05/09/2006

Charismatics in Crisis (by Nick Cuthbert)

'Charismatics in Crisis' was written by Nick Cuthbert, whom I knew somewhat, many years ago, in Birmingham. It's been on our shelves for a while, and I wasn't sure what to expect when I finally decided to read it. I thought perhaps it would be about the charismatic movement, but I found it was really written for all Christians; the title is almost irrelevant, but perhaps it attracts those who would call themselves charismatics.

The theme of the book is that the Church is too inward-looking, and needs to recover its focus on Jesus' last commands: to go out into the world and make disciples. We get too caught up either in our friendly, familiar house groups and Christian friends, or in petty squabbles amongst ourselves on minor points of doctrine. So the church in the west is pretty ineffective on the whole. No need for persecution or attack: we're doing a good job by ourselves of ensuring the message isn't heard.

The main part of the book was then standard teaching on outreach and evangelism, written well with examples and anecdotes, but nothing very new. Nick Cuthbert looks at reasons why we shy away from outreach, ways of going about it, depending on our gifts and abilities, and - most importantly - how to pray. It was a useful and somewhat challenging refresher, but nothing special.

The latter part of the book, however, is entitled, 'A warning' and looks at where the church often goes wrong. We're told of the spiritual battle, and the problems that often beset congregations: whether immorality, gossip, or idolatry. The author explains what idolatry means in the modern world, and how easy it is to fall into it. I found the chapter on 'murmuring' to be extremely thought-provoking, dealing as it does with the tendency to complain and criticise amongst ourselves rather than going directly to people we disagree with and sorting it out. We're not told to accept everything face value, or never to be critical; instead we're warned of the dangers of mutterings and murmurings, discouraging other people and undermining church leaders.

All in all, a useful and - overall - encouraging book. Recommended for all Christians, whether or not they would claim the 'charismatic' label.

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