empowered by the spirit for mission

The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay

A book review

The Tangible Kingdom is an exhortation to Christians to get out of their insular bubble and build relationships with people outside the faith. It is an exhortation first to get to know them, then to help and serve people around you. It is an exhortation to have real conversations about things that matter especially the kingdom of God. That is real conversations – not trying to score points and win arguments – but, out of friendship, listening to where people are at and to discuss openly issues that matter. Our faith is to be lived out in front of people not hidden away in a church building.

Though it is co-written with Matt Smay it contains Hugh Halter’s own story about how he has done just that. It tells how he left a comfortable ministry job to move to a new town, and working as a painter and decorator gathered together a group of people that he went for drinks with. This eventually leads to him planting a church that just keeps on growing. At one point he was offered financial support by one denomination but he declined as they require their ministers to be teetotal. Going for a pint seems to be an important key to Hugh’s ministry; it is when he appears to discuss the kingdom best.

The book is subtitled ‘Creating Incarnational Community’ but if you’re looking for a theological explanation of the incarnation and the kingdom of God you will be frustrated by this book. Though it aims to outline how we can be relevant to our culture it doesn’t do so in a deeply intellectual way. Some of the writing is a little confusing and it is full of anecdotes and that often failed to enlighten me. I felt that it could have been vastly improved by stricter editing especially of the American colloquialisms and perhaps some deeper research by the writers. But despite all this I felt gripped by the book’s hard hitting agenda.

Halter and Smay’s desire is that Christians won’t just think of evangelism as occasionally plucking up the courage to invite someone to a church service. They want to see churches transformed into communities that are mixing with people around them in order to demonstrate God’s Kingdom in tangible ways. The main premise of the book is that just as Jesus came to this world to be one of us so we should go to the world and rub shoulders with others. Halter and Smay realise that producing such incarnational communities is not easy. But step by step we can begin to move our church in this direction.

As I read this book I found myself feeling that I had heard all this before. But then it dawned on me that I wasn’t doing it! As an introvert I find some of this particular difficult. So I found it particularly interested to read in a couple of places that Hugh Halter regards himself to be an introvert. Chapter after chapter Halter and Smay spell out the fact that we need to get out more – not be afraid of being ‘contaminated by sinners’ – but instead to be salt and light in our community. Each chapter has questions to ponder and they suggest reading through the book with others, discussing these and taking practical steps to actually do this.

As I said – The Tangible Kingdom is not too intellectual – but it certainly is challenging. It left me feeling that somehow I want to go for this.

Halter and Smay run courses training people in some of the principles in this book. For more details and some more videos visit their website here.

March 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

As a charismatic it is my experience and belief that the authentic gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operating in the church today. They are there for all believers to seek and to use out of love for each other enabling us all to draw closer to Jesus together.

Some time ago I gave some brief definitions of the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and looking at these I thought they needed a little more elaboration.

1. A word of wisdom

This is when God gives someone insight into how God is working out his purposes so that they can speak into a situation enabling someone to make appropriate sensible decisions. Like many of the gifts this may come in very natural ways in conversations and provide practical help in situations leading to level-headed and successful responses.

2. A word of knowledge

I tend to see the definition of this as ‘God given insight into God’s heart and mind’ that is given by teachers such as Rodman Williams and Mark Stibbe as being the most biblical. But the idea of this being specific knowledge of a situation that God reveals has been popularised by preachers such as John Wimber and is often what people mean when they use this term.

3. Faith

The gift of faith is when God encourages you to hold onto him in a difficult situation even if you can see no way out. People’s faith may be stimulated by stories of answers to prayer – particularly of healing and miracles – or even of others being saved – but we need to ensure that these are cautiously stated and are factual and true or people will become cynical. Ultimately it is God that gives the faith it isn’t something you can whip up.

4. Gifts of healing

Healings occur when God enables you to supernaturally bring about wholeness and relieve someone’s suffering in response to prayer. Healings may also come in response to you commanding sickness to leave or you commanding a healing to come as we see Jesus and the early apostles doing. But I think we need to take care that we do this in a gentle yet authoritative way.

5. Miraculous powers

These are when God enables you to meet the needs of others in amazing and unusual ways. The way this term is often used gives much overlap with healing – but another important aspect of this God given provision. We need to take care to distinguish needs from wants and not be led astray by materialism. I am thrilled when I hear of God providing money and resources when it clearly demonstrates God’s care for the poor.

