Watson Charismatic Ecclesiology


Home Up Nature of the Church British Israelism Watson Charismatic Ecclesiology






Gospel Shaped Church: David Watson’s Charismatic Ecclesiology


By Dr. Andy Lord





Pentecostalism was born as a missionary movement and so its ecclesiology has also been shaped by mission.[i] Yet the study of pentecostal ecclesiology remains at an early stage with most studies focusing on issues other than mission. There is a need for studies that reflect on the link between ecclesiology and mission in thought and practice. This article seeks to explore the nature of the “gospel shaped church” in the life and writings of David Watson, an early charismatic leader in Britain. A recent study has explored issues in an ecclesiology shaped by the classical Pentecostal “Full gospel” but there is a need to bring this into dialogue with insights from other streams within pentecostalism.[ii] Pentecostalism is a diverse movement with many similarities and differences and this study will contribute to pentecostal ecclesiology by exploring a charismatic example and using this to bring one stream into dialogue with another.[iii]

For classical Pentecostals, finding their roots in Azusa Street, the Full gospel is important to their identity. In this Jesus is seen as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, Baptiser in the Holy Spirit and Coming King, a Fivefold gospel.[iv] Although rooted in early American Pentecostal history this understanding is still seen to resonate with experience today and hence is appropriate to explore as a framework for a distinctively pentecostal ecclesiology. The five themes have provided a very creative basis for the recent study Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology produced by different scholars. Yet it is less clear that these themes are the most obvious in other streams of pentecostalism for historical, experiential and theological reasons.[v] Different contexts bring to light different themes and what might resonate with an American classical Pentecostal is different to that for, say, an Indian pentecostal or British charismatic.[vi] This article examines the themes that arise in a British charismatic context through a focus on David Watson whose leadership was significant in developing an ecclesiology both in practice and thought.

There has been much work done by pentecostal scholars that touches the concerns here for mission and ecclesiology. Steven Land has developed an ecclesiology around “missionary fellowships” in which a “passion for the kingdom” is central.[vii] Amos Yong points out the need for pentecostal ecclesiology to be apostolic in terms of being shaped by the apostolic message and enacting the apostolic mission.[viii] Simon Chan sees the mission of the church as the focal means of God’s purposes for creation.[ix] Frank Macchia roots his ecclesiology in Spirit baptism and through this in the divine infilling and the cosmic transformation of the whole of creation.[x] Mark Cartledge suggests that pentecostal churches see themselves as “pilgrims of hope” who are sent by the Spirit to proclaim the gospel message as they await the eschatological reign of Christ.[xi] Shane Clifton concludes that pentecostal ecclesiology should be framed by its mission to proclaim the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.[xii] In such studies there is reference to the gospel, the good news, although this is usually an assumed message relating to God’s eschatological kingdom purposes in Jesus. There is a need to explore further how a lived gospel might shape pentecostal ecclesiology. This is a narrative concern focused on how a particular church thinks about and puts into practice the gospl.

This article attempts to articulate the gospel shaped ecclesiology of David Watson so as to contribute a different way into pentecostal ecclesiology. To do this it is important to bring together the practice and thinking of Watson in a way compatible with wider pentecostal approaches. Narrative is central to pentecostal and charismatic testimony and approaches to Scripture.[xiii] I want to focus on the Central Narrative Convictions (CNCs) within Watsons’ personal story that ground his wider writings. Following Ken Archer, these CNCs are the primary stories used to explain the nature of the church grown by Watson.[xiv] It is within the local church community that Watson lived his life in the Spirit and developed his engagement with Scripture: thus we have a hermeneutical approach that brings Spirit, Scripture and Community into conversation.[xv] In our study Watson’s autobiographical works are primary[xvi] and his biblical and theological works secondary.[xvii] Although Watson was not a scholar he engaged with theological themes and writing as he sought to teach others. Reading chronologically, I want to suggest a number of key CNCs that relate to the ecclesiology developed by Watson, connecting them with later narratives and Watson’s wider writing. The resulting gospel shaped ecclesiology will be compared with that suggested by the Full gospel.


