‘I have poured out my Spirit abundantly, and I will continue to pour it out. I will pour out my Spirit generously, lavishly, continuously, until even the hardened hearts are softened and the wasteland becomes fertile. This I promise, that I shall pour out my Spirit continuously until I bring about, through my Spirit, that renewal that I intend.’
Looking back and looking ahead
Back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I often went camping in the springtime in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, where melting late winter snow and spring showers can turn the many steeply tumbling mountain streams into raging torrents. The current was often so swift and strong that if one attempted to cross, even where the water was only waist deep, one could be swept away downstream.
That has been for me an image of what had happened in the beginnings of the charismatic renewal movement back in the 1960s – ‘70s. I, and many millions of others, had been caught up in the powerful current of this new work of God and were swept along in it. The current was so strong that we were engulfed by it, our lives being swirled around by it, all of our attention absorbed by it.
These racing rivers are landscape-changing – pushing around boulders and breaking down banks, transforming the landscape. That is what I saw happening in this renewal. As just one example, an ecumenical, charismatic conference was held in 1977 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The conference drew more than 60,000 people from a remarkably wide range of Christian traditions – Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Orthodox, Roman Catholics and on and on. It was a very visible sign of the power of the Holy Spirit bringing Christians who had long been separated into common worship.
In those early days the current of charismatic renewal and covenant community had such a strong hold upon my life that I thought that this movement was what God was doing in the Church.
When a mountain river gets a good ways down the mountain it becomes deeper, broader, even more powerful but less violent. You can get your head up and look around. After the charismatic renewal had become an accepted and ubiquitous aspect of the life of the church I began to notice that it was not the only river on the mountain! There were in fact, and literally (not an exaggeration) hundreds of these powerful currents. In the Catholic church there are the Neocatechumenate, the Focolare, the St. Egidio movement, Communion and Liberation, Cursillo and many, many more. In Germany I discovered many new Lutheran communities. I had the great privilege of attending “Together for Europe” Stuttgart 2007, a gathering of leaders of more than 250 new communities and movements just from Europe, all beginning within the last 50 years.
They are all new, all products of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church in the 20th century.
We rightly appreciate the great work of God that is the charismatic renewal, and for us in particular charismatic community. But when we lift up our heads out of the roaring, rushing waters of the action of God that has formed us and carried us, we see that we are one of many powerful currents rushing along, many other new forms of life in the church which began contemporaneously with us and are both like us and quite different from us.
Great variety and diversity
Even within this great stream of charismatic communities there is a great variety and a great diversity.
As all these rivers of God’s life and action go crashing and racing along they are transforming the landscape of the church.
We must be grateful to God for what he done for us in charismatic renewal and in community, and we must faithfully live out the call He has given to us so that it can bear the fruit in the life of the Church that God intends. At the same time we have to be aware, as the Lord said through prophecy to us in our communities in the Sword of the Spirit many years ago, “we are a part and not the whole.”
We need that perspective so that we can look ahead with clarity of vision to see where God is leading us.
What does the future hold? I don’t know much – certainly days of trial, days of darkness. But also as that same prophetic word said, a time of glory for the Church
A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen.
In what form will that take place, and what will be our role…..?
God will continue to pour out His Spirit
In 2013 the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) sponsored a “prophetic consultation” in the Holy Land, and on one of those days we prayed together in what some believe to be the “upper room” in Jerusalem where the disciples were gathered on the day of Pentecost. We had an excellent time of prayer, and during that prayer time we received a prophetic word, a promise from the Lord that He was not finished pouring out the Holy Spirit in this renewal. It was very much like a prophetic word we received many years ago:
The Lord says, “when I poured out my Holy Spirit upon you how did I pour it upon you? Did I pour it upon you in small measure? No, I poured it upon you as the beginning of a river which I intend to widen and to deepen and to grow in its strength, its current, its volume. I am zealous for my people’s sake. I am zealous to save them and to change them, to restore them. And I will pour out my Holy Spirit upon you more and more until it is accomplished.”
Three simple points
1. Throughout the history of the Church, from the very beginning, God has used renewal communities as a source of strength and fresh vision. If you ask, “Why has God suddenly raised up so many new communities in the Church?” the answer surely is that He is about a work of renewal. Not in spite of the fact that in the West the church is dwindling, but perhaps because in the West the church is dwindling, God is at work to bring renewal.
2. Stay clear on and be faithful to your call. God always takes the initiative to bring renewal and new life. He gives the call – but we must respond to the call. We must heed it and answer it.
Why so many new forms of community, so many distinct callings?
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
The body of Christ has many members. But not all are the eyes or the hands or the feet. One could say that all of these various new movements are manifestations of the Spirit for the common good.
3. Live your call charismatically, with expectant faith, looking for God’s word, God’s intervention, God’s miraculous power.
God has given us the great privilege of seeing His powerful action in our individual lives, in our communities, and in the Church. Church leaders have encouraged and supported us in a remarkable way.
Let us give thanks for these blessings, remember them, and look with great expectation to the future.
This article is adapted from a presentation which Bruce Yocum gave in Rome on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, June 4, 2017.
Top photo credit: image of mountain waterfall from GraphicStock.com.
Bruce Yocum (1948 – 2022) was involved in leadership and teaching for many years in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Covenant Communities Movement which began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and in the Sword of the Spirit. He travelled widely throughout the Sword of the Spirit communities to equip and train community leaders in North America, Europe and the Middle East, Latin America and the South Pacific. Bruce Yocum was a life-long member of the Servants of the Word, an international ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He served as Presiding Elder of the Servants of the Word for thirteen years (1989-2003).