When invited to write this column, I felt an impulse to use the same format: What exactly would I say if I had only five minutes to address American charismatic leaders and had to make every word count?
1. We need a fresh discovery of the sovereignty of God. It seems to me this is a missing note, in general, in preaching in the United States today. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, "'The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit'" (John 3:8, NKJV). This means, in a word: You cannot make God do anything. You cannot twist the arm of the Holy Spirit to save, to heal or to manifest Himself.
To put it another way, God has a will of His own--He wants to be Himself. His character has not changed since the day He said to Moses, "'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion'" (Ex. 33:19).
It seems to me that the bringing of the sovereignty of God into our perspective would not only mean a restoration of God-centered preaching, but also a much-needed correction to the abuses that bedevil so many ministries.
2. We need a fresh discovery of what is authentic. In my book The Sensitivity of the Spirit (Charisma House), I show the differences between a dove and a pigeon. Although they look much alike and come from the same family of birds, they are, in fact, quite different. I use this to illustrate the difference between the authentic work of the Holy Spirit and something counterfeit.
It is so easy to accept a counterfeit, especially when we are eager to see God work. I fear that so much of what we call an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is mere "pigeon religion." People who don't know the difference between the authentic and the counterfeit will say, "God really showed up last night"--even when angels blush over the claim.
Pigeon religion is upholding the Word without the Spirit, as well as emphasizing the Spirit without the Word. In other words, it is not a mistake made only by certain charismatic preachers; those who are not open to the Holy Spirit are just as guilty of pigeon religion.
3. We need a remarriage between the Word and the Spirit. It is my view that a silent divorce has taken place between the Word and the Spirit in the church. When there is a divorce, some children stay with the mother, some with the father.
In this divorce in the church, there are those on the Word side and those on the Spirit side. The former say, "The need of the hour is expository preaching, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, a rediscovery of the God of Luther, Calvin and Jonathan Edwards." What is wrong with that emphasis? Nothing. It is exactly right.
Those on the Spirit side say: "The honor of God's name will not be restored until we see a repeat of the book of Acts. We need to see the gifts of the Spirit in operation--signs, wonders, miracles and the place being shaken by God's power." What is wrong with that emphasis? Nothing. It is exactly right.
Religion that is truly the Dove falling on us is when it is not one, or the other, but both--at the same time. The simultaneous combination will mean spontaneous combustion. This is the need of the hour.