success in engaging people in worship. I refused to remain stagnant in worship and felt like I had poured my heart into it. I figured that either a different person could lead them better than I could or they simply didn’t want to engage worship. Either way, I felt that I had done my best and would perhaps be more helpful elsewhere. This is me being brutally honest with you right now. This is also me trying to figure out what exactly worship is and knowing that I had yet to find a body of believers that truly understood it.

And boy was I in for a treat when I began attending my next church.

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The first time I moved, a friend of mine gave me a going away present. It was a super bright pink CD by the band Sonicflood. I had heard their two big worship hits, “I Want to Know You” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” but I hadn’t looked into them too much outside of that. Actually, they even one of the first bands I had ever seen live. They opened for the Newsboys at the very first concert I ever went to. They did a great job, but honestly, I didn’t understand them. They only had maybe a half an hour set and somehow only played two songs during it. Yes, somehow, the three minute radio hit, “I Want to Know You,” was played for 10-15 minutes. Having attended a small traditional hymn-singing church at the time, I seriously didn’t get it. But despite this, I gave that bright CD a listen to and quite honestly, it was the best worship music I had ever heard in my life. And to this date, it’s still one of my favorite albums.

Strangely enough, the songs on the album only got better when they released a live album a few years later. Yes, the long extended music I had seen them play in concert was now recorded on an album. And while I can’t say I totally understood it at the time, I was so incredibly attracted to it at this time in my life. I remember walking to church, air drumming and rocking out on the sidewalk. One of my favorite tracks was one entitled “Spontaneous Worship.” It hardly even had words! How could this be worship music? How could this be so attractive? Heck, if I did a guitar solo at church I was accused of being prideful or taking attention from God, but this track was like a 10 minutes jam session! Why was it so worshipful? Why did I love it so much? On top of that, the few words that there were on this song were being made up on the spot. It wasn’t necessarily easy to sing along with.

Yet somehow it was one of the best albums I had ever heard. I wore that thing down until it was scratched into an oblivion. The worship on it was so genuine and so desperate. Half the songs were over 6 minutes and I loved it! And I’m pretty sure the songs were only 6 minutes because they were edited.

I didn’t really come in contact again with worship music like this until my junior year of college. It was then that I discovered the band Jesus Culture.

It didn’t take long to realize it was similar to that of Sonicflood because the majority of the songs were longer than Sonicflood’s and just as spontaneous. They instantly became one of my favorite bands—and they still are today.

But here’s the funny thing. I wasn’t necessarily in love with all of Jesus Culture’s music. Truth be told, there are songs on most of their albums that I really don’t care for. As a musician a few of them really don’t grab my attention musically or melodically. On most albums, I’d skip songs like these, but for most the part, I would listen through these particular ones time and time again. But why?

I’ve come to believe that certain albums have a special anointing on them. There’s something beyond the music that grabs your attention in cases like these. It’s as though Heaven itself has been the recording studio and the Holy Spirit has been the producer. Sure, some songs are catchier than others, but who cares when the finger of God is all over the entire album? You just listen to the whole thing from start to finish and enjoy the presence of God as you worship Him.

After my introduction to Jesus Culture, I began to find artists all over the place with anointed albums—many of them coming from ministries that were connected to Bethel Church in Redding, California, the home of Jesus Culture.

And so I now was surrounded with tons of music in this stream of worship that I could listen to, but I didn’t always get a chance to play it. At this point in my life I was playing in Spring Arbor University’s chapel band and for the most part, we were limited on time. We typically had enough time to cover three songs a service, if we didn’t prolong any of them. And this was difficult for us, because many times you could feel the Spirit become more tangible in the room and we’d have to cut Him off.

But there was one time the Holy Spirit just completely invaded worship. And He did so in silence.

We were at Spring Arbor’s annual Spiritual Life Retreat at Somerset Beach Campground and chapel band was leading worship. At the end of one of our songs, the room went dead silent. The plan was, of course, to play the next song, but we just didn’t. Instead, the room just remained silent. I didn’t even go on to play any keyboard pads as I usually do in such meditative times.

Pure silence covered the room. Seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to nothing. We couldn’t keep track of time anymore. It had flown out the window. The Holy Spirit was at work in everyone’s lives and it rendered everyone speechless—until after a long time, someone burst out praising God. Others joined in, desperate to worship Him and many started crying.

What was it about the extended silence that brought about such worship? I mean this time we weren’t even singing. We didn’t rev anyone up into this moment with a loud bridge or acapella chorus. It was just… silence. But it was there in that moment that Holy Spirit did His work.

