Friday, September 21, 2007


I am occasionally asked about how CTK handles the expression of charismatic gifts, such as tongues, in our worship services. The answer is not very complicated. I say, “We have a mission statement that dictates our behavior. It calls for us to create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurched people in love, acceptance and forgiveness.” The implication is clear. The way we worship must be understandable to those we are attempting to reach.

Occasionally someone will express the wish that we would "take it further." I am all for that if “take it further" means a deeper sense of awe, reverence, and love for God. If however, "take it further" means behaving in a way that is comfortable for those from a Pentecostal or charismatic background, but not for others, then the answer is no. This is not because we don't appreciate our Pentecostal and charismatic friends. We do. They have a rich spiritual heritage and have contributed much to the body of Christ. It is just that the practice of a physically demonstrative or emotionalIy driven form of worship is not in harmony with our mission of effectively presenting the "good news" to unchurched people in an environment of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

I believe that God has led us to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups, and needs of unbelievers in our small group meetings and worship services. The Apostle Paul advised that speaking in tongues seems Iike foolishness to unbelievers. Paul didn't say tongues were foolish, only that they appear foolish to unbelievers. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that if I speak in the tongue of an angel but don’t have love, it ends up being noise. I take this to mean that the supernatural gift of love must be subordinated to the common gift of love.

The fruit of the spirit is, first of all, love. Love is what seeks the best for its object. If the exercise of a spiritual gift (any gift: teaching, tongues, wisdom, etc.) is not going to be in the best interests of the person that I am called to love, then I need to set aside the exercise of that gift. All of God’s gifts have to be exercised under God’s control. Spirit control trumps spiritual giftedness - always, and for every gift.

God seeks worshippers that worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Worship that is in spirit and truth comes from the heart. I believe we can express our deep love and appreciation to God in a way that makes sense to the unchurched who are our guests. As newcomers in an unknown environment they interpret what they see and hear. Other churches embrace a mission that is different from ours. I think every church needs to prayerfully discover God's direction for their story and stick with it.

There has probably been no issue more divisive in the body of Christ than the expression of Charismatic gifts. I encourage pastors to be proactive on this subject. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some things I have done over the years to keep these issues from derailing what God wants to do through CTK:

1. I have used the shorthand “no weirdness” to inoculate the environment from extreme elements. In some cases people have been offended by this phrase, but I have to question how anyone could be. The opposite of “no weirdness” of course is “weirdness.” God is the author of the supernatural, but not the strange.
2. I try to correct privately whenever possible. I have found that when people come into our services and prophecy, speak in tongues, play tambourines, et al that it works best on most occasions to meet with them privately and gently instruct them on the nature of CTK, and what God has been calling us to. 99% of the time I have seen good results from these meetings. People appreciate knowing what the boundaries are, and often are very happy to comply.
3. I think it is important to have a response ready for questions on this topic. Become conversant in the five paragraphs above. I believe it is also wise to have a plan in your mind for how you will handle Charismatic expressions if they occur in your public worship. When there is a manifestation you will have a “teachable moment” in which you can show great leadership if you are prepared.
A hallmark of CTK is group before individual welfare. This is actually a very significant commitment. In some churches, the entire body suffers so as to not offend a particular individual and what they perceive to be their needs. This is not body life, this is cancer. Better to deal directly with individuals, to provide the opportunities needed for the greater group. In keeping with the heart of Christ, the needs of others come first.

One time there was a lady in one of our Worship Centers who was doing “arm art” during worship. By “arm art” I mean her arms were flailing in strange contortions in sync with the music. She sat up front where no one could possibly miss her. She was a huge distraction to meaningful, heartfelt worship. I met with her and lovingly informed her of how distracting her worship style was. I also asked her from then on to not allow her arms to come above her waist during the music. Was this an awkward conversation? You bet. But I believe that most people at CTK appreciated that I showed some leadership and dealt with the situation. I put the good of the group ahead of the needs of an individual. I put feet to our mission statement, especially the part about “reaching out effectively to unchurched people.”

The job of a good leader is to articulate a vision that others are inspired to follow. The definition of good leadership always comes back to what the leader says we stand for and how that leader makes everybody in an organization understand how to make that vision active. A lot of people write mission statements, but their words don’t come off the page. Leadership is about making a vision happen – what I call “vision acts.” If you say you’re about something, then what activities in your company indicate the reality behind these words?
- Lorraine Monroe

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