Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Where To Begin?

Written by: on February 19, 2015

Where to begin?

When attempting to digest and assimilate such a grand work as Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s by David Bebbington, the oft-repeated phrase “drinking from the firehose” comes immediately to mind.  A history work of this magnitude could easily provide the primary text for an entire undergraduate term!  It should occupy space on the desktop rather than the bookshelf, easily accessible for quick reference, for church historians on either side if the Atlantic.  So, where to begin?

Of the several observations competing for preeminence, I will lean into one — the Holy Spirit guides the progression of Jesus’ church, regardless of geography.  In other words, it is not mere human trends that create similarities of thought across the body of Christ, it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit impacts the thinking of sincere theologians on a level far greater than any peer or school of thought ever could.  This being the first time I have given a serious look at the progression of the church in modern times outside of the borders of the U.S. (typical Americo-centricism I know…), it was interesting how similar the developmental arc of the church (especially in Holiness/Pentecostal circles) was on both sides of the Atlantic.  Even in the absence of modern telecommunications and internet technology, common streams of thought and theological innovations seemed to emerge simultaneously as Evangelicalism proved itself to be a legitimate expression of church.  Especially “Spirit-filled” Evangelicalism.  While print literature was available and placed in circulation, and “[p]assing visits… by two ministers from California, Frank Maguire, an Episcopalian, and Larry Christenson, a Lutheran, helped establish a charismatic nucleus in London,”1 the development on two different continents was similar and pervasive enough as to most certainly be the result of a shared divine experience rather than one of human strategy.

These charismata were being embraced not only among the backwoods, impoverished, uneducated Pentecostals, but in the highest of “high church” as well.  Once there was a recognition that some new, shared experiences were being had, “a steady stream of American literature and personnel did much to expand and consolidate the British movement”2 but it would not be fair to say that one nation’s church leaders learned from the other (in an academic sense), they were simultaneous movements, initiated by the same Holy Spirit, on two continents.  This fascinates me and is causing me to consider, in amazement, at how Jesus stewards HIS church in the earth.  It seems to me that the “mutation”3 in the church global which we now refer to as the “the charismatic movement” was becoming a fully-formed, meta-species that could be found across all brands of church, Protestant, Anglican, Catholic notwithstanding.  Could it be that this multi-continental movement provided impetus for unity in the body of Christ?  A functional polemic to the narrative, so fraught with fraction, that had marked the church in previous generations?  I think so.  I hope so.

I am reminded once again of the words of Christ while gathered around a campfire with his disciples in the area of Caesarea Philippi: “I will build MY church and the gates of hell CANNOT prevail against that!”  Jesus is under no obligation to restrain the gates of hell against anything of human creation, only his own…  I am reflecting on how I need to, once again, re-align myself with HIS plans, His ideas, HIS CHURCH, and find my best place of contribution there.  If he can guide the simultaneous forward progress of new revelation and thought across at least two continents (undoubtedly more) I think he can reveal to me my place in the grand scheme.


1. D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Routledge, 1989) 231-232.

2. Ibid. 232.

3. Ibid. 248.

About the Author

Jon Spellman

Jon is a husband, father, coach, author, missional-thinker, and most of all, a follower of Jesus.

9 responses to “Where To Begin?”

  1. Nick Martineau says:

    Great post Jon! Your statement, “the development on two different continents was similar and pervasive enough as to most certainly be the result of a shared divine experience rather than one of human strategy” made me think of Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

    As you reminded us from Matthew 16 that Jesus will not let His church fail. So whether it’s evangelicals, protestant, anglican, catholic, etc…a new history will be written until Jesus returns.

  2. Jon Spellman says:

    Thanks Nick. Good connection to the Colossians passage…

  3. Travis Biglow says:

    Jon I think you hit it on the nail. Christ Jesus has steered the church over these last centuries to bring us to this day. I think it is wise to realize and accept what he has called us to do in this time, by his Holy Spirit, and where we are now. Those patriarchs of Evangelicalism has set the stage for us in the 21st Century to get in where we fit in and continue on the legacy that they started. And i love that scripture “the very gates of hell will not prevail against us”

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Jon, I like the thought of the Holy Spirit’s work incorporated into thinking about all the moulding, shifting and changing taking place in culture and in Evangelicalism. I do believe God works in the Church for the Church, but I also believe he works outside the Church for the Church. Right? Would you agree with that? Like maybe the whole Pharaoh or Babylon kind of thing? This is making me think . . . the Holy Spirit “works” in individuals, right? Does the Holy Spirit work in Society/Culture shaping things beyond the individual? Or is it just us against the world/Satan. Any way . . . not trying to start a rant . . . just got to thinking 🙂 What say you?

    • Jon Spellman says:

      It’s generally my position that God works for the good of humanity, and does that work through his Ekklesia. I think that we get into a lot of trouble when we view the world as the enemy, Satan and the world are not the same things.

      Think of it like this, the most simple of scriptures, the one we all memorized as children states that God loved the world enough that he initiated the whole plan of salvation. (John 3:16) No where do you find that he loved Satan that much! I know I say that a bit tongue in cheek but there is a serious undercurrent that happens when we hard-wire Satan to the world in our thinking. That leads us to the kind of isolationism that we have all been lamenting over this term so far! The world is not our enemy, the world is our prize. Don’t get me started!

      Where Holiness thinking got sideways is when it began to draw the moral equivalence between the world and satan. They are not the same thing… We should regularly read the words of Jesus to his disciples recorded in John chapters 14-17. Jesus lays it out very clearly how we are to relate to the world and to the enemy of our souls.

      Thanks Phil!

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    Curious about a statement you made at the end, Jon. You offer an exhortation about “reveal[ing] to me my place in the grand scheme.” Exactly where I hope to be as well.
    So then I have a bit of a push-back on the words just prior to your charge where you state about “forward progress of new revelation and thought” – is it really new? Or is it a new presentation of something already offered, but lost along the way?
    Not sure what I think about it, but I found it struck me as a place of dialogue.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Mary, thanks for the question and giving me the opportunity for further reflection. There probably isn’t anything “new” under the Sun after all (didn’t Qoheleth have some thoughts on that in Ecclesiastes?), but rather, new ways of understanding ageless truths about God and his interactions with his creation.


  6. Dave Young says:

    Wow, is this the same sceptical Jon that I’ve come to know and love. This post is inspiring and I can see you leaning in with hope. Hope isn’t always readily accessible for those who’ve been wed to the church and have an affinity for a movement (Charismatic). Far too often we, I know I do, focus too much on the disfunction and don’t see all that God has accomplished through his church and his Spirit inspired movements. I’m encouraged by your hopeful reflection.

  7. Brian Yost says:

    I like the way you picked up on God’s simultaneous moving in two different continents separated by an ocean. It never ceases to amaze me at the way God can speak to people and change their hearts and the direction of their lives when they are open to him.
    One of the things that stuck out to me in the reading was the way that many of the key leaders in the Evangelical movement were interconnected and learned from each other. Thanks for showing both realities.

Leave a Reply