Like many Christians, I’ve been on a bit of a journey as I’ve tried to follow Jesus, read and obey the Bible, and see what that looks like in the world.. I was born into one Church, and as I became more independent, I am shifting into a different kind of Church, a different way of expressing my faith. I was born, and will always retain great affection and respect for, a Grace Baptist, and have been extraordinarily blessed by Chertsey Street. I have been part of Trent Vineyard in Nottingham – a radical, charismatic, large, biblical, modern Church that meets in a big warehouse. The senior pastor – John Wright – is a fan of one of the authors of this book – Rich Nathan – and it seemed like the sort of thing I should read. I’ve since spent a year as part of Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican megachurch in London that was heavily influenced by the Vineyard, and pioneered Alpha; where my wife and I led a small group. We’ve landed since then more locally, at the South West London Vineyard Church.
This book interrupted my journey, made me ask questions and look to the future, and as I revisited this review and the book, I realise what an important book this has been for me and my understanding of faith.
“Empowered Evangelicals”, by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson, is a great book that seeks to describe a kind of Christian that I think I am slowly becoming. As a book, it is fantastic, not least because each of the chapters ends with discussion points, points for pastors to consider, and most usefully points to consider when looking for a church. This isn’t an abstract book, but one deeply concerned with what it looks like to live for Jesus in the world and story we find ourselves in.
The basic thrust of this book is that a full expression of Christianity is best found with a combination of the Evangelical and Charismatic expressions. To love the Word of God, and be open to the Spirit of God. These two key themes are skilfully interwoven throughout the book.
I would heartily recommend this book – it skilfully weaves together the two, making a strong case for its intention – that Charismatics would, where necessary, come back to the Word, and that Evangelicals, where necessary, would come back to open-ness to the Spirit. These two movements-within-movements are beautiful to watch and infuriatingly difficult to curate and move in.
The authors are both crucially aware that there are dodgy extremes in both perspectives, and more to the point there are incredibly important good things to be learned too. Both have, as this book makes clear, Revivals as a key part of their DNA, and both have been used by God. Being part of a church that emphasizes Charismatic gifts and worship, with an Evangelical concern for preaching, discipleship, theology and evangelism, and also a great range of compassion and mercy ministries, is teaching me that this sort of Church can be fantastic.
I heartily recommend this book.
Even if you are one and not the other. Or are a pastor or vicar of a neither church. It’s exciting, a fantastic vision of Church. I want to leave you with two quotes, both from the first part of the book, which really impacted me and really sum up the book’s approach and utility. The first is from R. T. Kendall:
“Word and Spirit.
For too long evangelicals have emphasized the Word over the Spirit, while charismatics have emphasized the Spirit over the Word. But the Word and the Spirit belong together. The following saying is a handy summary:
If we emphasize the word without the Spirit, we dry up
If we emphasize the Spirit without the Word, we blow up.
If we hold the Word and the Spirit together, we grow up.
We won’t gain more of the Spirit by having less of the Word. And we won’t depend less on the Word by having more of the Spirit. We need as much of both as we can have. This means that as evangelicals consider the lessons of Pentecost, we must maintain as strong an emphasis as ever on the priority of Scripture. If our honest reading of Scripture tells us to avoid a particular charismatic approach, then avoid it we must. But if the Scripture leads us to incorporate things that we used to consider charismatic, then incorporate them we must.“
This is, I am aware, a seriously big quote. I hope it challenges you, or inspires you to read this excellent book. There is also a healthy sense of being careful throughout the whole book;
“The fact that evangelicals can learn something from charismatics, and that charismatics can learn from evangelicals, doesn’t mean we have to adopt everything the other side offers. So with openness we must also hold on to discernment“
I read this on Kindle – recommend that as a route, but its available elsewhere as well. This is a wonderful book that deserves a wide readership. Do let me know if I can lend you my copy.