Faith, Discipleship and Realism

It is important to start with Watson’s initial experiences of church and Christian faith as these shape what followed. Watson’s experience of Christian Science and Anglicanism as a child did not encourage faith, but left him feeling the Anglican church was “all a meaningless religious mumbo-jumbo.”[xviii] His religious searching came to an end whilst serving in the Army where a heavy drinking Padre did not provide the best example of Christian living. Hence Watson arrived at University as a “cynical unbeliever – a humanist” as the experience of both individual faith and corporate church had not witnessed to something he could understand or appreciate. There was a lack of good thought out and lived faith which was challenged when he arrived at University. Accepting an invitation to the Christian Union he was disturbed by the reality of a speakers Christian faith, a faith that stressed a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”[xix] This lived faith came together with an explanation of the gospel that spoke of Jesus overcoming sin on the Cross. Suddenly, despite his background and aversion to being “religious”, this presentation of the gospel made sense to Watson and he turned to Jesus in prayer. From the start, a personal faith seen as a response to the gospel of Jesus was vital. This personal faith was one to be shared so others may also come to Jesus. Watson managed this with his best friend and mother soon after coming to faith himself. For Watson, the gospel is responded to in faith and such authentic lived faith leads to the growth of the church. Later Watson would explain the gospel of Jesus in terms of God’s kingdom that is to be shared with all.[xx] Jesus is the King who has authority over the world, our lives and evil powers. Jesus embodies the gospel and invites all into a personal relationship with the Father. This faith relationship leads to healthy churches with a “natural and spontaneous evangelism explosion.”[xxi] The “outstanding and essential” mark of the church is “faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[xxii] We do not have faith in the church, but in the triune God, and this faith grows the church.[xxiii]

Disciplined discipleship was key to the growth of Watson’s faith from the start, as he met week by week with David Sheppard to study the Bible. He took an approach that brought together theological and practical themes to develop his “knowledge of the Gospel” which had been “effectively zero.”[xxiv] Each day was ordered to embrace Bible reading, prayer, a “balanced diet” of Christian books, fellowship, evangelism and resisting the “forbidden fruits of the world” – providing a “rock-like foundation, on which the superstructure could later afford to be more flexible.”[xxv] Later, Watson reflected on the question as to why the church in the West is so ineffective and surmised that it is because they “have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ.”[xxvi] He provided an ordered account of the way of discipleship that starts with the personal call of Jesus and moves quickly to the calling into God’s family, the church. The church as a community of “realism and sharing” is the context within which Watson places his exploration of discipleship.[xxvii] He sees discipleship as vital given the challenges of contemporary culture and is vital if the gospel is to be shared with the whole world.[xxviii] For Watson, this discipleship led him to articulate a thoughtful, biblical, practical and ordered approach to doctrine. We can see this in Watson’s ecclesiology that explores the nature of the church through eight biblical images: the Kingdom of God, the Church of God, the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Building of God, the Bride of God, the Army of God and the Spirit in the Church.[xxix] Again we see the triune God with His gospel kingdom leading to the formation of a church of faithful disciples.

Having trained as a church leader Watson served as assistant minister in Gillingham and then in Cambridge. Whilst in Cambridge he became unexpectedly depressed and although this quickly drove Watson to seek more of the Spirit the theme of weakness remained a part of his testimony. Moving to York he struggled with asthma and suffered a “partial breakdown” with depression returning.[xxx] This led to three months out as he felt a total failure and needed time for rest and renewal.[xxxi] Marriage also brought its strains as he struggled to adjust to a partner different to himself and as he tried to fit family life into an extremely busy schedule.[xxxii] In his last year, at the age of 50, Watson lived with cancer which both reduced dramatically some ministries he was involved in, whilst opening up others.[xxxiii] He tried to write about this in a more abstract way but was encouraged to write about this in more narrative form.[xxxiv] The result is a moving account of practical, spiritual and theological wrestling and peace as he moved in hope towards his death in 1984.

