September 30, 2020

My Journey alongside the Spirit-filled

I have a distinctly non-Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave Christian heritage. (For the sake of easier reading, these three waves of “Spirit-filled” movements will be simply called “charismatic”  in the rest of the post) The steps of my ecclesiastical journey look like this:

United Methodist (before charismatic influence) — Southern Baptist — dispensationalist Bible college — traditionally mainline Baptist church in New England — Evangelical Free Church seminary — non-denominational Bible church in a fundamentalist association — non-denominational (unofficially non-charismatic) Community church — ELCA Lutheran church.

Yet, since my journey really took off in the early 70’s during the charismatically-fueled Jesus People movement, I have witnessed the second and third waves of the charismatic movement from a close vantage point. In this post, I simply want to share some of my remembrances and reflections about what I’ve seen and experienced.

It wasn’t long after my spiritual awakening in my late teens that I became aware of Christians who were emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. I recall one of the first Bible studies I ever taught under the tutelage of my youth pastor. A man attended who was involved in charismatic renewal in his mainline church. We were studying John, the part about Jesus’ baptism. When we read about the Spirit descending on Jesus and the voice from heaven, he asked, “Was that when Jesus was baptized in the Spirit?” Knowing full well that he had a certain understanding of what that meant, I simply said, “Yeah, I guess,” and moved on to avoid getting off on a tangent.

My youth pastor was a gifted Bible teacher, and we used to record his studies on cassette tape. One of the fellows who attended was from California, where the Jesus movement was strong. He sent some of the tapes to his friends, who listened to them and then wrote back, “He’s pretty good. Imagine how much better he would be if he had the Spirit!” When my youth pastor heard it, he replied, “I’d rather have Jesus.” He wasn’t impressed with the emphases he was seeing in the movement.

I remember a couple of occasions when I prayed in groups with charismatic friends. The first was a Teen Challenge Bible study (David Wilkerson’s organization) that was full of people who had been saved out of the drug culture. I’ll never forget that meeting, because it was the first time I literally saw people “high on Jesus.” They were seeking ecstasy and they achieved a certain level of it. I even remember one of my friend’s eyes. They were actually bloodshot and his pupils dilated as though he had smoked several joints. When prayer ended, it was like a whole room of people awoke from a trance.

On one Easter Sunday morning, our little folk music trio that sang for Jesus opened a sunrise concert for Rez Band in a park in downtown Baltimore. The prayer circle before we went on stage was so intense, I thought we were literally going to take off and hover over the city.

The Bible college I attended considered the charismatic movement unbiblical, schismatic, and dangerous. As a dispensationalist school, they argued for cessationism, though I always found their reasoning bogus. Their approach in this area was one reason I ultimately found dispensational theology wanting. It was also one of the reasons I found a group like the Evangelical Free Church more attractive. They took no firm position from a charismatic or non-charismatic perspective, and there were pastors and teachers in the EFCA who argued for various points of view. And so, I thought, when I’m ready to go to seminary, I’ll check out their school.

But first, I made a foray into ministry to get my feet wet and to dry the wetness behind my ears. The little village church we went to in southern Vermont (200 years old in 2014) had been a mainline Baptist church. Charismatic influences were springing up all around them in the late 70’s. Vermont is one of the last refuges of the hippies and other counterculture folks who fled the flatlands and moved to the hills to “get back to the land, set our souls free,” as Joni Mitchell sang. It made for an interesting mix of folks, and most of the old conservative Vermonters had little clue how to relate.

Some of these seekers came to our steepled church to hear the young pastor preach. There was also a Bible study going in a nearby town where they joined others who were seeking the Spirit. One night when I joined them, I asked a lady where she lived, and she told me she had moved up to Wilmington from Brattleboro because, seeking for guidance one day she opened her Bible and read, “Get thee up to the high mountain.” I didn’t have the heart to ask her why she hadn’t relocated to Jerusalem, since that’s what the text was talking about. Another gifted woman who was quite artistic and dramatic told me a story of her young daughter walking through the woods and encountering a deer. I can’t recall if the deer spoke to her or not, but it led her to where she was going and then bowed down before running off.

