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Is There a ‘Radical Middle’?

Musings on finding a church home that represents the ‘radical middle’ and the kind of experiences I had before that lead to losing my faith for 20 years.

In my earlier Christian days, before I became apostate for 20 years, I could find no clear answers to my questions about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and why so many Christians claim that they are no longer in operation, other than this Scripture reference:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness (KJV ‘that which is perfect’) comes, what is in part disappears

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)

Bible = Completeness?

What ‘when completeness comes’ actually means is something that theologians have started wars over. However, completeness, to me, would indicate that the Kingdom has been established on earth, not the completion of the Bible. If God intended for us to use the Bible instead of the gifts, the gifts would indeed have ceased but they haven’t and they are not ‘of the devil’ as some Evangelicals claim.

The statement that the gifts of the spirit are no longer in operation is becoming ever more problematic in this day and age, since New Age non-believers use and practice multiple gifts of a spiritual nature, including healing, seership and dream interpretation. Some who do not believe in Christ even speak in tongues. This doesn’t prove that we don’t need Jesus. The Pharao’s magicians could perform counterfeit miracles too.

As someone who was born with the sight and who later spontaneously developed the gift of healing, hearing Christians tell me that the gifts were no longer in use was extremely confusing and damaging to my soul.

Swedish Church Experience

My initial church home, and the context I was saved in, was Southern Baptist, a proud cessationist, Evangelical denomination. However, when I arrived back in Europe, there was less of a hard line against the use of the gifts of the spirit and no Evangelical Christian would dare refer to a Charismatic Christian as a ‘child of the devil,’ a term I heard all too often in the USA and never agreed with, even as a teenager.

Upon my return to Sweden, I initially joined the Free Baptist Church closest to where I live. Though they were not preaching against the gifts, they also didn’t teach them or encourage anybody to use them; it was a strange limbo for me, especially after my hands started heating up spontaneously and God gave me a strong desire to use them for healing.

You have the gift but you can’t use the gift

The Pastor we had at the time when my healing gift errupted (age 27) was actually more open to the gifts of the spirit but when I asked him about my longing to use the gift of healing, all he said was, “Yes, you have the gift of healing but you’re not ready to use it yet.” He offered no further words of encouragement or any way forward at all.

If God gave me the gift of healing and if we are commanded to use this gift (which I believe we are), why did my pastor tell me to shelve it? Why didn’t he help me develop it or at least point me to somebody who could? I left our meeting feeling both rejected and dejected.

Not Worthy

The pastor’s response was devastating and one of the main reasons I left the church for the New Age and the occult, via the Catholic Church. AT least the CC would not condemn me for being a dancer. Dancing was seen as a sin at the Evangelical church, and I was in the process of gaining my dance teacher diploma at the time.

I was judged by the church that had been my home for ten years but not instructed. A public announcement was made one Sunday, after the sermon. The speaker apologised for mentioning a dance event that I had been involved with at another church the week before. Apparently, he had received heavy criticism for even mentioning the word ‘dance.’

My soul was crushed and the enemy got the foothold he so desired. I realise now that my pastor probably told me I couldn’t use my gift because he didn’t consider me worthy. All these experiences mirrored and were a perfect match for my sense of rejection that sprang from childhood abandonment and abuse.

The Vineyard Movement

To put everything that happened into a timeline context, I returned from my High School exchange year in the USA back to Sweden in 1987. In the early 1990s, I started hearing rumours about a new movement called Vineyard.

The Vineyard movment was making waves in Sweden in terms of spreading the gospel but because they were seen as ‘charismatic,’ my circle of church leaders wouldn’t have anything to do with them. However, I remember thinking then, based on just rumours, ‘I want what they have.’ That memory stuck with me…

A Church Home?

Now that my husband and I have both spent much of the lockdown diving deep into God’s word, we have agreed that the next step is to find a church home. This lead to me doing some research into the local churches and while there is no Vineyard church in Barnard Castle, there is one in Darlington–a relatively new start-up–that looks very promising.

After I had a look at their website, I decided to learn more about John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard movement. I so agree with the Vineyard sentiment that the divide between Evangelicals, who often veer off into legalism, and charismatics, who sometimes fall into cult worship, is a ‘divide and conquer’ technique used by the enemy.

radical middle jesus christ is the vine and we are the branches

It Is Written

The term ‘radical middle’ which is used by the Vineyard movement really appeals to me for that very reason; I believe this is where we find Jesus. When Jesus was tempted after fasting for 40 days in the desert, he didn’t smack the devil down with even larger signs and wonders than the ones he was tempted with (though he could), but he meekly answered ‘It is written…’

The Word of God has to remain our firm foundation. It was by diving deep into Scripture that I was finally able to extricate myself from my idolatrous practices and surrender my life back to Jesus Christ. Signs and wonders may have just boosted my ego and made me even more hard-headed.

It is a fine balance to keep… but then we are told to walk a narrow path. That is the path I feel the Lord is leading me down; Intimacy with God is my main focus now, the Word of God and the gifts of the spirit are tools to achieve that goal.

I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.

John 15:5 CSB

In Him

Free

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