 The community of realism Watson sought was rooted in his experience of suffering and struggle throughout his ministry. He brings together in narrative both personal and communal struggles. For example, a “fruitful and imaginative” social outreach, the Mustard Seed, was started as a result of a prophetic vision. A shop was opened for the development of community witness in York that brought together evangelism, renewal and reconciliation.[xxxv] All went well for three years until it was “virtually destroyed in one swift blow” whilst the Watsons’s were on holiday, as relationships between those involved broke down.[xxxvi] Watson noted three stages in the narrative of any community: honeymoon, nightmare and reality.[xxxvii] As Watson began to hand over leadership to Graham Cray questions related to women in leadership and the nature of prophesy began to split the church. This was personally difficult as it led to his wife’s removal from leadership positions and eventually led to a group leaving the church. For Watson, these were a “vivid and painful reminder that, however ‘renewed’ individuals or churches may feel themselves to be, we are still sinners, in constant need of the Lord’s forgiveness, patience and love.”[xxxviii]

Theologically, Watson placed these narratives within a journey following the Spirit “through suffering and crucifixion” in order “to bring life to others.”[xxxix] The narrative of the church is placed alongside a gospel narrative that focuses on Christ’s cross and resurrection.[xl] For Watson the gospel presumes sinful humanity and by the Spirit the church can overcome “the ravages of sin, suffering and death” through the gospel. His narrative testimony, more than his reflective writing, keeps this always in focus as the reality in a church shaped by the gospel. In understanding Watson’s gospel-shaped ecclesiology I have suggested the CNCs of personal faith in King Jesus, a disciplined discipleship, and a realism in regard to sin and suffering. For Watson these motivated a fresh seeking of the Holy Spirit, a commitment to loving others and creating fresh communities.


Seeking the Holy Spirit, Love and Renewed Community

Suffering, weakness and sin gave Watson a deepening desire for the Holy Spirit, particularly as he found himself in a Cambridge church that seemed dull. They taught the Scriptures but “oh, for some fire of the Spirit!”[xli] Watson studied the history of revivals, the Acts of the Apostles and the Sermon on the mount. This created a longing for the Holy Spirit and so he “confessed every sin [he] could think of” and asked God to fill him with his Spirit, praising God for answering the prayer.[xlii] As a result he said: “I was in love with Jesus in a way I had never known before” and in due course came to speak in tongues.[xliii] He had always celebrated seeing the power of Christ changing lives, yet without leaving behind his evangelical experience this was something more.[xliv] Watson searched the Scriptures and talked with others before concluding he had been “filled with the Spirit”, a term he preferred to Spirit baptism. This landed Watson in trouble with those in the wider church who were against the “charismatic renewal movement.” Hence he continued thinking this out alongside others such as John Collins, David MacInnes and Michael Harper and was increasingly drawn into the charismatic movement.[xlv] It was only later, in 1981, that he would meet John Wimber who became a strong friend.[xlvi]

These experiences of the Spirit could not be freely expressed within the church in Cambridge but Watson was free to translate his personal experiences into a church setting when he moved to lead St Cuthbert’s in York. This was a church expected to be closed within a year! Yet Watson testified that, “If anyone comes to this church and preaches the simple Gospel of Christ, believes in the power of prayer and trusts in the Holy Spirit, this building will be full in no time.”[xlvii] Despite being “a tough place as far as the Gospel was concerned” the church grew and eventually had to move to St Michael’s, a larger building.[xlviii] Later he reflected that “the church is totally dependent on the Spirit for the whole of its life. It is created by the Spirit, and it must be continually sustained and renewed by the Spirit.”[xlix] Watson saw the great contemporary need of the church as being for the Spirit of God, as it had been so often in the past. The Spirit breathes life into the gospel and grows church communities even where there seems little hope. It seems particularly in places of weakness that the desire for the Spirit is stirred and the church led into renewal – a renewal that is both fresh and contemporary yet also historical and rooted in Scripture. In narrative terms we see here the church on a journey of weakness, seeking the Holy Spirit, experiencing renewal, wrestling with opposition yet continuing in faith.

