Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit?

My online friend, Pam Hogeweide, recently attended a conference in Seattle about the Holy Spirit. I asked her to share her thoughts about it, and I am posting her thoughts here as a guest post. I hope you also enjoy reading about this event.

I(Pam) have been on the outskirts of Charismania Land for many years. From time to time I would come visit, and for a short while, even lived there. I love the Holy Spirit, who is a good Friend of mine, and in Charismania Land the people celebrate His presence.

Some people, when they feel him in the room, get so excited that they have physical responses, like crying, which is really common and very acceptable; but others have been known to twitch, shake, bend over, fall down, shout, or jump up and down. Some people will even do a variety of things, and if you have a room full of people having physical responses to the presence of the Holy Spirit it can resemble a circus.

When are manifestations real and when are they contrived? Is it permissible to have a physical or emotional response to the presence of God? Can we tell the difference from hype versus encounter?

At the "Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit?" conference in Seattle, David Ruis and a few others spoke about these concerns. I liked how David put it, that the Holy Spirit is always about people and not power. In our mistakes, in getting things mixed up, have we opted to marginalize the Holy Spirit out of cynicism or fear of extremism?

Some of the speakers addressed the notion that Spirit-led ministry became platform-driven ministry, with the Holy Spirit experts leading the meetings and dazzling everybody with their gifting. It became about the cult of personality rather than the beauty of Jesus.

The conference dialogue brought out the desire of peope to see encounters with the Holy Spirit that result in transforming our lives, our communities. I think David addressed this when he spoke about the Holy Spirit manifesting himself in our community life, not being confined to a service or a platform.

After the sessions, I had the privelege of sitting down with Pastor Rose Swetman, who co-pastors a Vineyard church with her husband in a suburb of Seattle. Several women gathered together, and we enjoyed a small, round-table discussion. We asked Rose to share her thoughts with us about the Holy Spirit. Rose told us of how she realized that all the physical manifestations don't add up to much if your life is not being transformed. I agree!

I felt so validated as she shared how she herself has experienced strong physical reactions to the presence of God. But we cannot let the physical responses become the end-all of our encounters with God. Who really cares how much you shake and quake? It's when you get up off the floor and walk out the door, get in your car and go home that the powerful presence of God in your life needs to manifest...and it will be love, not twitching, that indicates what was a true encounter and what was emotionalism and hype.

Sitting with a bunch of women the conversation naturally turned to women in spiritual leadership. Rose is a pastor. She said something that has wrecked me forever. I have strong convictions that women are not barred from any place of leadership by God. I do not think it is biblically accurate to say women cannot be pastors or elders. For all these years I have settled into the notion that this is simply my theology and I must not get to bothered by those who disagree (which is most of the church in America).

Rose said to us, "For me, it's not a theological issue but an issue of justice. Would we have said slavery was a theological issue? No, it was an issue of justice." That messed me up. Because it means I cannot ignore this injustice as I could theological differences. I will very likely be writing about women and leadership in the future.

When will men(and women) in the church release women and bless women to lead and be the way God has called them? Even in Charismania Land many areas of leadership are off-limits for women. If you do not have a penis, you may not enter in. I do not think God intended it to be this way, though I do think God himself is forced to bypass women at times because the culture he is trying to reach will not listen to a woman. There is much more to say about this. It was a good discussion with Rose and the other women about these things.

One last note, we also talked about humility and meekness and the value of character over gifting. Rose pointed out that character needs to be greater than gifting. There have been numerous scandals over the year of big ministers, the television kind, who seemed to have had more gifting than character. Humility and meekness, I think, would be natural safe guards against such things.

Thanks Pam for sharing your experience with those of us who couldn't attend. Like you, I agree that we don't want to move forward without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe that He is leading us to manifest His power in ways that are life-transforming rather than simply sensational.


Lily said...

Thanks, Grace, for letting Pam share this experience here.

I am so happy that this subject is being adressed in greater forums...like this comference. I, for one, know I need to learn more how to balance between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and true transformation. I think easily one of the reasons why I have become post-charismatic is a result of so very little being taught about the purpose of H.S. manifestations...that is (I think) an outward symbol of the transformation of the people of God...and I'm certainly not saying I have had this right...because I haven't...and wish someone had called me on it before I hurt people...wish I had shifted my focus from whatever was happening with the HS in the moment to looking at "how has it changed me forever"?

