Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Working Together (Part One)

In my comment to Dave Bish in this post about Together on a Mission I said
If I am being honest I am still a bit twitchy about New Word Alive I am afraid. I may post some thoughts on it at some stage. I just can't quite correlate previous experience and current expectations.
I thought that was worthy of thrashing out a bit more, maybe into a series of posts.

I think I need to do a bit of soul searching. I think there may even be a bit of unforgiveness lying in the background of my thinking. This is my journey, with my heart on my sleeve.

Please hear me, love me, challenge me, and correct me, in that order!

I am not always wholly comfortable with being known as a "conservative evangelical" because I am not sure I like everything I see coming out of that wing of the Church. Not necessarily the theology, but rather the attitude. I am a conservative evangelical by much of my thinking, but I don't always feel like one.

I see myself as an evangelical first, charismatic second, conservative, then reformed. I have greatly enjoyed periods of membership at Vineyard Churches in Birmingham and Nottingham while away at university. I mainly have experience within newfrontiers Churches, especially this one, which joined newfrontiers in the late nineties after fifteen years of being an independent charismatic evangelical Church.

I like Newfrontiers because I am passionate about scripture and passionate about the work of the Holy Spirit. I liked the way Newfrontiers feels like it was on the safe end of the Charismatic scale, without some of the excesses, and on the charismatic end of the evangelical scale, without some of the excesses.

Things seem to have moved a bit. Perhaps since the Steve Chalke / Atonement debate and discussions it feels sometimes like Newfrontiers is more aligned with a narrower group of conservative evangelicals than its previous position as part of the charismatic landscape.

This has many positives, as conservative evangelicals represent many godly people looking to be faithful to the gospel. But it does feel like there has been some "drift" away from some of our charismatic brothers and sisters. This may be implied, I may have got this wrong, but it feels like it. The term "reformed charismatic" is used instead of "evangelical charismatic".

Before I go back and work through some of my own experiences one thing that is troubling me is a very basic issue.

If there was a significant move of the Holy Spirit, such as what was dubbed the "Toronto Blessing", I think these new relationships would be stretched. In the same way old friendships were stretched by the atonement debate. Excluding the weirdness that surrounded the way some people dealt with what was happening during that time of renewal, it was certainly a blessing to the Church here.

I have a feeling I would be sat at a conference expectant for the presence of God next to a Vineyard pastor. Our ecclesiology may differ a bit, so may the outworking of several theological points, and even our worldviews may differ. Our views on the atonement may differ, as may our views on all sorts of things. But we will be there, seeking God.

I also have a feeling the wing of the Church who support New Word Alive would not be very positive about an "outpouring" and associated charismatic experiences. I am not talking about speaking out against excess and weirdness, many of us try to do that, and have done so recently. But I think the whole thing could be opposed as a matter of theological disagreement.

I don't want to lift the drawbridge up on movements / groups / ideas / views when we share much more than we disagree on, and I fear we could be seen to be doing this, possibly by what we don't do more than what we do!

It concerns me because I don't think it helps unity.
It concerns me because I think newfrontiers is in danger of losing its voice within the Charismatic scene, such as not having a major presence at events like Spring Harvest.
It concerns me because I think in the future we could end up on the "wrong" side of the drawbridge, on the naughty step with other charismatic movements whose theology or practice is questioned.

Next up I will post about my own personal experiences.

6 comments:

dave bish said...

Thanks for the fleshed out response, thanks for your honesty, looking forward to more.

I guess the things that concerns me are that

a) you might be right

b) if what you suggest happened there would always be some reservation and some embrace - but whether you chose to be sat there affects who else is sat around you too... if it's you, me, the vineyard guy and a non-charismatic brother (if we must label ourselves) and God does something the response in the room might well be different to whether it's four non-charismatics... I remember some comment about NWA being a little more reserved than Terry was used to - but then it would be because there were only a handful of people from Newfrontiers there and lots of people who do things differently (for better or for worse) - unity costs. If we jumped on board NWA as a family conference then it'd be more like we're used to...

c) such a move would test any partnership, but i'd rather see it tested in a context where we share a robust theological unity rather than when we don't know one another and stand apart...

d) maybe it'd be the conservative evangelical who would be seeking God more than me.