Not too long after this I became great friends with Vicki, Leann, and Tony. The four of us led worship at a Pentecostal church that really knew how to take time to worship. All of the CD’s I had listened to over the years became reality as we would play worship music anywhere from 1-3 hours on any given Sunday. I’m pretty sure there were a few times where we covered 45 minutes with just one song. Sometimes we made up the music ourselves; sometimes we made up the lyrics ourselves; sometimes we stuck to the page. You just never knew what was going to happen.

Now to the average church-goer this sounds painful. After all, if you grew up in church, you are probably pretty used to singing 3-5 songs with no spontanaiety so that you could get on to what is considered the important part: the message. But honestly, that shouldn’t be how it is. Worship is not something we should have to zoom through. It should be our time to be with God. To lay down our lives as living sacrifices. To recieve what He has to offer. To love all that He is. Quite honestly, that’s difficult to do when the worship time becomes the methodical prelude to a message.

One of my favorite speakers once said something I disagree with. He more or less equated the music time of worship to getting on the same page with everyone about the story of God. Now of course this is true. You do sing to remember what God did for you, but that is not the only reason—I don’t even think it’s the main reason. That makes worship out to be a thing of the mind when really, worship should be a thing of the heart. Of course it shouldn’t lack mind, but what good is worship if there’s not heart. Knowledge is rarely moving on it’s own—it has to be coupled with heart. And when your heart overflows for God, it does not seek for the worship time to be over. It seeks to continually pour out because it can’t contain it. A waterfall does not simply decide to stop pouring over a cliff. It cannot. It will not. And when we come to God with a desire to do the same, we leave the opportunity to gush like never before.

So how was it that we could worship for 1-3 hours and few seemed to ever grow tired of it?

Well let me be straight with you. Worship is not about the music. I know that I tend to use the words “worship” and “music” as synonyms. But that isn’t really the case. Worship is much more than this, and I understand that whether I have come across that way or not. Of course, music is the common form of worship we use in most churches as much of humanity shares a heart for it.

But worship is more than a song. And I think we get that with our minds, but I’m honestly unsure if we truly put that into practice. The music portion of a service is your time to connect with God.

You can stand. You can sit. You can kneel. You can lie down.
You can find a group of people to sing with, or you can find a corner of solitude.
You can sing. You can pray. You can listen. You can be silent.
You can give. You can take. You can give and take.
You can seriously do, whatever you want in worship. The point, is that you focus on God.

The Bible talks often about waiting on the Lord and we do that in worship. Worship should not cater to the fast food culture for the Spirit does not take 3 minutes to heat up in a microwave. He has no method. There are no magic words you can say that will make Him more tangible.

What I’ve come to find is that the Spirit goes where He’s wanted. And sure, He’s in us and He’s everywhere, but sometimes He’s more manifest than others. And when people want to selflessly worship as long as it takes to find that manifestation, more often than not they find Him.

Not out of a method—but out of a desire.
Not in a strategy—but in our love.

This may sound weird, but it seems to me that God goes where He’s wanted. He shows up where He’s desired.

Wouldn’t you?

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My point in making this video is not to find a creative way to say we will be worshipping for 1-3 hours for now on. Honestly, my hope is that you would entertain that idea should the Spirit move us in that way—but honestly, if we don’t worship during the worship time (whether it be 5 minutes, half an hour, or 2 hours) there is absolutely no point to have that time at all.

This video was made to poke and prod at us, whatever our worship journey may look like. There is always room to grow in worship. There are always inner rooms inside of us that could be more open to the Holy Spirit. There are always sacrifices we can make and there is always an abundance of goodness that we can recieve from God. Worship is ministry time. And worship is God’s time. We must pursue Him throughout the week in our own time, but we must also certainly pursue Him together, for what is a Christian community without that?

Glory Cloud: The Importance of Worship

We’re accustomed to doing things a bit different at our church and so this past week I decided to make a short documentary on worship rather than preach on it. That way I could get some interviews with some very experienced worship leaders and really explain the importance of worship through several voices. You can check it out below:

Special thanks to all the interviewees:
Adam Davidson
Austin Norton
Leann Pickard
Vicki Hong

The Holy Spirit in Free Methodism

There was one really big focus that really stood out to me in the first chapter of the Free Methodist Book of Discipline. This focus was on the Holy Spirit. While it didn’t mention a whole lot about spiritual gifts or anything like that, it was incredibly refreshing to see this book started off by grounding some of the basic parts of Christianity in the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is mentioned throughout the first chapter that the Spirit reveals, interprets and glorifies the Son; administrates salvation; reveals the love of God; makes real the lordship of Jesus Christ; inspired the Bible (18); illuminates the Bible (19); is responsible for entire sanctification; is the life and power of the church (22); and enables members of the Free Methodist Church (30).

