The debate over the “gifts of the Spirit” divides evangelical Christians. The debate over the ancient liturgy of the church divides as well. Is it possible to heal the divides by bringing the charismatic and the liturgical together?
Consider the “gifts of the Spirit.” On one side are those who believe that the supernatural gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc. continue on today in the church (the continuationist, or charismatic position). On the other side are those who believe that those very same gifts ceased to exist at the end of the apostolic age, in the first century of the church (the cessationist, on non-charismatic position).
Walk into just about any “typical” evangelical church today, and the antenna of any first time visitor goes up. How many people during worship are raising their hands during the singing? Is the person sitting next to you uttering some undecipherable words, just above a whisper (or louder), during the corporate prayer time? If things get really scary, you might be asking yourself, “Is that barking I hear, or is that simply the drummer hitting the snare drum, making a really odd sound?”
Depending upon your theological background, the answers to these questions might encourage you to stick around, and inquire positively of the pastor, or they might encourage you to quietly sneak out the door, never to return!
Spirit and Sacrament: An Invitation to Eucharismatic Worship, by Andrew Wilson, is probably the best written case for defending the union and expression of charismatic and liturgical worship in the church. Plus, the book is short and exceptionally well written.
The “gift of tongues” as “groanings too deep for words?”
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 ESV).
I remember the first time I ever heard people “speaking in tongues.” A friend of my father’s had invited my dad and I to attend a Full Gospel Businessmen‘s fellowship meeting. I was only about 13 years old and we had a very nice dinner with men dressed in suits and ties… and chocolate ice-cream for desert. Yum-yum.
But then the meeting took an odd turn when guitar-led singing soon began, and I started to hear some of the men around me saying some rather funny things. As they were singing, I could not understand what words they were using. It clearly was not English! Was it gibberish? I could not help but to look around the room, eyes wild open, trying to figure out what in the world was going on! It was like something out of 1 Corinthians 14!
My dad and I had a rather quiet ride in the car going home that night. Now, you have to know my dad. He is not one for displaying emotion, being rather stoic in personality but always with something articulate to say. But the whole evening left my dad uncharacteristically speechless…. and it left me with a lot of questions.