The concept of Speaking in Tongues seems to have been flying low under the Christian radar for a number of years. It was fifty years ago that the UK experienced a season of ‘charismatic renewal’. This saw the birth of many new churches who broke away from mainstream denominations, because they wanted the freedom to move in all the Gifts of the Spirit, especially in the gift of Speaking in Tongues. This was seen by many as controversial at the time, but thousands of often younger people formed ‘house churches’ in the 70s and 80s. They had a passion to get back to the writing of the Apostle Paul who encouraged the newly formed church in Corinth to ‘eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit’.
But now that seems like a different world away, like the fashion of wearing brightly coloured and highly flammable ‘shell’ suits? Maybe the Charismatic Renewal was just a historical fad or a spiritual phase the church was going through?
Many of those same churches that broke away and declared themselves to be free and charismatic (from the word charisma in the greek χάρισμα meaning free gift or gift of grace) have seemingly moved away from visible use of the spiritual gifts as they endeavour to create a more welcoming experience for the non-believer. The focus is more around freedom in worship than freedom in the spirit. Churches such as Hillsong, Bethel and Elevation have led the way by setting a high bar when it comes to the production standards of worship. Sometimes it can feel like there is more focus on the quality of the video screens, the mood of the lighting in the room and the calibre of the well rehearsed band than the visible involvement of the Spiritual Gifts.
I love seeing people set free in the Spirit. I love seeing people encountering the very presence of God in our Sunday meetings and leaving more equipped and empowered for the week ahead. I also love seeing things done well. I love a church that welcomes people, remembers their names, presents a great message in a beautiful environment with well played worship songs that take me deeper in my relationship with God.
My trouble is I love both – call me greedy or unrealistic, but why can’t we have our cake and eat it? (not really sure that is the best metaphor!)
Why should the choice either be a spirit filled church with no attention to detail or a high production value consumer experience that seems to have forgotten the very reason why they gather?
Why can’t church be the best of both? A spirit filled experience that is accessible to all and set to a high standard. I don’t get excited by smoke machines or flashing lights. I do get excited about seeing lives transformed as people meet Jesus for the first time. And if a nice pastry and a fresh coffee is going to help with that, then I am all in.