Friday, April 28, 2006


When Marcus Borg writes about Christianity, he often uses Quakers and Pentecostals to describe opposite ends of the spectrum of worship. When I was younger, I spent my summers with my grandparents who attended an Assembly of God (Pentecostal) church. Thus, I am blessed to have experienced both ends of the spectrum (some of my in-between experiences are rather amusing as well, like the time I was about 9 and discovered only after a really huge gulp from the cup that Episcopalians use real wine instead of grape juice for communion). During my time at this church, I had occasion to witness some interesting things like "being slain in the spirit" and glossolalia (a.k.a. speaking in tongues).

Speaking in tongues is an interesting thing to me. I have never done it, neither have my grandparents. I read an article on a while back (I can't find it now), by a minister who has never spoken in tongues, and was rejected by some churches because of it. That article was brought to mind last week when I was reading 1 Corinthians, where Paul says in chapter 12:
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. (NET Bible)

So basically, he has outlined the various spiritual gifts. Later in chapter 14, he says:
Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For the one speaking in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, for no one understands; he is speaking mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. I wish you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets so that the church may be strengthened. (NET Bible)

At first, this grabbed me because it suggested that putting undue emphasis on speaking in tongues was probably harmful, and also expecting everyone to have that particular gift was not in keeping with Paul's understanding of the gifts. But then, I was struck even more by the realization that Meeting for Worship is essentially all of us getting together to exercise the gift of prophecy. It is amusing to consider what some of the reactions would be to someone speaking in tongues during Meeting for Worship, yet we are really just exercising a different gift - and aren't we also ignoring the possibility that not everyone is given the gift of prophecy? It seems to me that in Meeting for Worship for Healing, we are trying to exercise the gift of healing, and I have felt very strong indications of that gift occasionally during these meetings - much more often than I have felt the gift of prophecy (interestingly, I feel some of the same physical effects from both).

I found a pamphlet on Prophetic Ministry by Howard Brinton that did equate at least early Quaker worship with the gift of prophecy. It is an interesting overview of what happened to prophetic ministry, and suggests reasons why ministry today doesn't always seem very prophetic.

Given QuakerK's recent comparison/contrast between Quakerism & Evangelicalism, perhaps we should also compare it to the Charismatic movement.


  1. Oh that every speaker in Meeting would consider what they brought forth as prophecy...a direct revelation from God. Perhaps that would do away with the political, every day ramblings that sometimes occur.

    And, by the way, in conversation with various (Conservative) Friends, you might be surprised to find that many use the "gift of tongues" in their private prayer life.

    The Spirit blows where It will...

    Greensboro, NC

  2. Are we certain that prophecy is the only kind of proper vocal ministry in meeting for worship? I would think there would be a place for exhortation, edification, prayer, and even teaching (though a lot of wordly thoughts walk in through that door and we need to be careful).

    The important point is that whatever the ministry is not necessarily the form it takes but that it be inspired by God, no?

  3. Paul,

    I was using the word, "prophecy" in its most broad utterance by Divine inspiration.

    And Mark, if you ever get up this way, please give a hollar (can you tell I'm from Appalachia). I'd love to discuss the Conservative Friends movement with you...not that I know a lot about it...but it is my home.

    Take Care,
    Greensboro, NC
    Greensboro, NC

  4. Hey Mark,

    I can't say that NCYM(C) is perfect, but it is made up of an awesome group of people and awesome Meetings.

    It combines the best elements of both liberal and conservative Friends. I can't imagine not having my Monthly Meeting or our Yearly Meeting in my life. Both are places of rest and spiritual refreshment in a world that seems crazier by the day.

    It's great to hear that Lloyd Lee visited you all. It was through Lloyd Lee's lecture at Guilford College that I became a convinced Friend.

    Looking forward to seeing you at YM, Mark. We'll most likely be there only for the weekend. I'll look for you!

    God's peace,

  5. I was a little astonished at the idea that Quakers and Pentecostalism would be considered at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The pentecostal/charismatic movement shares so much in common with Quakerism. Both are based on the understanding that Christ is present in worship and can speak through any worshipper present. And I believe early Quaker meetings had a charismatic element missing from most unprogrammed meetings today.

    There may be some recovery of this coming. See my Quaker Prophetic Ministry blog entry for a description of a Quaker retreat where the prophetic and charismatic was manifest, even including speaking in tongues.

  6. Bill,
    I think Borg was comparing them with respect to the style of worship, with Quakers being generally silent, while the Pentecostals are singing, shouting, and generally being outwardly very lively. I don't think he was trying to compare them at a deeper level, and I agree with you that with respect to the Holy Spirit, they are very similar. Thank you for sharing your link about the prophetic ministry. It does make sense that if the gift of prophecy is going to manifest in us, why not the other gifts of the spirit as well?
    Also, with respect to the longer worship, I blogged a while ago that I thought that the I thought that the Clerk of Meeting for Worship these days is a wristwatch (it's a rambling post that mentions the watch thing words the end). I think that it isn't just that Meeting for Worship may need to be longer, but that we have to be willing to let the spirit determine when the meeting is over.
    With love,

  7. ACK! We might not beat the other churches to the restaurants!

  8. ACK! Then we might not beat the other churches to the restaurants!

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