In 1997 I received an invitation to give a seminar on the subject of renewal in the Church. In that last decade of the former century there began indeed to blow a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit that renewed and refreshed churches in all denominations, from Pentecostal to Anglican churches. There were many genuine conversions and many christians received a fresh touch and new inspiration of the Holy Spirit and became powerful witnesses of the Lord. Ten years later, as I revised this article, I observe that this move of renewal is still going on. In this article I briefly treat a few important characteristics of this renewal. I trust that this brief article will help you to understand the dynamic renewal that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about in the body of Christ. May it awaken in you the desire to be a part of it and be used more fully by the Holy Spirit.
Pastor T. J.
Ruiter, October 1997, revised September 2007
Five aspects of renewal in the church
Many leaders, also many in the great historic churches, are quite sure that in order to experience renewal through the Holy Spirit the church should give less importance to fixed ceremonial and liturgy. The church needs to make room for contacting and experiencing God in a way that connects to the present culture and style of living. A relaxed style of service with little formality and solemn church ceremony, seems to fit better with the homely, relaxed style people need in this culture, which is so full of formalities that create distances between people and God. Those who move in the renewal, know that holiness is not synonymous with formality and ceremony. People need to feel 'at home' in church and know that they are in the presence of the loving, heavenly Father and His darling Son Jesus Christ.
2. Renewal through freedom to exercise spiritual gifts
Freedom for lay people to exercise spiritual gifts has been a blessing in the Pentecostal movement. But the tendency today even in many pentecostal churches is to clamp down on this. But this freedom is essential in original christian fellowship. Freedom to exercise gifts of the Spirit for even the less talented or educated will enrich the church to understand Gods will and purpose and move in power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Renewal because of more freedom to express emotions
For a long time there has been a suppression of spontaneous emotional and bodily expression in many Western churches. I too was taught, sitting from early age in the Reformed Church services, to be always quiet and not even to express positive emotions awakened by the hymn singing and the ministry of the word of God. To say enthusiastically 'amen' or 'hallelujah' was not permitted.
But in churches experiencing and allowing renewal there is new freedom to express feelings or emotions and it is a real blessing for many. Expression of godly feelings of joy, appreciation but also of sadness and sorrow in churches, which move in the renewal is a healthy development. Of course, leaders should watch for 'emotional incontinence' and should always help people to come out off such an abnormal, confusing state.
4. Renewal through 'Worship freedom'
The emphasis on worship is a wonderful aspect of the renewal in church services. That the sermon receives sometimes less time in a service is not per se a negative thing. The sermon is a monologue and oftentimes rather lengthy. A shorter sermon can even be more effective. A shorter time for the sermon - think of a maximum of thirty minutes - does not mean that the Word of God is given less authority. Worship leads people into an atmosphere in which they enter into Gods Presence and during that time God can manifest himself in wonderful and blessed manifestations, touching people, healing and inspiring them.
5. Renewal and manifestations
In churches, that move in the renewal people do sometimes manifest strange behaviour: trembling, shaking, falling, rolling on the floor and sometimes strange noises are heard. It is important that responsible leaders sense with spiritual insight and wisdom what exactly is going on, what kind of spirit is manifesting itself and know how to react and give follow-up to the people. I have investigated a number of physical manifestations and interviewed people who experienced them. I was particularly interested in the results of these abnormal experiences. Were the experiences edifying, truly inspiring, or not.
I do admit that judgements of the origin and meaning of these pheromone are often not easy to make. We should at all times understand that the strange behaviour is a bodily reaction to some power or force, spiritual, mental or psychical, that is being in action in or on the person. If unclean or demonic spirits are manifesting themselves in services we should not criticize a servant of God, under whose ministry it occurs. Jesus caused disorder in the synagogue, that is to say, demons did. Leaders of the synagogue saw their service ruined by Jesus and criticized him for it. Jesus always saw another opportunity to set somebody free. Sometimes that had to be done in a regular service, though it caused confusion by the leaders of the synagogue. I say that the same ministerial principles of Jesus are valued today. Let's have the spirit and authority of Jesus and exercise it where and when necessary to set people free. Let's not be so religious, formal and in control that the Spirit of God cannot do the job He came for.
In closing let's understand that leaders in the renewal do make mistakes. But, who doesn't make mistakes? God's Spirit uses people with their weaknesses, faults and peculiarities. That's why He will and can use you and me, too.
Contact: Pastor T. J. de Ruiter