This journey is one undertaken by a community together, one that shares in friendship and fellowship. Watson had always enjoyed friendship with others, particularly in his approach to church leadership. Before his marriage, Watson noted the “privilege to enjoy... close fellowship” with his clergy colleagues who shared a Vicarage together.[l] From the start in York, Watson began “to form deep friendships” with the small congregation as he sought to tell people about the love of Jesus. It was in the context of a small fellowship group that Watson sought to help people understand and experience the “Gospel of Christ” in the “vitality of the Holy Spirit.”[li] In a world of “loneliness and alienation” Watson saw the “core” of God’s message as being the desire to share life together, to belong to God as a people.[lii] The gospel is communal, and Watson traces this back to Israel chosen as the people of God (Exodus 6:6f.) and looks forward to the eschatological community (Rev. 21:3). A renewed gospel church is one called by God as a community (of sinners): “The church is emphatically not an agglomeration of pious individuals who happen to believe the same gospel... We are born again by the Spirit into the family of God; we are called by Christ to belong to the people of God.”[liii]

This communal gospel approach to understanding the church is rooted in God and has to be worked out in practice. Later in York, Watson’s wife, Anne, suggested they share their home with others as a concrete way of putting this into practice.[liv] Although he found this hard, gradually extended households came into being that shared finances. They took inspiration from the example of the early church whose strength of witness lay in the testimony of how the Christians loved each other. The Watson family of four often had six or eight others living with them, starting each day with prayer at 7am. This was a “rich sharing of lives together in Christ” that enabled a number of creative ministries to flourish.[lv] Andrew Maries, a musician who lived in this community for a time spoke of it as full of “lots of trauma, but also lots of fun!”[lvi] Later Watson reflected on the call to a “simple lifestyle” as an essential part of Christian discipleship that witnesses to Christ in a world of great inequality.[lvii] Christian love and sacrificial giving combine in churches that live the gospel of Christ. By these means gospel communities witness to different ways of life that challenge injustice in the wider world.

Experiencing community, growth and the work of the Holy Spirit combined to renew the church in a way that others came to see. Watson found himself asked repeatedly to explain to other church leaders how the church could be renewed, to the detriment of time spent with his own congregation.[lviii] After prophetic words he set up two renewal weeks each year to which others could come and experience the church in York – in its weaknesses as well as strengths. Through staying with people from the church, spending time in prayer and worship, and attending seminars, other church leaders were encouraged to receive renewal for themselves and the churches they served. Watson believed that we are in constant need of renewal by the Holy Spirit and this affects every aspect of the churches life. Matthew Porter has suggested that Watson encouraged a renewed people, renewed worship, renewed theology, renewed power and a renewed evangelicalism.[lix] Later Watson was to say that the renewal of the church “must precede both evangelism and social action.”[lx] This is to be a renewal in living the good news, the gospel, together as a church in order that individuals and societies may be transformed and the church grow.[lxi] The Holy Spirit enables such a renewal, although Watson offers his study of ecclesiology as a means by which the Spirit may renew our understanding of the church.[lxii]


Mission Networks and Unity

Watson’s understanding and practice of faith was personal and communal with the renewal of local churches the focus for a large part of his ministry. Yet throughout he gave to and received from wider Christian communities, and over time was challenged about the nature of the unity of the church. It is helpful to think in terms of the networks with which Watson connected through his ministry, as he worked with friends and in churches across the denominations. Networks comprise of churches that are linked by relationships that may run along denominational lines but may not, and have been helpful in understanding contemporary church life.[lxiii] Soon after becoming a Christian Watson found himself involved in the ‘Bash camps,’ summer Christian youth camps for public school boys. This started with learning “humble service” in cooking and cleaning.[lxiv] This developed during his time in Cambridge to more pastoral, evangelistic and teaching opportunities and the camps were “the most formative influence on [his] faith.”[lxv] The camps worked largely within evangelical circles in the Church of England and represented for Watson a clear way of connecting local faith communities with networks of discipleship formation. During his time in York he was invited to lead a University mission in Reading, by the end of which “at least sixty students had found Christ, most of them standing firm as Christians in the months and years ahead.”[lxvi] Watson continued with University and Church based missions, particularly between 1966 and 1975, which saw many people come to faith and developed relationships across the country.[lxvii] After 1979 relationships began to grow across the worldwide church as Watson was invited to share in the renewal and mission of churches from every continent.[lxviii] Writing as this world aspect was just starting, Watson considers that the unity of the church is found in the “essential mark [of] faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[lxix] This was the kind of unity that he practiced in the camps and missions as he sought to “believe, guard, live by and proclaim the gospel of Christ.”[lxx] It is also the basis of the doctrinal unity of the church, the “gospel of Jesus Christ, as given in the Scriptures as a whole.”[lxxi]

