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7 ways the charismatic movement ignited the Church

John Huggett looks at the effects of the charismatic movement (1960s-90s) on the UK Church and considers how Christians should respond to it today 

Last century my wife and I were among many pioneer nationwide leaders of the charismatic renewal, a wake-up call to churches worldwide of all denominations. It emphasised the fullness and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Thousands of Christians were consciously filled with the Spirit, frequently speaking in tongues. In the New Testament 'filled' means 'empowered for service'. Every time someone was filled he immediately opened his mouth, either to speak to God or for him.

Speaking in tongues is a sign one is filled (Acts 10:44-46) and a powerful prayer language (1 Corinthians 14:2). Paul writes, "I want you all to speak in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:5).    

There are numerous beneficial consequences of the renewal, and a few unhelpful ones. We cannot recapture its wonder and excitement, but the best results are still relevant, and a number of Christians are seeking to maintain these manifestations. Some are more important than others, but each can aid worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism and church growth.

Here are seven key ways the charismatic movement radically ignited the Church. 

1. Understanding of the supernatural 

When you are filled with the Spirit you can become more aware of this, and have a greater expectancy of what God can do (John 14:12). During the renewal there was a resurgence of healing and associated ministries, and signs and wonders pointed to Jesus (Romans 15:18-19). Supernatural signs are now observed less here, but prevail in Africa and elsewhere, attracting tens of thousands to evangelistic gatherings.

2. Unlocking spiritual gifts

Prophecy, tongues and interpretation, words of knowledge and wisdom, discerning spirits, an inrush of faith, miracles and healing gifts are all valuable. Though some Christians especially are given these, all are encouraged to seek them (1 Corinthians 14:1). They are not 'for keeps' but given as needed to pass on.

3. Diversity in worship

New styles of worship were ushered in, especially with songs of adoration. Spontaneous worship followed, and choruses – beforehand mainly the preserve of children. Praise became not only a way of thanking God but causing circumstances to change!

4. Exuberence in worship

Raising hands, clapping, dancing and flag waving were all largely unknown in regular worship before.

5. New forms of prayer

New to some was the prayer of faith: thanking God for what he’s going to do – of authority: telling harmful things to leave in Jesus’ name (compare rebuking: Luke 4:39) – and of agreement: trusting with someone for a particular need to be met (the pair may join hands and claim Matthew 18:19). Prayer ministry was introduced, frequently accompanied by laying on hands. Then came prayer counselling: long periods of listening and ministering. Deliverance ministry increased, plus binding and loosing (Matthew 18:18). Extempore prayer started in non-evangelical churches, and prayer for revival became a frequent activity.

6. Every-member ministry

Congregations (meeting together) were turned into fellowships (sharing together). Every-member ministry was encouraged. There arose new forms of church (cell groups, for example) and fresh Christian communities. Many new churches were planted. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches were the fastest-growing by the twenty-first century.

7. Powerful experiences

These were frequent and included physical anointings and falling under the power and resting in the Spirit.

Maintaining the manifestations 

While these seven manifestations were common, there were other developments too. These included specific guidance, automatic assurance and boldness when witnessing, the ministry of angels today, significant increases in visions and dreams, and "practising the presence of Jesus" – visualising him in particular situations.

There were unhelpful consequences of all this as well. These included some seeing the charismatic as just another type of worship, playing down speaking in tongues, manipulation and division, and undue emphasis on submission and prosperity. Although healing ministry is now acceptable across much of the Church, it has sometimes become a form without the power. Some televangelists have a commercialised approach. New church leaders are sometimes without training or experience.

So how can we maintain the beneficial manifestations that were commonplace throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s? I suggest that leaders, of whatever tradition should pray about how they can begin to see some of the above in their churches. You might discover which worshippers have used spiritual gifts and encourage them. People need to know what they are free to share, and when is appropriate to do this (1 Corinthians 14:40). Most importantly, leaders must be open to the Holy Spirit and ready to alter their plans if he has others!

All of us should ask ourselves which spiritual gifts we’ve been most used in, or which we should seek. You can use them in everyday life as well as church. If you get to where charismatic practices are taught and acted out – such as at New Wine or on an Alpha course – you can expect to see more dynamic manifestations which give glory to the Lord.

John Huggett is an Anglican minister and a member of All Saints Church, Crowborough, East Sussex. He is co-founder of Breath, an interdenominational ministry of healing, teaching, training and prayer counselling, and has written several books on healing and wholeness.  

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