I just finished reading Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four different theologians contribute four different perspectives on that question. I may comment on it in later blogs.
What I want to write now is the author’s compelling answer at book’s end to this question: “What is the deepest concern of Christians in this area (of miraculous gifts)?” Wayne Grudem’s answer spoke to my heart . . .
”I don’t think that the differences we usually talk about among our churches are their deepest concern. I do not think most Christians care deeply whether the pastor wears a coat and tie or a sweater or a robe, or whether the church has an Anglican liturgy or a Baptist order of service or charismatic spontaneity with tongues and prophecies. I don’t think they care deeply whether the church leads music with an organ or with a guitar, or teaches that you should be baptized in the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit. These matters are of some importance, but they are not matters of deepest concern.
“I think what people really want is to be in the presence of God. They want to have a deeper experience of God as they participate in church life week by week. They want times of prayer that are not just forty-five minutes of prayer requests and five minutes of prayer, and not just quickly praying through a long list of requests, but times when they can pray long enough—in an unhurried way—so that they not only talk to God but also hear his still, small voice bearing witness to their hearts. And they want times of worship where, when they are singing, they are allowed to focus their attention on God for an extended time—where no one is interrupting them to tell them to greet their neighbor, or to sing loudly on the next verse, or to listen to the announcements, or to listen to the choir, or to fill out the registration card in the pew. These things, of course, have a place, but they all shift our focus from God alone to the people around us, and they interrupt our times of deepest reverence in the worship of God alone.
“Christians instinctively long to be in an assembly of God’s people where they can focus their attention on God long enough that their eyes and minds and hearts are aware of nothing but his presence, where their voices are singing his praise (or perhaps silent in his presence), and where they are free to feel the intensity of their love for him and to sense in their spirits that God is there, delighting in the praises of his children. That is what Christians today really long for. They long to come to a church and be allowed to worship and pray until they sense in their spirits that they are in the manifest presence of God.
“When churches have allowed people to have such extended times of prayer and worship, this longing of Christians has been fulfilled, and these churches have grown remarkably. No denomination or viewpoint on spiritual gifts should have a monopoly on such times of worship and prayer. Cessationist churches and “open, but cautious” churches, as well as Pentecostal, charismatic, and Third Wave churches, can provide such times of prayer and worship, each with its own style and within guidelines that protect their doctrinal convictions regarding spiritual gifts.
“Of course, I am not saying we need to diminish the importance we give to sound Bible teaching, in which we have God’s voice speaking to us. In many of our churches this is done well, in other churches it is not, and people go away spiritually hungry week and week because they have not been fed on the Word of God. Yet I am saying that I think many churches need, in addition to such teaching, much more emphasis on extended, uninterrupted times of prayer and worship. I think people are longing to come to church and to know in their experience that they have spent extended time in the manifest presence of God.”
To which I say a hearty, “Amen!” By God’s grace, we had that when I pastored. Now, retired and disabled, I can’t find it. If I could, I’d wheelchair there, however difficult. We need what this writer describes. And my soul longs for it.
This book is available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Miraculous-Gifts-Today-Wayne-Grudem/dp/0310201551/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502383463&sr=8-1&keywords=are+miraculous+gifts+for+today+four+views