When I use the word “charismatic“, such as “this is a charismatic church”, or “I recently had a charismatic experience”, it almost guarantees to call for a reaction. Some looked at me as if it was cult. Others responded in skepticism, hostility, or even out right rejection.
The term “charismatic” derives from the Greek word that means “gift”, with word-source rooted in “grace” or “favor” (credit to Wikipedia’s entry on “Charismatic Christianity”). I intentionally abandon the use of the word “charismatic” entirely from my choice of vocabularies. Not to associate with the pejorative connotation of the term, earned over the years within the christian community at large, is only a small reason. There are more fundamental reasons for me to consciously avoid the term but use “Spirit-led” instead.
Put Focus Back on the Source, Not the Manifestation
When I use the label “Spirit-led”, it attributes the manifestation back to the rightful Source, that is the Holy Spirit, and frames the manifestation itself where it belongs. It is the Source (of the manifestation) to whom our worship is due and is attributed to. The manifestation itself or the person receiving it are not the objects of attention nor reasons for worship. Using the label “charismatic” can potentially let the phenomenon or the person take the center stage instead of the Source, as I have seen in some of the charismatic practices, which is a major reason why the term “charismatic” has developed its animosity in the first place.
Desire Him and His Glory, It’s Not At All About Me
When I use the label “Spirit-led”, it gives the Spirit glory, remembering Him as the Giver, who is gracious to give out of His sovereign will. It is grace. It does not make any receiver holier or more spiritual or more worthy. It immediately puts me in a position of humility to receive. It is the Spirit who leads, there is nothing in me that deserves it. It is not at all about me, my worthiness, my spirituality. It is all about Him, His compassion, His mercy and grace. It drives me to desire Him, the Person, and His presence, instead of falling into the temptation of chasing after more manifestations for the sake of more experience with more intensity. Repentance is the only response to grace received. If grace given is responded by demanding for more grace: keep it coming and give bigger portion, such response exposes an ungrateful, ego-centric, hardened heart.
Exclude What is NOT from the Spirit
Not all manifestations come from the Spirit. Once I was in a large charismatic gathering together with other two thousand attendees. A group of people next to me started to pray in tongues and it got louder and louder. Somehow, my spirit sensed a presence of darkness, that such manifestation was not from the Spirit. So I asked the Spirit if that manifestation was from Him. He gave me a much stronger sense that it was not from Him, which meant that it was a manifestation from the evil one. “Charismatic” focuses only on manifestations without distinguishing the sources of the spirits. Using “Spirit-led”(with an upper case “S”) instead of “Charismatic” clearly excludes what is not from the Spirit. 1 John 4:1 clearly asks us to discern every spirit.
Holy Spirit, Come!
With “Spirit-led” as the proper labeling, I can boldly declare the following without any reservation, without worrying about my words may come across the wrong way, which I definitely cannot feel the same, if the word “Charismatic” is used instead:
– I eagerly desire to be a part of a Spirit-led church
– I eagerly desire to experience Spirit-led revelations and manifestations
– I eagerly desire Spirit-led gifts, such as prophesy, and speaking in tongues (1 Corinthian 14:1)
– I eagerly desire to take part in Spirit-led worship gatherings and prayer meetings
Word matters. Using “Spirit-led” and avoiding “Charismatic” brings clarity and focus in the Spirit God, leaving no room to be side-tracked by fruitless, empty theological discussions, nor distractions from what is not His work.
What do you think?
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