Anyhow...thanks very much to Pam for sharing...it sounds like there were some amazing things being taught there...she still owes me a coffee date so she can tell me more about the conference...Pam...?

(PS If I'm correct, I am no longer the only one around here with pink hair...hehe)

grace said...

I hope that we all can learn to live more empowered by the Spirit.

I'm sure you and Pam are a great influence on one another. :)

Lily said...

Did I detect a hint of sarcasm there? Hehe. *grin*

grace said...

Not sarcasm, just amusement.

Not everyone has TWO friends with pink hair.

Lily said...

Believe it or not I was amused too! Whodathot!

Weird as we may be...I feel priviledged to have Pam as an "influenece" in my life...I could stand to learn from her...even if I am a "bad" influence on her hair!

Anonymous said...

Grace, for your friend Pam



David Cho said...

Wow, this is outstanding, even though I have not delved into Charismania, but I can relate.

One could rewrite the entry by replacing the Spirit with the Word of God and make it applicable to Evangelicals obsessed with doctrinal purity. The parallell is way to striking to ignore.

The bottom line is, I believe, who we serve. The gifts, or the Giver? The Word, or the Author. In charismatic and evangelical circles, respectively, I am afraid the answer is the former, not the latter.

Pam Hogeweide said...

Well stated David, I absolutely agree. I have lived mostly in Evangelical Land and absolutely track with what you are saying. At times it as seemed to me that the bible was worshipped instead of Jesus!

So hey, Grace, thanks for letting me be a guest blogger. We are influencing each other, I'm sure, through the power of exchanged ideas and insights. As for the hair thing (Lily), maybe it's a prophetic act of why we are delving into non-traditional colors as we learn to express our womanly selves...LOL...I can dig a prophetic word up out of just about anything! (smile, people, it's a joke)

Anon, thanks for the link to Gods Word to Women. I went there and instantly fell in love with what they are doing. It was very encouraging and well organized. In fact, I wrote them an email last night and one of the leaders of it emailed me back this morning. Here is the email I sent:

Dear GWTW,

What a refreshing way station your site is for a woman like me who sometimes feels at odds with the body of Christ for my beliefs. I have been shamed, talked down to, labeled a feminist, and most hurtful of all, suffered misunderstandings and judgement about my marriage. At times I have wrestled with confusion wondering if perhaps I am being dogmatic about the "woman thing". Recently, though, in a conversation with a woman pastor I know she said, "Women in leadership is not a theological issue but rather an issue of justice."

Her remarks, and someone directing me to your website, are serving as beacons for me on my journey to embrace and proclaim all that God has for women. No more will I be embarrassed or ashamed for knowing that God holds no woman back because of her gender. He's not like that.

I will bookmark your site and be referring others to it. You have done a magnificent job of organizing the articles and thoughts for why you believe God's word is for women. It is a site I can highly recommend.

Bless you, bless you, bless you, for blazing the trail a bit further for the next generation. May you see in your lifetime tremendous progress for women in the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of justice and equality.

David Cho said...

Yeap, Pam. The conservative Evangelical Trinity - The Holy Father, The Holy Son, and the Holy Bible.

I have come to realize, having embraced the conservative Evangelical brand of Christianity for over 20 years, that I know very little about the Holy Spirit. It is ironic, given that the Father is in heaven, Jesus is yet to return, and the Holy Spirit is right here with us, I know so little about Him. He is the ignored and marginalized member of the Trinity.

That, I believe, is the major pathology of conservative Evangelicalism, not the lack of belief as they claim. Spiritual problems? Have another dose of "truth." Read more books by famous teachers. Listen to another 8 hours of sermon tapes. Study, study, and study, and then you will be alright. Been there and done that.

Without the Spirit, what is left is legalism, the proof of which is far more certain than that of 2+2=4.

grace said...

thanks for sharing the link. I'll be sure to check it out.

Great insight. In both cases, it is an idolatry of truth or revelation.

Thanks so much for allowing me to share your thoughts here. You covered some really important issues.