Monday, August 20, 2007

Kirbyjon and Suzette Caldwell

These two people, husband and wife, spoke at the PGF conference that we attended. Kirbyjon Caldwell is the pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the US, the 17,000 member Windsor Village UM Church in Houston. Wikipedia has quite an article on him here.

His wife Suzette T. Caldwell also a pastor at the church, has a prayer ministry, the Kingdom Builder's Prayer Institute.

The Caldwells presentation at the conference jarred us. We were rocking along, swinging with the fairly moderate though challenging curricula, when WHAM these folks appeared and hit us with what sounded like a "name it and claim it" Gospel in the context of a Super Target church program, raising eyebrows and some hackles in our group. I have to confess, though, that they fascinated me.

Here is the question: Would you prefer a church where there was virtually no prayer ministry? Just the prayers during the worship service and the prayers at the beginning and the end of church meetings? Where individual prayer was left to the hit or miss convenience of the members? Or would you prefer a church that has a highly structured, deliberate, and consistent corporate prayer discipline, mainly top down in its content, and maybe over the top from time to time, maybe a lot of the time?

Would you prefer a prayer theology that viewed prayer as essentially a means for us to conform our wills to God's sovereignty, whatever that sovereignty might turn out to be? A sort of view that believes that God's will is mostly unscrutable, and so the more general and hedged we are in our prayers, maybe the better.

Or would you prefer a prayer theology that moves from praise and worship to a search for God's will in a given situation, with particular confidence that his will is not inscrutable but is a will he will allow us to discern; that once discerned for that given situation holds that God's will as it is in heaven so shall it be on earth, specifically, here and now, a specific will for that situation that one can then declare; that moves from there to seeking forgiveness for self and others, thence to a petition for protection; and closing with more praise and worship?

The Caldwells left no doubt as to where their positions are on these questions.


Emilie said...

I'm glad to hear the Stokes were represented at PGF. My kith (or kin?) were there, too, and I was sorry to miss it!

Great questions about prayer! I visited the Kingdon Builder's Prayer Institute site and noticed that Dr. Jack Deere will be speaking at their conference in Oct. He has written two excellent books called "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" and "Surprised by the Voice of God." Both explore his experience with prayer - written by a former dispensationalist. It's really good stuff! (And I wouldn't call him a "name it and claim it" theologian...which gives him more credibility in my eyes...)

Walter said...

We spoke to your dad on Thursday night, Emilie - It was cool to see him.

That's an impressive Wikipedia article, dad.

Paul Stokes said...

We have both those books, Emilie. Deere spoke at the Christian Life Conference in Montreat about 10 years ago and we became acquainted with him there. It was the very first time I had seen someone who looked to be from that part of Christian culture that I am part of seriously talk about what is called "faith healing". In addition to Deere being on that faculty is David Peterson, the pastor of the Memorial Avenue Presbyterian Church in Houston and one of the powers behind the PGF conference. And yes, we met your Dad, but alas only briefly. Now we need to meet you. Walter, the was a surprisingly full bio of Kirbyjon. He has quite a pedigree.

Emilie said...

I'm glad you got to see my dad!

Paul, what did you think of the books?

Paul Stokes said...

Its been quite a few years since I read those. We still have them both. We kept them. I do recall that our reactions were not skeptical but curious, wondering whether we had missed something along the way in our Christian walk, thinking that maybe we had. I had the same sort of thought when I heard the Caldwells. What had I missed, being a proper Presbyterian? Was I really a sort of Gnostic, having rejected the idea that the incarnation may extend beyond the Incarnation. Has the Kingdom otherwise penetrated "earth"? Has it "come", after all, at least here and there, as we so pray. Someone in our group at the conference called what the Caldwells were selling a sort of magic. You could look at John Deere that way too. Does that label end the argument for Christians? I don't know. Was Jesus simply a magician, as the Jewish rejectionists described him? We Christians certainly don't think so. Does that end the argument?

But it's raining in my heart! said...

Are you aware of the Vinyard movement in the mid '80s? I believe it was started by John Wimber in California.

Although Dr. Deere lived in our neighborhood when we were in Ft. Worth, I never met him. I do know that he left teaching at DTS and joined that group. I haven't heard much about him since that time. I was good friends another couple from DTS and Christ's Chapel Church in FT. Worth whose daughter Amy went to school with Jef and Justin. They also left DTS to be a part of The Vingard. I went to one meeting at Joyce's home with a young man from the movement in California. I don't know if I just wasn't deep enought, or mature enough, but it seemed a little strange, mistical or magical to me.

I guess I should read some of Dr. Deere's more current writiings and I'd be more informed. In Ft. Worth he was just Jackie Deere. this is probably all irrevelant, but 3 degrees of seperation made me want to share. sue

Paul Stokes said...

Thanks, Sue. From his visit to Montreat years ago, I recall some of that background - his being with Wimber at Vinyard, having been on the faculty at DTS (and maybe being drummed off the faculty, not sure about that). At the time he came to Montreat, he was the minister of a Presbyterian church in Wyoming or Montana, (Whitefish or something was the name of the town) but someone told me, maybe Van, that he had to leave that church and may have been asked to leave that Presbytery. He seems to be a controversial character. You might find his first book interesting, Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit, which he followed up with Surprised by the Voice of God.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of Windsor Village United Methodist Church where Kirbyjon and Suzette Caldwell are pastors. I totally disagree with you assessment that Kirbyjon and Suzette Caldwell are 'name it and claim it' pastors. At Windsor Village United Methodis Church, we are taught the sound doctorine of the Word of God. We embrace the 'truth' of what God says about us. Jesus say that He came so that we may have life and live more abundantly. We are taught that no matter what we go through in life, we can have an abundance of peace, joy and love. Also, we are taught that God will supply all of our needs according to His riches and glory. Whenever you are in Houston, you are welcome to attend any of our worship services.

Paul Stokes said...

Thank you for your gracious comments about your ministers and your church. And for your invitation. The Caldwells provoked me to reconsider my prayer life, to pray with more confidence, to pray more often and to pray more regularly. After we returned from Houston, I told my pastor about the Caldwells, and the two of us are now meeting at our church at 630 AM each weekday morning to pray for our church until 7. I think we start our fifth week of that on Monday.