Most Mainline Protestants look down their noses, or at least sideways and with a degree of suspicion, at Pentecostals and charismatics. Ecstatic worship, prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, and other manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit tend to upset staid Mainline sensibilities. Pentecostals and charismatics are often seen as disorganized, uneducated, insular, and out of step with the more progressive intelligentsia which tends to influence Mainline denominations. Thankfully, I believe that many Pentecostals and charismatics, notably those proceeding from the Third Wave movement, are challenging these assumptions. In fact, the contemporary Pentecostal and charismatic movement seems to be surpassing the mainline in both education AND good works. However, that’s a subject for a future post.
Dr. David Watson, Scott Fritzsche and Wesleyan Way’s own Stephen Fife have picked up on the theme of #NextMethodism — what the hallmarks of a new Methodist movement might be. Dr. Watson posits that one of the key elements will be a focus on the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit. I want to build on Dr. Watson’s premise in this post by briefly examining how this emphasis would actually be a return to authentic Wesleyanism, and what it might look like in practice in one major area of Wesleyan concern.
My spiritual life changed dramatically when I encountered the ministry of Dr. Randy Clark & Global Awakening. Randy Clark holds a doctoral degree from United Theological Seminary (so much for charismatics being uneducated troglodytes), and is perhaps most well-known for his role in the Toronto Blessing. I encountered the Holy Spirit at a Global Awakening conference (Voice of the Apostles) in October 2016, and my ministry and spiritual life has never been the same. Dr. Clark approaches the gifts of the Spirit, and particularly divine healing, with an eye toward historical and Biblical scholarship, and emphasizes such learning in his ministry.
One of the many Wesleyan resonances in Dr. Clark’s ministry (and in the Third Wave movement), and what I want to focus on here, is the belief that if manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit are truly of God, it will be evident in its fruit, and especially in its social impact. After all, this is Biblical: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:7)” But it is also a Wesleyan essential. Given our Wesleyan heritage of social concern, and the relationship between personal faith and social outreach, it is not difficult to begin to see how a recovery of the full charismata is truly Wesleyan.
What’s more, this would situate the locus of social concern firmly within the context of the movement of the Holy Spirit. While so many United Methodist social endeavors certainly make a difference in people’s lives, they seem to lack a robust and deep grounding in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As believers in Jesus Christ, how and why we care for humanity matters. We are not the Rotary Club or UNICEF. John Wesley visited the sick and the poor, spent time in prisons, gave his money away to charity, precisely because he was motivated by the Spirit of God. The #NextMethodism will be intentional about cultivating spiritual gifts, putting them into practice, and seeing humanitarian work as a result of the charismata.
The #NextMethodism will desire all the gifts of the Spirit, and will find its mission and reason for outreach grounded in the charismata. What about you, reader? How do you see the Holy Spirit moving in the next iteration of our movement? Comment below.