If I’m remembering correctly, it seems to me that in those days, the charismatic folks I encountered didn’t speak so much about healing but more about tongues and visions and guidance. It was about God touching their lives and making them new and then praying for God to touch their friends in the same way. It was also about “experiencing God.” Many of us in those days had sharp hunger pangs. We longed to know and touch and sense what was real and authentic. We found it in different ways. People like me found it in the study of Scripture. The Spirit illumined the pages of the Bible and made Jesus real to us. The charismatics, on the other hand, seemed to want more — a felt experience of God in prayer, visible signs of his presence, direct guidance for their lives. One thing we shared in common was music.

Those were the days when we began singing Scripture and praise choruses in addition to hymns in church. Most of the new songs were coming out of the (charismatic) Jesus People movement, and they were simple, Scripture-based if not quoted from the Bible, melodic, and heart-felt. In our congregation, we mixed old and new in worship, Bible studies, and fellowship gatherings. At least where I lived, there were no “worship wars” at that point, because no one was trying to force anything upon the whole church. We were simply including expressions of newness in the midst of the historic faith.

I did occasionally have arguments with my charismatic friends. The main point of contention was second-blessing theology. Was it essential for Christians to have a separate experience of being “baptized in the Spirit”? If they did, was this consistently marked by speaking in tongues? I always thought the wall between us might be broken down if we could agree that God is free to grant such experiences, but they are not essential to salvation or sanctification. I was not a cessationist and I was willing to grant that God could still bless us with his gifts. I was not able to agree that certain gifts were for everyone to experience in the same way and that they were necessary for a complete relationship with God.

In my studies as a young pastor I would occasionally come across material that would encourage me to think more about the place of the Spirit in my life and the Christian life in general. I read D.L Moody’s testimony of how a couple of ladies had prayed for him to receive “the power” and he did. I was challenged by A.W. Tozer’s words on how the 20th century church had rudely ignored the Holy Spirit. One of the most powerful presentations of the Holy Spirit’s work came to me through David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his commentaries on Romans. He linked the powerful experiential work of the Spirit with assurance of salvation and revival. One contemporary popular book, Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?, by David C. Needham, was also influential. Among other things, Needham argued (in non-charismatic terms) that the experienced presence of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to NT teaching about the Christian life. These men affected my thinking deeply. Though none of them were pentecostal or charismatic, they taught about the Spirit in such a way that made me much more open to his work in my life and ministry.

By the time I went to seminary in the 80’s, a lot of the controversy about the charismatic movement had died down. We seemed to be in a bit of a lull before the Third Wave (some prefer the term neo-charismatic movement) really hit. D.A. Carson taught a class on Corinthians that I took at TEDS and he got very little discussion when the topic of gifts and tongues came up from 1Cor. 12-14. I remembering him expressing his surprise at how quickly things had changed. In those years, he wrote a book on the subject called, Showing the Spirit. In my opinion, it remains the most thoughtful, insightful, and pastoral study of these chapters available. Carson includes a narrative of his own experiences as a pastor trying to help a church deal with growing conflicts between pro-charismatic and anti-charismatic groups in the congregation that I find exemplary.

Why did the controversies die down and things change?

Maybe one reason was because the church growth movement was encouraging charismatics to start their own congregations, and they were. Also, from my perspective, the fact that so many new leaders, teachers, and pastors were coming out of parachurch ministries that were focused on mission more than dogmatics played a great part in making these matters less contentious. Furthermore, the culture war discussions enabled Christians to agree on moral and political concerns and pushed some of these doctrinal matters to the back-burner. It seemed foolish to argue about the gift of tongues when so many babies were dying and the world was heading down a fast track to hell. I also think that evangelicalism’s embrace of contemporary music and emotive worship diminished some of the special attractiveness of charismatic emphases for many seeking a more experiential Christianity.

