One Empowered, One Not


Edna had a problem. Her computer’s printer stopped working correctly. The computer followed a day later.

Fortunately for Edna, both devices came with on-site service.

John from the printer company and Chuck from the computer company arrived almost simultaneously at the little house at the end of the lane. John held a thick manual for the printer and was dressed in a spiffy, navy blue uniform with his name embroidered above his heart. Chuck came loaded with tools, drives, and devices and seemed less put together. He also carried a thick manual. He wore a uniform too, but it was faded and had a hole in one elbow, and the headphone/microphone contraption strapped to his head made him look alien.

Both repairmen greeted Edna.

“Just happy you boys are here,” the elderly woman said.

“We’re happy to be here,” the two answered.

But soon, one of the two had less happy news.

John had looked at the printer’s screen and read the code. “I can’t do anything about this,” he said.

Edna frowned. “You looked in your manual and it didn’t tell you what to do?”

“No,” John answered. “Well, actually yes. Yes, it did tell me some of what to do, but protocol requires I call in an engineer who was on the design team. I mean, I know the manual backwards and forwards, but this is how we do it. Only the engineer at HQ is authorized.”

Edna was incredulous and started, “But—”

“—when will it get fixed?” John finished. “Well, the engineer may take his time. He should be back in this area next week.” John stared out a window. “Or the week after that.”

Chuck watched the wind go out of Edna’s sails.

“But I need to print a flyer for the ladies’ auxiliary fund-raiser. It’s next week.” Edna replied.

John offered her a frog-like frown and said, “Sorry. That’s the best I can do. The engineer is really good, though. I’m sure he’ll have you fixed up.”

“Don’t see much of the point of having on-site service if it comes down to this,” Edna said to herself.

But Chuck heard it. Despite the frustration in the words, he smiled.

Edna escorted John to the door.

“A pleasure serving you,” John said. The repairman got in his truck, which was shiny and new, and drove off.

Edna walked back to her little home office. Chuck had out a small notebook computer. He was talking into his microphone. To Edna, it sounded like so much gibberish, but she was sure it was something technical. The repairman stared intently into his computer’s display. “Thanks,” he then said to no one in the room.

“Good news,” Chuck announced. “I was able to discern what your problem is.”

“That’s great!” The woman’s countenance brightened.

“I was talking with the engineer at our company, and he sent a patch that should fix the issue on the computer. Turns out, it was an OS update glitch.”

To Edna, Chuck seemed to rise up an inch taller.

“Yeah, a lot of people got hammered by that one,” he continued. “Those auto-updates sometimes create problems.”

“Yes, they do sometimes,” Edna said.

“Well, I’ll make things better than ever,” the repairman reassured. Edna was surprised to see him move to the printer. Intently, he glowered at the printer’s display.

“I think this is a firmware update glitch,” Chuck said.

“How do you know that, young man?”

“I just know. I think I can fix it.”

Chuck connected his notebook to the malfunctioning computer and ran the patch he had received. With a reboot, the computer was fixed. The repairman then shut off the printer, reached for a button on the back that had escaped Edna’s notice, held it down, and flicked the printer’s switch back on. The printer came on and ran through its startup procedure.

“A miracle!” Edna proclaimed, beaming.

Chuck laughed. “Not quite yet. It won’t run right without that update. I’ll download it and install it.”

Which he did. And soon, both the computer and printer were working right again.

But to Edna’s surprise, Chuck wasn’t done.

“I’m pretty sure your computer was running a bit slow lately.”

Edna was beginning to wonder about this Chuck fellow. He seemed to know things he shouldn’t.

“Yes,” she said. “It hasn’t been itself.”

“‘Hasn’t been itself,'” Chuck repeated to himself with a chuckle. “Yeah, sometimes these things have their own personality, don’t they?”

“My husband could be cantankerous too,” Edna said.

Chuck saw the woman glance at a picture on the wall. “I’m sure he was a great man.”

Edna nodded. “He was.”

The repairman smiled and turned back to the computer. “The hard drive needs defragmenting—badly. The source of the slowness, I’m sure. I’ll take care of that, and you’ll be as good as new.”

And an hour later, for Edna and her little home office upon which the ladies’ auxiliary depended, it was as good as new. Or better. Thanks to Chuck.

On his way out, Chuck handed Edna a business card. As he pulled away in his decade-old truck that had probably seen better days, Edna waved. She examined the white card. Handwritten on the bottom it read, Call anytime—for any reason.

Later that afternoon, Edna phoned the printer company and canceled her service call. She figured if she had a problem with the printer in the future, she had someone better to call.


