Recent decades have witnessed a remarkable movement throughout the Christian church. Springing up spontaneously across the full spectrum -from Protestant to Roman Catholic to Greek Orthodox - the charismatic renewal now involves millions of people on every continent.

Because it is so widespread, with different forms of teaching and practice, this renewal can be confusing. Like the reports of the three blind men on Aesop's elephant - one of whom touched the hide, another the tail, the third a tusk - it all depends on the point of contact.

The charismatic renewal is not strictly a movement like many others described in this book. It cannot be traced to one outstanding leader, or even a small group, with a well-defined set of doctrinal and organizational convictions. This renewal has sprung up from the grassroots in a wide variety of forms.

The charismatic renewal takes its name from the Greek word charisma, a gift. In the New Testament this gift involves all that God gives us in his grace through Jesus. But most often this word is used for a specific way the Holy Spirit shows himself within the Christian community.

The apostle Paul uses the picture of the body when he writes about spiritual gifts. Christians are members of the body; Jesus is the head. Just as parts of the human body have different functions, so Christians experience a variety of spiritual gifts. These are given by the Holy Spirit to strengthen the body of Christ in its worship, witness and service.

At the heart of the charismatic renewal stands the conviction that the full range of spiritual gifts in the New Testament is meant for the church today. This belief challenges centuries of traditional teaching that certain 'supernatural' gifts (such as prophecy, healing ...

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