Edited By: :Leslyn Kim
By far, the most controversial topic that surrounds the Holy Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit. Questions arise over how they are received, how they are used, and more critical – whether or not they are still necessary for today.
The Desert (Story #2):
It’s the middle of the Summer and my wife and I are scrambling to make arrangements for our wedding. After doing exhaustive research by phone, my wife narrows it down to two or three affordable locations that will accommodate us. One of the proposed locations was a Southern Baptist Church ten minutes from our house, which seemed ideal. We had scheduled a late afternoon meeting with one of the pastors on staff to discuss the details of holding the event in the sanctuary, as well as a brief informal counseling session.
We entered the main entrance to the church and I don’t recall all of the details, but we were escorted to the office of the pastor who we were scheduled to meet with. We were greeted at the entrance of the office by a relatively tall middle-aged man wearing a shirt and tie with dress slacks. He seemed relatively friendly, but very formal. As we sat down we first made small-talk and then the conversation moved into what I would guess was the formal counseling session. The general questions were asked that someone would normally expect for a pre-marital counseling session. As we got farther into the conversation he posed the question to each of us individually on our spiritual backgrounds. As we both shared our stories of salvation and other details, he moved further and further into questions surrounding our own doctrinal beliefs. As the conversation shifted into more doctrinal and theological questions, the atmosphere became more awkward and difficult. Primarily because the questioning evolved from mere questions and into more probing investigation. At least, my nerves felt that way.
At that point, most of the questions were being directed to me. Finally, he asked the question – “Now, where do you guys currently go to church and what denomination is it?” My answer, if I recall correctly was a simple retort – “Non-denominational”. Had I known then what I know now, I would have figured out much faster where all of this was leading. His ensuing questions went further. “What are the beliefs of your church?” I went into the essentials, and can’t remember for the life of me if I mentioned the phrase “Holy Spirit”, but I very well may have. At that moment it was as if the whole room temperature dropped 10 degrees. His face changed his demeanor shifted, and the meeting would never be the same. I was immediately and aggressively pursued with questions about what I believed about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Did the church that I attend speak in tongues? What did I believe about the gifts? Are they for today?
As I reflect back on the situation, I assumed the questions he rapid-fired at me were rhetorical. He went on to deliver a two minute condescending diatribe to my wife and I on how the gifts had ceased and how tongues were not for today. At that point I pretty much shut down and only replied to his additional prodding with short sentences and uninterested replies. As he closed out his lecture he finished by telling us in a very crass way that they would not allow us or anyone in our wedding party to speak in tongues during the wedding ceremony. I’m actually cracking up right now while writing this, because the fact that he attempted to stick one final barb in us, by disallowing “anyone speaking in tongues during the wedding ceremony” is laughable. I understood his zeal as a shepherd to protect his sanctuary and church from something that he found wrong or out of sync with scripture, but in the end it did appear (on the surface) to be very immature for a pastor to say something like that.” I honestly think that he realized that before we left. He seemed to shift gears slightly toward the end of the conversation, and offered to take us on a quick tour of the facility, the sanctuary, and the inside courtyard – where there was a kids play area, park benches and other amenities that would have made for a nice reception area.
By far, the funniest part of this story is the ending though, and even though it’s sort of a side note to the topic I have to tell it. As we approached the inside courtyard area, he pointed out to us that the teen facilities were right next door. As I leaned forward to look toward the area where he was pointing, he realized that we both were taking visual interest in seeing the youth area. The view was blocked by a mobile storage bin, on wheels. As he began to push the storage bin aside, my eye immediately was drawn to something bright pink on the floor. I was trying my best not to bust out in laughter after I realized that it was a teenage sized female thong. He quickly took note of the fact that I was looking at this thong on the floor, and as fast as he could he attempted to step on it and cover it with his dress shoe. I can’t lie, and it was wrong of me, but after that soap box lecture that he had given to me moments ago on proper doctrine I couldn’t let him slide that easily. On purpose, I continued to stare at his shoe covering the thong for a good 10 seconds as he continued to talk to us both and distract us from noticing what we/he had just witnessed. His face turned a little red, when he realized I wasn’t going to just let it go, and he finally relented by removing his foot from the thong. He quickly kicked it off to the side, while sort of mumbling under his breath sarcastically, and shaking his head – “These teenagers! I don’t know where this came from!”. He was embarrassed. LOL
Naturally the comedic irony in me wanted to think or say…. “Boy, looks like people around here need the power of the Spirit.”
On a more serious note, that does lead me to draw some closing conclusions. I don’t know any better way to put it, so I’ll defer to something Mark Driscoll said in sermon. As my disclaimer, I am grateful for and have great respect for Driscoll’s charisma and teaching gift. However, I’ll simply say that when I listen to him, it’s usually with a healthy amount of skepticism. Regardless, I think he makes some great points on his assessment of Cessationism. In this short snippet from a conference where was an invited speaker he makes a very convincing, rational and academic argument for why “Cessationism is Worldiness”. You can view the video here:
I think him jumping to the logical conclusion that Cessationism IS “worldliness” is a little hyperbolic, but Driscoll is famous for that I do however think that he makes a fair point that pure mind-based skepticism is at the root of Cessationism. It’s limiting God’s Spirit and capabilities to the way “I” see things. It’s saying that, because you’ve never witnessed scientifically verifiable miracles, healings, tongues, interpretations etc. that the gifts must have ceased. It’s assuming that God must have stopped communicating with men in the same way that he did in the New Testament, because you haven’t witnessed it personally or through observation. Perhaps even worse, as with most flawed doctrines and theologies it’s largely based one single scripture 1 Corinthians 13
“9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.”
I am no theologian, but I’ve always wondered why people would conclude from that scripture that the gifts would soon cease. Not only were they given to the early church in Acts, but considering it’s context the first sentence in the next chapter reveals Paul encouraging the church in Corinth (of all churches) to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit???
1 Corinthians 14:
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
I could go on and on listing how signs, wonders, healings, and amazing things happened and accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early church, but I will save further discussion on this topic for the conclusion. I’m looking forward to tying it all together. There is a good chance that it will be pretty long, since I have a lot more to say. Stay tuned………