In my experience then, over the past 20 years or so, I have relatively little interaction with charismatics where we’ve talked about these things. We seem to live in largely different worlds now. I have friends in Vineyard churches, I listen to music from Sovereign Grace (reformed charismatic), I appreciate charismatic Biblical scholars like Craig Keener and Gordon Fee. But charismatic doctrine and practice has not been an issue in any of our churches or in my personal relationships for a long, long time. The public problems and excesses of contemporary neo-charismatic theology and practice that Michael wrote about in the piece we ran yesterday, some of which are even more apparent than when he posted that article, remain troubling to me, hence my critique and opinion post on Friday.

It’s been a long and strange journey alongside my Spirit-filled friends. Given the fact that studies show one in four Christians around the world report themselves to be charismatic Christians, and that pentecostalism is one of the most rapidly growing forms of Christian faith, especially in the global south and east, our journey together is not yet over.


  1. Very nice post Mike.

    And you opened for Rez band! That is pretty cool thing to put on your resume! 🙂

  2. Adrienne says

    My introduction to the Holy Spirit Camp was when my husband and I were brand new Christians. We were looking for a church and visited a Baptist Church. Liked it very much – except. One woman there targeted us and became a frightening person to me. She waited for us at the door every Sunday and began her campaign insisting that we “prove we were Christians” by speaking in tongues. One Sunday after the service she and her husband came up to us to “start in again.” I wanted to just get away from her so I left and walked home. Once my angry husband arrived home he told me that they sat him down in a pew, one on each side of him, physically lifted his arms up in the air and ordered him to speak in tongues. In one last reasonable moment my husband took his Bible and said, “Look, couldn’t we look together at what the Scriptures say about this?” The woman grabbed the book out of his hand saying, “I don’t care what the damn book says!” After more harassment my husband finally told the husband to keep her away from us. Years later I learned that she had caused quite a bit of harm in many lives and, as it turned out was mentally ill. She could have greatly deterred us from our new – found journey but God did not allow that. The positive side of this tragedy was that it did force us to dig deeper into God’s word to try to understand what “this” was all about. That was a good thing and we would need the understanding as the Charismatic folks would continue to be a challenge for many years as we grew in our Christian lives.

  3. Radagast says

    Very enjoyable reading Chaplain Mike. On this side of the Tiber we ad our own charismatic renewal – I first encountered it in the early seventees when I was a boy on Long Island (funny thing is that the movement for Catholics originated out of Pittsburgh where I was destined to move a few years later) – for me it just seemed to make the Masses more hippy like at the time. In my teen and early twenties I got more of a taste as friends and people I knew were saved – though I couldn’t figure out why they were still hanging in the bar with me, trying to convince me I had to speak in tongues. I encouintered it again about 20 years later in a prayer group in Pittsburgh and it was there I first saw someone actually speaking in tongues and it quite unnerved me. They tended to float a lttle higher off the ground than the rest of us uninformed – or at least that was the opinion I formulated at the time.

    Mostly these days I come across it when former Catholics come up to me after being steeped in Assembly of God jargon, and then go about bashing as if all the things they ever new about the church had been thrown out the window and replaced by what the charismatic pastor had stuck in their head. So in a nushell I have a pretty biased opinion about the whole movement from a limited viewpoint.

  4. God bless ’em…those charismatic folks.

    But they give me the heeby-jeebies.

  5. Joseph (the original) says

    some very poignant observations…

    those of us ‘swept up’ on the crest of the wave of the Jesus Movement were filling churches with former hippies, druggies, teenage runaways & those that were curious about the obvious life change they saw in these people…

    the charismatic/Pentecostal experiences then were, well, ‘pure’, chlidlike, naive even. not filled with theological jit-and-tottle, but expressed jubiantly, unashamedly & with genuine love for Jesus…

    at that time i did not think such things were odd or to be avoided. it seemed as natural as the new life i was infused with. and i can honestly say my ‘conversion’ episode was the talk of my immediate family & there was real concern. but one thing that could not be denied was the incredible transformation that occurred right before their eyes…

    it was ~25 years later after being in the charismatic/Pentecostal camps, both independent & denominational, that my exodus began. just as my first exodus out of the Catholic Church happened when i began my Spirit-filled journey, so i left behind this one after the spiritual benefits were no longer recognized amidst the controversies, abuses, manipulations, exaggerated claims & the continued weirdness ‘stuff’ the X-treme types started peddling…

    Lord, what a long strange trip it has been… 8)

    • I was there too Joseph, and in the past year I have met some folks that have more recently encountered the charismatic movement, with a different twist—–they aren’t Jesus Freaks, but really focused on the miracles and tongues part, more suits and strictness, less fringe and love.

