December 3, 2020

I Don’t Get It (again)

By Chaplain Mike

I have to admit it—I don’t get Pentecostalism.

Though I have been exposed to charismatic and pentecostal brothers and sisters since the earliest days after my conversion, their approach to the faith and their practices have never, ever rung true to me.

Theologically, I am not a cessationist. I don’t think the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit’s gifts expired after the apostles or when the first Bibles were bound. I can accept that signs and wonders may accompany the proclamation of the Gospel and confirm its message with power. But I’ve never seen it, at least not in the way my pentecostal brethren claim it happens. Instead, in charismatic and pentecostal Christianity I have most often seen a sort of manic enthusiasm that emphasizes all the worst aspects of evangelical/fundamentalist faith practice, and then adds to them additional layers of hype, hoopla, and hysteria.

There are pentecostal Bible scholars and theologians I respect—Gordon Fee and Craig Keener come to mind, for example. But once again, I can agree with a great deal of teaching on paper. It’s the practice part I don’t get.

This is not a small issue for Christians, because the worldwide evangelical church that is rapidly expanding in places like Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the developing world is predominantly pentecostal. I hope to do an upcoming IM series on global pentecostalism, in part because I just don’t get it, in part because this is apparently the shape of the church around the world in the 21st century.

And now this.

John Kilpatrick, who brought us the Brownsville Revival (or Pensacola Outpouring) from 1995-2000, is currently engaged in the next big thing for North American pentecostal folks—the Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival in Mobile, Alabama.

First started in July, “Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival” is somewhat of a continuation of the well-known Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Fla., which was also led by Pastor John A. Kilpatrick along with evangelist Steve Hill during the late 1990s. These days, the revival spirit has taken on a new location and adopted technology to draw the masses.

The revival, open to the public, has caused a craze on YouTube. Some video coverage shows people with various ailments being healed in front of thousands of viewers.

The most famous miracle is that of Delia Knox, wife of Bishop Levy Knox who serves on the College of Bishops in the International Communion of Charismatic Churches. In August, Knox, who was paralyzed from the waist down for 22 years, began to walk after she was healed at the revival. The video of her healing has received over 180,000 hits to date.

• Christian Post, 11/5/2010

Apparently, revival in the Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube era spreads even faster than wildfire. We’re talking laser here. And this weekend, the event will be televised on GodTV. Knowing how I normally respond to these things, I will probably flip over out of curiosity, but will be unable to stand much more than a few minutes of watching.

I just don’t get it. Do you?


  1. Kinda.

    At my Christian & Missionary Alliance seminary, I’m being exposed to a lot of Holy Spirit stuff that I previously hadn’t been. We have classes like Divine Healing and Power Encounter (think spiritual warfare) along with the basic bible and missions stuff.

    Like you said, this stuff is real. And I’m actually seeing it more and around people who have experienced it in their lives – solid, loving, selfless, grounded in the Gospel disciples.

    While the CMA is a “gifts” denomination and is apparently experiencing a renewal of their own (I guess they got away from that stuff for awhile) they are quite clear about why they broke away from the Pentecostal movement…. the mandate of speaking in tongues as evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit being one of the larger issues, among others.

    But this kind of Christianity seems to be spreading for a few reasons. It’s experiential, and people are sick of living in their heads. For it to be real, it needs to be felt. I’ve heard stories about missionaries who would make Christian converts in all parts of the world who would believe in Jesus, yet still seek the help of their local shaman when they became sick because Jesus wasn’t a healer. The missionaries did not present Christ as one who cares about the body here and now. Now there is a missionary emphasis on power encounter, affirming the Gospel with signs/wonders/healing/casting out demons/whatever you want to call it.

    I’m so thankful to dive into these matters with a group of people committed to the Gospel, with the presentation that God loves us, wants to heal us, wants us to have power to spread the Kingdom, and yet a theology of struggle is not abandoned and pastoral care is greatly emphasized.

