"Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying of hands by the council of elders" (1Tim. 4:14). Members of the church today can comprehend Paul's sentiment to Timothy. While not all ordained, all baptized Christians have experienced the laying on of hands in baptism. They have been touched by that mysterious mix of charism, initiated into the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit, as well as launched into the life with Christ through the institution of the Church with all its concreteness, ambiguity, sinfulness and goodness. They live in the institution of the church which suffers much criticism and uncertainty in our day, yet are infused with the gift of "charism" of the Spirit which is an intangible, sanctifying fire within each member.
Through the lens of Christian theology, along with the sociology of Max Weber in his study of charism and institution in modern society, Judith Merkle analyzes the interaction and tautness between the two in the life of modern church. Weber asserts that freedom and creativity in modern society only become manifest within social relations. Since these highly valued modern experiences do not exist outside the institutional framework, they exist in tension with the constrictive and creative aspects of the institution. Judith Merkle offers the reader perspective on this contemporary experience in the church.