  6. Judy / Ca says

    CM much of your story resonates with me as I too was involved with the Jesus movement of the early 70s. I was a small town praire girl raised in a Christian home as I headed out to attend the big city Lutheran College one province over. As the “Spirit” began to invaded the campus I found myself at the beginning of a life long spiritual journey.

    I was first drawn to the Jesus People becuase there was LIFE there, people were actually excited about God about knowing Him, serving Him. I think it was the music that first attracted my attention. Simple songs of worship mostly drawn from the scriptures played on guitars & pianos rather than the stodgy organ music and antiquated liturgy of my church back home. I suppose in some small way it was my ‘good girl ‘ way of rebelling as that was the fashion of the day.

    Tongues, prayer for healing, dancing in the spirit were all common occurances as we gathered for 3 services each weekend and usually one in the middle of the week. There was a spirit of love, joy, peace that to this day I can not explain as well as a cementing of relationships that bound by common experience still exist today.

    As I look back it is easy to see the warning signs we ignored. Against our better judgement and the wisdom of families we blindly followed a young charismatic preacher and his vision for the church by submitting our lives, our finances and in many cases our extended family relationships to the “cause of Christ” ( as he preached and understood it). As time went on we became more isolated from ‘the world’. We married, began to raise families, raised $1,000,000.00 to build a new bigger better building including a private school. Our church was ‘independent’ the Sr. pastor was accountable to no one though accountability to him was a BIG deal. By the late 80’s there were rumors of decension, spiritual abuse & financial mismanagement and it all came crashing down as the church split, caved in, broke apart in early 1992.

    My biggest question was “Why God, why when so many just wanted You did it all end with such pain and brokeness.” The last 20 years have been about healing, seeking to know God through prayer, worship, many questions and much reading of thinkers, theologians and men and women of faith. I realize I cannot blame others for what happened as I willingly submitted myself to the powers and went along with it all even when that still small voice deep inside kept insisting something was wrong.

    I do not regret the experience though I steer clear of anything to do with pentecostilism and the charismatic. I have learned much of the Grace and mercy of God and I have been able to use my experiences in the small community (CMA) church I attend. I love to go back to my Lutheran roots, the liturgey is life giving and the organist seems to have much more life then I remember.

  7. I ran across the charismatics in a visit to a Pentacostal church shortly after my father died. I was a member of an Episcopal church but I needed a”tangible” experience that God knew me. I briefly “spoke in tongues” but what was more significant for me was that I thought God had done something personal for me. I thought of it like receiving an engagement ring that meant I was His. However, it resulted in my being kicked out of my mother’s house and causing a lot of dissension in the family, being forced to consultations with her pastor and eventually compromising “for the sake of peace.” I returned mostly to mainline churches with a few exceptions and then in later years drifted into new age stuff. The lack of real solid theology and understanding of baptism and the sacraments (which would have fulfilled the need for direct contact with God) left me floundering and open to following delusions that offered that. Interestingly, however, there was always the presence of the Holy Spirit, however grieved and withdrawn, that drew me back to Christianity. I realized, by His grace, that should I die in my apostasy I would be forever cut off from Him in eternal loneliness and emptyness. It was not tongues or any manifestations of any gifts I wanted, but Him and He showed me the depth of my sin and drew me back to Christ in Whom He gave me faith to know was the only way to the Father and the only atonement for my sins. Through the word of a Lutheran pastor, I learned that I was forgiven, received by Christ and reconciled to my Heavenly Father. Now through the means of Grace, He gives Himself to me, and binds me to Him, and I have found Him where He, in His Word, has promised to be.

