Book review: Unfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great Awakening

by Robert D. Cornwall

★★★★★

Is it about time for another Great Awakening?

This is the fourth book by Cornwall that I’ve reviewed and his writing never disappoints. Although this isn’t the type of book I usually enjoy, it’s one I can say I’m glad I read. I needed this.

Cornwall wonders if the Church isn’t on the verge of a new transition, guided by the Spirit. Though now a Disciples of Christ pastor, his roots are Pentecostal, and he recognizes that charismatic Christianity has a deep appreciation for the Spirit that many of us shrug off. Maybe the Spirit is making a comeback? Is it breaking in a new age of spiritual experience, discipleship, and hope? I found Cornwall’s portrayal of the Spirit inspiring: “Offering a variety of gifts, activities, and services, the Spirit moves through the community of faith like a refreshing breeze, enlivening and empowering the community’s worship, fellowship, and service.” Today’s Spirit-empowered communities are committed to bringing into play the world-healing presence of God’s Spirit. The goal is not to rescue us from hell to heaven but to fulfill God’s promise of making Abraham’s offspring a blessing to the world.

Yes, that’s you and me, and anyone else who carries the banner of “Christian.” Are you familiar with the Briggs-Myers personality test? Cornwall, like me, fits the mold of INTJ, so perhaps that explains the kinship I’ve felt with his writings in the past. Let me put it this way: I have an Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging personality (INTJ), as contrasted with the other extreme, an Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving personality (ESFP). This tangential discussion isn’t really a core part of Cornwall’s book, and there are no “right” or “wrong” personalities; I bring it up just to emphasize what rare, leave-me-alone oddballs he and I are. How can people like us possibly feel the flow of the Spirit, and then contribute productively to the community? What spiritual gifts might even we be given that we can use?

Cornwall approaches this topic with practicality and pastoral care. He suggests assessing our spiritual resources with a “gift inventory.” This will help sort through our ministry opportunities and our feelings about various ways of contributing. Yes, each of us in the Church has a ministerial role, not just pastors. Cornwall calls this “embracing a theology of giftedness,” while pointing to the teaching of Paul that all members of the Body play a worthwhile and necessary part. In gift-based ministry, it’s assumed that every member of the body contributes to the welfare of that body. We INTJ’s will leave a hole as deep as any other if we neglect to make use of our own God-given gifts.

Having convinced us of our unique importance, then, the second half of the book tells us how to get our hands dirty. It provides practical advice for various types of Christians, emphasizing how each gift is needed for a healthy community.

Every Christian should read this one.

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