5.10.2009

Conference Response 4 Revisited

Hey there,
I am loving this conversation and thanks so much to all of you who have participated. (see below)

Here is the context for the statement. Scott hit one aspect of the context when he commented about churches trying to recreate the formula of another ministry. But also when churches and individuals endeavor to keep returning to a thing, or an event that the Holy Spirit has done in their life in the past.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of how I remember Francis making his point in this message.
1. If the Holy Spirit is not doing a thing, then
a. the thing is not going to get done (assuming it is a spiritual thing),
b. the thing is not worth doing (assuming it is anything), or
c. the thing is not going to last (same assumption as in b).
2. Therefore as we look for what the Holy Spirit is doing, we cannot simply rely on what He has done in the past, expecting Him to repeat himself.

His point was that we can't expect God to repetitively present Himself in the ways we have become comfortable experiencing Him. And that just because He did it once, doesn't mean that He wants to do it again. The point is that the Holy Spirit does what works for the purpose He is working out in our lives, our culture, our situations.

The original statement that I quoted ["The Holy Spirit is a creator, not a duplicator... He is doing something new and not the same old thing" - new paraphrase I'm sure], fit in the context of that second point. The phrase really stuck with me for all of the reasons that you all noted in your comments and I had conflicting responses.

On one hand, I thought of all the verses that seemed to contradict the statement, most obviously the Ecclesiastes passage which notes that there is nothing new under the sun... Then my mind followed the argument that technically the Holy Spirit is not under sun, He created the sun... and so went the argument in my head.

But, on the other hand, I felt a real and genuine sense of freedom. I am the product of a pentecostal upbringing. I call myself a pentecostal believer. But, I have always defined pentecostal differently than the classic definition which seems TO ME to have an unbalanced focus on the gifts of tongues and interpretation. And since I have struggled with the church's implementation of those gifts (in my personal history - maybe not yours) my practice of pentecostalism comes out looking different than the predictable practice of it. SO, the freedom I felt was a sense of relief from the guilt I struggle with in terms of being genuine with my own experience of the Holy Spirit, the expectations of my peer pastors, and the under the surface kind of haunting sense that I will only really be successful as a pastor when those classic expressions of pentecostal experience happen robustly in my congregation.

OK, before some of you get worried about that last sentence, take note of my history with you and take a deep breath. Relax. I was describing a feeling that I inherited from my personal history and some educational experiences.

What I felt from Francis was a certain relief of that sense to simply look for what the Holy Spirit is doing now. And if that doesn't match my experience and expectations - or anyone elses for that matter - I'm really OK with that.

In and of itself, the statement is TOO broad. In its context, it was powerful and helpful to me.

Tell me more of what you think! I hope this helps.

2 comments:

Scott May 10, 2009 at 9:53 PM  

Thanks for this explanation! I'm glad you felt freedom from this message. Our experience and traditions are very powerful in shaping our expectations.

Two different (and very off topic) thoughts came to me after reading this.

1. Francis' statement is still a bit difficult for me but now for a different reason. I believe that it can be tragic when we ignore how the church has traditionally understood our faith. Sometimes I even feel that it is terribly conceited the way many Christians so easily throw out convictions or traditions which have sustained the church for years. I am not accusing you of this in any way, Bruce. It is just what the post made me think of.

For example: I am not much in favor of infant baptism. However, prior to the anabaptist movement of the radical reformation the church found infant baptism to be an important part of their lives and the only method of baptism for at least 1200 years. It seems that many Christians are too quick to brush that aside for their current interpretations.


2. Words are powerful and most "Christian" words are loaded and complex.

Even as I read your original post on this subject I thought about the different ways a person could respond coming from different traditions.

Terms like holy spirit, worship, communion, and others are all very weighted by our personal experiences.

I have myself had a conversation with another student at the seminary in which our thoughts seemed to line up only to find out later that we didn't agree AT ALL!

That is one of the beautiful and difficult aspects of Epic. Because of our diverse backgrounds we can learn great things from each but we can also easily miscommunicate.

We are not always saying the same things even when we are using the same words.

Peter P May 10, 2009 at 10:50 PM  

Thanks for the clarification Bruce.

I think a statement like "The Holy Spirit does what is right and necessary for today" would be a little more accurate.

It doesn't mean that he can't do the same thing he did last week or last year or whenever but it does show that he doesn't get stuck in a rut and does new things whenever new things are in order.

Fascinating how any language taken without enough context can create confusion and disagreement, even if it is essentially right in context.

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