    • A beautiful summary of the Christian faith, Peggy — or more importantly of God’s grace to us no matter what. I’ve been encouraged by reading your comment and that of Judy/ca above. Thanks.

  8. In several posts and comments I see the phrase “Third-wave”. Doing a quick wikipedia search, I get the overall feeling for what this means, but I still have a question. Are the “Joel Olsteen” kinds of churches considered “Third-Wave” or are they another category? Joel Olsteen’s Father was definitely Baptist/Charismatic background, but what about the next generation of churches?

    The reason I ask is that this post is concerned about interaction with charismatics. For me, whether I can carry on a two-way conversation depends upon the how we define charismatics.

    • I don’t think Lakewood is generally what people think about when they talk about “Third Wave” churches. Lakewood is non-denominational and Pentecostal, but I don’t know how wild they actually get. As far as the actual use demonstration of charismatic gifts in the service, they seem actually pretty tame to me. I don’t like Osteen’s preaching at all, but Lakewood does certainly have some gifted songwriters and musicians. Israel Houghton actually pulls off something that pretty rare in Christian music by writing songs that have broad appeal across racial lines.

      To me, “Third Wave” has more to do with the Vineyard movement and some of the Apostolic Reformation stuff you hear about. Those are the movements I see most open to real weirdness. Although, you see elements from those movements popping up in even the older Pentecostal denominations. For example, in the AoG churches I’ve been in the last two decades, it wasn’t uncommon to see things like people being “slain in the Spirit”. Although, I’ve not seen a lot of the more fringe stuff.

      • Joseph (the original) says

        there is a loose demarcation regarding the 3rd Wave boundaries. C. Peter Wagner most influencial in trying to identify & include certain elements in it…

        he is, of course, able to do this since he is the one self-appointed lead, or chief, apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation. he should know these things as one of God’s elite. what’s there to doubt???

        within this rise in those claiming to be apostles, so there are those that claim to be prophets. so you have a new power play with all those apostles high-fiving themselves & surrounding themselves with prophets confirming their greatness & how God is so pleased to work thru them.

        the increase in non-denominational charismatic/apostolic/prophetic movements, organizations/ministries, seminars, conferences, books, etc. feed the fascination with the common elements of 3rd Wave focus: prophetic pronouncements/strategies, apostolic authority, spiritual warfare, intercessory prayer saturation over geographical areas & special training for those wishing to be ‘launched out’ into this new spiritual dimension…

        not sure one can ‘lump’ the Vineyard into this. it is true the Vineyard never identified itself as a denomination, but the Vineyard is not the same pre-John Wimber & post-John Wimber. even though they were part of the Toronto blessing, that ‘fellowship’ left the Vineyard & became its own entity. and the Kansas City Prophet debacle was one of the last issues John Wimber dealt with before his death. you would have to get some input from former Vineyard pastors/members to understand just how disruptive these things were, so don’t think it was the Vineyard’s sole responsibility or even their stamp-of-approval on it.

        the Vineyard today not the one your grandmother knew. and i tend to move up the date of 3rd wave from the 80’s as Wagner does, to the much more ‘expressive’ mid-90’s where all the really weird (for non-charismatics) stuff happened & was the focus of much media attention. that & the large impact on global responses to what was happening with the curious & the hungry traveling great distances to the places where 3rd Wave elements were highly concentrated.

        of course, all the publicity garnered a lot of heated negative responses, which true to human nature, only makes such things all the more visible. and after the loudest of the naysayers had their say, the movements remain with little internal changes. and now you have more of the celebrity types identifying with it & trying to get their ministries recognized & supported by more people.

        i did not travel to Toronto, or Brownsville, or Lakeland. never been to Kansas City. but i was swept up into the ‘River of Renewal’ that was the rising flood coming out of the Toronto Blessing. got to see John Wimber right before he died at the Anaheim Vineyard during one of the early River of Renewal conferences. heard Randy Clark. had him pray for my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s before she passed away. saw other high-end prophet types that were writing about their super-special spiritual encounters as if it were a regular thing. it was a crazy time for me since i was pursuing the claims sincerely & wholeheartedly. but the more i observed the people around me & claims being made, the more i realized there was little or no validity to the promised super-duper spiritual specialness making those that really wanted it into super spiritual saints…


        i learned a lot. my faith remained intact although my BS meter was finely tuned & now super-sensitive to anything smacking of such stuff…

        Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • From what I’ve read, the term “neo-charismatic” is broader than Third Wave and preferred by many. Third Wave is used mostly of Wagner’s followers. Most everyone is in agreement, however, that there have been three major “waves” of pentecostalism over the past century.

