Friday, March 31, 2006

Ern Baxter - An Autobiographical Sketch 5.

So here it is - the fifth and final part of my series from the "Chief Shepherd and His Sheep" and Ern's autobiographical sketches. It is sufficient, I believe, to stand alone without being sullied and diluted by commentary or thoughts from myself so I have transcribed it and left it at that.

The Charismatic Movement - A Time to Grow Up.

"I returned to Vancouver and began teaching and preaching again at my church with a reduced emphasis in the area of supernatural manifestations. Then one day I picked up a magazine and read about an Episcopaelian priest named Dennis Bennett who had started speaking in tongues. Even some of his curates were doing so. My first thought was, "Here we go again". Later I learned that he had been sent off to a city in the northwest to minister at a small church, where I was sure he was meant to be forgotten. I discovered though that I myself could not forget about him, because his small church happened to be two blocks from a Bible college at which I regularly taught. We soon met.

As it turned out, God blessed his church with health and growth and Dennis himself developed a fine and growing ministry. He was full of vision and became a voice in the Charismatic Movement which had now begun. It was to be another exciting time of the visitation of the Holy Spirit. Ministers were coming together and hugging the necks of men to whom they had not spoken in years. Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists - all on the same platform rejoicing in the "Unity of the Spirit".

Then as had happened too many times before the movement began to experience the problems that arise when the Spirit and the Word are not held in proper tension. The gifts of praise and worship seemed to become like parlour games that people enjoyed while sound doctrine seemed a drudgery that people avoided.

The Early 1970s

In the early 1970's when the Charismatic Renewal was in the midst of its birth-celebration period, a number of God's servants who had callings to teach became concerned about the need to begin considering the next step - maturing. Some of these people simultaneously began to teach on growth, discipleship, shepherding, order, relationship, order, covenant and other themes related to the whole process of growing up.

I began to express within my sphere of activity my concern for this growth process. In the church with which I was associated in Western Canada, I began to develop a series of teachings designed to encourage growth and development, both personal and corporate. I also shared these teachings in my travels. I began publishing a monthly magazine called New Covenant Times which featured my particular teaching concerns.

The "growth" emphasis led to a number of hopeful developments, one of which was the first Shepherds Conference in Leesburg, Florida. I was out of the country and unable to join the approximately 500 men who attended; but I did accept an invitation to address the more than 1, 700 men who attended the second conference held in Montreat, North Carolina in 1974, While at this conference I became associated with a group of brothers who were involved with "Christian Growth Ministries" and New Wine Magazine. As the name "Christian Growht" implies, we were concerned about the maturation of God's people.

My need for a relationship that was more brotherly that ministerial drew me to these brothers. I had been involved with ministerial relationships for years, but they had an unwritten definition of boundaries which shut out the candour and brotherly confrontation, the therapeutic openness that allows the exercise of healing love and support.

I was also drawn to the emphasis on shepherding. As pastor of a sizable congregation I had for years realised my inadequacy to care for so many people in the manner that the word "Shepherd" indicated. The new emphasis on quality pastoral care struck an immediatre note of response in my spirit.

Judging from the Shepherds Conference and subsequent developments, it seemed that a real need was being met in charismatic circles, bringing a widespread enthusiastic response. However there also developed an opposition which was to become painful and divisive. I have no desire in this writing to attempt an account of the confrontation other than to say that the whole matter, like other similar matters considered historically, could have been handled much more Christianly than it was.

I continue to see as Biblically true the principles that I came to understand in the 1970s that in the context of the "Faith" need to be taught. Despite the opposition I must continue to teach them. Any truth is liable to abuse and those truths associated with growth, discipleship, submission, order, authority and the like are no exception. The abuse of a truth however does not excuse us from embracing it and obeying it as it stands free of abuses. No truth held dear by sound-minded Christians has completely escaped distortion and misrepresentation that at times have made it unattractive, if not repulsive.

In Conclusion

My intention here has been to help the people of God. We need to learn that no leader or individual can handle the supernatural without the balance of the Word. The result of such an attempt is Corinthianism, in which the gifts are functioning while the gifted are living carnally. On the other hand, we must understand that the Word of God without the supernatural becomes pedantic and lifeless. God never intended Christianity to be an either-or situation. The Spirit and the Word belong together. Each is tied to the other. It was that way at the creation - the Spirit moved in concert with the spoken Word and it remains that way today".

7 comments:

Sheila said...

