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Source: (consider it) Thread: Reading Outpouring: new year stock-taking
SvitlanaV2
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Really?

New Wine isn't something I've heard about in church or ecumenical meetings. Mine is a MOTR ecumenical world, where community is often what brings people to the church, and a gradual acculturation into church values and beliefs is much more in evidence than decisionism.

But fewer people have grown up with a basic childhood faith nowadays, so perhaps the gradual approach will be less likely in future. If your first experience of Christianity occurs in your 20s, how long are you likely to spend dawdling and drinking church coffee before you realise that it means something to you? If it doesn't occur fairly soon are you really going to stick around? I don't know, but we live in a fast moving world now.

Moreover, Western culture is full of people who see themselves as Christians but don't go for institutional communal religion, and in a strangely contemporary way decisionism feeds into that. Decisionism is individualistic - but so is popular, fuzzy faith. Decisionism may be seeping into mainstream evangelicalism, but if I'm reading it correctly it undermines church authority in the long run. If a one-time salvation experience is all that matters, why spend the next 50 years listening to sermons?

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
New Wine isn't something I've heard about in church or ecumenical meetings.

It may be bigger than you think; and the ecumenical circles you move in may not be as broad as others, encompassing charismatic/evangelical believers. FWIW a soon-to-be colleague is a Catholic priest who is very much into New Wine.

quote:
Mine is a MOTR ecumenical world, where community is often what brings people to the church, and a gradual acculturation into church values and beliefs is much more in evidence than decisionism.
Actually I think that would be true of most evangelical and even charismatic churches. The call to "decide", if it comes at all, does so after the socialisation and acculturation.

I think this is because few people today have a enough Christian knowledge on which to base their decision - which, to me, is a fatal flaw in Yinka's approach. An uninformed decision, in my view, is no decision at all.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
The ecumenical circles you move in may not be as broad as others, encompassing charismatic/evangelical believers. FWIW a soon-to-be colleague is a Catholic priest who is very much into New Wine.

My ecumenical circles are fairly MOTR, with some evangelicals on the fringes. I don't claim to be privy to the influences of many evangelical/charismatic groups - but most British Christians are not evangelical/charismatic, which was my point. I am aware that the RCC has a considerable charismatic wing.

But if decisionist attitudes are seeping into traditional, low key congregations then the pong of desperation will surely put a lot of people off. Since most people are put off already I can't see much change there.

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Gamaliel
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Decisionism has long been an issue in evangelical and charismatic circles. It's nothing new. The difference here is that it's being packaged as some kind of cure-all solution.

FWIW, as confirmation of your point that we live in fast moving times, I've heard from chaplains at a number of universities that many students sign-up for full-on evangelical churches in their first year and then undergo some kind of rapid volte-face such they leave university either as MoTR Christians or without any faith at all.

The process of becoming evangelical and gradually morphing over 15 or 20 years into a more contemplative or sacramental type of Christian - a journey I've been on for many years - seems to be either accelerating or else speeding and spinning to an extent that the travellers are being thrown overboard.

I don't have a problem at all with crisis-experiences and Damascus Road conversions - but as Baptist Trainfan says, these tend to be rare. Most people are gradually acclimatised and socialised into the Kingdom.

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Curiosity killed ...

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I've come across decisionism from the local Elim churches and in ecumenical dialogue, here and around another Christian environment in a different area of the country. Very frustrating I have found it too, being told that a lack of conversion meant I was not Christian, that no-one can possibly be a cradle Christian.

I've also come across this decisionism in working environments too, where a lack of a conversion story is regarded as lacking in Christianity. (And meant that I kept quiet with my head down in that working environment rather than get into arguments about who was really Christian.)

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Gamaliel
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On the influence of New Wine ...

I wouldn't take the awareness/participation of a charismatic RC as particularly indicative of that. I suspect most RCs are unaware of New Wine.

