Once, following a particularly well-advertised, Spirit-led renewal in Texas, friends sent VHS tapes of a baptism service. Yes, baptisms. These were unlike many you may have seen. The candidates were plunged into the water as usual, but it was then that these tapes gained their drawing power. Rising from the water, the Holy Spirit would hit them with convulsive power! They would shake and/or scream, freely speak in tongues (yes, it was a very charismatic movement of the Spirit), weep or laugh uncontrollably, or have a lengthy Hallelujah breakdown. One lady was shaking so hard she needed to be carried out of the water.  Another time, the person doing the baptizing was hit, too, and likewise needed two men to carry him up out of the water, but as soon as the ‘rescuers’ touched him, they, too, were hit with the Holy Spirit! (very undignified and very wet, but so very filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit).  In the background, the crowd could be heard praising God and calling His blessing to fall on these men and women. It’s been years since I repeatedly (eagerly) watched these scenes, but their testimony of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit continues to resonate within me.

This scenario is what is most attractive to charismatic believers, and possibly most repulsive to others. The lack of decorum sounds like glorious, enviable freedom to the first, and the reason others reject it wholesale. To the one group, it is irrefutable evidence of a very present, very alive, very active, Gift sent by the Father just as Jesus promised. To the other, it is a violation of long-held church creed, and possibly to be identified as the work of demons. To the one, the celebration of Pentecost is marked with great joy, banners, flags, dancing, shouting. To the others, a quiet (certainly with no untoward behavior!) acknowledgement of the scheduled event on the church calendar.

The Vineyard Movement finds itself in The Quest for the Radical Middle, as per the title of one book on its history, by Bill Jackson, 1999. As the title suggests, a fair deal of tension exists navigating the waters of different schools of theological thought and praxis. In other writing, George Eldon Ladd (The Gospel of the Kingdom and The Presence of the Future) developed the teaching of Kingdom Theology, succinctly expressed in the phrase ‘the Now and the Not Yet.’

One important aspect of the teaching of the ongoing presence, gifts, and power, of the Holy Spirit is the hope and strength he gives for living in a world which has rejected Jesus and his followers both individually and corporately as his Church. Our position, we believe, is simultaneously one which is overcoming and full of struggle. See these confirming statements of Jesus below:

         “In this world, you will have trouble.”               “Take heart. I have overcome the world.”

         “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you right to the very end of this age.”

Come, Holy Spirit.  PD

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