    Like the posts a few months ago about really coming to know God in a deep, real, honest, personal way, I think this type of faith is spreading simply because people have a sense of “there’s gotta be more.” Unfortunately, mistakes will happen with any movement too.

  2. “Theologically, I am not a cessationist”.

    Your paragraph starting with that line describes my own perceptions very well. I grew up in an Assemblies of God environment (and all my family is still active in that denomination), but it left me feeling empty by the time I was a teenager because of my growing perception that it was big on emotion and sensationalism, but short on depth and real world effectiveness (effectiveness in terms of actually seeing people live differently, not in terms of increasing numbers entering the church).

    It bothers me that all the sensational “healings” always seem to be in someone else’s lives…someone you don’t know whose word you just have to take, notwithstanding the wonderful, sensational testimony they might share. I’ve been to many healing services and no-one I knew well who had a real problem like deafness, for example, was ever healed. The most I saw was “stiff knees” loosened up or something vague like that. This sort of thing is one of the biggest reasons I grew wary of Pentecostalism.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It bothers me that all the sensational “healings” always seem to be in someone else’s lives…someone you don’t know whose word you just have to take, notwithstanding the wonderful, sensational testimony they might share.

      1) Reminds me far too much of supermarket tabloids — where everything in the headlines always happens far, far away where you can’t confirm it.

      2) I believe a certain Denise Spencer would have something to say about “wonderful, sensational testimony” regarding sensational “healings” and “homegoings”.

  3. Kenny Johnson says

    I too don’t get it. I actually left my last church over it. Our church merged with a charismatic church and I couldn’t get on board with the change in worship services: weekly altar calls, high emotionalism, people moaning and making other noises during worship songs, etc,

    No rolling on the floor or “slain in the spirit” — but it still made me uncomfortable and I found it distracting at best, suspicious at worst.

    This kind of stuff just makes me shake my head:

    Though this makes me laugh:

    • Kenny Johnson says

      Any reason I’m under moderation while other people are able to post?

      • Because you have seven devils! Out demon out! Abooga booga homina homina homina…

        • haha this made me laugh inside, especially after I sounded out the words.

          That’s really the pentecostal response to everything though:

          Non-Pentecostal: I don’t feel that certain pentecostal practices are theologically sound.
          Pentecsotal: That’s cuz you’re not reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit.

          Non-Pentecsotal: I have never been ‘slain in the spirit.”
          Pentecostal: That’s cuz you’re not open to Holy Spirit.

          Non-pentecostal: I have been disappointed with certain pentecostal spiritual practices.
          Pentecostal: that’s cuz you have to let the Holy Spirit heal you.

        • David Steinberg!

      • Sorry, Kenny. Links do that, and I was unavailable to moderate for awhile.

      • Keep it to one link and you’ll sneak by.

        Bible verses will do that too because they link automatically, but if you don’t put a space between the book and the chapter number it’ll fool it. For example: John3:16

        • Actually, Ted, I am not sure but I think that the Bible verses are no longer automatically linking here. I know Michael Spencer had them linking when he was here. I may be wrong though. But I have noticed what you have noticed, that we can include one link and not end up with our comment having to be approved.

          Well, just to test it out, let me write out John 3:16 and see what happens.

  4. Ok chaplain Mike…. I guess I will be the first to respond… where to begin.. sigh.
    As many handicaped people (I have been diagnosed with bipolar II) I’ve felt attracted to the healing promise of pentecostal churches and for a year I attended a dutch pentecostal church affiliated with Benny Hinn…
    During all those ‘healing’ services I have NEVER witnessed a genuine healing, it always seemed there were lots of ‘inner healings’ going on…
    I was ‘slain in the Spirit’ I don’t know how many times and it did NOTHING for me… being asked by me the pastor told me he genuinely believed God could heal my predicament…
    In the end this church ousted me after having driven me almost insane during a very badly organized Alpha course Holy Spirit weekend where the main thing was to get rid of all our “demons”…
    Having done some over enthusiastic ‘prophesying’ under the influence of this church I was silenced and ‘disciplined’ and I was like ‘huh you guys were encouraging all of this and now that it’s getting out of hand you are just giving me a cold shoulder…?!!’
    It’s been two years since I was emotionally abused in that church and slowly but surely I am recovering mostly thanks to a good psychiatrist who isn’t even christian… and the proper medication…
    These people just tell God what to do and raise expectations so incredibly high it can cause genuine nervous breakdowns.
    At least that’s my opinion from my very negative experience with this particular church.

