Posted by: rogermitchell | January 13, 2011

Decontaminating the charismata

In the same way that the eucharist can be a core carrier of imperial baggage, especially for the more liturgically orientated Christians, and preaching does the same for the more evangelical ones, the problem component for Pentecostal and charismatic types like me is the charismata (spiritual gifts) themselves. Like the previous two practices they can serve to shift us into another time frame, but the danger is that this will soon be invaded by the old Christendom powers unless we watch out. With the spiritual gifts there are at least two problems. The first is the interpretative aspect of their operation which easily conceals the old imperial pressure to law, hierarchy and money. This comes through in the way that prophecy is interpreted (see my prophetics page) and in the assumptions behind what gifts are for, which effects how they are used. For example their function as the primary resource for the superficial and selfish health, wealth and success perspective of so much Pentecostal culture.

The second problem is in the power aspect of the gifts. This is easily applied within an imperial understanding of power to dominate over others again. Often the very attempts to ‘pastor’ the supernatural reveal  ongoing assumptions about mediation and control by ministers or ministry teams that effectively rank the leaders above the recipients in a hierarchy of spiritual power. This has economic implications too as the possession of charismata becomes the financial means to promote careers and ‘ministries.’

Once again, this is no reason for setting the charismata aside. Rather they need to be liberated from institutional, ‘church’ use, and restored to their function as signs of the kin(g)dom throughout the everyday life of the people of God in all the avenues of society from family and servant community outwards.

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Responses

  1. Hi Roger,

    I came to a little round on your blog …;)
    I like what you write in 2 posts and I’m totally agree.
    For now, my thoughts are directed toward Jesus. How did he preach? He poured his life as he does again and again. I try to discover the Jewish thought of Jesus that we lost. This can help us out of old ruts of the empire. How do I “show” Jesus in my daily life in the truth?
    The comments also help me. It is very intresting !

    ps: did you receive my mail?

    • Hi Marie Claire, WOW your English has improved! Even native speakers complain about my vocabulary! I’m so glad that you found the posts and comments helpful. Yours is too. And yes thanks for the recent email, we will reply soon.

  2. I smile at your use of kin(g)dom…that’s so post-modern 🙂
    (See Peter Rollins “How (Not) to Speak of God” and Crystal Downing “How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith”)

    • Well that’s encouraging! As I’m sure you can see, I’m trying to help reposition the ecclesia into the midst of the postmodern and postpostmodern world world as the agent for the good news of the incarnation!

  3. The mistaken use of spiritual gifts is not only selfish but abusive. The even scarier aspect, of how easy it is to immediately create hierarchy of authority through the use of spiritual gifts, is that the “congregation” also accepts (or is conditioned to accept) that “pastoral” role in the “church.”

    • Thanks for this observation Lorrie. The challenge is how to operate the gifts in the opposite Spirit to what Grant Wacker, in his book on the rise of the Pentecostal movement in the USA, Heaven Below, calls pragmatic accomodation to the economic status quo. Karla Poewe in her study, Charismatic Christianity as Global Culture, suggests that the practice of living by faith is really what lies at the roots of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement. This is why I’m working hard to reconfigure living by faith as a fully counterpolitical way of life. More of this in the next post!


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