      • Joseph (the original) says

        okay. the neo-charismatic more of the hyper-charismatic as i came to witness it. and it incorporated more spooky-spiritual elements into it than just tongues or divine healing…

        and the 3rd Wave dynamic was more of the signs+wonders being valid without the need to speak in tongues as proof of one’s ‘spirit baptism’ & extra-unction of Holy Spirit power…

        the focus of 3rd Wave began as a belief in the validity of miraculous healings. Wimber espoused the ‘power evangelism’ methodology & sought out the same type of proof Jesus & the Apostles expressed in their ministries. he believed that such miraculous confirmation should be part of the gospel in action.

        i was an attendee at one of the earliest Vineyard churches in the college town i was in at the time (1979-1982). there was not a big emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit & it was not overtly charismatic. but the ranks quickly filled with college students & there was an excitement & desire to know Jesus & further the kingdom. after the founding pastor left that same fellowship did get caught up in the prophetic & the out-of-balance discerning of spirits. it was a time of questioning certain attitudes/motives of certain members. it caused much division, hurt, misunderstanding. much of what i experienced later in a small denominational Pentecostal church i was a member of. after that debacle, i left behind anything & everything charismatic/Pentecostal.

        since i was not raised in a traditional Pentecostal faith expression, my loyalties not as unwavering as those that were raised in it. i was more inquisitive & sought out things myself without having to defer to older family members or friends higher up in the denomination to feel i was being a traitor. i think i had some advantage there. my skepticism recognized as more objective than those within the organization that had no other faith experience or who were financially tied to it.

        i did enough research to get a picture of the history of the movement i embraced. but i also allowed myself to read opposing viewpoints & the controversy being noted. and then i had my very own personal experience that was not a representation of the spiritual claims being made. and it seemed the people around me just plain clueless or in serious denial over the obvious exaggeration of said claims. it still causes me to scratch my head in wonder at why the neo-charismatic ‘stuff’ still holds its fascination with some very long term Christians i used to admire…

  9. ” It was about God touching their lives and making them new and then praying for God to touch their friends in the same way. It was also about “experiencing God.” Many of us in those days had sharp hunger pangs. We longed to know and touch and sense what was real and authentic. We found it in different ways. People like me found it in the study of Scripture. The Spirit illumined the pages of the Bible and made Jesus real to us.”

    I can’t help but wonder why many of these same people abandoned word-and-sacrament for emotive revivalism. The sacraments are about God reaching us in a real and authentic way; how did that fail in such a way that people would look for God in subject, esoteric experiences? I know Lutherans embracing third-wave charismatic teaching because word-and-sacrament just doesn’t seem to be enough. The book often mentioned around here, “Hammer of God” by Bishop Giertz, addresses the influences of pietism and sectarianism, revivalism, and eventually liberalism upon sacramental Lutheran faith. (I think the progression from pietism to liberalism needs further discussion; many theologians have addressed this, e.g. Kant was raised in a pietistic home).

    I don’t think bringing any sense of balance can be reached without an honest consideration how we got here. How did sacramental, credal faith become so dead that the Charismatic movement looked like a good answer? I think I know part of the answer; I have seen very little emphasis on the mystical communion with Christ at the communion table, rather, just emphasis on “body and blood”. One can have “body and blood” and not have Jesus.