I think I've shared before that my parents came into "the full gospel", the "charismatic movement", whatever you want to label it, when I was the ripe old age of about ten. All I know is they began sneaking to a charismatic church on Sunday nights, attending our Presbyterian church in the mornings, as usual.

Once they rec'd the baptism, they did eventually leave the Presbyterian church - and I remember some other, very *marked* changes. My parents had their share of issues, and I saw God set them free from some serious things.

So. The point?? The point is, though I consider myself young, at almost 40 I have clear memories of what was the height and then the ebb of the charismatic movement in the States. I remember "shepherdship". I saw the MISunderstanding of the concept nearly destroy a Godly pastor. (he was accused of shepherdship by those who OBVIOUSLY had not been around long enough to even know what they were talking about!) This man's personality was very cut and dried, he was a strong prophetic leader, and that was mistaken for the overbearing, controlling error of shepherdship. In retrospect, I can only sigh and think, "How dumb was THAT??" But I was a teenager by then - not able to have a voice that carried any authority.

Few words strike as much fear in today's charismatic believers than "Shepherdship". It sends a collective shiver. Very few folks have been around long enough to know what it means, therefore they mistake any show of spiritual authority as a dire threat. Few concepts are also as misunderstood today. The *real* shepherdship movement was obvious error.

True...the way to full blown shepherdship might be a slippery slope - how much authority is "too much", and where do you draw the line, etc.

All I know is my husband and I firmly believe in spiritual/pastoral authority - but we've never tried to control anyone in our LIVES. We simply don't want that level of involvement - we're too busy raising our own children and keeping our own house in order to tell anyone else *precisely* how to live.

Baxter's Boy said...

And that is a concept that many would do well to heed ... that they are (or should be) keeping their own house in orer to tell anyone else precisely how to live. Yet 1 Timothy says doesn't it - in the last days, men will "forbid marriage" - so I guess the Bible forsees this form of heavy excessive shepherding.

Yet ...

The danger of excess is what makes me believe in it's validity. If it was simply a legalistic man-thought concept, then I don't think the temptation would be there to tip the balance and interfere and wreck people's lives in the way that goes on today. It is the very presence of ABUSE that makes me believe that there must be a RIGHT USE.

Gavin White said...

Excellent Post as always, Dan - Do you have access to or know where I could get hold of the '12 Principles of Shepherding' that Ern refers to in some of his interviews? - I've had a request for it from someone on my blog! - Keep up with the excellent teaching and revelation you are bringing through this website

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks Gavin! I don't have the "12 Principles" document to hand, but I will certainly dig into my archives and see if I can find it. I am sure I've got it somewhere because he refers to it again in a couple of sermons.

As soon as I can find it, I will get it to you!

Thanks for keeping reading! :)

SJ said...

I would be interested in that too if you can find it - it sounds like a document that would be invaluable to our modern concepts of discipleship and pastoring.

And those men were second to none in pioneering that work!

Don said...

I identify with your comments, Sheila, and especially with "Few words strike as much fear in today's charismatic believers than 'Shepherdship'. It sends a collective shiver. Very few folks have been around long enough to know what it means, therefore they mistake any show of spiritual authority as a dire threat."

There was, and is, a very real problem with excessive authority in the Church. I have seen the lives of imperfect but well-meaning Christians seriously affected by heavy shepherding. I wish that whatever repentance that Ern and his brothers did, in response to their realization of errors in their shepherding theology, had received as wide a hearing as the original shepherding message that caused such harm when misapplied.

But the bigger problem today in the USA is the rebellious, independent spirits of many American Christians.

Many are so used to running their own lives -- while keeping Christianity in a safe corner of their lives -- that whenever a pastor or another believer with discernment pokes at an area of sinful pride, selfishness or independence, the first thought is not, "Gee, I wonder what God is trying to say to me?", but rather a taking of offense.

Then, it's easy to divert attention by shifting focus/blame to the one who shines the light, rather than exercising humility and admitting that there may be scriptural foundation for evidence of pride, etc. as noted. (I've done that, too, and have been chastised by the Spirit *Himself* - yikes!)

I think this is why so many Christians find it easier to gossip about other believers -- and depend on the well-oiled gossip machine to ensure that the intended recipient eventually hears of their problem -- rather than confront directly. And the accuser of the brethren rejoices over continued mistrust and disunity in congregations.

I believe pastors need to expose this stuff, teach Matthew 18 and other relevant scriptures, and then pray and expect the flock to live up to the Word of God. (Call me a dreamer, but I've actually seen it done with success.)

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