Real unity of people who really disagree doesn't come without a cost.

Jongudmund said...

Dave, you might find this distinction helpful.

Are you evangelical or are you an evangelical?

There is, to me, a massive difference.

I've noticed a hardening of the line in New Frontiers in the past few years. It's almost as if they want to be accepted by the conservative evangelicals who may be anti-charismatic, so kind of downplay the charismatic thing.

'We're charismatic, but not that scary. Seriously we're just as conservative and reformed in our theology as you. Please like us.'

The ironic thing is that when I've been to B'bas and NSCC I always feel it's like 'traditional' charismatic worship, with gifts and stuff expected to happen as a natural part of the service. (Not a crit! Gifts are good.)

But the church I'm in now is perhaps less concerned with being judged for being charismatic and yet is stragely less charismatic in it's praxis.

As for the atonement thing, I'm not sure whether you're comments about Vineyard are a bit of a generalisation.

Personally I think that "debate" was used by a few people as an opportunity to bash a rather brash Christian celeb than to have a serious debate about what said celeb said. It's almost as if some people were just waiting to have a pop at Steve Chalke and the (tactless, stupid) comments about the atonement were the excuse they needed.

IMHO.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

c) such a move would test any partnership, but i'd rather see it tested in a context where we share a robust theological unity rather than when we don't know one another and stand apart...


I agree, to an extent. But I guess I can see where our theological unity is not as robust, and that concerns me. It is the weak point of the relationship, which in my experience has been found wanting in the past.

d) maybe it'd be the conservative evangelical who would be seeking God more than me.

I do not doubt that for a second. More than you and me both.

My concern is that the outworking of that, the actual applied theological expression, our spirituality, could look pretty different.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

As for the atonement thing, I'm not sure whether you're comments about Vineyard are a bit of a generalisation.

They undoubtedly are.

The ironic thing is that when I've been to B'bas and NSCC I always feel it's like 'traditional' charismatic worship, with gifts and stuff expected to happen as a natural part of the service.

It is! / They are!

Maybe it is because in this town the only "new" Churches are us and North Shrewsbury, apart from one or two much smaller groups. That means we have never been differentiated amongst new church groups. We have some absolutely 100% nailed on Charismatic anglican Churches here, but even so, we have not had to define ourselves compared to similar looking expressions of charismatic experience.

Nor do we have a "flagship" conservative evangelical Church like most university towns / cities seem to have. We don't have a university so don't see the Fusion / UCCF thing in action.

Mission Shrewsbury is evangelical, broadly charismatic, and is an anglican/baptist/newfrontiers group because those are the Churches here on the ground. There is no staunch anti-charismatic evangelical Church or slightly on the edge charismatic Church to help test where the parameters are.

Jongudmund said...

There is no staunch anti-charismatic evangelical Church

Or at least no large ones... dad would relate plenty of criticisms he's had in the past.

Anonymous said...

I have been in a New Frontiers Church for 10 years. Until about a year to 2 years ago I always felt that even though I did not agree with every issue there was freedom to be part of the church and play my part. Grace was more important then an arguement about doctrine. I feel that the more that New frontiers pins down doctrine the more I feel excluded and that I am seen as wrong for my views. I even question whether I should stay in the church. What I saw as a strength in New Frontiers is now being lost.

I have been part of "New" churches for 27 years and I was always excited by the history of people who had left churches because they wanted to see more and joined the House Church and that we knew we had not made it yet and were always ready to change. I now feel the desire for "Restoration" is being lost.

I don't label myself as reformed. I sometimes feel part of a nice denomination in New Frontiers that is set in its ways and happy to keep going like this.

I don't mean to be negative and critical. I want answers and advice. I know some New Frontiers churches are different from others but I have contact with people in other churches and see the same issues and when I read New Frontiers blogs some of the stuff really concerns me.

I enjoy this blog.I hope this makes sense.