    • Rereading this I would like to add that were at first they claimed God could heal my psychiatric disease… in the end they did state I was flipping because of that disease and that they were ‘very concerned’ about me so they took the liberty of making a phone call to my social worker who happened to know the person who called very very well (in that bible belt region there is lots of lil towns and villages and all the ‘evangelicals’ know each other on a first name basis…)

      So instead of apologizing for having overestimated their ‘powers’ to heal me (by Gods grace of course….. lolol) they blamed ME for what had happened….
      So my abusers blamed me for the abuse they had perpetrated…. since of course they never do anything wrong it had to be me… and all the ‘good’ brothers and sisters who knew me let go of me just like that… I felt like being ‘delivered to satan’…

      Also other evangelicals in that region whom I told about this did nothing to help me out or confront this church (it’s just the way they do and believe things and since you were involved you must have done something wrong…) but for one man in his sixties who is very wary of charismania and quite a trouble maker in his own cessationist leaning church himself…

      I was let down by people I considered to be brothers and sisters in a way that no unbeliever has ever treated me. And they all conspired to make it look like I was the one to blame.

      I can talk about this now without too much indignation and I did recover my faith from the ashes of the charismatic wildfire… but this experience has made me very cautious. The kind of enthusiasm I used to have and the kind of trust I could put in a pastor simply is gone.

      I prefer to discern what is happening in a church I am attending and I take my time… honestly…. I really wanted to attend church every sunday but over the past few months I haven’t been to the Church of England in my town that frequently.

      • Hans, this is very sad, and I am sorry to hear that you were hurt so deeply. Thanks for your courage in sharing this. We’re glad to have you here.

      • “So instead of apologizing for having overestimated their ‘powers’ to heal me (by Gods grace of course….. lolol) they blamed ME for what had happened….”

        Awful. I feel terribly for you. I once had some conversations with an avid young charismatic who claimed a man in his church with a short leg had it miraculously grow to full length. I said I’d love to go talk to the person. The young charismatic seemed enthusiastic that I was interested but then warned me that the person’s leg had reverted to its original state because the man had “not given God the glory.” It boggles my mind when I hear things like that—-is the person speaking to me deliberately lying? is he genuinely deceived? As Chaplain Mike says, “I just don’t get it.”

        • I think that sounds like genuine self-deception rather than deliberate lying, JeffB.

          The problem with “His healing was reversed because he had not given God the glory”, of course, is that we don’t see this in the Gospels. When the ten lepers were healed and only one came back, we don’t see Jesus telling the one who was grateful “Fine, those other nine are going to be unhealed because they didn’t give My Father the glory!”

        • Thanks Jeff and Mike… I was kinda surprised I could type this down without having a fit of situational religious depression (lol)…
          What angers me most about what happened to me and to so many others is that it is the weak and the handicaped who get exploited by the charismaniacs who are just keen on growing their churches and ministries while other christian bystanders keep mum for not wanting to ‘judge’ christians who happen to be of that persuasion.

