David Wayne and Joe Carter have graciously granted my request to be allowed to post at Theologica..
This post gives a little background to some of the Charismania topics we have discussed of late..
Here is the meat of the post...
I became a Christian later in life at the age of 23 after graduating from Stanford University. Immediately following my conversion, I enrolled at Talbot Theological Seminary where I met a man who introduced me to the writings of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Actually, the first Christian book I ever read was “The Select Sermons of George Whitfield”. This man, who became a mentor to me, also attended the Anaheim Vineyard. In 1989, I was invited to be on staff at the Anaheim Vineyard leading outreach ministries to the underclass in the Anaheim area.
These early Vineyard days were simply extraordinary.
Our small groups were always packed and many very broken people were being helped. Many scenes were quite analogous to the paralytic being brought to Jesus through the roof by his friends. As a young Christian and a young pastor of evangelism, I cut my teeth on Reformed doctrine, small groups, the laying on of hands, and the freedom of Vineyard worship. This background puts me pretty firmly in the “Reformed-Continualist” camp though I would hope that my experience gives me a unique perspective.
All Theology is Pastoral Theology
During the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, I led a Christian discipleship community, and it is this setting that really set my spiritual DNA. The mission of this community was to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to “the least of these”. For me the wisdom of a given theological position has always been a practical one. The abiding question in my analysis of theology has always been “Does it disciple well?”. For me, all theology is pastoral theology. My experiences have led to a very high expectation for the life of the church analogous to the experience of the early church of Acts. I call this emphasis being “Missional and Monastic”.
Since these early days, I have always led at least one small group every week. For me, the small group setting and the community life that comes from a good small group, which focuses on discipleship, is essential to a solid Christian witness. A goal of my ministry is to build discipleship programs which include daily mentoring relationships. My model tends to be very egalitarian and natural. The content of our ever-developing discipleship program is based on learning to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as articulated in the Sermon on the Mount. If I was to sum up what I believe God has called me to do, I would say it is to help people rediscover the lost art of Discipleship in the context of Christian community. A summary of these teachings can be found in this essay: Discipleship 101.
Decidedly Reformed for Pastoral Reasons
Theologically, I have found the writings of Jonathan Edwards, especially Religious Affections, and the writing of John Piper, especially the Pleasures of God, to be very helpful. I certainly believe that the God-centered experience of “seeing and savoring” is an essential part of the sanctification of our affections. You could say that the marrying of a strong reformed faith with a history of experience in Charismatic worship is central to my spiritual DNA.
A Unique Perspective on Charismania
During the early 1990’s, the Vineyard began to be influenced by the Kansas City Prophetic Movement. As I was working daily with people in desperate need of discipleship and power from God, I had first hand experience of the effect of hyper-spirituality on the spiritual health of many troubled souls. I found such spirituality to not be helpful. As my children began to approach school age, my wife and I decided to leave the Vineyard as a result of the increasing effect of such extreme practices in the local churches. I only mention this in light of the recent discussion in the blogosphere regarding Cessationism and Charismata.