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.