Equally, even if MoTR Methodists and URCs were aware of it, I doubt they'd buy into it. The influence of New Wine is readily apparent across charismatic Anglican and Baptist churches and to some extent among the middle-class end of Pentecostalism.

It has very little influence with conservative evangelicals nor with the MoTR Anglicans nor Anglo-Catholics.

What does bother me about New Wine, though, is that is popularises some toxic emphases and gives them credence - that's the danger - the lack of discernment.

I knew things were decidedly dodgy when I heard they invited Bill Johnson in to preach. Not all New Winers were happy with that ...

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Gamaliel
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I think we need to distinguish conversionism from decisionism.

The latter is essentially an in-house evangelical term used to refer to shallow 'conversions' or instances where people have been pressurised to 'pray the sinner's prayer' or repeat a form of words that is supposed to denote conversion without necessarily grasping the import nor the meaning of what they were supposed to be doing.

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Curiosity killed ...

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Gamaliel, I meant decisionism - one of the Youth for Christ workers who worshipped at the Elim church encouraged conversions with the young people through saying the Sinner's Prayer. That Elim group used to have a stall in the High Street on market day to do the same thing.

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Gamaliel
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By and large, in my experience, most evangelicals these days are happy to accept 'cradle-Christians' as genuine believers provided there is some other 'evidence' that ticks their particular box or model of who is or isn't to be considered a 'genuine' believer ...

So, for instance, the Pentecostals here are quite happy to accept the local RCs as fellow believers, despite their reservations about the RCC in general. They can see that they are devout and do good works, so they take that as 'fruit' and evidence of Divine activity in those people's lives, even if they don't express these things in the way they themselves might. Our Penties are quite ecumenical here.

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Gamaliel
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Ok, sorry, I cross-posted, CK.

Ok I get that. Yes, I'd also call that decisionism.

It raises the question, though, as to where conversionism ends and decisionism starts.

FWIW, I would suggest that Reformed evangelicals and many Anglican evangelicals are less 'decisionist' than independent evangelicals and Pentecostals.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
My perspective from outside the UK is that New Wine has quite an influence across the board.

It's emptying a churh near me.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Do you mean:

(a) The Minister of the church is pushing a New Wine agenda, the congregation don't like it and are voting with their feet;

or

(b) A New Wine place has opened down the road and everyone's flocking to it from the older churches?

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Eutychus
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I contend that New Wine has influence because it affects people across a broad swathe of denominations including, particularly in CoE congregations, a subset of congregations with other dominant spiritualities.

New Wine sympathisers may not be in the majority but they are a vocal, committed, activist minority to a trend which has good PR and marketing, puts on well-organised events, and is producing new worship songs which end up being sung all over the place. They may not be the majority but they are influential.

Even we sing some Bethel songs, and even the Ship, not noted for its charismatic evangelical flavour, has a regular New Wine thread in All Saints.

On decisionism, I repeat it would be much easier to argue theologically against The Turning if it were out-and-out decisionist; Oyekan clearly states that "praying the prayer" does not equate to being born again, indeed claims to have attracted criticism from those holding such a view.

What is odd is this "sacramentalist"/"name-it-and-claim-it" formula that combines an almost magical view of a) a set of words with b) assent to them, even uncomprehending assent, by the hearer - when the whole premise of the "decision" is that one has understood it.

Plus the fact that these numbers are tallied and bandied about in such a way as to mislead people about what is happening. Nobody reads those figures and concludes that around three quarters of the people involved do not wish to meet even once more for a follow-up chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Decisionism has long been an issue in evangelical and charismatic circles. It's nothing new. The difference here is that it's being packaged as some kind of cure-all solution.

As confirmation of your point that we live in fast moving times, I've heard from chaplains at a number of universities that many students sign-up for full-on evangelical churches in their first year and then undergo some kind of rapid volte-face such they leave university either as MoTR Christians or without any faith at all.

The process of becoming evangelical and gradually morphing over 15 or 20 years into a more contemplative or sacramental type of Christian - a journey I've been on for many years - seems to be either accelerating or else speeding and spinning to an extent that the travellers are being thrown overboard.

