R.I.P. Charismatic movement?


I’ve been a Christ-follower since my mid-teens. About half of that time has been spent in Charismatic churches. I’ve seen signs, wonders, deliverances, fakers, spiritual abusers and epic moral flame-outs, sometimes all at the same church service. I’ve lived through the second wave and the third. In the West, the recent years have been characterized by some headline-grabbing Charismatic charlatans whose claim to 15-minute fame usually came because they misused or manufactured power gifts, gave their followers dramatic ecstatic experiences and promised prosperity.

Though there are some of these same abuses in the church across the global South and East, charismatic practice and belief are integrated into the explosive growth happening there, rather than being a separate, controversial “Movement” as it usually has been here. Isn’t this how its supposed to work? When it does, there is nothing more breath-taking and life-giving.

Though there are theology and tradition reasons a-plenty why charismatic believers formed their own congregations and conferences (and why non-charismatic believers thought this was a dandy idea), in the end “ghetto-ization” has hurt all of us. In our mutual shared fear of coming down with the Swine Flu of religion, heresy, and either John MacArthur or Benny Hinn, we started our chainsaws and amputated one another. Memo to Bride: I don’t think this was what Jesus was asking us to do when He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Mt. 5:29).

J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma magazine, recently penned a sort of epitath for the Charismatic movement here in the West. Grady’s words are not without hope, but need to be read in the context of the rising tide of statisticians and prophets alike from across the ecclesiological spectrum in the Body of Christ telling us, quite simply, that a lot of us have wandered just beyond earshot of our Shepherd’s Voice. Clogged ears are an equal-opportunity employer.

If there is a “third day” church being resurrected from the receding or dying areas of the Body (and I believe there is), Paul’s prescriptive description in 1 Cor. 12 will absolutely characterize this beautiful Bride. I am praying that resurrection begins with our shared sense of hearing.

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11 thoughts on “R.I.P. Charismatic movement?”

  1. Amen, Michelle. All too often it seems charismatic pastors and revivalists seem to count their success in terms of how many people end up on the floor or are overcome with ecstasy. I've stood at altar calls and when the preacher has prayed over me I've felt him literally push me. What? The prayer wasn't enough? He'd feel a failure if I didn't fall down? I think that way too many folks are getting carried away with numbers and not ministry. Would Benny Hinn accept an offer to preach at a church where only 100 people attend? I doubt it. Yet, Jesus ministered to as few as one. I'm really sick of guys who fall in love with their own popularity. I'd much rather that they fall in love again with the Lord.

  2. I've been to some of the places you've been. 🙂

    Here's a question for you: In this era of superstar preachers, how do you discern genuine humility when all you may know of them is what you see in their public/platform persona?

  3. The more their public/platform persona chants "It's About Me", the more it probably is…

    A couple of ways my spirit seems to discern genuine humility when introduced to a place of worship:

    1. My first encounter best NOT be about seeing senior leadership's name/title plastered on every square inch of signage (Be it church website, parking lot signage, bulletin or the back of a women's bathroom stall door). I look for the mission statement, etc. One of the most creative I recently saw was a simple sign promoting a "car ministry". It WAS located in the women's restroom and had tear off phone numbers at the bottom of the page. The thing that caught my eye was the ministry statement, "Changing lives one quart at a time." Simple, servant oriented…no names, no flash.

    2. When a worship leader and/or speaker "disappear" and simply usher me to the feet of the only One that deserves recognition, my spirit is at peace.

    Humility has no name, only a servant's heart.

  4. Bulls eye, Jeanna.
    I wonder how many of us, if put on a platform with cameras, microphones, and editors waiting to package our every word for a TV, radio and internet audience could fight the temptation to pride. I know I couldn't.

    The people who lead me to Jesus are rarely the people holding the mic.

  5. "The one-man show is over." I think Grady is wrong on this. I wish it was over. In so many ways it "nullifies God's commands". The scripture has always been right in front of every pulpit talker, but they will not receive it. Short of a huge reformation, the only way for it to disappear is for Americans to become so poor they can't afford a clergy. Even the "emerging" churches have their own pedestalized expert doing 90% of the truth talking.

    "How do you disern humility in a leader?"
    1. He refuses the "right to be paid" and earns his own living while helping believes grow up, like Paul modeled and taught – Acts 20; 1 Cor. 9; 2 Thes. 3, etc.
    2. He full trains others to be like him so they can do what he does. Luke 6:40 (no perpetual dependency)
    These 2 things require supernatural humility.

    Jeanna
    You are very right on #1. Regarding #2, you don't need any worship leader to "usher you to the feet" of Jesus. You should be boldly walking on in 24/7 based on the New Covenant with Jesus. The "worship leader" concept is part of the severely warped clergy system of church life. It creates a dynamic where lay folks are lead to "enjoy" expert driven worshp performances, rather than work at building personal – participative gatherings driven by "one another" power. Heb. 10:24,25; Col. 3:16, 1Cor 14, etc.

    This may sound harsh and negative, but bad habits need to be rebuked and corrected with God's Word.

  6. Tim – I think there are growing numbers of people who are pulling the plug on the microphone-holding pastor. I recently saw an interchange online between a young woman who was visiting a house church for the first time. Someone from the girl's denom church warned her to watch out for heresy at the visit.

    As if house churches were the only ones vulnerable to heresy… Big churches with plasma screens and multiple sites can preach heresy, too. if they do, it's dangerous because of the sheer numbers of people who are a part of these churches.

    How long have you been house-churching?

  7. 10 years
    The rate at which saints are wiseing up is veeeery slow.
    There are churches that meet in homes that have heresy, but they are easy to spot and they won't last long. They don't have money, charisma, and the power of tradition to support it. Pew/pulpit churches with heresy will last for generations. Even in Paul's day, the Galatian and Colosian home churches had heresy happening, but Paul didn't say stop going there. He worked at helping the whole body there to try to fix it. Believers in home churches all have human flesh to deal with. What they don't have is a selfish / fleshly system (institutionalism) added on top of that to fight off the H.S. work of 100% participation gatherings, 100% two-way communication ("one another"), and 100% giving going beyond the givers.

  8. Thanks, Tim.

    Even if a heresy-preaching church doesn't last for generations, the damage done by it does.

  9. Tim- Thank you for sharing your thoughts/beliefs.

    I can respect your beliefs and decisions regarding your statements. However, I could never reflect upon the ministry of those who have led humbly in my life as, "bad habits". It is community and very much represents for me what heaven will be like when we are collectively gathered at the throne.

    I cannot say my experiences have been about "enjoying" but about helping those new in their faith learn "how to worship" (isn't that driving one another?). I agree that our life is to be nothing more that 24/7 adoration. Yet, I also believe there is a place for both passions within the kingdom.

    Thanks again for sharing so forthright. It is clear that you are passionate about your beliefs.

  10. Who knows why people are motivated to do the things they do -maybe some people would rather speak to big groups to make better use of their time and talents?? God can sort that better than humans.

    To paraphrase Elisabeth Eliot -humility isn't THINKING less of one's self, but it's thinking LESS of one's self …

    seems to be an awful lot of "I"s and "me"s in all these comments and profile paragraphs.

    We all like to dis self-righteous and prideful folks -but I know while it could be true that these ministers suffer with prideful opinions, I do so as well …

    may the Lord have mercy on us all.

  11. A prayer for mercy for us all is a wise and humble response, Stacy. Thanks for stopping by.

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