The reason I find this so fascinating is because for most of my life I knew nothing about the Holy Spirit, even though I have spent most of my life in this denomination. I mean, sure, He was mentioned, but not very often (or so it felt). And when He was mentioned, I never really felt like anyone made any sense of Him. He seemed to be so invisible that He felt like more of a theory than the active part of the Trinity that He is.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to pursue the Spirit and learn more about Him. Now, after spending a year in a Pentecostal church, having studied church history, and having been taught by some highly intelligent people, I feel that I understand the role and work of the Spirit much better.

What I don’t understand is how it took me this long to be taught on the Spirit. If the first chapter of our Book of Discipline is so focused on the work of the Spirit in such basic, casual ways, shouldn’t I have had a better understanding of who He is before I got to college?

The good news is that I think we have realized our lack of emphasis on the Spirit over the past few years. I believe that we are trying to incorporate Him back into our services, messages and normal spiritual talk. This is great, because if we don’t spend an adequate amount of time teaching our members who the Spirit is, they probably won’t make great disciples—nor will they comprehend some of the most basic parts of Christianity.

 

2007 Book of Discipline. Indianapolis, IN: Free Methodist House, 2008. Print.

Download a copy for free here.

Intimacy

Today I have something burning on my heart that I’d like to talk about. And chances are that unless you think my blog title is referring to sex, you won’t read this post. But, should you have a little extra time on your hands and feel like doing some reading, then read on!

Now this post is aimed at both charismatics and evangelicals and when you read what I have to say, I want you to realize that I’m writing to you as both a charismatic and an evangelical. In other words, take what I have to say knowing that I’ve experienced your churches, your worship, and your overall way of life. I’m not just targeting you for the sake of an argument—I’m just trying to present some ideas to you in hopes to grow you in your relationship with Christ.

A Letter to Charismatics

First off, I’d like to write to those of you who consider yourself to be charismatic or Pentecostal. Again, I write to you in love and also in generalization. For that reason, if you don’t believe you fit my description, then just read on for some thoughts rather than critique.

You charismatics are known very well for hosting the presence of God. You speak in tongues, you work miracles, and you pray as though apocalypse is upon us. People call you crazy. People think you’re literally insane.

But you know better. You know that the Holy Spirit has fallen upon you even though there’s countless numbers of people who don’t believe it to be true. You know for certain that you’re experiencing God and you even yearn for your insulters to share that experience. You want them to get “whacked” by the Holy Spirit. You want them to get their mind boggled by the presence. You want them to see visions and receive gifts from God. You create an environment in which the Trinity operates freely.

You know the presence—the intimacy—of God. You’re addicted to it. You cry for more and more of it to be imparted because you just can’t get enough of His presence. And honestly, who could? I mean, when the real and tangible God is obviously among you, why would you want anything else?

But that’s also part of the problem. Now this is going to come out a little weird, but I’m going to say it anyways:

Some of you are so addicted to the intimacy of God that it’s almost all you know of Him. You base much of your understanding of God off of your experience. You scoff the rest of the church for their doctrines and theologies, even though your own experiential understanding of God is in fact theology—it just tends to be weak and honestly, a bit apathetic.

You’re not always up for doing the research because half the time your getting revelation to go off of. And revelation is great and all, but I think you’ll find that if your revelation is true, it’ll be proven in the word of God. Want to preach a strong message? Do some homework. God gave you 66 books of revelation to go off of.

And furthermore, what exactly is intimacy?
And can you have it just by feeling the presence of God?

You wouldn’t call that intimacy within the context of a spouse, would you? I know the analogy becomes a bit crude, but I think it fits. I mean, if you just feel your spouse and your entire relationship is based off of being in their presence, would you call that intimacy?

Is sex itself intimacy?
I would say it’s not.

You can’t truly have intimacy with a person unless you’re at least adamantly searching to know everything about them. It goes beyond just presence. It requires loving God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Perhaps that’s why people can operate in the gifts of God and yet still find themselves on a path towards hell (Matthew 7:22-23). Perhaps we can spend so much time seeking out the presence of God that we just never take the time to know Him.

Again, I love charismatics and on top of that—I am one. It doesn’t take very long to surf the hundreds of posts on this blog to figure that out. But unfortunately, when we focus so much on feeling and so little on knowing, we end up saying things like this:

Up through ‘its’ and ‘isms,’ theories, creeds, doctrines, and schisms; issues and movements, blessings, experiences, and professions, we have come… We need no more theology or theory. Let the devil have them. Let us get to God. (97)

I’m not going to lie. This quote infuriates me. It’s the quote that got me wanting to go on this entire rant and it comes from Frank Bartleman’s book Azusa Street. That’s right, the same book I’ve written positively about in not one, but two posts in the past week.

And it’s fine, I know that I’m not going to agree with everything a person has to say. But when you get to the point of attributing the study of God to the devil, you’ve crossed a line. I have few problems with Bartleman and I love the guy (I even suggest you read his book!), but seriously—pay attention to what you’re saying and the implications thereof.

