I come from a strange background having grown up in the Vineyard, worked in several different ministries and lived in many different countries. Because of this, when people ask me if I’m a charismatic I always have a quite a long story to tell. A couple of years ago a friend suggested I write these stories down because they’re a little on the odd side and so instead of waiting for myself to never put them in a book, I decided I’ll do a series of longer posts here on my blog where I already have an audience.
Keep in mind that this will not be a deep theological discussion on whether or not the gifts exist today, but rather will look at my experience with the supernatural gifts both when they were used appropriately and when they were abused. I’ve been fascinated my whole life to watch people whose theology I agree with and those whose theology I seriously disagree with both be used by God. I do believe the gifts are around today, but I’ve also seen many people who disagree with that be very powerful players in the Kingdom of God.
First of all, as I’ve mentioned, I did grow up in the Vineyard and my father has always been very involved as a layman. He was then later on staff at a Vineyard Church for a few years when I was finishing up High School. Please understand that my father is a wonderful man of God and therefore I have long looked up to him and valued his opinion and theology. That said, I am certain my biggest theological influence has been my father.
From a young age when I would get sick my dad would lay hands on me and pray for healing. He would generally pray and ask the Lord to come, then he would pause and be silent for a few minutes and then begin to pray in tongues. Often for just a few minutes and then he would ask for healing. I never got the impression my father was sure I would be healed right away, but simply that this was what a believer did when someone was sick. You prayed for them. It didn’t matter how sick or not sick they were, from the most mild of sunburns to the worst broken bones we prayed for comfort and healing and rest.
I would like to say here that I put healing a separate category. First of all because no matter what you think about the gifts the Lord has seemingly healed too many people even some of the strongest cessationalists to not argue that God still heals (don’t get me wrong, people do believe that the Lord doesn’t heal, but I would argue they’re in the minority).
I’ve seen healing happen a couple of times and often I think it quite deniable. But we’ll get to that more in depth in a bit.
I cannot speak for the whole Vineyard as I’m not exactly sure what they believe on all of this stuff and there will certainly be a spectrum within the movement, but one thing I’ve always appreciated about my home church is its stance on the gifts. It seems that my home church has understood that the gifts are just simply not essential in any way to salvation – and with this I agree, they’re not – but are so divisive as to choose to be very careful about their handling. That is, my church would NEVER teach about tongues or prophecy from the pulpit on a Sunday morning. Too many people would be weirded out. But if you approached a pastor and asked him about the church’s stance he would probably be able to tell you that it did believe the gifts were for today. Many of the pastors probably pray in tongues and seek words of knowledge or prophecy but many of them also probably did not.
This is absolutely fantastic. And is the stance that I have maintained since then. Now I’ve worked in many different ministries some that would agree with these ideas and many which would absolutely argue the gifts are no longer around, or completely essential to salvation – both of which God has seemed to use, but I believe have swung to far in one direction.
In fact I feel like the whole subject is so non-essential that I hesitate to even write about it, but because some people are sorting through what they believe about the gifts, I think my experience might be useful.
In the upcoming posts I plan to discuss where I have seen the gifts exercised in Biblically appropriate ways glorifying to God and where i have seen them abused and just down right awkward. I will also be talking about the strange things I’ve seen and the parts I still don’t understand.
I hope you enjoy. Feel free to chime in if you have questions and maybe I’ll address them throughout.