Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What is a "Spirit-Filled Ministry"?

One of our local churches advertises itself as a "Spirit-Filled Ministry." Such a title, as I understand it, identifies the church as Pentecostal or Charismatic. These are churches that believe they have a "full gospel" ministry that includes the fullness of the Holy Spirit's work. This usually means they exercise all the so-called "gifts" of 1 Corinthians, such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healing, which are the most popular.

But where does the Bible actually define a church as "Spirit-filled" as opposed to a church that is, well, "Spirit-empty"? Doesn't Peter indicate to the Pentecost converts that they will receive THE gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism? Or is it the case, as I have observed, that "Spirit-filled" people will define gradations of filling, making a distinction between the ordinary believer who "have the Spirit", and the truly spiritual ones that are "filled with the Holy Spirit"? Yet where does Jesus or his apostles ever differentiate between those who only "have" the Spirit and whose who are "filled" with the Spirit?

There is no doubt in my mind that my church is Spirit-filled. Now we don't have anyone speaking in tongues on Sunday morning, but then Paul was always more interested in the use of intelligible words of genuine prophesy than in tongues (read 1 Cor. 14). We also don't have healing services, as such. We pray for the healing of the sick, and many times they recover. In fact, I find that a walk through a hospital on any given day is testimony enough of God's grace in action when it comes to healing. Who said that the miracle had to be preceded by some guy putting his hand on your forehead and pushing you to the ground?

I know that where the Word is, there is the Spirit. The two cannot be separated. I also know that where the waters of Baptism are, there too is the Spirit, for even Peter testified to such, if not Jesus when He said we must be "born of water and the Spirit." And then there is the Supper, where the Spirit is most certainly present, for does not this sacrament most certainly clearly testify of Christ (John 16:12ff)?

Yes, my church is Spirit-filled, but I don't think I'll change the advertisement in the paper. It would only confuse people even more than they already are.....


Anonymous said...

There is progress in sanctification. All Christians (born again believers) have received the Spirit, of course, and he who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him (Romans 8), but Christians can be more or less filled with the Spirit,
"1Co 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
1Co 3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
1Co 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" 1 Cor 1

Why do we always have to go into extremes, we criticize the Evangelicals and then we go into the opposite extreme? Shouldn't we know better?

Don Engebretson said...

Dear Anonymous,

Although you talk about how "we.. have to go to extremes" regarding the "Evangelicals," your other comments do not sound very Lutheran ("born again believer" and the idea of progressive sanctification), thus I wonder where you might be coming from theologically. My point concerned how Christians gathered around Word and Sacrament are truly in a Spirit-filled church already, hardly a "extreme" view for a Lutheran. Since I haven't denied that the Evangelicals are Spirit-filled, nor anyone else for that matter, how were my comments extreme? Or is there a point of debate here that those claiming to be more Spirit-filled are right?