Doctrine and theology are a must in your faith and will bring support to your Christian life like you have never known before. Stop tearing it apart just because the church you used to go to relied too heavily on it.

A Letter to Evangelicals

Which brings me to my statement to evangelicals. Now I don’t really feel like I have to say a lot because generally, you’re the vice versa of the letter to charismatics.

You’re focus tends to be on understanding who God is with your mind. You love doctrine and theology because you know it brings you closer to Him. You know that the better you understand who He is, the better you understand who you are supposed to be. If you could just wrap your mind around Him, you would be the able to find the intimacy you’ve been looking for.

But what exactly is intimacy?
And can you have it just by knowing God?

You wouldn’t call that intimacy within the context of a spouse, would you? Again, the analogy becomes a bit crude, but I think it fits. I mean, if you just know who your spouse is and your entire relationship is based off of the knowledge of who they are, would you call that intimacy?

Is knowledge itself intimacy?
I would say it’s not.

What I do believe, is that there is an emptiness that can be found in most evangelicals today. They know all about God and who He is, but they don’t feel Him. They believe that the Holy Spirit’s presence and intimacy is among them where two or three are gathered, but they have little or no idea of what it looks or feels like. Or perhaps they’ve heard the rumors from Pentecostal circles and simply don’t believe it.

Either way, you should know that God is looking to have you experience Him. He loves that you know who He is, but He longs to show you more. He wants to be tangible and real to you and He wants to fill that void you feel. He’s not looking to just be head-knowledge. He is actually longing for you to have an experience of Him.

When you reject this longing in your soul, you’ll find yourself with pharisaical tendencies. You’ll live completely out of what seems right and possibly even establish meaningless traditions. Your doctrines and theology will reign over God’s presence. You’ll cut Him off from your church and the freedom of Jesus will be replaced by 2,000 years worth of post-New Testament law.

Now I’m not dissing tradition. Actually, you’ll find I’ve been using it a lot lately. And on top of that, I speak to you as a fellow evangelical. I know, I told the charismatics that I spoke to them as a fellow charismatic, but it’s true. I speak to both of you from your side of the fence, because I live on both sides of the fence. And until all of us man-up and realize that we can learn something from each other, we’re going to continue to live in half-intimacy (if there even is such a thing).

Within the Balance

Which brings me to my final point. Charismatics and evangelicals need to stop avoiding each other. That’s why we have these problems. Far too often we find one thing wrong with each other and try to avoid that thing completely. But the truth is that God is operating in both streams of churches even though both streams have their own problems.

But there are a few churches out there who have found the balance between the generalizations. Sadly, they’re kind of rare at this point, but we pray for a generation that will find themselves in the blend. Furthermore, we pray that it will be our generation.

Rather than hope for the future, we strive for the present. We no longer place our desires in our children’s hands, but rather we look to find our God in the here and now.

I know I’ve been harsh today, despite the fact that I just wrote a blog post yesterday about gentleness, but I guess sometimes you just have to flip some tables to get attention. I also apologize for using stereotypes and generalizations and if you don’t find yourself within what I have to say, then don’t take it personally! Actually, try not take anything personally if you can. Instead, consider my advice and see if you find any of it to be true.

Continue the conversation here.

———————————-

Liardon, Roberts, and Frank Bartleman. Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street: Includes Feature Articles from The Apostolic Faith Newspaper. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2006. Print.

The Importance of Experience

Out of the four components of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, experience would probably have to be the hardest source of theology to sort out. This is simply because every single person in the entire world has their own experience. We have one Scripture, debates about tradition, opinionated reasoning, but a million experiences, each unique in their own way. And on top of that, we continually endure new experiences, which changes our outlook on life and could potentially remove us from those whom our ideology was once compatible with.

This is not to downplay the importance of experience whatsoever. In fact, we have no choice but to approach life through our own experiences. It’s impossible to read Scripture without incorporating our own life into it or even to be truly affected by Scripture without experiencing it. Tradition continues over time typically because it gave someone some sort of experience, and we can hardly reason about anything without incorporating our own experiences into our debate. It is not only essential to use experience in our faith, but it’s impossible to do otherwise despite what some might say.

This is where the problem comes in. The hundreds of different experiences we have can cause us to disagree with the legitimacy of the experiences of others. If we are not open to at least considering their experiences (no matter how insane or unique they may sound), we will most likely find ourselves creating God in the image of our own experience and the experiences of those who have lived a life similar to our own.

Actually, due to the fact that America seems to be processing individualistic Christianity, we may rarely even find ourselves looking to agree with others on experience anymore. “Why do we need them anyway?” we ask ignorantly. “After all, God looks and acts exactly like me.”

