Spirit Week: ‘Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes’ – Charismatic Christianity 2.0?

 

Charismatic Christianity has been controversial ever since the Holy Spirit was reported to have ‘descended’ upon St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California, in 1960. Unlike the earlier turn-of-the-20th-century Pentecostal movement which created a plethora of new denominations, the Charismatic Movement  – with its emphasis on the felt-presence of the Holy Spirit, intimate worship, healings, and spiritual gifts as written about in the New Testament – united Lutherans and Catholics, East Orthodox and Episcopalians, promising in its early years to utterly remake ecumenical dialogues into a fully-felt move of the Spirit. These heady early days inspired everyone from the Jesus Movement to Richard Rohr and many believed that a new fullness of Christian faith was being formed.


Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years by crazedigitalmovies

Then, as often happens as new movements grow and spread, things got messy. Denominational officials became suspicious; new denominations like the Vineyard were born, attracting new Christians like Bob Dylan. Even as the Charismatic Movement spread overseas, domestically witch-hunts and scandals and sensationalism proliferated. These days, the missional and emerging church streams are filled with ex-charismatics who feel burned by guilt-ridden legalistic theology, heavy-handed authoritarian leadership, and false promises of spiritual empowerment and breakthrough. In the casualty-strewn field of charismania gone awry, is there really anything new to say?

Leif Hetland thinks so. Raised Baptist and experiencing his own legalism burnout, Leif now plants churches and ministers to nations around the world in the evident power and manifest glory of God – “he sees in the western world signs, wonders and miracles that a few years ago was only being experienced in the third world,” witnesses say.

The question is, how does Leif see “the secret” to his missional breakthrough? Where does his passion – and power – come from? Is it more of the same-old, same old?

No, it isn’t – as he shares in Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes.

Years ago as a frustrated and guilt-ridden pastor, effort was high but lasting fruit was low. Then he experienced a vision that changed everything forever. Not the pyrotechnic, only-reserved-for-a-few-spiritual-megastars kind of vision that so many televangelists and the like report having on a weekly basis. No, this is a vision rooted in sacred imagination and the deep, creative love of God.

In confessional style, Leif explores the realities of Abba’s love for us, our core identity as God’s beloved children, and how we can participate in the creative, non-judgemental life of the Trinity – and how this vision transforms our view of ourselves, others, and global events.

I find it to be a beautifully written book, reminding me of the best of my independent charismatic, Assemblies of God, and (via my wife) Vineyard past, as well as much that was missing during that time. Poignant personal reflections are woven artfully with metaphors, personal stories, and eclectic literary quotes and film references. We the readers are invited to reflect and discover our own divine encounter. I think it represents charismatic Christianity come of age.

Leif explores how seeing through “the eyes of heaven”—a God’s-eye view of the unfolding love that constitutes reality—will transform everything, including:

  • God.
  • Yourself.
  • Other people.
  • Your family.
  • Your enemies.
  • Eschatology.
The Promise of Grace and Spirit
As I see it, the legacy of the charismatic movement, as ‘composted’ for those of us who are post-Everything, is this: The Sacred Breath of God breathes into us, making all things numinous. Reality is not cold and mechanistic, but infinitely personal – binding us all, from galaxy systems and parallel universes down to the tiniest quark and subatomic particle. We can express ourselves, individually and collectively, in ecstatic, unself-conscious ways. Celebration is not an option – it is a way of life, even (especially!) amidst the pain and suffering of our shared planet. We can touch one another’s hearts and bodies, laying on hands, expecting something to happen. (I stole this from both Sara Miles and Bo Sanders, I’m sure) And – as Leif so skillfully points out – the Spirit announces that we, too, are God’s beloved daughters and sons, in whom God is well-pleased.

Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes PROMO from Global Mission Awareness on Vimeo.

Are you interested in reviewing Leif’s book?

Many of you know that I do word-of-mouth publicity services for authors and publishers; I’ve taken this book on, because I want to see it find a readership beyond the charismatic milieu that birthed it. If you enjoy reading the grace-saturated prose of Brennan Manning, Philip Yancey, Joyce Rupp or Ken Gire, I think you’d appreciate this book. If you’re a blogger and would like a review copy, you can request an eBook copy here. If you’re a U.S.-based blogger, you can can request a hard copy here. All I ask is that you blog about the book within 30 days of receiving it, and give me a link to your post via the comments section here or speakeasyontap [at] gmail [dot] com. Your review need not be favorable – your honest impressions will be perfect.

Coming next in Spirit Week…

Today I’ve overviewed my hope & optimism that voices like Leif’s can bridge the gap between Christianities – and possibly beyond. Tomorrow – with the help of Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders – we’ll look at the challenges faced in healthily integrating a charismatic ‘Spirit-filled’ paradigm with contemporary life with the progressive theology that so many of us find to be a faith-saver. Stay tuned!

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