There’s a conference going on this weekend on the West Coast. The equivalence of that conference is to do something about “repairmen” who are out of bounds, especially if they are more like Chuck than like John. That may be well and good, but if folks like Chuck get ground up in the process, that’s not good. Sadly, it does not appear that those running the conference care much about the difference. Maybe they do, but I suspect the Chucks of this world are going to get short shrift anyway.

We need empowered people in the Church. God empowers people by His Spirit because He intends for us to do the work. Wherever we may be, if we are so empowered, we are fulfilling His intent for us, and subsequently, we are helping in the way that He intends. If we reject that empowerment, then we become like John in the story. We can show up, but what good are we?

I want to be like Chuck. Don’t you?

16 thoughts on “One Empowered, One Not

  1. I have been getting more agitated by this conference as the days go by and I am not “charismatic” by any means.I am not sure John could have used a broader brush to paint this entire wing of Christianity with the worst excesses of the fringe few and that does nothing to improve understanding. What it does instead is drive a wedge between brothers and cause some Christians to circle the wagons because they rightly see themselves as also under assault.

  2. Heartspeak

    Oops. Sorry, I had a vague awareness of ‘that’ conference but thought it had passed. Once again, I weep at what professed Christ-followers do to one another…..

  3. Great allegory Dan! I have no comment about the conference-pro or con. I am concerned with what we do in the local church actually. i see this in small businesses vs the big box stores. It happens in the church when those who have “less desirable gifts” are made to feel second rate to those with the “more showy gifts.” To be honest, I am not charismatic, but it fries me when I have to talk to people attending the church I pastor who are told “you are not real Christians because you do not speak in tongues.” Since when? Sorry. I hijacked this with my comment.

    • Bill,

      I’m just going to say it: Stupidity exists on both sides of this issue. I wish everyone involved would avoid going to “their stupid place” so quickly and so easily.

      It bothers me so much that winsomeness is in such short supply in the American Church. We see a plot of bruised reeds and immediately go into trample mode. It’s almost as if we enjoy watching the light die in the faintly glowing wick.

      Charismatics need to clean out the heretics. Noncharismatics need to deal with those who dispense judgmentalism as easily as they exhale. Neither group is doing itself any favors as is.

  4. The conference bothers me because there appears to have been no effort to bring in charismatics. If the point is to purge error in the charismatic stream, then I am on board with that! But that doesn’t seem to be the entire point, and the lack of any partnering with any charismatics seems like a predecided condition with a far more disturbing alternate message.

    I continue to be bothered by the hamhanded way the ministry responsible deals with “heretics.” Certainly, a winsome alternative exists. I wish that ministry would try it for a change. Oh well.

  5. Martha Pike


    Sure, a winsome alternative exists, but is it Biblical? What is the Biblical method for dealing with error and/or false teachers in the church? Now, please hear me out. I think John is acting with boldness in accord with his belief that the charismatic movement in general is full of dangerous false teaching. I respect him for his boldness in doing what he believes is right, no matter what people say.

    Titus 1 on false teachers…
    For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.

    Silenced, not dialogued with. And I think that is where John is coming from. That, and 2 Peter 2 and the book of Jude… that is where he believes the vast majority of the charismatic movement is. I think he’s right in that belief. The vast majority now, not the entire shebang. Honestly, I’m not sure that he’s right in not allowing a charismatic point of view at the conference. But I am sure that he is convicted that he is right, and more than that, that he has Scripture, and a lot of it, to stand on.

    My husband and I have been made immeasurably richer through his ministry in the Word. Nowhere else have I heard such respect and care for the truth of the Word of God. Please, have care in what you say about him and his ministry.

    I have enjoyed so much reading your blog for the last several years, and I apologize for not having thanked you before now. My intent is not at all to be argumentative, but I felt that I needed to say something.

    • Martha,

      I agree the charismatic movement needs to purge/censure the huge number of charismaniacs. I have been calling for this for years.

      That said, the YRR needs to purge/censure its huge number of prigs.

      I see no conference being called to deal with the YRR’s problems. Since the person you mention is a hero in their ranks, why does he not address his own fanbase?

      Why are there no charismatics speaking at that conference? Were any invited? And why skirt so dangerously close to labeling ALL charismatics as heretics? Why choose the language chosen? Why so inflammatory with the language so that it has been difficult to tell exactly who is being called out here?

      No, none of this has been handled well by the parties responsible. I think that is on purpose, which calls the intent into question.

      • Martha Pike


        Ha… had to look up the YRR thing. Anyways, you say the YRR movement needs to purge/censure its huge number of prigs. Well and good, but the YRR movement is not a (ok, so this is Wikipedia so take it for what it’s worth) 500 million person movement. And within that charismatic movement, worldwide, the number of “charismaniacs” far outnumbers the number of … um… reformed charismatics? Don’t know the technical terms there. So I think the size and power of the bad side of the movement is the thought process behind the need to rebuke sharply (again, Titus 1) instead of dialogue gently.