          And Mike an off topic: I did some more reading on the ‘religious right’ in the USA and am deeply appalled by their hatred of GLBT people.. in NO way do I share THAT mentality! In Holland it is NORMAL to treat GLBT ppl equally in churches… I just was reminded of how at times over here things seem to be the reverse… you have to live it to know it.
          So also an apology to all GLBT ppl reading this blog if I have in any way hurt your feelings and made you feel excluded by my former remarks: that was NOT my intention.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I once had some conversations with an avid young charismatic who claimed a man in his church with a short leg had it miraculously grow to full length. I said I’d love to go talk to the person. The young charismatic seemed enthusiastic that I was interested but then warned me that the person’s leg had reverted to its original state because the man had “not given God the glory.”

          How convenient. And how reminscent of Monty Python, though much less funny:

          “How do you know she’s a witch?”
          “She turned me into a newt — but I got better!”

      • Hans,

        Sorry to hear of your plight, however it is all too common in Charismatic Churches, I attended the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, Ca. when John Wimber was still there. This crap was their stock in trade. The final straw came when my wife attended a party with a bunch of the Pastor’s wives. She came home in tears because these women were making fun of and mocking those who exhibited ‘signs of the Spirit’, like shaking, falling down, moaning or crying uncontrollably and the like. Meanwhile every week their husbands encouraged just such behavior, even saying that if you didn’t have spiritual manifestations like this that there was something wrong with your’ walk.’

        And we were always on the edge of an upcoming ‘outpouring of the Spirit’ like the world has never seen. Yeah, right….

        Honestly, most of that stuff is fake.

  5. Balancing objectivism and subjectivism is a tough trick. Faith can’t just be about knowing the right facts, but it can’t be driven merely by emotions and personal experiences. It’s another one of those tricky both-and paradoxes.

  6. Chaplain Mike said: “I have to admit it—I don’t get Pentecostalism.”

    Mike, you could be living proof of the Harley-Davidson ad: “If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.”


    I know what you mean. It’s not that I don’t get it, it’s that it’s not my style, and I also think that there is much abuse and even showmanship within Pentecostalism. The trouble is, only the Holy Spirit himself can know what is genuine and what is fake. So I support the idea of pentecostalism without getting involved.

    If you’re going to do a series on global pentecostalism, let me say that one of my concerns in Latin America is the animosity of some evangélico churches not only toward the Catholics but toward the pentecostalists, including Assembly of God. As you mentioned, “this is apparently the shape of the church around the world in the 21st century,” and so it breaks my heart to hear some of the evangélicos (many of whom are mission churches of US denominations, and may be somewhat fundamentalist and cessationist toward the Gifts of the Spirit) badmouthing such churches. I quite understand the historical animosity toward the Catholic Church (although I don’t condone it) but infighting among evangélicos really confuses things.

    For the readers, Latin America has a far different church history than does the US and most of Europe. While we were going through a Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Spain and Portugal were just coming out of 700 years of Islamic rule, ending finally in 1492 (not a mere coincidence that Columbus set sail that year).

    The Islamic rule in Spain and Portugal translated into: NO Renaissance, NO Reformation, NO Enlightenment, and NO Protestantism, just a very Medieval form of Catholicism (here insert defense of that period by Martha and Damaris). And so Latin America inherited that form of Christianity, a Catholicism that some would say resembled Islam.

    It was not until the mid-20th century that protestant missionaries made any headway. Roughly speaking, the evangélicos (a term for all non-Catholics, often including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) went from about 1% in 1960 to about 15% today, varying from country to country and varying in their influence and in respect from the general population.

    And in countries like Brazil, the pentecostalists have mushroomed in proportion to other non-Catholic Christian groups. So they are not to be ignored, and I’ll be interested in your series on global pentecostalism.

    But I do appreciate that you don’t get it, yet also know that you won’t badmouth it.

    • ” just a very Medieval form of Catholicism (here insert defense of that period by Martha and Damaris”

      How well you know me, Ted 🙂

    • It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

      • LOL….but if you are medieval and dirty, it can hardly be your fault….. still laughing…


    • Oh well, at least they’re not Orthodox. Those Russians are worse than medieval. More like…early medieval. Or even late antiquity, if you know what I mean.

