Word People and Power People
Since I’m continuing work on The Word of the Cross animation in hopes of releasing it next week, today’s post is another guest entry brought to us by Jonathon Woodyard from over at Mind & Mission. In today’s post, Jonathon helps us think about the balance between “word people” and “power people.” That is to say, people who tend toward knowing a lot and saying the right things versus people who tend toward feeling and passion but might not be riveted tightly to the teaching of scripture. I pray that what we read here would be a helpful corrective for each of us and move us toward a more faithful embodiment of our God in this world.
Word and Power
Sharing the gospel with unbelievers is often intimidating. We worry about numerous things when it comes to evangelism. Will sharing the gospel fracture my relationship with this person? Will they ask questions I can’t answer? These are normal questions that pop up in the minds of those who seek to tell others about Jesus. And we must be ready to kill these fears and move forward in proclaiming the good news, trusting that Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, will take our evangelistic efforts and use them for the good of others and the glory of his name.
This is key. Through the Spirit, God will take the words we speak and work in power to accomplish his purposes. We don’t simply speak words, we speak words of life that are “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). We don’t simply talk about God’s power as if it is disconnected from propositional truth statements. Instead, we tell people of the good news of salvation that is God’s power to save all who believe (Rom. 1:16). In short, word and power go together.
Jonathan Dodson provides a helpful balance in this area when he highlights the differences between “word people and power people” (Jonathan K. Dodson, Unbelievable Gospel, 96–97). Dodson writes the following:
“Often Christians are either “word” people or “power” people. On the one hand, we may lean toward a rationalized Christianity. This type of Christianity holds to the gospel Word without gospel power. It preaches, teaches, catechizes, studies, memorizes, and shares the word but with little effect. It possesses “wise and persuasive words” but not “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). This kind of Christianity can master systematic, biblical, and historical theology without being mastered by Christ. It can identify idols but remains powerless to address their power. Why? Because it replaces the power of the Spirit with the power of knowledge.
On the other hand, there is an equal danger in spiritualized Christianity. Such Christianity prays, sings, shouts, and claims victory over a lost world without lifting a finger to share God’s gospel. It is not enough to pray for power; we must proclaim God’s Word. The power of the Spirit works through the proclaimed Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. My pastor during college, Tom Nelson, always said: “Don’t just stand on a shovel and pray for a hole.” Spiritualized Christianity tends to stand and pray, emphasizing private or emotional experiences with God. What we need is prayer and proclamation, power and Word.” (Dodson, 96)
This is a helpful corrective to the word people and power people. I have tended to fall into the word camp, but have been helped by Dodson. Particularly helpful is Dodson when he reminds us that word and power must be combined with “full conviction” (97). That is, “It is not enough to have spiritual power and good theology. These must also be coupled with faith, an active embrace of God’s promises in Christ, which brings about conviction” (97).
May we kill evangelistic defeaters like fear, worry, and doubt. Let us speak the word in love as we pray for the Spirit to work in power. All the while having faith that God will accomplish his purposes by the power of the Spirit through the word of Christ.