        Within the Pharisee “movement” in Jesus’ day, there were some good people. Nicodemus. Joseph of Arimathea. Yet Jesus rebuked the entire group sharply. So the point is not whether or not there are good people/good things in the movement. The point is, is the movement itself as a whole a good movement? Does it, as a whole, teach good things and sound doctrine? On the whole, do good things come out of it?

        I’ll leave it there. Don’t want to argue with ya. I really do appreciate this blog and your point of view.

        • Martha,

          Thanks for being a longtime reader. I appreciate that.

          My simple admonition is this: If a pastor with a national stage is going to clean house, he should start with his own house.

          Doesn’t that just make sense in every sense of the word sense?

          That this almost NEVER happens is its own source of condemnation.

  6. One of the big issues within Christianity in the West today is if God makes His servants semi-autonomous and how much autonomy/authority is finally given. I think that is at the heart of this issue more than the cessationist/continualist argument, which is only a subset of that larger autonomy issue.

    Personally, I think the autonomy/authority granted is much higher than some are willing to admit, and this drives all the other issues.

  7. Julie

    I was hoping you’d talk about the conference.

    I just listened to Joni speak. I’ve always appreciated her ministry. I was surprised to se her at this conference. Surprised, and maybe sad. I’m a Pentecostal. Is she aligning herself with the opinions of those who organized the conference? Because they don’t have much to say to someone like me other than “you’re wrong.”

    Her testimony was uplifting, as always.

    • Yeah, Julie, the whole thing makes me sad. I wish everything weren’t so polarized. No one seems to be able to carry on a conversation with unusual ideas without someone protesting, accusing, vilifying or whatever. Makes you long for the Victorian parlor days, when people would causally discuss all sorts of wacky ideas and no one’s nose would get out of joint.

      I think that anyone speaking at that conference is aligned with the organizers. Doesn’t appear that anyone from the “other side” was even invited. But then it also appears that the basic gist of the conference casts a wider net for heretics than it should.

  8. A kind counselor once asked me what grace felt like.(I was depressed and burned-out at the time -a common side-effect of striving to keep one’s doctrinal ducks in a row whilst feeling responsible for fixing the world.) I proceeded to define it. He said, “No. I didn’t ask for the Bible School definition. I asked you what it feels like.” I didn’t have a clue, but I decided to pursue that missing part of me. It was a worthwhile journey. I understand now why the psalmist wrote, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” In the process I discovered God was not as cessationist as I was. (Surprise!) I had been dismissing a lot of scripture and most of my God-given emotions. He was much bigger and kinder than I thought and His grace made room for me to make mistakes and learn from them.

    Grace is more than an intellectual concept; it is more than a feeling and it is more than an act of the will. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. I grieve with you over this inglorious moment in the North American church, but it is so easy to be captured by the spirit we oppose -and make two circles with our wagons. Where have we seen that happen before? How can we respond differently this time?

    So I say, “Grace to you, Mr. MacArthur. May you so overflow with the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of Holy Spirit and of the beauty of Christ that it spills out on all those who earnestly seek the Lord but have not yet reached perfection. May your considerable gifts be used to encourage and build up the whole body of Christ. May onlookers and the young in faith be able to say, “They must be Jesus’ disciples. Look how much love one another.”

  9. Linda

    Hi Dan,
    The Bible speaks about a great falling away at the end days. From what I understand there has been a large exodus of young people leaving the churches of North America from all denominations of churches and beliefs.

    Now we have respectable leaders from other church denominations in North America apparently trying to throw out the baby with the bathwater in the ‘charismatic/pentecostal’ church doctrine. The Bible does not support the removing of the practice of ‘speaking in tongues’. The Bible states that this gift ‘of tongues by the Holy Spirit’ builds up the believer. The Bible also states that not all believers speak in tongues. That’s good enough for me for now, anyway.

    Error should be addressed by the leaders of the charismatic/pentecostal churches. Otherwise, I think we may have a ‘church split’ in North America. John McCarther should teach and preach truth in his ministry and not meddle in things he is not a part of, and does not understand, so to speak. Does he have authority to meddle in another churches’ business? How and when did he get this authority?

    John McCarther can be a help but I believe that he should not be heading up this attempted correction or discipline by the church because he is from another ‘camp’ or doctrinal belief.

    The churches who are not charismatic/pentecostal have not done much better, if any better at all, in their witness of godliness and righteousness coming from their churches in North America. They are dealing with worldliness, covetousness. They have just committed error differently than the charismatic churches have. That’s the way I’m looking at this situation anyway.

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