Though we won’t say this out loud, it is how many of us think. But when we allow ourselves to experience God more fully rather than judge experiences from a distance, we may find ourselves changing in opinion. Darren Wilson, for example, had this opinion of God before he discovered that God still did miracles today: “There was one thing I was pretty sure of: no matter what God did, He was very, very normal. And He always made perfect sense.”

The issue of experience is especially seen in the fight between evangelicals and charismatics. At the extreme of evangelicalism, we write experience off as emotionalism or enthusiasm. Therefore, if we’re caught crying or reacting to a worship service in any way, we’re told that we are doing so because the music is really good or the message was well written—not because we’re experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, many evangelicals write charismatics off as insane.

Emotions are high in charismatic circles and their experiences of God are weird, confusing, and at times, naturally impossible. If they shake on the floor under the power of God, evangelicals write them off as insane. If they cast a demon out of a Christian and evangelicals call them heretics. If they see sick people get healed, evangelicals will even resort to calling them demonic.

So what do we do with all of this? Is it possible for us to experience an evangelical-charismatic lifestyle or do we have to choose one or the other? Well, it is in my opinion (and experience) that we can indeed live in a blend of the two. In fact, I’d even say that Christianity at its maximum potential is found between the lines of the two and not on one side or the other.

The problem with charismatics is that because of their experiences, they are not very reasonable people. And let’s face it, if you grew up in a church where people were prophesying, healing the sick, doing miracles, speaking in tongues, (which are all gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10) you probably wouldn’t care too much about trying to be reasonable. After all, this kind of phenomena denies the natural world and is fairly difficult to explain rationally. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to explain, but difficult. I myself have experienced (or at least seen) these gifts take place in church services and because of this, I affirm them to be true. I would even take a step further and affirm sightings I haven’t seen, such as manna appearing in Bibles, gemstones popping up on the floor, rain pouring down inside of churches, and even gold teeth appearing in people’s mouths.

And it even gets crazier! So crazy that I hardly even want to mention these phenomena, because it makes me look completely insane for considering their validity! But, these sightings have been documented throughout time and visited in John Crowder’s book, The Ecstasy of Loving God. In his book, Crowder mentions past and current phenomena that have taken place within Christian circles. These phenomena include levitation, glowing faces, trances, invisibility, walking through walls, sleep-preaching, prolonged fasting, and much more.

Do I know why God does all of these things? No, I don’t. But I don’t always need a firm reason to believe in signs and wonders because I believe in a supernatural God who can do supernatural things. That is not to say that I don’t search for understanding in these things, but rather that I am capable of believing despite my inability to fully understand.

I do, however, need to borrow the reason and even a little bit of the skepticism that evangelicals have. Since charismatics have been so exposed to God’s signs and wonders, they have at times become emotionalists and enthusiasts. This is not always the case, but at times charismatics do on occasion push themselves so hard to feel a move of God that they eventually find themselves either faking it or fooling themselves into thinking that they are experiencing Him. This is why a little bit of skepticism is good to have so that you can discern what is and isn’t of God.

It also becomes dangerous when you live off of experience alone, which both charismatics and evangelicals are capable of doing. In charismatic circles, if you ignore Scripture, reason, and tradition and focus primarily on experience (which has been known to happen), you will find yourself not only preaching weak messages, but even bordering blasphemy at times. God has given us more than just experience to live off of in our faith, and denying other components will put us in situations where the gospel becomes misrepresented and misunderstood. That is not to say that experience is blasphemous in and of itself, but rather that it has potential to get to that point if it is given an overemphasis. That’s why it comes fourth in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It is given a chance to be screened by Scripture, reason, and tradition so that we can see its legitimacy.

But as I said, evangelicals are capable of doing this as well. In their own reasonable, unemotional way, they can deny charismatic experience and go so far as to attribute Satan with the phenomena that takes place in charismatic churches. Now this is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is identified by Jesus as the unforgivable sin (Mt. 12:22-32; Mk 3:20-29). This turns that accusation into a much bigger deal than evangelicals have made it out to be.

If the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind (Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27), then surely we need to learn how to combine evangelicalism with the charismatic movement. Evangelicals tend to need a little more heart and soul and charismatics tend to need a bit more mind. Now I realize I’m stereotyping a bit here, so I would like to say that there are churches and speakers out there who have learned to blend the two together quite nicely. But for the most part, many of our churches still have a long way to go.

For most of my life I have lived without even knowing what a Pentecostal was and so I know quite well how most evangelicals feel when first discovering the charismatic movement. We ask questions. How do we know these things are from God? Do we have these gifts? Is this just a bunch of hype or is there really something to this? These questions are good to ask so long as we actually search for understanding, but unfortunately, most Christians don’t pursue the questions due to fear, confusion or disbelief.

