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Enjoying God Blog

Last week I posted only the first half of an interview that Pneuma conducted with Andrew Gabriel based on his excellent book, Simply Spirit Filled. Here is the second half.

Pneuma Review: When addressing the subject of spiritual manifestations, such as shaking and being slain in the Spirit, some people tend to categorize them as either all of God or all not of God. You do not do that in the book. Please tell us why.

Andrew Gabriel: The funny thing is that a friend from my youth, who is now a pastor, told me that in my book I was still too skeptical about spiritual manifestations. At the same time, another pastor friend of mine told me that I was too optimistic about those things. This make me think I must have found the elusive “balanced” position.

But to come back to your question, many people who have had exposure to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement have seen a preacher pushing people over, even if only on TV or YouTube. So for those who have any desire to be discerning, it’s obvious that these so-called manifestations are not always from God.

At the same time, in my own experiences as a spiritual-experience junkie, I recognize that there were times that in the midst of what you might call humanness, I had many truly transforming experiences of the presence of God. So maybe I let myself get pushed over on occasion, but while I lay there on the floor, God would speak to me and shape my affections to desire the kingdom of God.

Pneuma Review: In what areas does the Pentecostal church need to improve its teaching on the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit?

Andrew Gabriel: I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I think there is an ongoing sense that Pentecostals value the dramatic gifts of the Spirit more than the non-dramatic gifts. I’m thinking of gifts like healing, tongues, and prophecy, in contrast to less-dramatic gifts like teaching, encouragement, or administration. It is kind of ironic, because it is the same sort of problem as in the Corinthian church of the first century. Paul wrote to remind them that all of the gifts were of value and from the same source, and we still need this reminder today.

On the other hand, as I travel around and talk to others, it seems that many Pentecostal churches aren’t seeing much of the dramatic gifts at work in or through their congregations, even if they value them more than the non-dramatic gifts. This makes me wonder if they don’t sufficiently desire the gifts of the Spirit, something that Paul also taught (1 Cor 12:31 and 14:1). Maybe it is because when certain gifts are active, it can get messy. Or maybe there is some overreaction in our churches today to past addictions to spiritual experiences, just like in my own personal experience.

Pneuma Review: What counsel would you give to a pastor who finds that his church is resistant to the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Andrew Gabriel: I’ve asked this same question to a number of pastors who are leading churches where the gifts are more obviously active, and I get pretty consistent answers. Focus on teaching your church the biblical foundations of the gifts of the Spirit. Also, take time in trying to make a change, and start with leadership before moving on to the rest of the congregation.

I would add that as changes are happening, celebrate the small wins along the way. Perhaps have people share testimonies. And be sure to equally celebrate the dramatic and non-dramatic gifts. So if you are going to highlight an instance where prophecy has occurred, you should be sure that you celebrate someone who is excelling in the gift of leadership.

Pastors and worship leaders also need to make space in their worship services for people to listen to the Spirit to see if the Spirit will prompt them in some way to engage in a gift of the Spirit. If our services are structured in such a way that there is no space for this, then we may fill our time with speaking and singing, but with no space for hearing from God.

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