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Our Charismatic Thread

• Greg Boyd

The Charismatic thread helps us understand and delve into how the Holy Spirit works. In this sermon, Greg talks about the life of William Seymour and how the gifts of the Spirit are to be used today, in addition to counter-cultural Charismatic perspectives on race and gender that were a part of the movement from the beginning.

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The Charismatic tradition can easily be misunderstood. But, here at WHC, we believe there are some really good things in the Charismatic tradition. William Seymour was a driving force within the Charismatic movement, and it was his leading in the Azuza Street Revival that we draw some similarities with the Charismatic movement.

William Seymour studied in Texas in the early 1900’s before being invited to speak in Los Angeles. However, after his first message there, he was “uninvited”. He did stay and continue to preach there because he didn’t feel like he was being called back to Houston. After holding bible studies and prayers for days on end, a crowd began to gather and a revival broke out. The movement began to gain momentum, and he moved the movement to a dilapidated church building in the ghetto district of LA on Azuza street. For the next three years, there was non-stop church. Three services a day, usually flowing into each other, seven days a week.

This revival was the birth of the Pentecostal movement and was how Pentecostalism spread. This movement was defined by its understanding of the Holy Spirit. The early Pentecostals believed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit always brought a person to speak in tongues, and that this was the sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in that person. This movement sparked a lot of debate, and it made churches like Woodland Hills Church define what we believe the Holy Spirit to be doing at our church. In the 1960’s, this increased understanding of the Holy Spirit began what is now known as the Charismatic movement in other denominations, such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Catholics.

The Azuza revival overlaps with our thinking in two important areas. The Azuza revival was racially integrated, and it was integrated at a time when segregation was at its peak. In the early 1900’s, it was scandalous to even sit in the same room as people of color or different ethnicity. However, this movement had leadership and worship with people from every different background. Also, the Azuza revival believed that women could be empowered by the Holy Spirit and serve in any aspect of ministry. This was 15 years before the constitutional amendment gave women the right to vote.

The Azuza revival led to the Charismatic movement, and there are two main ways in which it influenced our identity here at WHC. First, we believe the Charismatic gifts are for today. There are different thoughts about spiritual gifts, and one of the main ones is that the Charismatic gifts were only for the early church and are no longer given today. However, we believe that the gifts are for today just as much as they were used during the early church. We’ve seen the Spirit move throughout history, not just the first few years of the Church, and we believe the Spirit continues to move today. We also believe that these gifts are for use on a smaller scale, and not for the corporate gatherings on the weekend.

The second way in which the Charismatic movement influenced our identity is how we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. In traditional Christianity, it was assumed that you’re filled with the Spirit the moment you believe. The Pentecostals noticed this wasn’t true. WHC think “having” the Holy Spirit and “being filled” with the Holy Spirit are two different things. Everyone has the Holy Spirit when they believe; however, the filling of us by the Holy Spirit is a life-long process, and not a one-time phenomenon.

We should continually seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit fill us until all of our actions are guided by the Holy Spirit. We don’t believe that speaking in tongues is evidence of being filled by the Spirit. Being filled by the Spirit can take many different forms and has many different gifts associated with it, not just speaking in tongues. The truth is that when you’re full of the Spirit you’re simply full of the sorts of things that you would have little of when you weren’t filled by the Spirit. There isn’t proof or special evidence like speaking in tongues; rather, it is the manifestation of the Spirit’s work in your life, to bring love, joy and peace to this world through your actions and thoughts.

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Topics: Community, Controversial Issues, Reconciliation, Role of Women, Spiritual Gifts

Sermon Series: Tapestry

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-11

    There are different kinds of gifts (charisma) but the same Spirit distributes them…To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

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2 thoughts on “Our Charismatic Thread

  1. Great sermon Greg! I appreciate your honesty and plain speaking about gifts of the Spirit and proof of our reconciliation not only in race but gender as well. I fear that the church has unintentionally, many times, perpetuated social patriarchy, which is a byproduct of the Fall that Adam/men will rule over Eve/women. (Genesis 3:16) I fear also that we tacitly agree with Darwinian evolution about: not all racial or ethnic groups are created equally. (Some are inferior intellectually, physically, spiritually etc.) Or just as a devilish, there are certain races (Black people) are cursed (with Ham). (Genesis 9:24-26) In Christ, he has reconciled us all and in Christ – no man or woman is cursed but blessed.

    Unfortunately, the world, our society has believed that they are originators of embracing social diversity and the ‘Teacher’ of such to educate the Church especially. No! We should correct that notion. The Church has always embraced diversity in its formation (but sadly not always practiced throughout history). Pentecost of times past and Pentecostalism of recent time are salient proofs of this historical fact. In fact diversity, or should I say complete inclusion, is impossible save the work of Christ who embraces us all with our idiosyncrasies, peculiarities and quirks. (Romans 15:7) As William Seymour as aptly put it and you have referenced very well, our divisions are sinful. Christ has abolished our division in his new humanity. He has given us the unity that he has with the Father. (John 17:20-23) We belong to the Father and consequently, His people/children are ours to share in the fellowship and charisma of the Spirit.

    I can see how you Bruxy Cavey connect so well with your similar upbringings in Pentecostalism to your current convictions. You are both stalwarts of the faith. I am glad also that you have shown the spiritual gifts as part of our reasonable/spiritual sacrifice to the God. (Romans 12:1)

    I pray you continue in your spiritual gift of teaching for your church and the body at large. Blessings.

  2. I love to hear about church history, so the story of the catalysts for the Asuza Street Revival was fascinating and inspiring.

    One question I would have asked is, “Why do this revivals not last longer? Why do they start becoming a denomination with rules and legalism that then quenches the holy spirit?

    I would answer it this way–it is because people are living separate lives, unlike the early Christians who met daily for encouragement. I think if more people could live in healthy Christian communities, urban and rural, with teachings like Greg Boyd’s and Bruxy Cavey’s as their guide–and staying connected to those churches–then maybe just maybe a lasting change through the generations can be made.

    Listening to this made me yearn for more gifts and I will be praying for them. Thanks for clarifying that Paul said we should ask for the gifts.

    I wish I could have been there during the Azusa Street revival. Better yet, I hope and pray that I can be a part of such a miraculous and supernatural event

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