We end this series today with one of the PP’s favorite iconoclasts, Babylons Dread.
Brilliant, well read, and a pastor in every way, he is one of the best people I’ve been gifted to know.
This is his story and his heart.
Why I Am a Renewal Pastor
After producing one of those long ‘my journey’ documents it became apparent that what PP readers really might be interested in is my involvement in “Renewal” circles. How did a Lutheran born, Presbyterian mentored, Baptist educated 40something pastor become a charismaniac? Good question, and it required some introspection to describe. The bottom line; years and years of academic pursuit gave way to the thirst for a taste of spiritual reality. Knowing theology was never my quest, knowing Christ was and is. So the bottom line is that a salty, sometimes harsh, insensitive curmudgeon was and is a revivalist at heart.
When you experience a dramatic, instantaneous, powerful conversion you cannot settle for didactic rationalistic Christianity. The bottom line for me is that evangelicalism left me fully informed academically and fully unformed spiritually. Further, the enormous gap between Biblical truth and daily life was and is simply irreconcilable. There had to be MORE than this and that became the cry of my heart. If the ‘joy of the LORD is my strength’ then why was depression so common, so pervasive, so unrelenting? So here is the simple process; renewal offered the promise of a Christian life that was richer, more experiential, more supernatural AND to a high degree that pursuit was satisfied.
My first encounters with power-filled faith subsequent to conversion all involved experiences with demonic torment and release both for myself and for others. That amounted to 5 or 6 encounters over a 15 year period so it unfolded very slowly. You must also remember that Baptists are open to demonic warfare but they are prone to see demonic activity in glossolalia and other charismatic experiences.
John Wimber is the first breakthrough, he was the first to offer a coherent evangelical argument against the baptism of the Holy Spirit theology of Pentecostals and Charismatics. John gave evangelicals a way past our academic objections to charismatic theologies and practices. C. Peter Wagner modeled the path to navigating the personal change. Finally, my friend, Randy Clark opened the way for a Spirit-filled evangelical to participate in Holy Spirit revival and renewal. After reading John, studying with Pete and getting to know Randy most of my objections were removed.
Theologically my commitment to the presence of the Kingdom had become very entrenched. Add in the experience of tongues credible encounters with the Spirit in prophesy and you have a very good framework for understanding and embrace of renewal. Luke 11:1-13 convinced me that pursuing and asking for the Spirit from the Father was failsafe. No demon could intervene in that quest. If we ask Father for the Spirit he gives in kind. John Wimber via Chuck Smith offered a theology that spoke of our relationship to the Spirit in terms of three prepositions; with, in, upon. That removed my objection to the old Spirit baptism doctrine in favor of saying that those who have the Spirit ‘in’ them still can experience the Spirit coming ‘upon’ them.
After experiencing the Spirit in this fashion, my marriage was stressed. Thus a promise was made to Gail that unless this new experience brought real change to my life it would be discarded. For one full year the matter was not raised between us, my experiences were kept private and away from public eye. After that time my wife was so moved by the change in my demeanor she began her own pursuit of the life in the Spirit. Tongues had the amazing effect of improving my mental health dramatically and reducing my stress measurably. For Gail this was a profound change.
It seemed to me that charismatic renewal held the most promise for those who believe in the presence of the Kingdom. It also seemed to me that kingdom theology was best served by a positive renewal theology that looked for a massive revival over against a last minute exit from the world’s demise. So on the point of missions and eschatology renewal stood up to the test in my mind.
In addition, my growing sacramental view of the communion, has actually found an ally in renewal. Nothing is more sacramental than the emphasis on ‘impartation’ as a means of receiving from the LORD. To be Bible-centered, charismatic and sacramental leaves one with few options, especially when you throw in the heavy focus on ammillennial theology. Someone once told me prophetically(we had never met) “you feel like you are neither fish nor fowl, like you do not belong anywhere.” Bingo! That nails it. I did not have a home. The renewal took me in with open arms. That is a powerful reality when looking for your place.
Randy Clark befriended me in a difficult season, and numerous others among the ‘usual suspects’ of renewal did so as well. So relationship is a big reason that renewal is my home. Its’ noncreedal nature has been both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes the things that pass for theology in this family are embarrassing and worse. Other times the freedom to dissent and insist on another way is refreshing and invigorating.
Saying that you are a renewal pastor is somewhat like saying you are a conservative… Relative to what? It is highly undefined. So much so that most of my friends would not even use the description, preferring revival as a description. Revival is probably what drew me into the group. The things that happened to people in the so-called Toronto Blessing, happened to me as well, despite having never been there.
Renewal is mess and often offends and upsets me but the right of dissent exists among us. To embrace renewal is not to embrace every madness that accompanies it. It means an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit actively and powerfully in the world today. It means believing that the life of the book of Acts is normal and settling for less is subnormal. It means an optimism about life and about the mission of God in the world. It means believing that emotional, spiritual and physical bondage should be opposed and eliminated. It means confidence about world evangelization. It means being able to ‘taste and see’ the goodness of the LORD. Thus I am a renewal pastor.