    Liturgical and sacramental worship can become wrote, but from my experience, the same thing happens in charismatic/pentecostal worship, down to the outbursts of tongues and word of knowledge every service at almost the same moment every week. Familiarity does not always breed contempt. Certainly in marriage, familiarity can lead to taking ones spouse for granted, but one of the blessings of marriage is the stability familiarity brings. I think the same is true with liturgy and the sacraments. There is a measure of certainty that is comforting, that I know God will meet me there at the altar, rather than me constantly “chasing” where ever God is hiding today. Either we can take comfort in Jesus being the same today and forever or resort to believing in a capricious, tricky deity – like the pagan deities of old.

    • “I can’t help but wonder why many of these same people abandoned word-and-sacrament for emotive revivalism. The sacraments are about God reaching us in a real and authentic way; how did that fail in such a way that people would look for God in subject, esoteric experiences?”

      I think a lot of time in liturgical churches, such as Roman Catholicism, there is an attitude that it is up to the “professionals” to handle “religious” things. Studying the Bible? That’s the priest’s job and it’s up to him to explain it to us. Practicing spiritual gifts? That’s for the crazy Holy Rollers in the church basement on Friday nights. Evangelizing others? We don’t talk about religion outside church. People might think you’re nuts.

      When my parents left Catholciism when I was a child, this was the attitude that they and most of their friends faced. I think the more hierarchical a church is, the less the individual in the pew feels motivated to do anything about his/her religious life. After all, there are so many professionals around to do it for us. Our job is just to show up, put money in the plate, take the sacrament, and leave.

  10. “I always thought the wall between us might be broken down if we could agree that God is free to grant such experiences, but they are not essential to salvation or sanctification.”

    The more usual “compromise” position proferred by non-charismatics is that such phenomena are (or were, during biblical times) theoretically possible, but never happen in real life; and that anyone demonstrating them may be safely dismissed as deluded (or at least overly enthusiastic in their religion).

    • Joseph (the original) says

      i think the most recognized charismatic expression is ‘speaking in tongues’. and i am of the opinion that there really is no reason, or benefit, of doing so in a public/congregational setting…

      now, if there is xenoglossy being expressed & it is recognized by a foreigner present, then i can accept such gifting as valid. but the one speaking in another human language gets no brownie points if they already know that language…

      most, if not all, public manifestations/expressions of charismata seems to me to be simply ego-driven, not Holy Spirit inspired. and if one is deemed ‘spiritually gifted’ by others, it is a usually because of un-verifiable claims, hype, PR, books, CD’s/DVD’s, conference speaker invites, etc. the celebrity types that have no relationship with their fan base will continue to be kept in the spotlight. and the peers of said high-profile types all support each other in their ‘ministries’ lest they themselves become the target of scrutiny & questionable practices/theology…

      it is a religious dog-and-pony show. a charismatic circus. throw a little glitter in the air, have feathers fall from the rafters, place a few gemstones/baubles amongst the pews & the place becomes a mecca for the easily fascinated/duped…

      what a holy fiasco! and it will always have its ardent defenders/detractors that will point out the log in the other’s eyes…

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

  11. Randy Thompson says

    I remember the Jesus People years in California as a spiritual breath of fresh air blowing through a stodgy, moralistic evangelicalism that was big on getting converts but never sure about what to do with them other than to train them to make new converts. I also remember the presence of God blowing through and knowledge about God giving way to knowing God. I remember excitement and joy replacing legalistic obsessions about dancing, moving-going, card-playing and cigarette-smoking.

    And yet . . .

    This new wine had no stable, grounded ecclesiastical or liturgical structure. The excitement of the Spirit too often gave way to mere excitement–sensationalism, emotionalism, and general craziness, with people going off in all sorts of odd ways. I remember meeting the “Apostle Paul of today” and his associate, “the Apostle John,” drifting through Isla Vista California in the early 70’s. (They made my roommate the leader of all the Christians in the Santa Barbara area. [Yikes!])

    Some of the charismatic leaders of the time, sensing that things were getting, well, crazy, felt they needed to do something about it, and the result was an oppressive discipleship pyramid. Heaven help those caught between warring discipleship pyramids! Without the grounding of tradition and history, these “popes” did things the real Pope would never think of doing.