I get the impression, from here and elsewhere, that for some young middle class British people going through a 'Christian phase' is almost a kind of rite of passage. Try everything once - maybe that's the sensibility at play.

From a liberal perspective, though, maybe it's not so bad if an individual eventually walks away from an institutional religious setting so long as he or she has gained something spiritually positive from the experience. (Not if it turns them into ardent anti-theists, of course....)

In fact, the decisionism in the Reading experience seems to be more of a theological problem from the 'emergent' evangelical end than than from the MOTR, liberal-leaning end of things.

Liberals don't inevitably see churchgoing as an inevitable sign of 'true' faith, so it's not such a problem if a nascent believer doesn't commit to years of church attendance. Moreover, liberal churches don't automatically provide theological instruction for new members (beyond what might occur in a confirmation class). Because of the pluralism of the liberal congregation, there's less anxiety about a new believer presenting himself to be taught the 'right' theology.

I think the liberal problem with the Reading adventures would rather be viewed through a cultural lens; street evangelism is embarrassing and brings to mind the conservative theology that 'mainstream' (but perhaps not New Wine!) Christians dislike.

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Baptist Trainfan
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@ Eutychus et. al.:

In Romans 10, St. Paul writes, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved". He continues, "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ".

While I concede that there is no specific mention of "understanding" in this classic passage, I would content that "believing in your heart that God raised him" implies a certain level of mental engagement with the message. An unthinking verbal response alone is insufficient for salvation.

Or have I missed something?

[ 12. February 2017, 15:38: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Eirenist
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Whence comes this desire to constrain the way in which God's Holy Spirit operates?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
While I concede that there is no specific mention of "understanding" in this classic passage, I would content that "believing in your heart that God raised him" implies a certain level of mental engagement with the message. An unthinking verbal response alone is insufficient for salvation.

Of course I couldn't agree more myself.

Increasingly my understanding of Christian experience today is framed in terms of the New Covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:33-34 (emphasis mine):
quote:
this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
To me there is a clear intellectual component in that "knowing".

I myself wouldn't require that "knowing" to be enshrined in a one-off decision, but I would expect it to end up being witnessed to by a believer.

What is doing my head in as regards The Turning is this:

On the one hand, you have a script which implies intellectual assent (for a decision of this import, any secular document would include wording along the lines of "I hereby certify I have read and understood the above"; in France, for serious commitments you have to actually copy out whole reams of text by hand in an attempt by the legislator to ensure you have indeed given informed consent).

Much as I dislike decisionism, I can at least see some sort of logic behind such a "script" if there is a proper notion of informed consent.

But here, there is no sense of consent being properly informed. I am convinced many Reading enthusiasts (where has Ramarius gone?) over-optimistically think or hope that managing to make somebody say "yes" to praying this prayer has converted them, and that the numbers reported may confidently be asserted to be conversions, despite Oyekan's protestations, when pressed, to the contrary.

Instead of any notion of informed consent, what we have here is an interpretation that says that saying "yes" to this script, which presents a propositional argument, somehow achieves something that is more than zero but less than conversion, and does so even if the person has no idea what they did (someone sent me a link to a talk by Yinka in which he says something along the lines of welcoming people to The Gate who "did not yet understand what they'd done").

I can't make up my mind as to whether this convoluted theology is an after-the-fact way of rationalising the use of such a decisionist script and making the most of (as I see them) over-inflated numbers, or the actual starting point that produced the latter.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Eirenist:
Whence comes this desire to constrain the way in which God's Holy Spirit operates?

Great question.

One of my own thorny issues is that I felt I had experienced something genuine in the Toronto Blessing, with tangible results. I still do feel that way.

That's why I find myself unable to dismiss any "move of God" in its absolute entirety; if my own experience is any guide, some people may be positively affected. Fortunately God is not limited by our bad practice or theology.