This gospel unity that Watson experienced among the networks within which he moved was deeply relational, both in terms of those he met and the team he worked with. Watson always preferred to develop a team to work with in the missions: he wanted the love of God that was proclaimed to be demonstrated in the life of the team that brought the gospel.[lxxii] This was not easy for Watson who struggled sometimes with relationships and times of depression stretched the unity of teams. Yet the relational unity of the church was vital for Watson: it is a visible expression of the hidden spiritual unity of the church that already exists. For Watson, church unity was “inaugurated on the cross” and “wrought by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of [God’s] people.”[lxxiii] It is this renewal of the Holy Spirit that not only affects local churches but is key to overcoming barriers between churches. A “significant milestone” in Watson’s understanding here came though attendance at an international conference for spiritual renewal where Watson found himself sharing a platform with Roman Catholic speakers.[lxxiv] For many years he had thought the Roman Catholic church as apostate and preaching another gospel, virtually the same as the anti-Christ. Praying, he felt God saying: “I’m not first and foremost concerned with your convictions, but I am concerned about your attitudes.”[lxxv] Slowly, Watson began to listen to those he disagreed with, to recognise the best in them, and to trust in God’s wider working. He began to testify to “remarkable times of fellowship with all sorts of people” as together they sought Christ by the Spirit as revealed in the Bible.[lxxvi] There is, he believed, an “absolute priority” for a spirit of repentance for the divisions in the church before any revival should come.[lxxvii] Watson’s mission teams aimed at reconciliation, renewal and evangelism and Porter has noted how unity and reconciliation had been a concern from the start of Watson’s charismatic experience.[lxxviii] Michael Harper commented that: “I believe that David’s ministry helped forward proper ecumenism more than perhaps anyone else in Britain during that time.”[lxxix]

A renewed gospel church is inevitably a church that overcomes divisions through repentance and reconciliation; it is a church that must keep reaching out and connecting with the wider church throughout the world; and it is a church rooted in relationships of love. Watson concludes his study of the nature of the church by saying that “Love is the one crucial mark of the Christian and of the church in the eyes of the world.”[lxxx] It is a gospel love that connects a diverse church and embraces the world.


Narrative Summary and Missionary Ecclesiology

In the above sections I have brought together the Central Narrative Concerns seen in Watson’s autobiographical work, placed alongside his biblical and theological reflections. These CNCs focus on faith, discipleship, realism, the Holy Spirit, love, community, mission networks and unity. The gospel is key to Watson’s understanding and practice of each of these. This exploration of some of the CNCs present in Watson’s narrative provide a wealth of detail to bring together in ecclesiology. Watson separates out narrative from biblical theology in his writing yet, following Archer, I want to draw these together into an ecclesiological shape.[lxxxi] Already the above brings together Watson’s narrative and theology around the CNCs as a way of understanding theological meaning and developing an ecclesiology in which gospel is a key term. In coming to articulate ecclesiology our approach is constrained by the identified CNCs but at the same time open to experience because of them.[lxxxii]

Developing the above sections I propose here that Watson’s ecclesiology is shaped by “the gospel of Jesus Christ” who rules as King in God’s kingdom. For Watson the church is seen as: (1) always in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ; (2) having responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ; (3) as seeking the gospel life of the Spirit; (4) living the gospel of Jesus Christ through loving discipleship; (5) living the gospel of Jesus Christ together as renewed communities; (6) proclaiming the gospel as the church is sent into the world; and (7) connecting churches as this happens. These seven ways of seeing the church overlap and encompass a variety of theological themes. Fleshing these out we see that for Watson the church always lives in need of the gospel as it is never without sin, weakness and suffering before Jesus returns (1). Yet it does respond in faith to Jesus, as sin does not have the last word as we come to the Cross (2). Weakness highlights the need to keep seeking the gospel life of the Spirit and the church is often forced back onto its dependency on God, experiencing the filling/baptising with the Holy Spirit through worship, sacraments and a life-giving spirituality (3). As faith and the Spirit work together so the church finds itself living the gospel (4,5). This happens through loving discipleship, as Christians take up the call to holiness and self-giving love (4). Such discipleship requires an engagement of experience with the narrative of Scripture and with the historical church traditions with their doctrinal reflections. The gospel is also lived through renewed communities which are inclusive, contextual and sacrificially share together in new lifestyles (5). It is such a lived gospel that the church is sent to proclaim prophetically into all the world (6). This sending of the gospel develops and initiates church connections that challenge each church to seek afresh the Spirit that the gospel may be more deeply lived in all the world (7).

