© November 4, 2017 | Schulter Etyang
This week we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On 31st October, 500 years ago, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church. He also sent the theses with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg the Archbishop of Mainz. His one-act sparked religious, intellectual, political, and cultural change that completely altered the Church and the then world. What took place was earth-shattering, to say the least. The Catholic Church splintered, and the Protestant movement was formed with the after-effects still being felt to this day
In his 95 theses, he argued that faith in Jesus alone and not selling of indulgences or good works was the only way to obtain pardon for sin (sola fide). He also argued for the sole reliance on scriptures (sola scriptura) as the foundation for the beliefs in the Church. Let me not get you tangled up in the weeds. Basically, his action was summed up in this – Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone Period!
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.
The reaction against his stance was swift. He was banned from preaching and teaching. It was even decided by a council that Martin Luther get the highest form of punishment, which at that time was getting burnt at the stake. Counter theses were published to counter Luther’s argument. Yet nothing they did stopped the wildfire he sparked from spreading across the Church land.
The Charismatic movement
The Protestant movement throughout the years has morphed into numerous tribes. Most notably Adventism, Anabaptism, Anglicanism, Baptist, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Methodism and Pentecostalism.
I grew up in the Charismatic movement, which is an offshoot of the Pentecostal tribe within the Protestant tribe. The Charismatic movement simply believes that the Charis or the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation in the Church today. This is counter to what other tribes within the Protestant movement believe about these gifts. Most believe that the gift ceased to operate sometime when the early apostles died. They believe in cessationism. Again, let me not bore you with the intricacies.
This post is basically a call for a new reformation that needs to take place within our Charismatic ranks. Oh, how we need a reformation within our CHARISMATIC TRIBE/MOVEMENT. A movement that begun in the Spirit but is now encumbered by rules, methods, keys, steps, ways, principles, fake prophecies, Church growth methods, leadership principles, prosperity gospel, gimmicks, and all manner of works righteousness.
There is a generation within the Charismatic movement that doesn’t know what the gospel is or what it’s all about. Our generation is not fully committed to the gospel because of what we’ve heard about the gospel. We’ve been misinformed about what the gospel really is. When we think of the gospel we think of religion, we think of hard work and sacrificial work for that matter.
We think of rules and regulations. We think of long Church services and night vigils praying and crying out to a God who is distant and aloof, and must be begged to hear and answer our prayers.
We think of suffering as something to be avoided because we have seen the previous generation suffer in the “name of the Lord” and the accompanying fruits – bitterness, sicknesses, alienation etc.
We think of the gospel as serving the local Church as if the local Church is a family company or even worse a slaveholding corporation.
We think of the gospel as being them and us. Therefore, we try hard not to be like them so that we are invited and accepted by us.
The gospel does not evoke in us good feelings and memories. The gospel does not spur us into action. Even if it does, it’s mostly hands on deck – serving, cleaning, ushering, feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, praying for the sick. The gospel is used as a primary means of recruitment into the work of the Lord – workers for the vineyard.
We think of the gospel as who can pray the longest and the hardest — who can claim the most promises from the Word of God — who can prophesy the most accurate — who can hold the largest gatherings — who can do the most unusual miracles etc.
We think of the gospel as moralism — if you just obey, pay your tithes, submit to your leaders, attend Church regularly (do not forsake the gathering of the saints), witness, be kind, loving, honest, and do good things, then God is going to open the windows of heaven and bless you.
You may wonder, C’mon Schulter, aren’t these things in the bible? Aren’t we supposed to do all these things? Aren’t we supposed to obey our leaders? Aren’t we supposed to pay the tithe? Aren’t we supposed to tell our neighbours and friends about Jesus? Aren’t we supposed to do good things? The answers to these questions may surprise you or not.
This is the backdrop of our Christian upbringing. Until Jenny and I had a head-on collision with the gospel. Jenny and I did have a mini-Damascus road experience of our own.
My own experience
When I first heard the gospel 6 years ago, my heart let out a huge cry NOOO! I said no, no, no, no some many times. It was outrageous. It was unbelievable. It blew me off my socks. It literally blew my mind. My mind went bonkers. I questioned everything that I had ever believed about God, the world, sin, righteousness, and about life. Grace shook my entire system. I couldn’t believe the outrageous claims of the gospel.
At the same time, my heart was like YESSS! Yes, because it was so good, too good. It was amazing. It was right. It was brilliant. It was soul satisfying. It was awe-inspiring. It was a feeling or experience that I have never felt before in my entire life. It was surreal to say the most because on one hand, it was unbelievable, and at the same time, it was real. It was a no and yes at the same time.
I must make you aware that I had been a Christian for 19 years. That’s a long time. I was “saved” in Sunday school. My Sunday school teacher gave a message that I still to this day cannot remember what it was all about, and on the basis of what I did not understand, made the decision to accept Christ. I could even suffice that I was a cultural Christian like many of my generation are.
Schulter, do you mean that all this time you were doing Church stuff you didn’t know the gospel? The answer to that question is no I did not know the gospel The gospel was lost in translation. I have served in various local churches and in various capacities. I have been to multiple bible schools. I have seen the ins and outs of ministry. I have done it all. I have been there and done that and got T-shirts. Yet, in all my doing and serving, I didn’t know the gospel.
