Tuesday, November 03, 2009

spontaneous and set

A kind of curious thing has been going on in my thinking lately. On the one hand those of us in Jesus are led by the Spirit. As Jesus told us, we're not to think about what to say ahead of time in the event that we face an hour of persecution. The Spirit will give us words to say then. But also, of course, we have Scripture, the word of God given to us in many words.

Add to this the witness of the church. There is no faster growing segment of the church growing than the Pentecostal, charismatic side of it. There surely are some secondary factors, but I believe the primary reason is because of the power and working of the Holy Spirit. These churches are purposefully more open to the Spirit, whatever we might say about all their doctrine and theology and practice. At the same time we see a resurgence in the church for an appreciation of liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer from which I have been taking a prayer from weekly is one prime example.

I am becoming more and more convinced that we need both. We need the freedom, spontaneity and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit for today, though how they work out in local congregations will vary. And I believe everyone in Jesus strictly speaking is a charismatic Christian already, having the gift of the Spirit, whether or not they believe in or practice any of the gifts that are more common in Pentecostal, charismatic circles. We also need every word of Scripture to be received as God's word to us. And we need the witness of the church now and through the ages. What the church has said and written does matter, even though all must be critiqued in view of God's word. But the critique itself includes not just each one of us, but the church together, necessarily, and with the help of the Spirit. We can benefit much from written prayers and liturgy, helping us to pray, even as Jesus taught his disciples and us to learn to pray -through a set prayer.

The Spirit can work powerfully through both, and the best way for us to live in Jesus is to include both the spontaneous and the set. Of course the bottom line is learning to love God and love people through following Jesus. And sharing the gospel by living it out, as well as giving a verbal witness to it. In all of this God is at work in us through Jesus as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We know we woefully fall short, yet to recognize and acknowledge this can help us to look to our only Redeemer, Savior and Lord: God through Jesus by the Spirit. The work begins in us and then out from us to others.

What would you like to share about this, or any thoughts?


jps said...

Nice thoughts; as you say, " the bottom line is learning to love God and love people through following Jesus."


Ted M. Gossard said...


Hope all is going well with you and your family.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Great post on an important issue. A couple of things come to mind.

First, so often in the church, this issue is a reflection (in part) of temperament. There are some people who are naturally wired for the spontaneous and others who are wired for the set. Neither is better, but both need to be acknowledged and considered. No one is a victim of their personality. Where one expression is natural to us, the other must be available as an act of mature Christian discipline. That is, there are times when the set people must let go, trust God and embrace the moment. Likewise, there are times when the spontaneous folk need to learn to embrace the value of set. This is only one small aspect of the discussion, but I think an important one.

Secondly, I think that "spontaneous" might be a misnomer in many cases. While it might be spontaneous for us, I believe that the move of the Spirit would be better described as adaptive or proactive. This doesn't change the need for what you talk about here, but perhaps frames it in different terms in respect to God.

Finally, I am also encouraged that both spontaneous and set expressions are part of the gifts of the Spirit. I love the idea that "administrators" are listed with tongues and prophecy. Spirit led administrators are charismatic! This calls for some reconsidering in our assumptions, no?

Anyway, great post!


Mike M said...

I question whether "liturgy" is even necessary. Maybe it's "nice" to have; maybe it can lead people closer to God; maybe people keep it around for sentimental reasons (which seems pervasive) but is it really necessary?

And as far as our theology goes, what does that mean? I would recommend a visit to your local Pentecostal House of Prayer for some real spirit-filled worship!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Jamie, Thanks for your good contribution here. I think you're right. And there is some imprecision here in my post, and/or lack of depth as I make some general statements.

Yes. Very good point that administrators are just as gifted and Spirit-moved as those who prophesy, etc. And really all of God's people in Christ are. We need to recognize that, and be expectant or accustomed to the Spirit's adaptive and proactive work through us.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Mike M., Thanks.

I believe liturgy and good use of it can be, and really should be by Christians, very charismatic, or Spirit-oriented. One of the most powerful Spirit-filled services Deb and I ever attended was an Episcopalian one a year back, going through the "Book of Common Prayer," and mixing in good songs and prayers and words, with a sermon, and the Eucharist afterwards. And we appreciate and have been part of the "charismatic" side in a Vineyard church for a number of years, and know what you speak of in Pentecostal services.

We do well to pray along with the Church in liturgy, and with well worn, lasting wisdom in prayers prayed for many years, over many generations and cultures. That can enhance our own praying, I believe in helping us to pray more according to God's revelation given to us in Jesus and Scripture. And certainly Jesus and the people of his days prayed set prayers, even as he taught his disciples and us to pray in the "Our Father" prayer.