      • You mean like the time of Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, or Cyril and Methodius? But late antiquity is such a vague term I hardly know which misunderstood period to defend. . .

        • Ambrose and Augustine were such brilliant men! I have only begun learning about them and loved reading Augustine’s Confessions. He was so honest about his faults.

          • Aha! You gave me the opportunity to plug Arvo Part yet again!



            “Dopo la Vittoria (After the victory)”. His setting of this part of the Biography of St. Ambrose (sung in Italian, English translation below):

            “After the complete victory over the Arians Saint Ambrose created the solemn praise:
            ‘We praise you, Lord.’
            This hymn is being performed until today on every festive Thanksgiving and Praising of the Lord.

            It was two years later, when all faithful were assembled in Milano to witness the baptism of Saint Augustine, that this hymn of Praise was sung to the Baptised and Baptising and from this time on formed part of the great body of church chants.

            An unknown early biograph of Augustine writes:
            ‘On the occasion of Augustine’s conversion the blessed Ambrose praised the Holy Trinity with joyful singing and encouraged Augustine to confess his faith in honour of God.

            ‘Ambrose blessed and praised the Lord and said:
            ‘We praise you, my Lord, we confess in you, oh Lord.’

            Augustine added: ‘You, Eternal Father, the whole world praises.’
            ‘All the angels and powers in Heaven praise you forever.’

            Thus, in constant interplay, they sang the Hymn in honour of the Holy Trinity. Ambrose sang the first verse, Augustine the next. And Ambrose concluded the last verse thus: ‘In you, my Lord, I set my hope, so that I will be eternally saved. Amen.’

            … This hymn is being performed until today on every festive Thanksgiving and Praising of the Lord.”

            Source: Dictionary History of Church Singers and Chants by Archbishop Philaret, published 1902 in St. Petersburg

            Translation: Geraldine Schroder

        • Dark Ages, Damaris. A period stretching roughly from the fall of the Roman Empire (anywhere from the 3rd to the 5th century, depending on how you want to date it) up to roughly – the time of the present speaker.

          History goes like this: Glorious Classical Past: yay! – Christianity: boo! – Renaissance: yay! – Enlightenment: yay! – Us: double or even triple yay!

          Depending upon the speaker’s viewpoint, the “Christianity: boo!” element can either be a la</i.Gibbon, in that it was all A Dreadful Mistake, or it can be Romanism Was Wrong Until We Came Along (anything from the 16th century Reformers to 1956 Truly Godly Genuine Pure Bible Personal Revelation To Pastor Billy-Bob, Founder of Our One True Church).

          We Catholics may have managed to clamber as high as Mediaeval, but the Orthodox are still positively Dark Ages.


          • “We Catholics may have managed to clamber as high as Mediaeval, but the Orthodox are still positively Dark Ages.”

            I object. Using the term “Dark Ages” to describe the Orthodox isn’t culturally correct.

            It would be better to say:
            “… but the Orthodox are still positively Byzantine.”


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            History goes like this: Glorious Classical Past: yay! – Christianity: boo! – Renaissance: yay! – Enlightenment: yay! – Us: double or even triple yay!

            Depending upon the speaker’s viewpoint, the “Christianity: boo!” element can either be a la Gibbon, in that it was all A Dreadful Mistake, or it can be Romanism Was Wrong Until We Came Along (anything from the 16th century Reformers to 1956 Truly Godly Genuine Pure Bible Personal Revelation To Pastor Billy-Bob, Founder of Our One True Church).

            GREAT LINE, MARTHA!

            (Seen too many Pastor Billy-Bobs in my days, and this blog has spoken about the Truly Reformed.)

  7. don francisco says

    sorry you haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. I live in Mobile, know Delia Knox and her healing is real…. sorry you don’t believe it.

    • To say Chaplain Mike hasn’t “experienced the power of the Holy Spirit” is quite a leap, Don.

