A Big Church Fight

I’m not much of a blog reader. In fact, there’s only one blog I read often: C. Michael Patton’s Pastor and Pen blog at Credo House Ministries. It’s not accurate to say I follow it, because “follow” has become a technical term in the social media. I haven’t signed up to “follow.” But I do read the blog frequently and usually appreciate the various posts and comments. 

Yesterday I clicked onto the Pastor and Pen blog and found a recent article from Patton about a “Strange Fire” conference hosted by John MacArthur in California. It features high profile speakers who are warning the attendees about dangers and excesses inherent in the charismatic movement. The conference is going on right now. The digital church is lighting up with dozens of high profile pastors and bloggers who are posting their thoughts for or against the message and tone of the conference. I’ve found strongly worded tomes from both sides (for and against the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, as well as the integrity of the charismatic movement as a whole). After years of relative quiet, the theological fault between evangelicals and charismatics has suddenly shifted again into an active earthquake spewing volcanic words everywhere. 

Emotions are heating up. Several people are defending their favorite guy or accusing some villain. A few moments ago I read of another high profile pastor (Mark Driscoll) who may crash the Strange Fire Conference today as a representative from the other side of the issue. I don’t think he expects a place on the platform, but his mere presence would create a monumental buzz on the conference floor. This is a big fight, folks. 

The Strange Fire Conference has become a match in a kerosene factory. I spent a couple hours tracking it yesterday and again this morning. My point here is not to weigh in on the conference itself. The work of the Holy Spirit is important. Pastors should address the gifts of the Spirit and articulate their interpretations of relevant Scriptures. 

What fascinates me today is how both sides seem to be content to speak past each other. The combatants (sorry, I don’t have a better word here) seem to be focused on very different issues. Consequently, a discerning reader might survey the blogs and conclude that both sides have a point–or both sides are missing something.The rhetoric has become personal, with big names on both sides of the aisle. 

This eruption looks as if it’s modeled after the recent fight to the finish in Congress over the deficit ceiling. Now it’s happening in the church. Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t confront this thorny, divisive issue from Scripture. Pastors are responsible before the Lord for the care of the flocks under their charge. We need to be clear in our teaching of the Bible. But I’m not interested in a war that gravitates largely to personality cults. That’s why I’m not providing many names here. There’s enough information here for those who may wish to chase this further. Or you can just click on any reputable Christian news website. Although I lament the necessity of another church fight, there’s some worthwhile reading out there for those who are initiated. There’s also a lot of bad information to ignore. Sadly, many believers won’t know how to respond except to hang on to their favorite player in the fight. 

Psalm 131 suddenly has more force to a prairie pastor. I need a still and quiet soul before the Lord, who is the object of our trust and our only hope.