What Does "Charismatic" Mean?
Christians who experience certain manifestations are often called "charismatic." This is because the Greek word "charisma" means "gift" (which emphasizes that they are not an award for being good, but an aid to being good.) Examples of these gifts of the Holy Spirit are visions, praying in tongues and healing.
Before Jesus returned to heaven He promised His followers that he would send them the Holy Spirit, through which he would continue to live among them. The Holy Spirit first arrived in this new, special way at Pentecost, which brought about the explosive birth of Christianity.
According to Newsweek, Time and The Washington Post charismatics represent the fastest growing movement worldwide. Conservative estimates put the number of people involved with this movement at 650 hundred million people, with the strongest growth occurring in Asia, South America and Africa.
The word "charismatic" is sometimes mistakenly used to mean free-spirited or emotional worship. While that can be an aspect, it actually refers to thepresence of the charisms.
Gifts of the Spirit
Examples of some of the more common charismatic gifts that the Fellowship experiences are praying in tongues, prophecies, healing, receiving visions and receiving scriptures, a few of which are described below.
- Praying in tongues. Speaking (or praying) in tongues is an ability the Holy Spirit gives us to pray in a spontaneous manner using words and sounds we do not understand. We are conscious of praying to God and have the freedom to start and stop as we wish, but it is God moving our mouths and forming the phrases. He gives us the gift to help us worship Him and to aid in releasing the other gifts, such as prophecy.
- Prophecy. The apostle Paul says "I wish that all of you would pray in tongues, as I do, but I wish even more that you would prophecy. For the one who prays in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophecies builds up the body of believers." Prophecy is the ability granted by the Holy Spirit to speak forth words that proceed from God that do not come from the believer's understanding, reasoning or education. It is often in first-person and is generally not predictive. (Even in biblical times it was mostly a message for the present, used to encourage, teach, or correct.) Prophecy today does not give us new, additional revelation to the Bible, but simply is God illuminating that part of the eternal, unchanging Biblical truth that we especially need in a given moment.
- Receiving Scriptures. During the meeting someone may share a biblical verse saying that they "received the scripture" during prayer. This terminology often indicates that the Lord placed in a person's mind a specific chapter number and verse along with a sense of how the passage relates to us. Note that someone may share a biblical verse that is on their heart, which would be appropriate, but it should not be confused with the distinct charismatic gift of receiving scriptures, which is a more direct communication from God.
The term "Word gift" is used for when God speaks to us, such as through a prophecy or vision. At times the messages received will be clear and precise; at other times they may be shared more generally as a "sense from the Lord." In any case all Word gifts need to be discerned.
These charismatic manifestations are important because they allow us to more fully represent Christ's life in our own and because they are a sign to non-believers of His presence.
How Do I Receive These Experiences?
We each have them already. A person experiences the gifts of the Holy Spirit simply by asking God to release them in child-like faith. They can first appear when a person is praying alone, but are more commonly first manifested after we have prayed with other charismatic Christians. The practice in the early church was to have those who already exercised the gifts place their hands on the one being prayed with, as an expression of unity in faith.
When we receive the Holy Spirit in this way it is often referred to as being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." (This is not meant as a replacement for water baptism or any other sacrament. "Baptize" comes from a Greek word meaning "to immerse" and "baptism in the Holy Spirit" is seen as an immersion in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.)
Some Christians understand being baptized in the Holy Spirit to mean the renewing of abilities already present, like the stirring up of settled chocolate syrup at the bottom of a glass of milk. Others view it as a new type of relationship with the Holy Spirit. Whichever way you explain it, it is a powerful work of God.
Remember to avoid either extremes of (a) focusing on the gifts over the Giver, and (b) neglecting the gifts entirely. The goal is love of God and others, for which the gifts are an important aid. (I Cor 12-14.)
The Fellowship offers to pray with those to be baptized in the Spirit, to receive the charismatic gifts, or for any other concerns.