Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic

Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic OR What Happened to Me When I Read David Housholder‘s Book about the Holy Spirit

This is not a book review, this is the story of what happened to me when I read David Housholder‘s book, “Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down.” Now if this were a real book review, it would be important to mention that I received this and Housholder’s other book as gifts from the author. Even so, it is well that you know about these being gifts. If anything, the gifting of the books gives me permission not to write a book review. Instead I can simply use the books as best suits me, as all good gifts are intended.

(If you don’t know who David Housholder is or why he might be inclined to gift his books to me, click here for the back story.)


Before I tell you what happened to me when I read the book, I will tell you briefly about the book itself. “Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down” is about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Housholder names Lutheranism as his first spiritual language, but now considers himself fully bilingual with his second language being Pentecostal spirituality. The purpose of the book is to translate Pentecostal spirituality into terms that other Christians can understand.

Having grown up dual-enrolled at a folksy 1970’s Lutheran church plant on Sundays and a Charismatic Methodist youth group on many Wednesdays, I consider myself rather conversant in Charismatic spirituality even if not certain of all the lingo. Part of why I like working with Housholder is because he understands aspects of my spirituality that are less understood by many Lutherans. To be honest, I didn’t expect to have any major revelations while reading the book. I just wanted to see what my friend had written and maybe get a little better grasp on terminology that was missing from my vocabulary.

There were terms that he defined that I did not know. For instance I learned that “Pentecostal” refers to a specific movement started in the early 1900s whereas “Charismatic” refers to Christians of non-Pentecostal denominations with a more toned down version of the Pentecostal flavor of spirituality. I also learned that Pentecostals don’t use “it” as a pronoun for the Holy Spirit–they say “he.”

For those who are less conversant in Pentecostal spirituality, Housholder’s book covers the topic well. Housholder relates Pentecostal spirituality to concepts and events in scripture and traditional Christian spirituality. His conversational writing “de-mythologizes” Pentecostal spirituality and makes it approachable and understandable.

If this were a true book review I would probably go on to tell you some highlights of the book, I’d offer quotes and good things like that. I’d probably even tell you about the part of the book that made me uneasy, for the sake of good journalism. But this is not a book review. So, instead of all the proper treatment of a book I am going to tell you what happened to me after page seven.

What Happened after Page Seven

I was barely into reading the book, in just the first chapter, when I had to abruptly stop reading it and set it down. On page seven Housholder describes a healing meeting (healing ministry is described later in the book) in which he heard a woman start “singing over someone in tongues.” Housholder later defines “tongues” as a primal language of “expressing oneself vocally without the structure of grammar &/or vocabulary.”

The concept of tongues was not new to me–in fact, I was relatively certain I had prayed in tongues before. But only, when I did it it was always musical, like a song whose words I had never been taught. But I had never heard anyone outright acknowledge singing in tongues to be a real thing until I read page seven of Housholder’s book.

Since I didn’t know that anyone else thought of “singing in tongues” to be a real thing, and since any form of tongues is largely viewed with suspicion by many mainstream Christians, I kept it quiet. I mean that in at least two ways. First I kept it quiet in the sense that I didn’t tell a living soul that I could sing in tongues. Secondly, I kept it quiet in the sense that I didn’t do it very often. I largely squelched the gift–much to the impoverishment of my spirit.

It saddens me to have a gift that I don’t use. It’s like receiving a gift card for my favorite store, only every time I go to the store I find that I’ve left the gift card at home. If I’m lucky, I can pay out of pocket for my purchase if I have the cash on hand. But sometimes, I may have to forego a purchase because I forgot the gift card. But if only I had brought the gift card!

So, for me, the true gift of Housholder’s book closely parallels the gift he has given me creatively–the reminder and encouragement to use the gifts that God has given me. So, after reading page seven and hearing Housholder talk about the “singing in tongues” as a real thing, I put the book down and yielded to the gift.

The Spirit’s song came through me in all of its unintelligibility and it was beautiful. I myself do not know what the words were in English, but the theme of the song was something along the lines of, “My soul magnifies The Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” from Luke 1:46. I felt a deep connection with God in the singing.

When my husband got home he became the first person I told about this ability. Before writing this I had occasion to mention it briefly to Housholder himself. And now, I am telling the whole Internet. The reason why I’m telling is because I am tired of leaving my gift card at home. I want to use all the gifts that God has given me to His glory.

And so, you see why this is not a proper book review. I am much too biased by Housholder’s influence in my life. Would that we all have people in our lives who bias us so strongly by their good will and generosity toward us. Would that we all have people in our lives whose gifts bring out the very best of ours.