In terms of mission thinking it is worth briefly noting that this gospel shaped church reflects a holistic understanding of mission. It is mission that has an evangelistic focus (1,2); gives prominence to a form of spirituality (3); is about Christian character and communal life (4,5); and engages holistically with the whole of creation as it is prophetically sent out in evangelism, church planting, networking, social and ecological action, seeking the peace and reconciliation that re-connects a divided world (6,7). The vision of the eschatological kingdom shines through the whole life of the gospel church. Such a lived mission fits unsurprisingly well with my previous development of a holistic charismatic missiology.[lxxxiii] The framework here does give a clearer focus on evangelism and church planting than might be suggested by my previous work, and in this fits also with the creation based missiology of Julie and Wonsuk Ma.[lxxxiv] Thus the charismatic ecclesiology of David Watson is shaped by the gospel and driven to holistic mission that embraces the world.

It is appropriate to bring together this sevenfold gospel with other themes in ecclesiology and wider theology, in the same way that Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology uses the historic Full gospel as a framework for contemporary themes. In doing so we might suggest that:


The charismatic church:

(1) is in continuing need of the gospel. The church is never without sin, weakness and suffering. It is a church that exists in the shadow of the Cross of Christ.


(2) lives in response to the gospel. The church is responsive to Jesus – there is a pluriform response of faith in Jesus, to use Miroslav Volf’s terminology.[lxxxv] It knows the power of the Resurrection.


(3) seeks the gospel life of the Spirit. The church continually seeks to be filled/baptised in the Holy Spirit – it is a Pentecost church. It lives out a life-giving spirituality that includes worship, spiritual gifts and the sacraments.


(4) lives the gospel through loving discipleship. The church forms itself in holiness and self-giving love as each person forms themselves on the example and life of Jesus, and are called to various ministries. This requires a deep engagement with the narrative of Scripture and the historical church traditions with their doctrinal insights.


(5) lives the gospel together in renewed communities. The church is always communal, with individuals always seen as part of hospitable, inclusive, holy, worshipping, praying, healing, contextual and sacrificial communities. These witness to a different way of life than common in the culture in which they are set. Yet this comes about by a process of incarnational contextualisation that recognises also the good in culture. It is encouraged by spiritual gifts.


(6) proclaims the gospel as it is sent into the world. The church keeps finding itself sent out afresh into new places to prophetically proclaim the gospel. This happens in holistic ways that include evangelism, church planting, social and ecological action, seeking peace and reconciliation. It is the apostolic mandate of the church.


(7) connects churches as the gospel is shared. The church is never just the local congregation, but always connected congregations. It is always characterised by networks that enable its mission and the unity and catholicity of the church.


This is a vision both for the church and for holistic mission that is eschatological in character. Obviously this represents the shape of a vision rather than giving the details of a particular outworking, although its links with the particular experience of Watson should be clear.



In concluding it is important to bring this sevenfold gospel church into conversation with the fivefold Full gospel church in Towards a Pentecostal Ecclesiology. This latter sees the church as (1) a redeemed community; (2) a sanctified community; (3) an empowered community; (4) a healing community; and (5) an eschatological community. The reflections on being a redeemed community give a challenge to include the marginalised within Watson’s renewed communities.[lxxxvi] Watson developed an emphasis on the simple lifestyle which is still relevant but was largely addressing middle-class people rather than those on the margins. There is a need to keep a prophetic element in regard to the church’s social engagement although Watson’s extended communities remain a prophetic challenge to the nature of the contemporary church. Sanctification is key to pentecostal life and the sanctified community is one characterised by holiness, whereas Watson prefers to talk in terms of discipleship.[lxxxvii] Discipleship can be seen helpfully as a broader term although it needs to be connected with holiness and also with ethics.[lxxxviii] Interestingly, it is the Full gospel that prompts questions surrounding the place of the Eucharist and communion ecclesiology rather than Watson, who treats these as more minor themes.[lxxxix] The empowered community of the Full gospel is seen as rooted in Spirit baptism within a trinitarian narrative.[xc] It’s spirituality and practice of the gift of tongues is linked with the apostolic mission of the church in the world. In contrast, Watson has a clearer focus on the proclamation of the gospel and the witness of living out this gospel in community with a less developed understanding of mission. Within the Full gospel it is the focus on healing that characterises Christian communities, with the examples of Healing Homes and African healing communities provoking questions about the nature of church today. Healing has less emphasis for Watson, being seen as one of the gifts of the Spirit granted to the church in its renewed life together. Watson and the Full gospel share a focus on the eschatological kingdom and its inbreaking today, although the latter has developed the theme of the Ascension that is neglected by Watson.[xci]