      Your reaction to this post is part of the reason I don’t get the Pentecostal movement. I was part of a charismatic church for a while. I bought into it for a couple of years and then started asking questions…such as, why haven’t any of the signs of the Holy Spirit I’ve experienced pointed to Jesus?

      I like the miracles in Acts because their main purpose is clear: Jesus. But the overwhelming majority of “miracles” I’ve seen are just ends in and of themselves. And when I brought this issue up with people I love and trusted, they said stuff like “I’m sorry you haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” I just don’t get it.

    • I think it’s that kind of attitude that’s part of what some “don’t get.”

      The distinction between those who’ve “received the Holy Spirit” and those who haven’t has hurt the Body. If there is indeed greater experience and growth to be had, a lot of leaders who testify to having it have done a lousy job of explaining it to the rest of us regular folks.

      Why don’t you try explaining your perspective, Don? And who is Delia Knox?

      • Delia Knox is the woman in the picture at the top of the post. It is the video of her walking that has gotten such attention on YouTube. It is claimed that she has been paralyzed from the waist down for over 20 years after a car accident, but that she was healed and walked without assistance as a result of being healed at the Bay City Revival. You can view several videos of various lengths at the revival website and at YouTube.

    • that kind of comment is hurtful and I hope you are listening to what people are saying about how they have been wounded by such attitudes.

    • Exhibit A for why people don’t get Pentecostalism. Say things like, “Gee, I don’t think Jesus died for our sins so we could twitch on the floor and make animal noises,” and you get the passive-aggressive “Sorry your faith sucks.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “Grovel and gambol upon all fours
        ‘Til you have proved beyond repute
        That human dignity is freed
        Of all connection to the Brute.”
        — G.K.Chesterton’s comment on a Pentecostal demonstration during the Scopes Monkey Trial

  8. You have GOT to distinguish between what Justin Peters calls “clear-headed charismatics” and classic pentecostals or word of faithers. They are not the same!!! I grew up in the SoCal Vineyard 3rd wave charismatic revivals in Anaheim and, by God’s providence, I am back in a charismatic church even though I’m essentially a reformed baptist who happens to be non-cessationist.

    The church I’m at is very responsible and theologically sound. Not a hint of the Lakeland revival-esque sillyness. When some folks got out of hand, the pastor quoted Jonathan Edwards’ list of characteristics of a true revival and said “cut it out guys, this is fleshly and not about Jesus” essentially. It brought tears to my eyes to see my charismatic pastor discipline us by quoting Edwards! And they quote Calvin (favorably!) from time to time. Many of the folks at the church love Piper and Driscoll, so there is a neat connection for someone like me. Don’t broadbrush folks! Many of the Charismatics can be amazing allies in missions and evangelism.

    • FollowerOfHim says

      “It brought tears to my eyes to see my charismatic pastor discipline us by quoting Edwards! ”

      As it would have my own, if I had ever witnessed such a thing in the 15 or so years of my (generally happy) youth I spent in the AG. I’m glad you’ve found such a solid church, Garrett. A genuine thank-you for sharing this.

    • You are absolutely right, Garrett, and I do not mean to lump everyone into one big group. But how prevalent are churches like yours? I know the Sovereign Grace churches have the combination of Reformed theology and third wave practice and that some Vineyard groups are more level-headed and thoughtful, but when I speak of global pentacostalism, I don’t think these are the types of churches that are seeing their numbers explode.

      • Plus, there are many reports of authoritarian abuse coming from many of these SGM churches, so I’d be reluctant to hold them up as models of any kind.

      • Right, right and right (Garrett, CM and mj). I have been in charismatic churches since 1980 off and on (as I’ve moved around I couldn’t always find one) and it is much harder to generalize than most critics and sympathizers realize.

