A couple of pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention plan to write a book to document the works of the Holy Spirit from a Baptist view.
After hosting hundreds of Baptists and other Christians in a three-day conference to educate them on the Holy Spirit, the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, is in the planning stage with Alan Cross, pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., to debut a book around a topic that Baptists have remained divided over.
"As I have participated in the debate between cessationists/semi-cessationists [who believe that all/some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the early church] and continualists [who believe that all spiritual gifts have continually operated in church history], I have run into the argument that God is not performing miraculous signs and wonders today in the same way that He did in biblical times," Cross wrote in a recent e-mail to Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson.
"It has been said," Cross added later on his blog, DownshoreDrift.com, "that if we took the Holy Spirit out of many of our churches today, 90 percent of what we do would be left unchanged.
"That might be an exaggeration," he wrote, "but it does speak to the fact that so much of what we do in our Christian lives are only the things that we do in our own power."
But Cross is convinced God wants to work in powerful ways and believes the works of the Holy Spirit are occurring today and even within the Southern Baptist Convention, where the majority of believers do not believe in or accept charismatic practices, and now wants to document them.
"I am wondering if a book or journal article on this continual miraculous work of the Holy Spirit among Southern Baptists in the areas of healings, miracles, divine intervention, guidance, and other Biblical manifestations would not be helpful to the body of Christ?" asked Cross in his letter to Burleson.
And it just isn't about speaking in tongues, the Alabama pastor pointed out. That is just one minor gift. The bigger issue for Cross is: "Does my life and ministry require God's power, or am I able to handle everything in my own strength?"
Cross was one of the attendants of last month's conference on the Holy Spirit at Cornerstone Baptist Church, which addressed charismatic, continualist, semi-cessationist, and cessationist viewpoints of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The conference was hosted by McKissic to "educate people on the person of the Holy Spirit" amid debates within the Southern Baptist Convention over the subject.
Dr. Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, says there's great confusion surrounding the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit with some viewing it as a subsequent work of grace and others associating it with the gift of tongues, he said in a column featured on Baptist Press. But Draper says one thing is very clear today: "We need the Holy Spirit!"
"We need it and we need to understand it," he stated.
Cross is looking to collect some of the stories and Holy Spirit experiences of Southern Baptists around the world while protecting the identity of those who submit their stories.
The purpose of the book is not to "prove" something to the International Mission Board of Trustees, he clarified. IMB trustees currently bar missionary candidates who practice speaking in tongues and private prayer languages, although early this month, the trustees agreed to provide more flexibility by changing the "policies" to "guidelines."
"[T]he rest of us need to know what God is doing in people's lives as He continues to work miraculously to bring glory to Himself," Cross stated.
"I really feel that these stories need to be told."