This brief comparison of ecclesiologies suggests that Watson’s charismatic ecclesiology brings a challenge to the simple lifestyle, discipleship, evangelism and close community living that can be neglected in a Full gospel ecclesiology. Yet the Pentecostal Full gospel would challenge Watson and other charismatics to have an ecclesiology that prophetically includes the marginalised, has a clear call to holiness, lives out of Spirit baptism communal lives of healing. We might want both ecclesiologies to consider in more detail questions in regard to church structures, linking the charismatic and the institutional.[xcii] Both Pentecostal and charismatic ecclesiology in practice links church communities together across boundaries, as Watson illustrates. How this networking and ecumenical engagement links with institutions within gospel mission remains a question in need of further exploration.

To conclude, this article has developed a gospel shape for charismatic ecclesiology through a focus on the ministry and thinking of David Watson. The result has been the suggestion of a sevenfold gospel shaped ecclesiology that is rooted within the charismatic tradition. It is an ecclesiology that can also be seen as an ecclesial missiology. This has been brought into dialogue with the ecclesiology explored in Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each. There is clearly a depth to pentecostal ecclesiology that is deserving of a range of different approaches and here we see a commonality of emphases on the work of the Holy Spirit and eschatology alongside a variety of practical and theological emphases. The proposal here is suggestive of ways in which the gospel can be seen to shape mission ecclesiology within the pentecostal tradition, and is worthy of further study. May the church and the world be ever more gospel shaped.



[i]On the missionary nature of pentecostalism see Allan Anderson, Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism (London: SCM, 2007).

[ii]John Christopher Thomas, ed., Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2011).

[iii]I use the term “pentecostalism” to include the variety of classical, charismatic and indigenous forms, Andy Lord, Network Church: A Pentecostal Ecclesiology Shaped by Mission, GPCS 11 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 4–9.

[iv]This can be seen in the classic study of Donald W. Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Studies in Evangelicalism, no. 5 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987) although he prefers a Fourfold gospel and being more acceptable across different Pentecostal traditions.

[v]I have explored this in Andy Lord, “Good News for All? Reflections on the Pentecostal Full Gospel,” Transformation (2012, forthcoming).

[vi]On an Indian perspective see Shaibu Abraham, “Ordinary Indian Pentecostal Christology,” PhD Thesis (University of Birmingham, UK, 2011).

[vii]Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom, JPT Sup, vol. 1 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).

[viii]Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 146–48.

[ix]Simon Chan, “Mother Church: Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology,” PNEUMA 22, no. 2 (2000): 177–208.

[x]Frank D. Macchia, Baptised in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

[xi]Mark J. Cartledge, Testimony in the Spirit: Rescripting Ordinary Pentecostal Theology (London: Ashgate, 2010), 187–88.

[xii]Shane J. Clifton, Pentecostal Churches in Transition: Analysing the Development of the Assemblies of God in Australia, Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies, Vol. 3 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 220.

[xiii]Martin William Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2010), 82–91.

[xiv]Kenneth J. Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic: Spirit, Scripture and Community, 2nd Ed. (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2009), 156–61.

[xv]Ibid., 261.

[xvi]David Watson, You Are My God (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983); David Watson, Fear No Evil: A Personal Struggle with Cancer (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984).

[xvii]I focus here on David Watson, I Believe in the Church, 2nd Ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1982); David Watson, I Believe in Evangelism (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1976); David Watson, Discipleship (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1983).

