To Be Simply Spirit-Filled

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New Experiences

Being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and healing are not part of my everyday vocabulary. Nor, for that matter, are they part of my everyday practice.

Not that I view these practices as unimportant or unnecessary. They just haven’t been a significant part of my relationship with Jesus to date.

I recently started working at a college affiliated with a Pentecostal denomination. I love my job, as I have the opportunity to develop course content and teach, as well as scratching my very persistent itch to organize, categorize, and proofread, all inside the thrilling world of academics. Furthermore, I am excited to be part of this college at a time when we are entering into multi-denotational partnerships, including my own Anabaptist denomination.

When I started my job, some of the above-mentioned practices became part of my everyday world, as I worshipped with my brothers and sisters in chapel, observed casual conversation around the college, and got to know the Pentecostal-Charismatic theological tradition more intimately.

And, as an Anabaptist, I was left with questions. What exactly is being slain in the Spirit? Why haven’t I ever spoken in tongues? Are those with the gift of healing more “spiritual” than me? Why do I tend to worship more quietly than others? Are my spiritual gifts of teaching and preaching really that spiritual? Do I lack faith? Am I missing something here?

A Good Conversation Partner

In the midst of these wrestlings, my colleague Dr. Andrew Gabriel released his latest book Simply Spirit-Filled, an offering that encourages the church to discern how the Holy Spirit is present among us and to invite the Holy Spirit into our daily lives in increasing measure.

Simply Spirit-Filled served as a conversation partner in my new-found questions. Gabriel invites his readers to ask the question: What does it look like to be Spirit-filled? The answer to the question comes through explorations of being slain in the Spirit, hearing God’s voice, how the Spirit worked in Jesus’ life, speaking in tongues, healing, and spiritual gifts in general. Gabriel walks his readers through these exciting, sometimes confusing, and sometimes controversial topics with solid biblical interpretation, a touch of church history, humility, helpful personal reflection, apt warning, exhortation, and prayer.

As someone less familiar with these topics and practices, I felt a sense of safety and security in these unfamiliar waters because I know and trust Andrew as someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and is in growing relationship with our Triune God. However, even those who are not acquainted with Dr. Gabriel personally will be able to sense his pastoral wisdom and care in these pages. He is a safe person with whom to have this important conversation.

Finding Encouragement

I was particularly encouraged by two sections in Simply Spirit-Filled. While discussing how God speaks to us, Dr. Gabriel writes: “even though you might not think of yourself as someone who knows the Lord’s voice, I suspect you have heard God in many ways.”[1] This stopped me in my tracks. Somehow, over the years, I’ve started to believe that God speaking means LOUD, UNMISTAKABLE, and VERY OBVIOUS. I’m talking a big, deep voice, giving context-specific directions and promises.

However, I was reminded that, in my everyday discipleship, I do hear God. I hear him through Scripture, both in my personal life and in my teaching/preaching. I hear him when the Holy Spirit impresses on my heart to care for another person in a very specific way. I hear him when I’m praying for a brother or sister in my office. I hear him! What a liberating and beautiful realization!

Second, I was encouraged by Dr. Gabriel’s reminder of the importance of fruit. Whatever our spiritual disciplines or practices are, “the fruit or outcome of such experiences sometimes testifies to their authenticity.”[2] However the Holy Spirit is working in your life or mine, we should be always be conforming more and more to the image of Christ. This, of course, is something us Anabaptists can get behind right away.

Cross-Denominational Dialogue

As an Anabaptist, I am more comfortable talking about mutual accountability, nonviolence, a theology of suffering, and christology than I am engaging with the topics in Dr. Gabriel’s book. However, as I was reading, I was struck with the analogues between the Anabaptist and Pentecostal-Charismatic experiences. Often, my commitment to an Anabaptist distinctive, such as nonviolence, can be misunderstood or written off before I am able to explain all the nuances and considerations I give to this topic that I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about.

Similarly, I can imagine that those outside of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement may be quick to write off practices such as speaking in tongues or being slain in the Spirit, perhaps because of theological bias, perhaps because of negative experiences. However, we, as Anabaptists, Pentecostal-Charismatics, Anglicans, Methodists, and a host of others, are the body of Christ together. Thus, we need to give each other the space to be heard fully so “we can grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). In this respect, Dr. Gabriel’s book is a gift, allowing us to have the space to begin important cross-denominational dialogue that will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, lead to greater understanding, unity, and discipleship.

Dive into the conversation: click here to read Chapter 1 and order Simply Spirit-Filled.

[1] Andrew K. Gabriel, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Emanate Books, 2019), 54.

[2] Andrew K. Gabriel, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Emanate Books, 2019), 33.

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