6. Prophecy

When God speaks to you so that you can show others what he is saying. This doesn’t need to have the trapping of ‘Thus says the Lord…’. You might just want to say that you sense the Holy Spirit is emphasizing something that you go on to explain. It might be about God’s nature or purposes or specifics of a situation. Though some may refer to revelation about specifics of a situation such as insights into someone’s health problems as a word of knowledge – the Bible appears to refer to this as prophecy.

7. Distinguishing between spirits

The gift of discernment may give you insight into what is actually happening in a given spiritual situation. For instance, when someone is apparently responding to God in an unusual way is this really the Holy Spirit moving being embraced with humility or is it an emotional response as the result of human hype or showmanship or are their even evil forces at work here?

8. Speaking in different kinds of tongues

Speaking in tongues is when God enables you to speak to him in languages you have never learnt. As with all the gifts you are still in control but if you receive this gift unlike other gifts you can operate it at will especially to use in their own devotions. Though sometimes the first gift someone receives we cannot say that without this ability someone is not Spirit filled.

9. Interpretation of tongues

The Bible indicates that speaking in tongues when we come together should involve each person speaking in turn and that someone should then explain to others what someone who just spoke in tongues actually said. I would only speak in tongues in this way if I felt specifically prompted by God and I believe the result would be a prayer from the Spirit that sums up some or all of the people’s hearts. When I hear such tongues or speak them myself I often sense that I understand them and so give the interpretation.

Further Reading

Here is a good summary of Mark Stibbe’s out of print book Know Your Spiritual Gifts summarised by Alison Morgan

Related post: What Does Charismatic Mean?

March 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

John Crowder on Baptism with the Spirit

Here is another outline of baptism with the Spirit for those who are interested in this idea. As I’ve said before baptism with the Spirit is something I would encourage all Christians to experience. And if it is already your experience I would encourage you to continue to live in and look into the Bible to understand more.

This outline is by John Crowder whose teaching is surprisingly sound and biblical considering some of the excesses of his meetings and claims that he makes – that I’ve already discussed elsewhere.

Believers already have the Holy Spirit

In this video he discusses the notion that some have that we receive the Holy Spirit as a second blessing at some point after believing in Jesus. Crowder argues from Collosians 2:9-10 that godhead dwells in Christ so if Christ is in us – so is the Spirit and the Father for that matter. So the Trinity cannot be separated this way.

Instead he describes the experience of baptism with the Spirit – which he most certainly believes in – as having our senses tangibly immersed, overcome or filled with the Spirit.

Baptism with the Spirit is just the first of many infillings

He then quickly goes on to say that this is not just a one time experience but we are encouraged to be continually filled – finding our excitement and ecstasy in Christ.

I don’t think his point is to deny that there is an experience separate from believing in Jesus where this happens but simply to say that it is should be just the first of many such experiences of being filled with the Spirit. Though there are deep ecstatic experiences where people are completely overcome with the Spirit there is also the immense joy of continual living in God’s presence as we drink in the Spirit every moment of every day.

But he makes the point that when we are first filled with the Spirit – this experience of baptism with the Spirit simply means that we have begun to drink from a well that is already in us.

Do even unbelievers have the Spirit?

Interestingly and perhaps more controversially Crowder goes further to say that even unbelievers have God within them but in a hidden way. He argues this from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill where Paul quotes the pagan writer who says ‘in him we live and move and have our being… we are his offspring’.

Crowder sees salvation is the result of recognising our true identity – that in reality we are not separated from God that we have separated ourselves from God by becoming his enemies. In Acts 8 – believers did not know about the Holy Spirit – it wasn’t that they didn’t have the Holy Spirit – they just didn’t know it.

He also sees Romans 8:9 not as saying that some people don’t belong to God instead Paul is simply saying that disobedient believers who say they have the Spirit should be reflecting the life of Christ.

I’m not so sure that I follow all of this last point but I think that his point is to emphasise that our experience of baptism of the Spirit is not when the Holy Spirit comes into us as the Holy Spirit is not just there because we have believed but was even within us before as he is omni-present.

Related Posts

Baptised in the Spirit
How to get Stoned on Jesus: Meet John Crowder and Friends
Seven Spirits Burning by John Crowder

March 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)