Spirit-Empowered Christianity

By: Walter Gessner
Monday, June 25th, 2012

Spirit-Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century: Insights, Analysis, & Future Trends. Edited by Vinson Synan. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2011. ix + 595 pp

Vinson Synan compiles a series of scholarly essays designed to consider the future direction of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and to offer to the future generations an “important marker . . . at the beginning of the twenty-first century and a visionary guide to the future” (3). Arranging the essays under three sections, Twenty-First Century Renewal, Protecting Our Charismatic Distinctives, and Charismatic Adaptations for Reaching this Present Age, Synan allows for each of the contributors to examine and critique the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, while offering through interdisciplinary constructs the desired visionary guide to the future.

In Section I, the contributors are willing to make an honest assessment of the movement in its current state, often exposing disconnect of the movement today from its classical sensibilities. In the assessment are identified possible reasons for disconnect: loss of identity in major size and growth, in formalization and/or institutionalization, and in challenges surrounding and desire for learning, to name a few. Along with the assessment, there is also found a longing to see God do a new thing. This longing is born out of looking back to the historical beginnings; almost claiming that in looking back, the movement can look to moving forward in renewal – a new thing born out or fulfilled in the younger generations which had its beginnings a century ago.

The second section identifies the loss of distinctive belief and practice. The contributors, again looking back, seek to identify what is missing today with the hope of a restored tomorrow. Critiquing observable contemporary belief and practice, the essays identify what beliefs and practices were embodied in the foundational years of the Pentecostal and then Charismatic movements, but are lacking or have been disconnected in contemporary expressions. Within the essays is found a call to the Holy Spirit’s agenda: Spirit-empowered mission for the redemption of the world. From generation to generation, a Spirit-empowered people are to look to the Scripture to consider belief and practice, while looking to the day of Christ’s return. Within mission, the movement can reclaim the Spirit’s movement to proclaim (which includes holiness of life) the wonderful works of God in each generation.

The final section offers a glimpse into how this reclaimed belief and practice can be fleshed out in social and urban ministry, academia, the growing global setting, generational expression, and within the several branches and practices of Spirit-empowered peoples. A dependency upon the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and leading will be needed for the younger generation to see a future, and then move into that future Synan desires to guide them toward. There is an inferred call to the younger generation to be Spirit-empowered for mission and for remaining on mission for the generations to come.

Overall, Synan’s desire and purpose for the text is met in the compiled essays within each section of the book. In some cases, however, essays appear to be written for another purpose than the stated purpose of the book. An essay or two, while adequately addressing their individual purpose, seemed to miss a connection with the younger generation and the part this generation will play in fulfilling the purpose of the larger work. Yet, as a whole, “Behold, I will do a new thing,” resonates in the pages of the book with an invitation for the younger generation of Pentecostal/Charismatic women and men to visit the past, to exegete the present, and embrace both to move with God in God’s new thing. The Spirit will, as in generations before, empower them to be missional and to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Walter Gessner
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