Just like the church in Martin Luther’s time, DOING is the form of indulgences that the Charismatic movement is giving its followers. Our indulgences are in the form of works. We DO all the time. When new converts join our ranks, the first and last thing they hear is what they must do in the house of the Lord, how they must serve, how they must give, how they must be committed, how they must grow in prayer and fasting, how they must honour their leaders, how they must attend bible school etc. It’s all DO, DO, AND DO MORE
Our indulgences are in the form of works. We DO all the time
Very few within the Charismatic movement have heard what the gospel is really all about – DONE. Very few have heard that the gospel is — IT IS FINISHED. Many haven’t heard who Jesus is, why he came, his work for us, his death for us, his resurrection, his ascension, and his coming back again for us. They haven’t heard the implications or results of knowing the gospel. Nope! Even if we’ve heard the gospel, it’s become white noise for us.
That is why we need a new reformation within the Charismatic movement. I am so glad that there are signs of this kind of reformation taking place. There has been a surge of young pastors and teachers that are Christ revealing, gospel-proclaiming and Spirit led.
Why the Reformation? For our generation’s sake. Our generation must rediscover the gospel. I agree with Michael Horton the Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California when he says, “We believe that each generation must rediscover and apply the gospel to their own time.” The Charismatic movement has to rediscover the gospel again. Otherwise, we are raising up a generation with a huge gospel void. (click on the link to check out my previous post the generation void in our generation)
It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation. They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this.
The previous generation hasn’t recounted the gospel to our generation. They did not declare His righteousness to us. Instead, they have declared our righteousness — our need to be holy, righteous, sinless and good morals. The proclamation of the gospel is proclaiming His righteousness. The grand idea that God in Christ Jesus has imputed His righteousness on us, and that He did it in the work of Jesus for us.
The proclamation of the gospel is proclaiming His righteousness. The grand idea that God in Christ Jesus has imputed His righteousness on us and that He did it in the work of Jesus for us.
Because the gospel has been lost in our generation, all kinds of “gospels” have infiltrated our movement. The result is that increasingly my generation is identifying as Exvangelicals. A term coined by young people who seek to distance themselves from what they see within the general evangelical community but still stay true to their principles. This is a real tragedy.
Revival or a new reformation?
Charismatics always so often talk about revival. We organize revival meetings, revival crusades, revival camp meetings, revival conferences and conventions etc. We have revival programs on our TV and radio stations. We long for revival as in the days of John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth etc
What is revival? In street language, revival is a move of the Spirit of God upon a Church, individuals or community and is usually accompanied by signs, wonders, miracles, and conversions. Usually, unbridled joy accompanies such occasions. Some revivals have been characterized as mass hysteria because they look and sound like it.
Here’s the issue with revivals — they don’t last. The fruits of the experience are short lived. When the hype of the event subsides, most people are unable to relive the experience in real life. When life happens, most people succumb to the pressure and the fruits or results from the experience are lost, wither or die away.
I would like to argue for a new reformation. Here’s why. Reformation comes from the word to reform which means to change for the better. It also means making changes to something with the intention of setting it back on the right path. That is what reformations means. Reformation is unlike revival that just excites. Reformation completely rearranges the whole place. If you walk into a room that has been “reformed” you will notice an absolute vivid change. The old has gone and the new has come. Or, what was there has been refurbished, repositioned, and made brand new.
Even if we insist that what we need to experience revival, we need to have it the way the two disciples experienced it on the road to Emmaus. On the road to Emmaus, two disciples met with Jesus. After listening to their long depressing dialogue about what had just happened in Jerusalem, Jesus began to reveal to them himself from the scriptures. He began at Moses, and then to the prophets. He revealed himself to them through the scriptures. What was the effect? Their hearts burned within them. (Luke 24:32) This is revival. Their hearts were on fire. Therefore, if we want lasting revival then we need to do what Jesus did — reveal Jesus in the bible. The effect will be that the hearts of our people would burn with passion and actually do what needs to be done.
This is what I’m championing for the Charismatics. I think we need reformation rather than revival.
The fuel for revival
Charismatics have the distinct advantage that we still believe in speaking in tongues, the Charis (free gifts) of the Spirit, the priesthood of believers, evangelism and missions, healing, prophetic, apostolic etc. These amongst others have been core to the movement. In other words, we have the engine ready to go. All the parts are ready to work. What we need is the fuel. The gospel is the fuel that Charismatics need. The gospel is the fuel for revival. We need the gospel to fuel our engines and make all the parts work. Without the gospel, we are not going anywhere. Without the gospel, we will resort to other “fuels” to try and fire our engine. Therefore, reformation is sustainable because the fuel for it is the Spirit who is present wherever the gospel is being proclaimed.
The gospel is the fuel for revival.
The Charismatic movement needs to move beyond the wonder of the “supernatural” to being able to address issues that face our postmodern societies. Issues such as child trafficking and human slavery, sexual identity issues such as gay marriage and transgenderism, the impact of multiculturalism and globalization, poverty and inequality, technology and social media, religious freedom and worship, etc. We need to be able to experience the wonder of the “supernatural” and be able to live effectively in our world.
The gospel has changed my whole view of the world, life, people, money, love, relationships, identity, the environment, hope, significance, value, etc. It has changed everything for me.
Oh Lord, raise up reformers for our movement, we pray.
That’s what grace looks like