Throwing my brain out?


When I became a Christian, aged 17 I started to read my bible and wondered if the stuff in there still happened today.  My Baptist church was great, in that they didn't teach Cessationism, but they seemed more 'convinced charismatics'.  By that I mean they believed in the power and gifts of the Spirit, but didn't seem sure how to engage in that.

I visited some other churches that were known for their engagements with all things Charismatic, and they seemed to be places where you had to take your brain out, be hyped, pushed over, and worked up into a frenzy etc.

Then I came across the Vineyard when I started my theology degree.  I still remember the first service I went to, and there was a call at the end of the service for people wanting prayer.  Some people started crying, shaking and 'here we go' I thought.  I braced myself for Christian 'nutsville' again.

Instead something else happened.  John Mumford who was leading the prayer time, turned and spoke to the rest of us, he told us not to worry about people being emotional, he explained about people being prayed for, and dialled it right down.  I remember the joy I felt of seeing people experience something intense, but the ability to keep my brain, ask questions, not be pushed over or hyped. Making space for God to do what he wants and if nothing happened that was fine too.

And it was one of the Vineyard Values that I fell in love with and cherish the most even today.  I explored this value over the years finding that it centred on care for those being prayed for, and a theology that didn't ground ministry in whether people had enough faith or unconfessed sins in their lives.

It's roots come from John Wimber and his quaker waiting on the Spirit experience.  Over the decades that value has often been pushed beyond breaking point, with the Toronto blessing  theologically and in terms of praxis.  So many friends I know couldn't take the hype and faddism of where that all landed.

The broader trend of Christians into a post-Charismatic spirituality (I wrote about this previously) has some of it's roots in that I supect.  Also I think the increasing move to the autonomous self-creating consumer, has little room for a God who intervenes in power and overwhelms our identity.  A God who is available to be what I need him to be when I need him, is more palatable, and the logical conclusion to much of the voluntarism of evangelicalism.

And it's not much of step from wanting to see God in something more than hyped church services, and instead within the breadth of creation, to finding that the main place we experience God as has collapsed into some kind of naturalism. God is when we golf, play sports, walk, garden, blog, eat meals with friends. Christianity becomes a leisured pantheism, mediated through our lifestyle and hobbies.

I'm not for one minute saying that we don't meet God in those places.  Riding my motorbike around the english countryside at speed is a spiritual experience, and one of deep Joy for me.  But it's not enough.

God is to be known to us in Jesus relationally, and directly.  My identity is one of exchange of being overwhelmed by who he is and what he has done, such that my life is no longer mine, but his (Gal 2:20).  He literally re- makes me, not me making myself with reference to him.

And it takes the Holy Spirit for that, to convict us, compel us, transform us, and take us to the cross, to live missional identities, and to empower us into that way of life.  We lose the Spirit as speaking, with tongues, prophecy, and touching our bodies, souls and spirits in power at our peril.

So our church community tries to makes space to wait on the Spirit, to practice spiritual gifts, and have the Spirit do some of the stuff we think we see him doing in the NT, through our worship, and prayer together.

And we hold fast to that value of being naturally supernatural, no hyping, no pushing over, no guilting, and no trying to make stuff happen.