Altogether the aspect of experience is a difficult one to grasp, but I think that if we’re going to move in the power of Jesus and true Christianity, it is essential that we seek to have experiences in which God empowers and rejuvenates us. Whether we find that experience in the quiet of our room or in the loudness of a conference, we should seek for it with a heart to get closer to God. No matter what side of the experience spectrum we fall on, we all, as Christians, desire some kind of experience with God, don’t we? This is why it seems foolish to me when people advise others not to seek an experience with God.

After all, the Bible is full of stories in which God gives Himself to His people so that they may experience Him. When we refuse the experience of His nearness, we become like Israel who begged Moses to speak instead of God, because they feared that they would die if God spoke (Ex. 20:18-19). While we certainly would be afraid of God making His appearance to us in the same way that He did to Israel, I think many today are dying so much to experience God’s presence and hear His voice that they would be willing to hear Him speak—especially those who have been told not to be emotional, but believe that there has to be something more to this thing we call Christianity.

The experiences of God found in charismatic circles is for everyone, but unfortunately many reject it. This isn’t new at all. In fact, with every revival there has been phenomena and those who rejected it. Author Howard A. Snyder points out that even John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed in “healing, miracles, prophecy (in the sense of foretelling), discernment of spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues” (95). But since many Christians (even Methodists today) lack experience with these gifts, they create doctrines and scientific reasoning as to why these gifts aren’t experiences of God, even though the phenomena Snyder listed above are all Biblical.

We all seek experiences of God. Whether it’s to know Him better with our soul, our heart, our strength, or with our mind, we as Christians look to experience God in some way. I believe, however, that we will find God most clearly when we seek Him in all of these ways and not in just the aspects we are most comfortable with.

Works Cited

Crowder, John. The Ecstasy of Loving God: Trances, Raptures, and the Supernatural Pleasures of Jesus Christ. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Pub., 2009. Print.

Finger of God. Dir. Darren Wilson. Perf. Darren Wilson. Wunderlust Productions. DVD.

Snyder, Howard A. The Radical Wesley & Patterns for Church Renewal. DownersGrove, IL: InterVarsity, 1980. Print.

John Wesley and the Power of the Spirit

Very few people today are aware that John Wesley was a charismatic who experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in very real and very tangible ways. Most Methodists today are so unaware of this that if they ever experienced the Spirit in the same ways as Wesley did, they would write the experience off as emotion, science, or even as demonic before they ever considered the idea that God was interacting with them. But for Wesley, the Holy Spirit’s power was found not only in experience, but in almost everything related to the Christian faith.

Howard A. Snyder explains that “Wesley’s understanding of the church and Christian experience can be described as charismatic because of the place of the Holy Spirit in his theology and because of his openness to the gifts of the Spirit” (The Divided Flame 57). One will find this statement to be true just by reading Wesley’s journals. He references the Holy Spirit time and time again. Wesley walks so closely with the Spirit, that it seems he cannot be separated from God’s charismatic ways of presenting Himself.

Sadly, many Christians today are offended by the same kind of charismatic works the Holy Spirit did in Wesley’s time. This offense is not in any way new. There were very many people during Wesley’s time that were also offended by the Holy Spirit.

That is not to say that the Holy Spirit’s power in and of itself was offensive, but rather that those who did not believe or understand it were offended by it. That is part of the reason Wesley had a hard time with his opponents. They were people of reason who thought the “power of the Spirit” at these Methodist meetings was actually the power of emotion and in some instances, insanity. Wesley writes about one such situation in his journal:

We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came, among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out into ‘strong cries and tears’. He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God (52-3).

This story is enough to baffle many Christians today, but even Wesley himself had experienced similar emotion and physical expression. One particular morning, he found himself in solitude when he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Wesley tried to put this experience into words by writing it down in his journal:

The love of God was shed abroad in my heart, and a flame kindled there, with pains so violent, yet so very ravishing, that my body was almost torn asunder. I loved. The Spirit cried strong in my heart. I sweated. I trembled. I fainted. I sung. I joined my voice with those that excel in strength (26).

This is hardly the weirdest thing that Wesley had seen the Spirit do in His lifetime. Even though he recognized these simple physical expressions (shaking, crying, sweating, fainting, trembling, and singing) to be caused by the Holy Spirit, he had seen in Scripture and in his own life that the Spirit was capable of doing much, much more.

One of the popular acts of the Holy Spirit seen among charismatic meetings today is known as being “slain in the Spirit.” Those who are familiar with this work recognize it when individuals fall to the ground. Once there, they typically enter either a calm state of bliss, or their body is sent into convulsions. Many understand this to be the work of the Spirit, while many others claim it to be the work of insanity. But if we look to Wesley to find an answer, we would see that he believed this to be the power of God.

