Chrysalis:From Post Charismatic to Charismissional
Chrysalis: From Post-Charismatic To Charismissional
by Robby McAlpine
One of the fastest-growing segments of the world-wide Body of Christ is the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, particularly in place like Africa and South America. At the same time, an increasing exodus of many charismatics from their churches and denominations in the Western world has recently led to terms like “post-charismatic”.
While this is happening largely in the Western world, it should also be noted that I have enjoyed correspondence with Ghanian Christians who also self-identify as post-charismatic for many of the same reasons as their Western counterparts. The post-charismatic exodus is not a new phenomenon, but it is growing as rapidly as the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in other parts of the world.
Post-charismatic is quite similar to the phrase “detoxing from church” – it’s a descriptive label that people can relate to, but like the detoxing motif, “post-charismatic” speaks more of where people are coming from, rather than where they are headed.
For many, the concept of detoxing from church easily dovetails with recognizing a post-charismatic winnowing of inadequate theology and praxis. Many who are working through a season of detoxing from church are equally detoxing from charismatic excesses. Yet, as the season of detox runs its course, many are openly exploring how to be charismatic in the theological/practical sense, while seeking to avoid the extremes and abuses that led to the original detox.
I like the imagery of the chrysalis as a metaphor for the journey that post-charismatics find themselves on. In the cocoon stage, a caterpillar looks – in the outer expression – dead and withered. Yet a metamorphosis, a transformation, is taking place in a deep and hidden place.
And finally, the chrysalis stage ends as the transformed life emerges. And like the chrysalis, the exit from the post-charismatic cocoon is hard-fought; wholesale rejection of all things charismatic would be easier, yet there is something stirring in many post-charismatics that does not allow for this option. There is something that produces strength when the new expression of life is not easily attained, but is rather won through reflection, struggle and overcoming.
A common theme in the emerging/missional church has been a healthy corrective focus on “being” the church; a renewed interest in what Jesus meant when He said “the Kingdom of God” has quickly become a starting place for re-thinking how we “do church” and how we build missional communitas together. Passages like Isaiah 40, which highlights God comforting His people by bringing His Kingdom, have gained more prominence in discussion surrounding Jesus’ sense of mission in announcing the Kingdom.
Isaiah 61 has also been a rallying point as a description of what the Kingdom is meant to embody, with its focus on the poor, the broken-hearted, freedom for captives and proclaiming the favour of God. This passage is also used by Jesus Himself as His “mission statement” (so to speak) when He began His public ministry (Luke 4:16-21), and later in answer to John the Baptist’s questions (Matthew 11:2-6).
This re-emphasis on the incarnational, missional aspect of our faith has been a healthy corrective to what some have called “attractional ministry barns”, where the emphasis has been on creating a great “event” (including “Holy Spirit events” in charismatic circles) to draw people into the church building where – hopefully – they will actually encounter Jesus. There is something very exciting about people re-discovering an incarnational approach – get outside the four walls of the church, make friends, and bring the Kingdom with you.
Where a term like “charis-missional” becomes important is in keeping a complete understanding of what Jesus included in His demonstration of the in-breaking, already-and-not-yet Kingdom. While there has been a healthy emphasis on the poor and marginalized in the emerging/missional church, there needs to also be an honest look at ALL the ways that the Kingdom was expressed in Jesus’ ministry and continued by the disciples after the Day of Pentecost – and that means we have to look honestly at the topic of signs and wonders and their role in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus sends out the twelve (Luke 9:1-2), and later the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-12), it should be noted that He gave them authority to (1) preach the good news of the Kingdom (that the long-awaited Messiah had come), (2) heal the sick, and (3) drive out demons. The Isaiah 61 passage still describes both Jesus and His disciples, but is now coupled with power encounters.
When the disciples went out after the Day of Pentecost, it should be noted that healings, driving out demons, and – to use the oldskewl phrase – “signs and wonders” happened. Repeatedly. The early disciples asked God for this – “stretch forth Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:30)
In Peter’s first sermon to Gentiles, in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:38), he describes Jesus as one who “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil”. In reading through The Acts of the Apostles, it is impossible to miss how many miraculous things occurred as the disciples followed Jesus’ command to participate in the advancing Kingdom.
“Missional” is important because it gets our focus back on being incarnational agents of the Kingdom, correcting the imbalance of creating seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven or charis-maniac glory-barn gatherings of attractional purpose.
“Charis” is important because it reminds us that it is the power of the Spirit that causes the Kingdom to advance, correcting the imbalance of doing the works of the Kingdom (a la Isaiah 61), without the empowering presence of the Spirit of God.
When Jesus first began preaching “the Kingdom is near”, He was announcing that the Messiah that they had been waiting for had arrived, and the Kingdom was breaking into the present world. The kingdom has often been referred to as the “already and not-yet Kingdom”, which continues to break into the present world until its final, full expression is realized in the Second Coming. We need to intentionally adopt the same “mission statement” as Jesus (Isaiah 61) but it is equally important to operate as Jesus did: in complete obedience to His Father, and as the Spirit empowered Him to heal, deliver, and perform miracles.
The Jewish understanding of “salvation” was a holistic shalom, and our understanding of the in-breaking Kingdom needs to likewise be holistic – preaching the good news, caring for the poor and marginalized, and listening for the voice of the Father as He directs and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. Anything less would not reflect the fullness of the Kingdom that Jesus was announcing.
As more and more post-charismatics find themselves “coming back to life” after their season of detoxing from church, the importance of wrestling through how the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are to be expressed in the emerging/missional church needs to be stressed. Post-charismatic may be a way to distance ourselves from the excesses and abuses, but the only way to be truly incarnational is go “in the power of the Spirit”, as the Incarnate One did – hence we must seek to be more than missional, we must be charismissional.
Robby McAlpine, better known in greater blogdom as Robbymac, is a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the sunny Okanagan Valley. Robby has written articles for Next Wave, Porpoise Diving Life, and Vineyard Canada, as well as the Detoxing From Church series on his own blog. In his spare time, Robby plays bass in whatever band will have him, which of late means a kickin’ R&B/Blues band. Robby and his wife Wendy have three incredible kids who bring smiles, laughter, and not a little parental pride into their lives on a daily basis. Robby’s first book, Post-Charismatic, will be published through Kingsway Communications (UK) later this year.