It seems to be a discussion that never ends. It’s a question that we either ask or assume about our churches and that’s if we lean more charismatic or reformed? This question is almost as prevalent as the question of diversity that we see in our or don’t see in our churches. We have black or white churches and charismatic or reformed churches. While one may be more pressing than the other, I think we need to pose another question. Is there a middle ground? Is there a category for people that are reformed in their theology, but charismatic in their expression? Is there such a thing as a combination of reformed and charismatic? A reformatic if you will? I think so; I think there are people that are more expressive in their response to the gospel and doctrinally sound. I think there are people that celebrate the Protestant Reformation and the Azusa Street Revival. I think there are tons of people that embrace the doctrine of grace and are more expressive than others and I don’t think it’s wise to associate charismatic believers as overly emotional or lacking sound doctrine.
Being raised in a predominately black church growing up and attending and predominately white seminary I’ve experienced both sides of this discussion and what I’ve noticed generally speaking is a lack of grace on both sides. One side says that they’re too emotional and the service doesn’t go beyond the surface level of worship. While the other says they’re too dead and if the gospel is good news how come they’re so stiff? They’re the “frozen chosen”. Is it a race issue, an expression issue or an issue of preference? Perhaps it’s all three. Whatever the case I think the answer is found in scripture and scripture would inform to embrace all forms of expression and to draw the line at heresy, but leave us to us to make worship expression about us.
What does scripture reveal?
In Acts 13:1-4 we see an extremely diverse church as the gospel was preached and churches were planted. I would imagine that the expressions, expectations and education level differed among these men, but there was a unifying factor that brought them together; the gospel. Since the gospel was the main thing these Gentile converts and Jews could come together to see the name and fame of Christ spread. While I agree that contextualization matters I think sometimes we can use that as an excuse for homogeny. In scripture we see different races, cultures and socioeconomic statuses because the unifying factor was sin and salvation by grace.
What’s the take home point for us?
As the landscape of America changes so will the look and expressions in our churches. We need to have a posture of humility so that the reserved and the expressive can come together around the gospel and celebrate Christ. This means that the aspects of our reformed theology that aren’t essential to the gospel need to be made secondary. For the Charismatic this means that the aspects of expression that one may feel is essential is also secondary to the gospel. Lastly we need to understand that not everyone will be either or, but rather there are some that are both and they need to be embraced as well.
So as we lead our churches let’s remember that the power is in the gospel and not our doctrine and not be ashamed to proclaim all that scripture has to say about God’s power and lead in a way that welcomes people of all backgrounds. There is a category that exists amongst evangelicals that doesn’t cross the line into heresy while simultaneously boldly proclaiming a God that can save (the chief thing), heal, deliver, reproduce and change nations for His glory. So whether you’re reformed, charismatic or reformatic, the most important thing to communicate is that we’re saved by grace.