But one of our wisest critics at the time our church was into all that suggested there were dangers of "systematisation", and it did not take me all that long to see that he was right (and indeed move the church on from it).

It's like Moses striking the rock a second time because he'd seen it work that way before - a decision that cost him the Promised Land.

At the end of the day, I think this desire is about control and power. Certainly there is an implication in some promotion of the Reading Outpouring that there is if not a monopoly, at least exclusivity on a very special corner, of the Holy Spirit. Such a claim can of course can be monetised...

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Gamaliel
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I put odds on it being a rationalisation after the event.

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Baptist Trainfan
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@ Eutychus:

I am no scholar in ancient languages; but I know Portuguese. So I looked up the Jeremiah passage in various Bible versions. Unfortunately the word translated above as "know" ('conhecer') in each version is one which has the sense of "getting to know someone"; it isn't the other word ('saber') which has the meaning of "knowing intellectually". Presumably that choice of verb reflects the inflection of the original text.

Nevertheless I do not disagree at all with your premise!

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Gamaliel
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@SvitlanaV2 - of course this form of decisionism offends the sensibilities of many evangelicals - whether 'emergent' or more traditional. Why? Because they'd see it as debasing the coinage and as a threat to genuine conversions.

It's often been questioned how many of the many thousands of converts made by Jesuit missionaries in the Far East I'm the 16th century actually knew or understood what it was they were supposed to be doing ...

So it's not only an evangelical thing.

I think I mentioned on this thread that Archbishop Macarios wondered the same thing after he'd baptised 5,000 people during a visit to Kenya.

It only becomes a problem, I suppose if one believes conversion is a serious and desirable thing and assumes that it should lead to active engagement in local church life, among other things.

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SvitlanaV2
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The problem for worldwide Christianity is indeed how to decide what makes people 'real' Christians. If you set the bar for 'intellectual assent', etc., too high then perhaps most so-called Christians throughout history haven't really been Christians at all....
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Eutychus
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Gamaliel: just remembered the subtitle of Wright et al's book Charismatic Renewal is "the search for a theology". I believe he says it is an "experience in search of a theology", a point I put to Yinka.

Baptist Trainfan: there is also the verb in Jeremiah to "teach", which implies learning.

SvitlanaV2: we can argue till the eschaton about how much intellectual knowledge is required for a "proper" conversion.

What gets me here is the juxtaposition of:

- a script that on the face of it is entirely based on intellectual assent to a propositional argument (basically, the "four spiritual laws")

- a claimed effect that focuses on anything but intellectual assent in the same way paedobaptism does.

I'm not sure I've got the extent to which this is messing with my mind across yet.

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Gamaliel
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I'm not simply talking about intellectual assent to a set of propositions, SvitlanaV2.

@Eutychus - and yes, paedobaptism doesn't require intellectual assent or consent on the part of the recipient, but even in the most paedobaptist of paedobaptist churches there is an expectation - however idealised - that it should lead to some kind of actualisation/articulation of faith - however that's expressed ...

Neither classic evangelicalism nor classic sacramentalism presents the Gospel as some kind of four-point statement to be repeated by rote off some kind of sales-pitch card ...

'It's not the robe that makes the priest,' as the Greeks say.

Sure, we all know that millions of people are christened as infants and don't subsequently 'own' or confess their faith - or even appear to have any.

But if one is going to go down the conscious-acceptance, make-a-decision route, then surely one has to adopt a more rigorous approach than simply inducing people to read words off a card and then trumpet it as if there's some kind of major spiritual breakthrough going on ...

Or, worse, market it as some kind of model that can be monetised ...

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Gamaliel
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The sub-title about charismatic renewal was that it was a 'spirituality in search of a theology.'

The phrase was in circulation before the book was published, the authors simply used it as a handy peg to hang their arguments upon.

It's over 20 years old now, that book, but I still dip into it occasionally ...

I often tell people that it was the book that kept me sane.

