David Neff of Christianity Today has recently authored an article entitled Ardor and Order, which gives some brief thoughts on remembering 50 years of charismatic renewal. Check out the article itself, but below are some words to highlight from it.
Neff shares these thoughts on how the work of the Spirit opened the door to greater participation across varying church circles:
I had been raised in a sectarian atmosphere, trained to distrust Christianity of any stripe but my own. For me, what made the charismatic renewal remarkable was the ecumenical fellowship it created. American Baptists and Roman Catholics in our community were sharing Communion—even serving Communion at each other’s churches—until the Catholic bishop put a stop to it. Episcopalians were worshiping with an intensity that undercut all my prejudices against written prayers and prescribed liturgies. Formerly competing religious communities were suddenly open to common ministry and shared worship. This was not the classic liberal ecumenism with its “Doctrine Divides, Service Unites” motto. This ecumenism flowed from recognizing that the Holy Spirit was animating and transforming others.
He specifically gives these insightful words on the more lasting effect of the charismatic renewal:
Some analysts say the mainline charismatic renewal fizzled. It is more accurate to describe it the way Jesus pictured the kingdom of God: like yeast that spreads through bread dough. You can hardly identify it as a movement anymore, but it has changed the way most churches worship. Repetitive choruses and raised hands are now common. Except in pockets of hardcore resistance, the fact that a fellow Christian may praise God in a private prayer language hardly elevates an eyebrow.
Pentecostalism and the charismatic renewal have jointly given believers what historian Chris Armstrong calls Pentecostalism’s chief contribution to Christianity: an awareness of “a deep well of living water from which everything else flow[s] … the personal, relational presence of the living God.”
Even with some of its faults and holes, the charismatic renewal, or better yet, the Spirit of God, has brought a lasting effect upon the church. Not just in America, but in the whole world. Pentecostal and charismatic church numbers are soaring right across Africa, Asia, China and Central-South America. And I have personally been affected by such a movement. For this, I am in great debt.