Terry and Janice were busy penciling in three sheets of computer dots in the spiritual gifts inventory they’ve been given by their local church. Nervously concentrating, Terry and Janice worked their way to question 200, handed in their sheets, and anxiously waited until the following Sunday to discover their spiritual gifts. The ensuing Sunday, they reconvened and zealously opened their sealed manila envelopes. It seemed that Terry had the gift of administration. Janice had the gift of service.
Glumly, they both looked down and exhaled a disheartened sigh. Not so coincidentally, Terry was a parts manager at the Volkswagen dealership and Janice was on the cleaning staff at a large assisted living community.
Uninspired and disenchanted, Terry and Janice trudged somberly toward the parking lot. It looked like ‘spiritual service’ at church is going to look a whole lot like the drudgery of work. Soon, Terry was counting the offering envelopes, while Janice rolled out tables, chairs, and portable signs for the church’s big events. The whole procedure didn’t seem very satisfyingly spiritual. Are spiritual gifts really meant to work like this?
Loss of Market Share
Since the 1970s, much of the evangelical world was losing market share to a charismatic phenomenon that was sweeping the world. New churches emerged, offering worship designed to engage the emotions of a believer. For many, this held great appeal when compared with dueling piano/organ combinations separated by an arm-waving hymn conductor.
The preaching seemed more free-flowing, more alive. With a constituency that was growing bored with a starched-collared, three-points-and-a-poem, semi-robotic approach to preaching, many found these changes refreshing. But the pièce de résistance of the charismatic wave was an emphasis on spiritual gifts. This charismatic trademark offered something that seemed truly spiritual to many—something that transported their dreary spiritual existences to a higher, unexplainable dimension.
As the charismatics pointed the way, evangelicals were forced to engage. Worship wars soon erupted. Preaching became more personal, less formulaic. And spiritual gifts were discovered—or at least a sterilized version of them.
A generation passed from the scene, and some charismatic churches moderated from their more extreme positions while many evangelicals imported a little charismatic zing into their services. By the turn of the new millennium, one would have to visit the “About” section on church websites to differentiate between many charismatic and non-charismatic churches.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Jeff Christopherson