The Holy Spirit and Activism

Thursday, 23rd October 2008 at 13:34 UTC 3 comments

It’s taken three days to write this article/blog post, and I’ve only just succeeded in getting something I feel happy with, but anyhow, I’d like lots of comments on this one so I can actually rewrite it into something much better explained. It was, in part, inspired by the experience of attending “Worship Central” when it came to York last week, and thinking through Tim Hughes and Al Gordon’s talk (focused on worship) and how it spoken very directly to my life as an activist. Please note, many of the concepts in this post (and some of the language) is going to make no sense to anyone not already a Christian.

Amongst the areas of the church most interested in challenging injustice and calling the governments account, the Charismatic movement very often seems to be part of that “other side of the church”, the indulgent, middle-class religion that seeks to ignore reality.

Witness the arrival of Tim Hughes and Matt Redman at Greenbelt the first year I went: most of my activist friends expressed opinions ranging from utter contempt, even outrage to mild amusement. Broadly speaking, it was seen as a threat, an incursion into their sanctuary. Whilst Greenbelt on a corporate level does seem to be attempting to gather in wider audiences, and is in part responsible for the rising interest in justice issues in the wider church, it was clear that to most, to many it seems that combining the two seems a step too far.

Aside from personal taste and some bad experiences, I’ve never really worked out how it is one can divorce the Charismatic, experiential side of Christianity from the compassionate, transformative and justice-driven aspects. If the heart of a justice-driven gospel is a God who becomes human and walks amongst us, personally relating to us, challenging hierarchies, prejudices and exclusion, and we recognise the importance of the human aspect of Christ, surely a personal and intimate experience of the divine is important in our walk of faith?

Much time is often given at events for Christian Activists to “reflect”, which in some ways feels quite a passive thing to be doing. Sure, we need time to stop and relax, and too many good activists are lost to burn-out. But what I see so very little of, sadly, is stopping to pray that God might send down his spirit, and then actively waiting on his presence. This active-waiting, rather than passive-resting, is an activity which makes sense for activists precisely because we’re not the passive consumer-churchgoers.

The words of the song “strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord” come to mind: yes, one can reflect upon events, upon bible passages and song words, but there is real strength to be found in an activism born of exposure to the heart of God, and to the power of His Spirit. One can very usefully reflect upon the statistics of global injustice, and the Gospel-imperative to bring sight to the blind and set the captives free, but to only do so lacks the connection to a living God, capable of drawing along side us, of preparing our hearts and our hands to do what is best for those around us as humans (as opposed to statistics). If we want to understand God’s heart for the poor, simple reflection is not enough; what is required is encounter.

When Jesus tells his disciples he is returning to his father permanently, he tells them that he will send a helper. Perhaps this clue to the purpose of the Holy Spirit should incline us to earnestly seek his manifest presence that we might be given vision and strength to bring about a Justice that goes beyond “national interest” and leads us to pursue Kingdom value, whereby the first are last, and our hearts truly desire a realignment of values away from hierarchies and profit and towards equality and a declaration of a real, physical, political and economic “Jubilee”.


Entry filed under: Activism, Church, Faith, Religion, Theology.

Overdue Celebrations Generational Issues

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Froth  |  Thursday, 23rd October 2008 at 22:24 UTC

    But what does ‘waiting on the Lord’ actually mean? How do you do it?

  • 2. Keith Hebden  |  Friday, 24th October 2008 at 8:35 UTC

    My experience of indigenous India religions has shown me that charismatic worship can be political. However, having listened to Matt Redman’s music I would be surprised if he could be anything interesting or radical since most of his music is “I” Oriented.

    The whole Pentecostal thing started in a poor church in america (Asouza Street) partly as a process of democratising worship. So the when the spirit truly blows where it will the spirit of revival is bound to be one of justice and peace.

    There are books on this that someone told me about recently but the names didn’t stick. Sorry.

  • 3. Greg  |  Saturday, 25th October 2008 at 23:01 UTC

    My cynical answer to why charismatics form part of the apathetic middle class church would be that charismatic Christianity is simply the middle class version of pentecostalism. That’s a bit unfair and unhelpful though,

    Do you know Teresa of Avila’s words, “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours”? I think part of the problem is the downside of a good thing, which is that charismatics still properly believe in miracles. Others say they do, but often act as if they don’t. Charismatics can still rely on their faith that the miraculous will happen. And yet, this means that while Charismatics can often be blase and leave stuff up to God to sort out miraculously, others who believe that they’re the only ones God calls to get something done “Christ has no body now but theirs” will be that bit more motivated to get on and do it.

    On a slightly different note, I think another reason charismatics can seem apathetic is that if you get too caught up in the spiritual, you can stop concentrating on the here and now. Like those in the early church who thought the end times were coming so they gave up their jobs and ceased to play their parts in society.

    I think the latter part of your post is especially good (as is the Brenton Brown song, though he gets an unfair advantage by using Isaiah 40). If you want to respond to Froth’s point, I think the hallmark of active waiting on the Lord is deliberately making yourself open to God and expectantly putting faith in him answering you as you wait, rather than vegging out and switching off.


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