Perhaps it, or something like it, might be a good way to settle your head now that Yinka and his pals have messed with it ...

[Biased]

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
even in the most paedobaptist of paedobaptist churches there is an expectation - however idealised - that it should lead to some kind of actualisation/articulation of faith - however that's expressed ...

That's where, in the present case, the "name it and claim it" aspect comes into it, perhaps.

As I understand it, once the prayer has been properly prayed, the parable of the sower applies.

I suppose the idea of hoping that the "quality of conversion" "improves" might be that as they get better at this, more of the prayees will end up in the fruit-bearing category. That would certainly make sense from a Bethel "Kingdom Now" theological perspective.

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Gamaliel
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Yes, and it goes back further than that to Wimber and others who emphasised healing or 'power encounters'. The idea was the the more we did it, the more people we prayed for in the street or in meetings etc then the more likely it would be that we could 'build' our faith to the extent that the really big miracles would start to happen ...

[Help]

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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Tangential, but normally being behind that sort of theology would be worrying enough, but Wimber made that the least of his crimes compared with penning the all-time horror which is Isn't He Beautiful.

But I digress.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

SvitlanaV2: we can argue till the eschaton about how much intellectual knowledge is required for a "proper" conversion.

What gets me here is the juxtaposition of:

- a script that on the face of it is entirely based on intellectual assent to a propositional argument (basically, the "four spiritual laws")

- a claimed effect that focuses on anything but intellectual assent in the same way paedobaptism does.

I'm not sure I've got the extent to which this is messing with my mind across yet.

I suppose that from the perspective of 'official' or orthodox theology the two don't really gel. But as I said in my post I think most Christians reconfigure their faith outside of this strict prism, even among regular worshippers at orthodox churches.

But am I right in assuming that Pastor Oyekan is Pentecostal? Because my experience of Caribbean (although not African) Pentecostalism is that there is a kind of tension regarding the intellectual assent required of the thinking individual versus a kind of divine power inherent in the sacramental act they're participating in.

For example, IME Caribbean Pentecostals of various types often baptise neither babies nor adults, but children. Babies obviously can't assent to baptism. By the usual age of baptism, which is around 7 or 8 years old, they can - but they are unlikely to be fully aware of the theological implications involved in doing so. The level of 'intellectual' assent they can give at that age is questionable. But it's an impressionable age, perhaps ideal for both encouraging assent and also enabling the divine power present in the act to do its work regardless of the quality of that consent.

AIUI the non-Trinitarian Pentecostals also have a sense that their particular baptismal formula has a special protective effect - an effect that doesn't necessarily require an adult baptismal candidate to attend a non-Trinitarian church afterwards. To me, this speaks of a blend of both intellectual assent but also of the protective quality that often recalls paedobaptist ceremonies.

The fact that Pentecostalism has traditionally (or perhaps only in its black form?) required very little instruction before baptism, merely an enthusiastic response, is perhaps pertinent here.

(I realise that the event in Reading wasn't about baptism, but the situations I've mentioned above seem somewhat relevant.)

Getting back to Reading, the fact that Pastor Oyekan's team got random members of the public to utter these prayers at all is still shocking to me (if not to those of you who live in more 'Christian' settings than I do) and it could be that the team were so amazed by this positive reception that they saw it as a divine blessing on their work, hence all the hype.

IMO the team clearly have some special gifts, but I agree it was very odd that they didn't have given much thought to what would happen afterwards. I don't understand that - not in an age of endless books and reports on urban evangelism, on the need for follow-up, on the individualisation of religious experience, on FEs, etc. I mean, if strangers are so happy to pray with to them in public perhaps the team could consider bringing the church out into the streets on a regular basis, rather than assuming that everyone who prays with them wants to sit inside the four walls of a dedicated building and sing hymns, etc.

[ 13. February 2017, 20:41: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Gamaliel
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I don't know what you mean about posters living in more 'Christian' settings than you do. Wherever we live, whether its in leafy suburbia or the inner city, Christianity is a minority pursuit - although it is, of course, thinner on the ground in some areas than others.