To order your own copies of David Housholder’s books, please visit his online store:

17 responses to this post.

  1. I read David Housholder’s book a couple of years ago and found that much of what he was talking about was already familiar to me. There were a couple of insights (when he was talking about the word-faith aspect of the Pentecostal churches), but much of it was a reminder to me. I like how he is affirming of both languages (both Lutheran and Pentecostal/charismatic.) i was involved in the charismatic movement in the late 70s and early 80s. I also took a college J-term class in the charismatic movement.

    I know how you feel about speaking/singing in tongues. Though it was an important part of my life when I was actively in the charismatic movement, I have been hesitant to share this experience with others. Perhaps I’ll send you a private message sometime and we can share more.

    • That word/faith stuff was a sticking point for me in the book–not so much Hous’s treatment of the subject, but I wrestle with the ideas themselves specially as they relate to brokenness in my own life.

      If you’d like to share more if your story privately, you can message me on Facebook, or use the form on the “contact” page of this site.

  2. Jen, thanks so much for being so transparent. Fascinating that the higher the level of theological sophistication, the more uneasy people become with “primary” spiritual experience which is unmediated. In fact, many theologians and liturgists develop a “crush” on the /means/ of Grace and/or mediation itself; as if it were the main thing. One of the reasons I chose Jen as spirituality editor for Life & Liberty ( is that she is unafraid of primary encounters with God.

    To hear what singing in tongues sounds like, I would draw your attention to Hildegard von Bingen’s “Kyrie” where she sings in the Spirit for a time before drifting into liturgical song.

    For a more current example, Mary Kathryn (hipster Pentecostal) has whole songs she sings in tongues. “Tehillah” (prayer psalming) would be a good place to start.

    All are easy to find on your seach engine.

    For the book, and others like it, check out my Amazon-Store:

    • I think more people are more open than you think. 😉 And many benefit from people like you and me that dare to talk about it so that they too might have words for what they can’t otherwise explain.

      I have seen the damage done by dogmatic insistence on specific “primary encounters” as somehow the true markers of faith. Part of why I have held back speaking of such things is that I never want to assume superiority for the encounters I have had.

      “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

  3. Jen, Once again, wonderful insight! You speaking through words on the page are filled with the Holy Spirit. “Writing in tongues” is a way to describe it, I suppose.

  4. Thanks for your post Jennifer,
    It’s neat to hear about another charismatic Lutheran in Texas. I lived in Midland for 25 years and that’s where the Holy Spirit first got a hold of me. It was pretty lonely at first and then I met people like Dave Housholder and others in Lutheran Renewal like Paul Anderson.

    The HS experience (and my Bible reading) propelled me into full time pastoral ministry. I’m part of the network of charismatic Lutherans that Dave Housholder hangs around with. He told me about your post. If you need to know about others of your ilk in Texas – I’d be happy to introduce you to folks at the church in Midland, Texas. Don’t know if you are anywhere nearby.

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting! My small town is about 75 miles east of Austin. If you’re ever heading toward Houston, drop me a note and my family and I could meet you for lunch. My husband is a Lutheran pastor who also has some charismatic sensibilities. And my 9 yo son can talk spirituality and theology with the lot of us, until he decides to talk about video games and Legos and family stories instead.

      • Thanks for your note and invitation to drop by. I still have some friends in Houston but don’t make it there very often but will keep it in mind! In case you and your husband don’t already know about a network of charismatic Lutheran churches let me tell you about the Alliance of Renewal Churches (ARC). You might want to check them out — more friends who can relate to you.

  5. Posted by Tim Mantei on August 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks Jen, I guess I shouldn’t remain a Lutheran crypto-pentecostal any longer, either. Time to let it shine!

  6. Okay, Jennifer. You have me curious. I am ordering the book today

    • Excellent! Can’t wait to talk more with you about it. Tink will be reading it soon too.

      • I am restarting a book that I put down and in a moment of cleaning madness forgot where I put it . It is Rabbi Paul an Intellectual Biography by Bruce Chilton. I was wondering if any of your readers have read it or have heard of the author. It may take me awhile to finish it as I will read a quote or Bible passage and then get out the Bible for verification.

  7. […] read my reaction to Housholder’s other book, Light Your Church On Fire Without Burning It Down, click the […]

  8. […] wrote about my experience with LYCOF on my own blog in a post titled, Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic. You can read that post for background, but the insight relevant to this essay was that Housholder […]

  9. […] find out where this story goes, read the rest HERE, or click on the picture […]

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