If it is the Spirit who impels mission, then why don’t charismatics have the most active and missional churches? Grace asks this question on Brother Maynards blog, as Maynard reflects via Dan Edelen on the lack of interest in the Holy Spirit in so much of the emerging church.

Perhaps “lack of interest” is too strong. I wonder whether we are intent on recovering a biblical perspective on the wholeness of the Trinity.. that all three persons are involved in all aspects of redemption.

Classically we put it like this: the Father sends the Son, the risen and glorified Son sends the Spirit (“another parakletos”). The Son sends us into the world, and the Spirit empowers us to go. God’s mission belongs to all three persons, and it is the God of mission who has a Church in the world, not the Church of God that has a mission in the world.

I have a gut feeling that the difference between those two is substantive, and that the modern paradigm has only accentuated the problem. We have a lot of missions programs.. not a lot of missional living. Recovering a kingdom theology and Trinitarian theology can help us.
In the wider world it is the charismatic churches which are growing the fastest. But I’m not convinced that the growth is all solid growth, or that the growth rate will hold, or that all the fruit will last. Those of us on the far side of charismatic experience.. we “post-charismatics” as termed by some.. have reason to question the validity and depth of much of the charismatic movement. It burns hot and fast.. and the fuel is soon exhausted. But for a movement to have depth it must have staying power (Jesus said, “fruit that will last”), and it must be built on more than personality and strong leaders.

Much of charismatic experience is built around hype and Christian theatre. It falls prey to excess and distortion, and has many of the characteristics of revivalism. Delbert Wiens writes that,

“frontier revivalism could not be one or two of the means used by a developed church to express aspects of its faith and life. Revivalism did not serve a church that knew much more. Instead revivalism itself had to create and sustain the Christian community. And this meant that the church thus created tended to remain fixated around the emotions and the doctrines of its beginnings. The most demonic result is that the success of the movement has tended to limit its descendants to that level of human need which it was designed to satisfy. Its victory acted as a brake on Christian maturity. Churches created by revivals have found it almost impossible to break free from the moods and the ideas appropriate to adolescents.” (See also David Fitch on this…)

Or as Alan Hirsch put it, you can’t grow disciples on a consumeristic model.

In summary, I think there are many things that restrict what God wants to do in the world through his people, many things that quench the Spirit. Among them..

1. false paradigms – dualism and church as fortress rather than incarnational
2. hierarchical understanding of leadership – only a few are qualified to minister
3. individualism and a consumer culture – no death to self. An infatuation with a theology of glory while neglecting a theology of the Cross (Triumphalism).
4. lack of theological reflection, which leads to a weak critique of these issues

Finally, it’s interesting that at the theological level there has been some new effort in this area, kicked off by Clark Pinnock a few years back with his thoughts on “Religious Pluralism: A Turn to the Holy Spirit.” Amos Wong has done further work, and I can’t help thinking that a great deal of the conversation is actually energized by our Teacher. Perhaps in emphasizing the power of the Spirit we have neglected one of his most fundamental roles: Teacher and Illuminator, the one who helps us understand and apply the word and practice the truth.

David Watson put it like this:

With the word alone, we dry up.
With the Spirit alone, we blow up.
With the word and the Spirit, we grow up.