Kevin Prosch, The Black Peppercorns, and Emergent Charismatics

April 18, 2010

emergent / emerging church / music / pentecostal / charismatic

So the most recent episode of Homebrewed Christianity includes an interview between Kevin Prosch and my friend Mike Morrell. I hadn’t ever heard of Kevin Prosch, but his experiences with the early Vineyard, pre-IHOP Mike Bickle, other prophetic worship music, and his influences on what became the worship genre as a whole are fascinating, and the episode tells stories of these things.

The episode also talks of his band, The Black Peppercorns, a group that played in pubs and bars and sang songs that blurred the lines between sacred and secular and saw folks in those bars have genuine encounters with the Spirit. Many of us who listened to the episode are interested in this blurring of the lines as it is a passion we have inherited from folks like him and others before him throughout the history of spiritual music. Sadly, though, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to find this music as it wasn’t accepted by the Pentecostal and charismatic scenes from which he came.

Now, if you’ve spent time in Pentecostal circles this won’t come as a surprise to you. It doesn’t come as one to me, but it does sadden me, both because I have a deep passion for the work of God in the real world, and also because I think it’s one of the biggest weaknesses of the Pentecostal movement throughout the majority of its history. Especially in recent months, it has become clear to me that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are like this because they have a weak missiology.

Mission, if you attend a typical Pentecostal church or university, consists of foreign missions. Missionaries study culture, study languages, and so on. But you, as an attendee or typical Western minister, don’t learn to think of your own culture as a place in which you are to do mission (including but not limited to the study of language and culture, real contextualization, and so on), and you don’t learn to think of mission as a participation in what God is already doing in the world, unconfined by the walls of the church, walls which are themselves not pleasing to God. Sadly this movement does not have a Lesslie Newbigin or David Bosch to say these things, at least not yet.

This is one of the main reasons that I haven’t been part of a Pentecostal church in several years, both in a direct sense as I could no longer support the ecclesiology and missiology that is present there, and in an indirect sense as I found what I was looking for within the underground and emerging church on its better days, and a desperate desire for it even on its bad days.

But having said that, as Mike mentions in this podcast episode, many of us who came from Pentecostal or charismatic circles and into the emerging church miss the days of intense encounters with the Spirit of God. Focus on this is somewhat uncommon within the emerging church. This is sometimes because folks come from backgrounds that don’t have an active theology of the supernatural, and sometimes because folks have had really bad experiences in Pentecostal or charismatic settings. I can’t blame them for this. There are awful, dangerous things that can be said and done there.

But in spite of that, Mike asked Kevin Prosch how he would advise folks like us who want genuine supernatural experience with God, but have found a home in the mission and ecclesiology of the emerging church. This was the weakest of Kevin’s answers, I thought, and I felt like an opportunity was missed. It may be that he doesn’t have answers for this, and I can respect that as I don’t feel like I have solid ones either.

I have no interest in excesses of the Pentecostal movement, and even when I was there I wasn’t a particularly demonstrative person. But there are things I miss. I was encouraged when Tony Jones presented a paper and a couple of other posts discussing what Pentecostals and Emergents can learn from each other a couple of months ago, and I’m also encouraged by this podcast episode and conversations that I’ve had with Mike along these lines. In writing about it, I’m hoping to continue these thoughts and see if there are genuine things we can begin to do with them.