        You can find legalism and antinomianism, solid emphasis on Scripture and careless use of proof-texts, genuine warmth and spiritual snobbery. It’s one reason I learned long ago to criticize practices and specific sins rather than groups, denominations or movements by name (although it is virtually impossible not to mention examples for verisimilitude).

        Once you get inside the charismatic wing of the church you realize why 1 and 2 Corinthians are such long (and important) letters. And, IMO, still sufficient for resolving many charismatic problems that exist today, if you have ears to hear. (And wthout resorting to “demonizing” charismatics in general, which has gone on since the charismatic renewal.)

        For example, when there are truly gifted prophets or teachers in the midst, you begin to understand how the ‘I follow Paul’ ‘I follow Apollos’ factions started to form, replete with destructive and boastful comparisons, etc. As Paul said, the gift comes from God, and if you received it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t? (1 Cor. 4:6-7)

  9. I’m skeptical as well, as another commented has already stated, it seems that many if not most of these “signs” do not seem to fit what we see the Holy Spirit doing in the NT. I live in Mobile and have thought about going to one of these revival meetings, just to check it out for myself, to see if it seems real or not. But I haven’t gone because I feel that the negative attitude that I somewhat already feel what keep me from being objective to what is happening.

    In highschool I had a number of friends who often drove the hour to Pensacola for the Brownsville Revival meetings, and though I was invited a few times I never went. One of the reasons that I am skeptical about this “continuation” of that movement is that I saw a number of young people on extra spiritual highs that ended up with no substance to their faith. That is just one of the reasons that much of this doesn’t ring true. I feel that if the Spirit is truly at work he will be making disciples, not just giving people moments of extacy.

    I admit though that I could be wrong, and in many ways I hope that I am. I have been praying for God to move in Mobile for a long time. And if this is real, if thus is how he’s starting it, then my prayers have been answered.

  10. I’m actually a former member of the Assemblies of God. I have many years ago renounced that denomination. It wasn’t a good place for me, and I regret the level of commitment I gave to such a church.

    Part of the thing about pentecostalism, is that many of its early founders were actually illiterate. That should give you an idea of the amount of depth when it comes to their exegesis in the early years.

    There are other things I have issue with. I can’t tell the difference between “the Holy Spirit” and “group hypnosis” in a pentecostal service.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Part of the thing about pentecostalism, is that many of its early founders were actually illiterate. That should give you an idea of the amount of depth when it comes to their exegesis in the early years.

      “He has NO book-larnin, and he is LOUD!”
      — highest complement possible to an Appalachian mountain preacher, according to a long-ago snark on this blog

  11. I was raised in Assembly of God churches and New Life churches. My faith in God has almost been destroyed as a result – almost. I am somewhat more cynical these days, and wary of most pentecostal christians. Most seem to be very black and white in their thinking and fueled by emotions. Their way is the right way and the other churches do not have the spirit of God in them.
    Not once in my life in these kinds of churches have I witnessed a real miracle in the life of someone I knew personally. Visiting preachers would come to the church with ‘healing’ ministries and sometimes there would be a ‘healing’ but the person was always someone who did not attend our church.
    In my opinion (and I am no theologian) I think God CAN work in these places and real miracles can happen. But I would go so far as to say I think most of it is showmanship or emotional control. People who are being prayed for can be under intense pressure from the people around them to be ‘healed’ or show that the prayer has ‘worked’. Honesty can take a back step. Whilst this may bring short-term glory to God in the long term it corrodes faith and destroys the soul. It is too easy to pray and ‘wave a magic wand’ to fix peoples problems but if those problems do not go away (“in Jesus name”) then blame is put on the person afflicted with a series of accusations… not enough faith to believe, some hidden sin?, person doesn’t want to be healed, etc.
    God sees the heart. If there is someone in that crowd with a seeking heart he will find them even if he has to clamber over a thousand fakes to get there.

  12. Pastor Troy says

    The one good take-away I have from my years during my “pentecostal phase” of Christian growth, was that they taught me to love the Word of God. But like you, when I began to ask questions, I was politley told stock answers that really didn’t seem to make sense, let alone seem Biblical.