Where it is more prevalent, the idea of inducing complete strangers to pray particular prayers on the street and then claiming that some kind of major revival is afoot would certainly not be 'the norm.'

What we're seeing here is a triumph of wishful thinking over sober judgement - and well-meaning people who have been trained and acclimatised by their particular theological background to expect some kind of 'outpouring' - to the extent that they'll latch onto claims of these kind as some kind of answer to their prayers.

On the role/place of baptism in Caribbean Pentecostal circles, yes, I can see that. I'm a lot less familiar with that side of things but it's the impression I've picked up from conversations and from that recent BBC documentary about a West Indian congregation in Brixton.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I don't know what you mean about posters living in more 'Christian' settings than you do. Wherever we live, whether its in leafy suburbia or the inner city, Christianity is a minority pursuit - although it is, of course, thinner on the ground in some areas than others.

I was referring to your or someone else's comment upthread that getting strangers to say a few religious words on the street isn't such a big deal, because people will say anything to get rid of someone irritating.

I really can't see that happening somewhere where the local population isn't already somewhat indulgent towards Christianity in a cultural sense. That's what my scare quotes were indicating.

With regards to the theology you mention, I'm surprised that regular disappointment about revivals hasn't depleted the ranks of these churchfolk such as to make them irrelevant.

OTOH perhaps these churches attract the kinds of needy people who stick around because there's always the hope of a great new thing round the corner. 'Sober judgement' isn't what they go to church for - there are other churches providing that, if they want it.

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Mark Wuntoo
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
With regards to the theology you mention, I'm surprised that regular disappointment about revivals hasn't depleted the ranks of these churchfolk such as to make them irrelevant.

I think this maybe the 'remnant' theology: 'we are the faithful few who are keeping up the good work of evangelising whether they like it or not .... they will be lost if they don't respond and I will be held accountable if I do not obey the command of Jesus'.

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Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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I also think we can underestimate the longevity of promises of putative revival. When you are immersed in that expectation and ethos, it's very hard to break out of it.

I remember a couple who'd finally left our charismatic-evangelical restorationist church after many, many years and having been involved from the outset making the observation that one of the things that had kept them on-board was some kind of misplaced expectation of revival.

If you jumped ship before it came then you'd miss out ...

What gets me is that some of the more revivalist people I know are still chuntering on and on about imminent revival and multitudes being 'swept into the Kingdom' even though their churches are a fraction of the size they were in the 1980s and '90s when revivalist fervour was pretty intense.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I don't know what you mean about posters living in more 'Christian' settings than you do. Wherever we live, whether its in leafy suburbia or the inner city, Christianity is a minority pursuit - although it is, of course, thinner on the ground in some areas than others.

I was referring to your or someone else's comment upthread that getting strangers to say a few religious words on the street isn't such a big deal, because people will say anything to get rid of someone irritating.

I really can't see that happening somewhere where the local population isn't already somewhat indulgent towards Christianity in a cultural sense. That's what my scare quotes were indicating.

With regards to the theology you mention, I'm surprised that regular disappointment about revivals hasn't depleted the ranks of these churchfolk such as to make them irrelevant.

OTOH perhaps these churches attract the kinds of needy people who stick around because there's always the hope of a great new thing round the corner. 'Sober judgement' isn't what they go to church for - there are other churches providing that, if they want it.

Well yes, and I agree with you there. It's interesting that these reports of thousands of people apparently 'praying the prayer' on the street come from Reading rather than inner-city Handsworth, say, or cities like Leicester with its significant Asian community ...

You wouldn't get very far taking the Yinka road-show down Brick Lane or parts of Bradford.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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Moreover, the proportion of people who identify as having no religion now outnumbers those who claim to be Christian in England and Wales. The desire to affirm a cultural affiliation with Christianity, even for a survey, can't be taken for granted among the indigenous population.
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