When the gifts don’t seem to work… 

Simon Ponsonby in God is For Us links to this devestating critique of Charismatic ministry:

they claim to manifest spiritual gifts such as prophecy which can reveal what is in a person’s heart (1 Cor. 14:24,25, cf. John 4:17-19; Luke 7:39, 22:63, 64). Why, in the many cases of moral failure in charismatic circles, did no one manifest a ‘gift’ to reveal this? I do not necessarily mean publicly, but even privately to the person concerned. ‘Brother, the Lord has shown me that you are committing adultery’ or ‘that you are helping yourself to the funds’. That would really bring about reality. This is sometimes mistakenly called a ‘word of knowledge’. But that is a teaching gift, a ‘word’, ‘message’ or ‘sermon’ characterised by knowledge. I once heard a minister, purporting to manifest a ‘word of knowledge’ in a congregation of ten thousand, say, ‘Someone here has got a bad kidney’! Really! 

Boom. Drop the Mic. 

Great question from Stanley Jebb. 

This well known story from John Wimber (quoted in Power Evangelism) suggests Jebb isn’t asking too much when he harks after a ‘Nathan’ to stand up to a ‘King David’. 

I wonder what may be missing today in our charismatic tool kit – or maybe you think God, like Francis Bacon and Queen Elizabeth I, isn’t that interested in providing windows into other men’s souls? Afterall in CS Lewis’ Narnia Aslan rarely tells ‘another persons story’ to any of the key characters – however much they are interested. 

Jebb‘s conclusion is not that we need more (intrusive) prophetic revelation into the lives of others but that:

To be an effective minister we need, as John Calvin put it, both prayer and study, to which we may add Luther’s ingredient, suffering. Earnest, fervent, believing prayer is often the missing ingredient in today’s churches, not pseudo-gifts, carnal excitement or pretended revelations.

But while he clearly has a point there is something missing here too. One of our deepest longing is as a human is to be fully known. We know from the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13 that in eternity we will be fully known. And we will feel no shame. We will be at utterly forgiven and utterly loved and all of this ‘fully known’ revelation will cause even more honour to go to Jesus who deserves all the credit for all of our salvation. 

Maybe you’ve been around someone who is both full of love for you, and yet seems to have a window into your soul. A child will often describe an attentive parent as being a bit like that. ‘You just knew!’ I have had that experience of being both the exposed and yet utterly loved when needing to repent of something major in my life as a new Christian. Through a weekend where a prophetic word was given (through a very uncharismatic preacher), faithful preaching of the old Testament prophet Ezra, the visit of a man I’ve met in Romania who had been there at the time of my conversion and  had discipled me, and the loving surroundings of the holy spirit day of the Alpha course, God met with me, showed me that I was known, enabled me to repent and put me back on track with him. 

Being fully known is not something to fear in the church – but a sign of the eschaton – the coming age where we know even as we fully known. The best way to be fully known I think must undoubtably be as much self-disclosure to appropriate people as possible – Make sure every area of your life is known by at least someone – finances, addictions, escapist tendencies etc. But given that we are quite quick to deceive ourselves, and there is plenty of ourselves we know very little about I think I’d always be immensely grateful that God in his kindness gave someone enough revelation to enable me to repent of something I have made myself blind to. 

In our pastoral ministry, and mutual discipleship of fellow ministers wouldn’t it be far better if we learned how to prophetically speak truth in love to each other where we may have a hint from God that e.g. someone’s ego, sense of entitlement, or exhaustion might be leading them into severe spiritual peril. There have been many times I wish I’d known more and been able to speak up more. Not many times where I wish I’d said or known less…


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