I have no official role at Biola. I happen to be a pastor of a church that many Biola students and some faculty call home, and so I do my best to serve a College I love in any way I can, whether that means speaking at Chapel, doing bible study in the dorms, or drinking coffee at Common Grounds on Wednesdays. Last night, my role was leading Communion after the guest speaker had talked, while the Southlands band led worship. The context was Student Mission's Week, the College's annual catalyst for the Great Commission.
The guest speaker was a flamboyant, disarming, and likeable Kiwi from YWAM called Mark Parker.He spoke on 'true salvation.' I left last night feeling that what had taken place was significant in the broader scheme of Biola's journey, but would definitely need some processing.I suppose I feel partly responsible too, because after Mark finished preaching and began praying for students, I was by default left holding the microphone and hosting the remaining hour of a meeting, that I guess, would be about as 'charismatic' a meeting as any in the history of Biola.
In a packed gymnasium, students confessed their sins publicly, worshipped passionately, some wept or laughed, others were set free of demonic oppression. Some even spoke in tongues! This in many ways was a radical and remarkable step forward in the ministry of the Holy Spirit for a college which 100 years ago, publicly condemned the Azusa Street Revival down the road as a 'work of man.'
Last night felt like revival, which thrilled me, but I also left a little concerned at the same time. As a pastor and bible teacher, I have a great desire to journey with cautious conservatives towards a greater encounter with God, the Holy Spirit. I recognize that this is best done in reverence for the Scriptures and with sane humility. I felt that at times these elements were, shall we say, illusive, leaving what happened last night as fair game for conservative critics. Was it just emotionalism? What about the absence of biblical exposition? Was he trying to force people to fall down?
I do not want to leap to Mark's defense or point a criticising finger. I do not know him, but I am thankful for his courageous, in-your-face ministry, which is a little like triple-shot-espresso to the spiritually sleepy. God will often use people like this as a catalyst gift for a short time. We then have a responsibility to keep aflame what God has sparked. God seldom uses the same gift to maintain a flame as the gift he uses to create a spark.
R.T Kendall, successor to Martin Lloyd Jones, in writing about his journey from cautious conservativism to an openness to the Holy Spirit, said that
"the anointing almost always has a stigma attached to it." Using biblical prophets as his example, he noted that they almost always came with a certain 'yuck factor,'and I have found this to be true in most significant moves of God which I have experienced. God's life is often a bit messy, and our culture has tried to tame and sanitize God, making him into some benign therapeutic English country gentleman, who would never upset the apple cart. His love is more wild than that. We cannot tame Him. But in maintaining the flame of revival, we can tame ourselves, to make sure that our ministry and meetings are helping more than harming. I believe that people need to be shepherded through the unfamiliar with a lack of hype and a heap of wisdom.
I do believe that there is a Gospel-Centred sanity in Holy Spirit ministry which many have not experienced. If they did, it would cause them to be more open and less critical of the gift of the Third Person of the Trinity. He is not an optional extra. He is the absolutely vital, yet often missing element of our Gospel Mission.
So, was last night a glorious mess or some messy glory? In my view it was the latter.
My appeal though, is for zeal to be tempered by wisdom, and for the Biola community to channel the Spirit's ministry towards the Spirit's mission.