Throughout this conference, I tasted a form of charismatic Christianity quite different from the kind in New Creation Church. In fact, Vineyard and many charismatics would differ from New Creation on things like physical healing, inner healing, prophecy and deliverance. Not a huge difference because New Creation is still a charismatic church, but a big enough difference for people to note that New Creation does do things quite differently.
I think it’s what Pastor Prince and others (maybe pastor Henry?) have experienced early on in their charismatic Christian lives that have shaped their thinking and practice today. And I’ve heard enough through Pastor Prince’s sermons to know that they are wary of what they feel are extreme charismatic practices – he often makes fun of and disagrees with some common charismatic beliefs and practices related to prophecy, demonization and healing. I appreciate the discernment they’ve tried to show as there needs to be a lot of discernment in the charismatic movement! I do agree with some of the criticisms Pastor Prince has put forward and am challenged to think more about others which I may not agree with. Sometimes, however, I do feel that he’s tended to over-react in the opposite direction, but I’ll not be dogmatic about my disagreements because I’ve still much to learn and am open to learn from him and others.
So while I’m certainly no expert in all of this, in this post and the next one I’ll write down some thoughts (and questions) that have been on my mind:
I think one of the major differences I see between New Creation Church on the one hand and say Vineyard churches and churches like Bethel Church in Redding (pastored by Bill Johnson) on the other is in terms of equipping. John Wimber, a founder of the Vineyard, believed that “everyone gets to play” – i.e. lay people get to do the stuff like healing and deliverance and not just pastors or leaders. John Wimber and Vineyard thus believe in equipping and teaching the whole body of Christ to move in the gifts of the Spirit. They don’t believe we need to go to some anointed leader for ministry because God can use everyone and each of us (not just leaders or pastors) should seek to be equipped so that we can bless others. In the same way, Bethel Church is famous for equipping people to move in the Spirit – not just within the church walls, but especially so outside the church walls as in these testimonies of healing happening in a grocery store and at Disneyland. This equipping emphasis is the same for Curry Blake’s ministry.
New Creation Church is probably the best in the world for the preaching of the message of grace, but it’s very much focused on one person and the teaching/preaching gift of one person. To me, this has resulted in the neglect of equipping the lay people to move in the various spiritual gifts. To be sure, New Creation doesn’t believe that only Pastor Prince or the pastors are anointed to heal, but that every member can heal. But they definitely don’t equip them in this area or provide opportunities for members to practice the various miraculous spiritual gifts.
Through speaking to many New Creation members (past and present) and through my own experience in different cell groups, leaders and the members aren’t encouraged to move in the spiritual gifts, nor is time made available for it – the main focus of the cells is the teaching. Pastor Prince and other top leaders seem to be able to move in the various gifts, but it seems to stop there and not go down to the cell leaders or even more importantly the cell members.
Pastor Prince has mentioned before (something like) that there’s no need to teach or learn about hearing God’s voice because we all do hear God’s voice if we’re Christians. In a sense, that’s totally true. I believe we all do hear God’s voice. But that’s not really the issue. When Christians say they don’t hear God’s voice, the problem is that they find it difficult to distinguish between their thoughts, the devil’s voice and God’s voice and many Christians (like myself) desire to grow in this area and move in the prophetic gift (following 1 Cor. 14:1). There is a need and a place for teaching on this subject and encouraging Christians to practice hearing (discerning) God’s voice for it’s not something that happens automatically. So I disagree when the need to be taught about hearing (discerning) God’s voice (and the need for practice) is dismissed so easily and Christians are not equipped to move in this area.
The same for prophecy. I think it can definitely be unhealthy if everyone goes to seek out another person who is gifted in prophecy for a word for their lives, but the solution isn’t to neglect prophesying (1 Cor. 14:1). The potential abuse of a gift should not result in the neglect of it, but rather the proper and biblical use of it.
My idea of a local church isn’t that of a group of people centering around the gifts of one person, or even the gifts of the leaders. Every member should be equipped – they should be taught to pursue them and they should be given opportunities to develop and practice them and move in their various gifts in ministry to the rest of the members. I mentioned before what happened in a service at Church of Our Saviour (COOS). I think it’s wonderful when the youth were used by God through Words of Knowledge and Gifts of Healings to heal the sick. That’s the body of Christ functioning – each playing a part. No one is a spectator when everyone is equipped to move in the gifts God has given them. But first they have to be intentionally equipped.
The many practical things I’ve learned since the conference have all been due to the leaders I’ve encountered understanding the importance of equipping the body of Christ. The leaders I’ve met have all acknowledged that we can all do the same things that they do. They’ve acknowledged that we all have different gifts which we can use to serve each other.
To be sure, understanding the Word is important for a Christian’s growth, but there’s more to doing church and blessing others than understanding the Word of God.
In the next post, I’ll share a bit of my thoughts on common charismatic practices like generational curses, conditions for healing, inner healing, intercessory prayer and the desperate attitude (for God’s presence and just more of Him) common in many charismatic churches – as it relates to New Creation view of things.