    The real problem, though, was an anti-intellectualism that viewed anything other than direct revelation from God as suspect. Spiritual experiences, or, perhaps more accurately, religious experiences flourished, while brains atrophied. C.S. Lewis cautioned us about becoming “men without chests” by letting our critical thinking becoming the be-all and end-all. But, the charismatic renewal too often produced the opposite–men without
    minds (and yes, I know, that’s a generalization with many exceptions, but it’s a generalization that unfortunately has much truth).

    I am grateful for my time in charismatic circles, but I’m glad the blessings I gained in those circles were disciplined by and encouraged by spiritual giants on both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the Church. I’m grateful for the gift of tongues, and I’m just as grateful for Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, Henri Nouwen, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, and the Desert Fathers. (FYI: That’s not an exhaustive list!) I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the charismatic breath of fresh air so many years ago now, and I’m just as grateful for those whose lives and writings served as models of what true, mature Christian spirituality is.

    • Excellent comments, Randy. We think very similarly about all this.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Isla Vista! I lived there for three very happy years of college (once out of the dorms), about ten years later than you. Complete indifference to the prospects of the Gauchos! (The benefit of a college with no football team.) I ran with a different Christian crowd than you did: the Lutheran Campus Ministry, which borrowed the Episcopal church between their early and late services, and advertised an absolute rock-solid guarantee that we would be in and out in under an hour. There was the periodic visit to the campus by Brother Jed and Sister Cindy, Or are they after your time?

      • Randy Thompson says

        Sorry, there was no Brother Jed and Sister Cindy there during the time I lived there, 1972-76. We did have, however, the “Brothers and Sisters,” an off-shoot of the Local Church movement led by a fairly well-known author who has since left a trail of spiritual carnage throughout North America.

        An off shoot of that thoroughly odd group, paradoxically, is the Eastern Orthodox church that now exists in Isla Vista. (That’s an interesting history, by the way.)

    • I remember reading the history of JPUSA in the mid 90s, and the group had a similar account of their years as a charismatic group. There were pluses — the racial harmony, the acknowledgement of the Spirit at work in the least likely places, and an understanding the the Spirit’s movement was for today as well. And yet, they felt like these alone made for a limiting movement — and as the charismatic movement began to chase more and more experiences and put its hopes in revivalism, they felt a need to separate. By the mid 90s they were with the Covenant Church, and they’ve been there since.

  12. I spent a couple years (’69-’71) involved with the original Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA led by Chuck Smith and his young protege Lonnie Frisbee, who claimed to have experienced Jesus via an acid trip. Although on Sundays I still attended my family’s non-denom fundamentalist-leaning church, as a wannabe hippie chick I loved CC, especially the music and Lonnie’s Bible studies. I was (re)baptized in the ocean, attended 3 CC Bible studies each week, and envied those with dramatic ex-drug addict testimonies. However, speaking in tongues (performed after the Bible study in a much smaller “afterglow” service) eluded me. Although Pastor Lonnie layed hands on me, prayed over me, and told me to “relax” in a rather exasperated tone of voice, nothing happened. After I went home I prayed alone in my room and began either “speaking in tongues” or babbling incoherantly. A few moments of this was enough for me. I never attempted this again and to this day do not know whether it was Holy Spirit or my own mind. I strongly suspect the latter.

    As time went by I got married and we began attending a Presbyterian church, leaving my brief foray into the charismatic movement behind. Many years later I happened upon a story in the LA Times that Lonnie Frisbee had died. As reported, he was instrumental in helping to start the first Vineyard in Anaheim. Although the cause of death was listed as a brain tumor, I found out years later that he had actually died of AIDS.

    Several years ago David De Sabatino made a fascinating documentary about this man’s life called “Frisbee: Portrait of a Hippie Preacher”.

  13. When the Holy Spirit shows up other spirits also attend.

  14. Is this “old Lutheran” who has always resisted the “holy rollers” the only one who thinks that Time cover of Jesus is actually super groovy?

  15. Thanks for the DA Carson book recommendation. Very timely and helpful!