In fact, in one particular situation, a Quaker was attending one of Wesley’s meetings and was growing angry with the supposed work of the Spirit going on around him. Wesley describes him as “biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.” God personally settled the debate for this Quaker by slaying Him. When he finally arose from the ground, he stated, “Now I know, thou art a prophet of the Lord” (53). This is an obvious change in mindset for this Quaker, who only moments ago was angry at what he thought to be fraud. God, however, showed him otherwise.

This is not the only time something like this has happened in Wesley’s life. In a similar situation Wesley watched some people convulse more violently than he had ever seen. Wesley prayed that God would not “suffer those who were weak to be offended,” but despite his prayers, one woman was very angry. But then, Wesley documents her having “dropped down, in as violent an agony as the rest,” despite her disposition towards the act. Altogether, at least 26 people endured these violent convulsions during one service on June 15, 1739.

And this is not the only time Wesley references this act of the Spirit. On April 21, of the same year, Wesley documented a man trembling violently and then sinking down to the ground (50). In another situation a “three persons almost at once sunk down as dead” (57). And then, on a wider scale, the Spirit performed this same type of work on New Year’s Day, 1739. It was approximately three in the morning and John and Charles Wesley were in prayer with about sixty other men. Wesley wrote that “the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground” (29).

On April 26, Wesley felt the Spirit urge him to say something he had not planned on saying during one of his sermons. Wesley, certain that this was of the Spirit, obeyed and as a result saw the power of God come on different individuals.

I was sensibly led, without any previous design, to declare strongly and explicitly that God ‘willeth all men to be thus saved’ and to pray that if this were not the truth of God, he would not suffer the blind to go out of the way; but if it were, he would bear witness to his Word. Immediately one and another and another sunk to the earth: they dropped on every side as thunderstruck (51).

Stories similar to these are documented all over Wesley’s journal, as are other works of the Spirit. But as these stories continued, so did the criticism. Many people still did not feel that these supernatural events were of God and so they rejected them completely.

But despite their rejection, John Wesley saw both spiritual and emotional healing come from people’s experience with God as they fell to the ground and convulsed. Many times they would rise to their feet with a true understanding of God’s forgiveness of their sins. Wesley also was privileged to see actual physical healing happen. Wesley, it seems, “was convinced that the Great Physician is committed to the ultimate healing of both body and soul, and that some degree of physical recovery is available even in this life—if we allow it to begin” (Maddox 147).

In one such case of physical healing, a woman by the name of Ann Calcut “had been speechless for sometime.” Wesley and some others began to pray for this woman and just about as soon as they had started, her speech returned to her. She was apparently healed of some other problems too, since Wesley speaks of a fever leaving her and that “in a few days she arose and walked, glorifying God” (258).

In another story, a middle-aged woman was “restored to a sound mind.” Many were able to testify that only a few days earlier she was “really distracted, and as such tied down in her bed” (100). But Wesley believed the power of the Spirit to be greater than the pain and sickness of the world, and so he prayed for this woman regardless of what many saw as a dead end. God heard the prayers of Wesley and others and He restored the woman to health.

Even Wesley himself had experienced physical healing! On May 10, 1741, Wesley had become quite sick. He had pain in his head as well as his back, a fever, and a cough that was so great that he could hardly speak. But then a miracle happened to Wesley as he “called on Jesus aloud.” As he spoke, his pain disappeared, his fever left, and his strength returned. And on top of that, he felt no weakness or pain for many weeks after (194).

But perhaps one of the craziest healing miracles Wesley ever saw was at the deathbed of Mr. Meyrick, on December 20, 1742. A doctor had told Wesley that this man was not expected to make it through the night. This word was confirmed when Wesley arrived at Mr. Meyrick’s side:

I went to him, but his pulse was gone. He had been speechless and senseless for some time. A few of us immediately joined in prayer. (I relate the naked fact.) Before we had done his sense and his speech returned (306).

Wesley was obviously impressed by the finger of God upon this situation as he then wrote in his journal, “Now he that will account for this by natural causes has my free leave. But I choose to say, This is the power of God” (306). It was a miracle! God had answered prayers and raised the dead! But this was not the end of the story. Five days later, on Christmas, Mr. Meyrick was expected once again to not make it to the morning. And so, on December 25, Wesley recorded in his journal the continuation of a miracle.

I went up and found them all crying about him, his legs being cold and (as it seemed) dead already. We all kneeled down and called upon God with strong cries and tears. He opened his eyes and called for me. And from that hour he continued to recover his strength, till he was restored to perfect health. (306)

Another work of the Spirit that many Christians today either caution against or do not believe in is that of dreams and visions. But, just as Wesley believed in the Spirit’s power to heal, slay, or simply bring a person to tears, so did he believe in the supernatural power of dreams and visions. We are able to read his opinion on this matter in his journal. There he includes a summary of the letters he wrote to an opponent who had advised him against believing in dreams and visions.

