Saturday, December 29, 2018

Awkward Continuationist: Charis-Missional

I was recently contacted by someone in Texas who is working on a dictionary project. He was seeking my input on a phrase that I’d included in the first edition of Post-Charismatic: “Charis-Missional.”

I’ve always deferred to Kingdom Grace’s definition, since the term was her invention in the first place. Simply put, charis-missional means: ‘Spirit-led Missional Living’.

I liked the phrase, and its definition, and thought it was more of a “moving forward” kind of terminology than “post-charismatic”. (I’ve never been comfortable with the term post-charismatic, but couldn’t come up with a better suggestion, so it kinda stuck.)
My first publisher included the subtitle “Where are we now? Where have we come from? Where are we going?”—and added a big question mark to the book’s title. The phrase “charis-missional” (at the time) seemed like a good counter-balance to too many question marks.
Speaking of questions, there were three posed to me regarding the dictionary in Texas. Briefly summarized, they were:

1. Is the charis-missional movement going strong today, or has it morphed into something new?
Short answer: yes and no.

There’s never been a ‘charis-missional movement’ per se, so it’s impossible to state with any confidence whether it’s going strong, failing abysmally, or morphing into something else.

If people read Post-Charismatic and were encouraged to pursue a Spirit-led life despite their previous experiences, then YES, the ‘movement’ is going strong.

But because it’s not an organized entity—for example, there’s never been any such thing as a post-charismatic/charis-missional conference, book tour, or podcast—it’s hard to quantify.

If there was/is anything resembling a ‘movement’, it was/is very grassroots and non-institutional.

Which is probably just as well, in the long run. :)

2. Do you see charismatic gifts at work in the missional movement, or is charis-missional more about moving past the excesses of the charismatic movement?
Short answer: both/and.

I’d suggest that moving past toxic theology (which always results in toxic leadership/experiences) is a prerequisite for seeing any of the Spirit’s gifts at work as we seek to be missional.
(Without being disingenuous, every gift of the Holy Spirit—including boring old ‘administration’—is charismatic by definition. It’s not just about tongues and prophecy.)
In other words, you can’t have a healthy missional presence without dealing with the toxic teachings which have infiltrated the charismatic movement. It may not be a classic case of “which came first: the chicken or the egg”, but separating theology from practice isn’t an option, even if it were possible.

I’d also point out that if we attempt to be missional without being Spirit-led, we run the very real risk of becoming little more than social do-gooders with a thin veneer of spirituality.

3. Does the term ‘charis-missional’ continue to have meaning for you today?
Short answer: No (but with explanation).

The term ‘charis-missional’ has not passed my lips in quite some time. I also chose not to include the phrase in the 2nd edition of Post-Charismatic (and I changed all the subtitle questions to a simple phrase: “Rekindle the Smoldering Wick”).

*Not because I think charis-missional is passé or unimportant.*

As I mentioned earlier, there’s never been a recognized, organized, institutionalized movement for post-charismatic/charis-missional followers of Jesus.

They can be found in all manner of churches, home gatherings, coffeehouses, and pubs—just going about their Spirit-led, missional endeavors with no thought or desire to be part of some trendy “in crowd” in 21st century Christianity. They are, as I wrote back in 2005, people of the spark.

So, honestly, NO. I don’t call myself or describe myself as “charis-missional” any more. Perhaps I should reconsider.

What’s more important is that I be charis-missional, regardless of what—if anything—I call it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Stories

(Video Link)
Christmas Eve this year was a roller-coaster of a kaleidoscope—if such a metaphor can fit comfortably inside the human brain.

For my son and I, it was a chance to do something we don’t get to do often: perform in the same band for a weekend of Christmas concerts, to a combined audience of 14,000 people.

The theme of the night was “stories”, and whether sung or spoken/acted, it was a moving evening of shared life-stories impacted by Jesus’ story. It was an honour and also humbling to be part of such a powerful presentation.

An hour or so later, the kaleidoscope rotated. Our (now adult) children and their spouses gathered in our home. We were joined by friends who are navigating their first Christmas after the painful death of a wife and mother. It was an honour to have them in our home.

And then, another rotation of the kaleidoscope.

A long-held tradition in our house is Christmas Stockings—usually crammed full of junk food, inside jokes, and wacky presents. It’s our most light-hearted and quirky piece to family celebrations at Christmas.

“This is the last year,” my youngest daughter reflected. She looks a little misty. She’s engaged to be married next spring, and like her older (married) siblings, the stocking tradition will then shift from Wendy & I to her spouse.

Next Christmas, for the first time since 1989, the stockings hung from our mantle will be merely decorative.

Final revolution of the kaleidoscope:

Christmas Day, and our three children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and a fiancé fill our house for a fun and memorable day together.

It’s quite a mix in just one 24-hour period: celebratory concerts (seven!), time with grieving friends, a houseful of family—feasting and playing silly games together—and a nostalgic final Christmas stocking for my youngest daughter.

A variety of stories, running a gamut of associated memories and emotions. And, of course, one of our oldest family traditions: The Muppet Christmas Carol, everyone singing boisterously along with the songs.

And if I may be so bold—we sound pretty good.