[xviii]Watson, You Are My God, 14.

[xix]Ibid., 17.

[xx]Watson, I Believe in Evangelism, 32–35.

[xxi]Ibid., 134.

[xxii]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 334.

[xxiii]Ibid., 19.

[xxiv]Watson, You Are My God, 24.

[xxv]Ibid., 31.

[xxvi]Watson, Discipleship, 16.

[xxvii]Ibid., 48.

[xxviii]Ibid., 66.

[xxix]Watson, I Believe in the Church.

[xxx]Watson, You Are My God, 86–87.

[xxxi]Teddy Saunders and Hugh Sansom, David Watson: A Biography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992), 143.

[xxxii] Watson, You Are My God, 72–73; Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 111–22.

[xxxiii]Watson, Fear No Evil.

[xxxiv]Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 290.

[xxxv]Watson, You Are My God, 146.

[xxxvi]Ibid., 147.

[xxxvii]Ibid., 163.

[xxxviii]Ibid., 148.

[xxxix]Ibid., 170.

[xl]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 63.

[xli]Watson, You Are My God, 49.

[xlii]Ibid., 54.

[xliii]Ibid., 57.

[xliv] Watson, You Are My God, 45; Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 86–87.

[xlv]Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 88–98.

[xlvi]Watson, Fear No Evil, 25.

[xlvii]Watson, You Are My God, 74.

[xlviii]Ibid., 79.

[xlix]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 168.

[l]Watson, You Are My God, 42.

[li]Ibid., 78–79.

[lii]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 75–76.

[liii]Ibid., 82–83.

[liv]Watson, You Are My God, 78,114.

[lv]Ibid., 126.

[lvi]Edward England, ed., David Watson: A Portrait by His Friends (Crowborough: Highland Books, 1985), 44.

[lvii]Watson, Discipleship, 210–29.

[lviii]Watson, You Are My God, 172.

[lix]Matthew Porter, David Watson: Evangelism, Renewal, Reconciliation, Grove Renewal Series, no. 12 (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2003), 14–22.

[lx]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 17.

[lxi]See also Watson, I Believe in Evangelism, 134–35.

[lxii]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 18–19.

[lxiii]For example, see William K. Kay, Apostolic Networks in Britain: New Ways of Being Church (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007) and Andy Lord, Network Church, 89–128.

[lxiv]Watson, You Are My God, 33–34.

[lxv]Ibid., 39.

[lxvi]Ibid., 84.

[lxvii]Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 154–64.

[lxviii]Ibid., 243–55.

[lxix]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 334.


[lxxi]Ibid., 355.

[lxxii]Saunders and Sansom, David Watson, 243–55.

[lxxiii]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 343.

[lxxiv]Watson, You Are My God, 97.

[lxxv]Ibid., 99.

[lxxvi]Ibid., 100.

[lxxvii]Ibid., 102.

[lxxviii]Ibid., 184; Porter, David Watson, 23.

[lxxix] England, David Watson, 57–58. On the general background of unity within which Watson’s contribution is appreciated see Connie Ho Yan Au, Grassroots Unity in the Charismatic Renewal (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011).

[lxxx]Watson, I Believe in the Church, 364.

[lxxxi]Archer, Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 212–15.

[lxxxii]Ibid., 266.

[lxxxiii]Andrew M. Lord, Spirit-Shaped Mission: A Holistic Charismatic Missiology (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005), 60–66.

[lxxxiv]Julie C. Ma and Wonsuk Ma, Mission in the Spirit: Towards a Pentecostal/Charismatic Missiology (Oxford: Regnum Books, 2010).

[lxxxv]Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998).

[lxxxvi]Thomas, Toward, 71, cf 115.

[lxxxvii]On sanctification see R.Hollis Gause, Living in the Spirit: The Way of Salvation, reprint, 1980 (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2009).

[lxxxviii]Thomas, Toward, 87,94.

[lxxxix]Ibid., 123, 269.

[xc]Ibid., 139–42.

[xci]Ibid., 225–47.

[xcii]On this see Simon Chan, Pentecostal Ecclesiology: An Essay in the Development of Doctrine (Blanford Forum: Deo Publishing, 2011) and Andy Lord, Network Church.