What I have to say touching visions or dreams is this: I know several persons in whom this great change [being free of sin to do the will of God] was wrought, in a dream, or during a strong representation to the eye of their mind, of Christ either on the cross or in glory. This is the fact; let any judge of it as they please (59).

Towards the end of his response to his opponent, Wesley grows stronger in his opinion of the existence of this work of the Spirit:

…God does now, as aforetime, give remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, even to us and to our children; yea, and that always suddenly, as far as I have known, and often in dreams or in the visions of God. If it be not so, I am found a false witness before God. For these things I do, and by his grace will testify (60).

As we have seen already, the Holy Spirit made Himself known to John Wesley in many ways. But what we have not yet talked about is Wesley’s involvement with the Spirit in liberating demoniacs. Christians have read in their Bible’s about the Spirit’s power to do such a thing, yet many today have not seen anything like it (outside of Hollywood’s representation). But Wesley saw it in his own life many times.

One man, by the name of John Haydon, was reported to have been reading a sermon, when “he changed colour, fell off his chair, and began screaming terribly and beating himself against the ground.” Wesley arrived at the scene only to be accused by the demon as “a deceiver of the people.” The demon pretended to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in hopes to turn people against Wesley, but Wesley fought back. He and all the others there began to pray. Soon, Haydon’s “pangs ceased and both his body and soul were set at liberty” (55).

Sometimes these demonic deliverances did not take too long. For example, it only took about fifteen minutes to deliver one particular woman from “the pangs of death” (94). But other deliverances lasted much longer, such as Wesley’s encounter with the young woman from Kingswood. He describes in his journal not only the physical manifestation of these demons, but he also records what the demons spoke to him (109).

I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. Anguish, horror, and despair, above all description, appeared in her pale face. The thousand distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scare to be endured. But her stony eyes could not weep. She screamed out, as soon as words could find their way, ‘I am damned, damned; lost forever. Six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil’s now. I have given myself to him. His I am. Him I must serve. With him I must got to hell. I will be his. I will serve him. I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved. I will not be saved. I must, I will, I will be damned.’ She then began praying the devil (109).

Wesley and the others with him began to sing a hymn that was popular at that time, which was written by John’s brother, Charles. “Arm of the Lord, awake, awake!” they sang, which caused the demoniac to immediately sink down. But then, the demon manifested again, this time even more intensely. Charles joined John in prayer around 9:00 and together they prayed past 11:00. Over two hours were spent on this exorcism alone. These are only two examples of deliverances that John Wesley took part in, but he documented many others in his journals as well.

Perhaps we can even find the Spirit’s work in Wesley’s shift of emotions. Author John White seems to understand these moments to be divine in nature as he reflects on Wesley’s famous experience at Aldersgate, where his heart was strangely warmed.. “Wesley has been accused, and perhaps rightly, of too great a concern with his subjective states. But were those feelings of warmth, of trust and of assurance merely the psychological result of the reading, or were they the results of divine illumination, imparted by the Holy Spirit at that very moment?” (53).

It seems that from day-to-day, Wesley took part in God’s supernatural ways. The Holy Spirit worked through him constantly, whether it was through an exorcism, through a message, through a healing, or through many of the other miracles the Spirit performed. The power of the Spirit was a constant in Wesley’s life. But it is important to note that just because Wesley was charismatic, does not mean that he lived without reason. Snyder points this out in his book The Radical Wesley:

Wesley was a man of reason in an age of rationalism; yet he was roundly charged with enthusiasm or fanaticism because of his stress on experience and his openness to the expression of emotion… He was always clear as to the priority of Scripture, especially from 1738 on, and his experiential emphasis was guarded from pure subjectivism not only by his respect for Scripture but also by his emphasis on the witness of the Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit testifying to and confirming the Word in present experience (71).

If we decide to ignore all of the supernatural encounters found in Wesley’s life or even if we choose to write them off as insanity or mere coincidence, we will find ourselves admiring an incomplete and fictional John Wesley. This revivalist, so it seems, was quite charismatic in his approach to church, because he allowed the Holy Spirit room to work through him not just in the natural, but the supernatural as well. And if Wesley had not done so, it is possible that many would not have been touched by God in the way that they had been.

Works Cited

Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. Nashville,Tenn.: Kingswood, 1994. Print.

Snyder, Howard A., and Daniel V. Runyon. The Divided Flame: Wesleyans and Charismatic Renewal. Grand Rapids, Mich.: F. Asbury, 1986. Print.

Snyder, Howard A. The Radical Wesley & Patterns for Church Renewal. DownersGrove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1980. Print.

Wesley, John, William Reginald Ward, and Richard P. Heitzenrater. The Works of John Wesley. Vol. 19. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990. Print.

White, John. When the Spirit Comes with Power: Signs & Wonders among God’s People. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988. Print.