    As the pastor of an evangelical church, I have members who are oppoisite ends of the spectrum on pentecostalism. For the “what-it’s-worth” department, here is my stock answer:

    I will never doubt that God in His sovereignty can do anything, anyway He wants to. So if you need God to knock you down, slay you in the Spirit (although the only account of that in Acts I see is Ananias and Sapphira) or whatever, in order to change you, I’m ok with that. But when you get up, I want to be able to see a change in your life. Because if you are changed, I will praise God with you. But if you aren’t, you’re just messing around.

    Two more thoughts. (1) The attitude of many in the pentecostal circles reminds me of the Dr. Seuss story of the Sneetches. (2) Evangelicals as a whole, and especially pentecostals, love to hear about the “deliverance” of God from the sins of your past. But don’t dare talk about struggles you face now, or your conversion/spirit filling/faith isn’t real.

    Ok. I’m done preaching now. Thanks.

    • Along with you, my time in Pentecostal circles gave me a great love for Scripture which continues to the present day—a very positive thing to say about the Assemblies of God, at least as I knew it as a kid. Also, even though emotionalism can be taken to excess, another positive thing I have taken with me from my Pentecostal experiences is a desire to worship with feeling. As a classical church musician now, I still bring a certain amount of Pentecostal emotion even to the playing of Bach and I think it makes a difference both to me personally and to the listeners in getting the spiritual message across.

    • FollowerOfHim says

      Pastor Troy:

      My youth in the AG gave me an opportunity to dive into the Scriptures as well. Their well-developed, intensive teen Bible Quiz program, while not devoted to exigesis (Pentecostal or otherwise), gave me a chance to memorize truly God-wonderful amounts of the NT. It may have been for competitive reasons alone at the time, but its there to draw on.

      Though I’ve begun to find my home in Anglicanism today, I will be forever grateful that I had such opportunities in the AG.

  13. There have been a number of “next big things” after Brownsville. Engineer enough of them, and one or two are bound to seem to be the “next big thing.” Todd Benham was perhaps penultimate usurper of the title..gimmick-laden and perfectly ok with lying nightly about raised dead and healed sickness, the whole disappointing but predictable mess fell in on itself. The Florida ‘out-pouring’ indeed! Sorry, but as a Jesus follower, I believe none of these grandstanding players whether they are in front of a crowd of 10,000 or in front of a congregation of 30.

  14. I was raised in Assemblies of God and Mennonite Churches – I am ordained Christian & Missionary Alliance and Mennonite Church USA. Renewalist movements have existed throughout church history.

    There is so much more to world renewalism *the more inclusive term to speak of Pentecostalism, charismatic, others…

    For a deeper appreciation (and some counters to typically discriminatory charges of “rooted in illiteracy” etc.) check out these books *and all of the new Pentecostal Manifestos series from Eerdmans.

    An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity, Allan Anderson

    Pentecostal Theology: A Theology of Encounter, Keith Warrington

    Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish, David Martin.

    Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies, Paul L. King

    The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of a Global Theology, Amos Yong (and Amos is head of the PhD program in Renewalism at Regent)

    Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy (Pentecostal Manifestos Series), James K.A. Smith

    Hospitality and Other, Amos Yong

    Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, Donald E. Miller & Tetsunao Yamamori

    Flame of Love, Clark Pinnock

    Descending Like A Dove, Clive Calver

    Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance, Paul L King

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Shel. I’m sure some of these resources will be of help as I continue to think about this. The Miller and Yamamori book is the main one I’ll be starting with.

      On the other hand, my wife just tore a big chunk of her hair out when someone handed me another list of books to buy!

      Thanks for participating.

      • Well, at least it wasn’t a big chunk of CHAP Mike’s hair…..could be worse… my trips to Half Price Books are sometimes done when there is no moonlight, on cloudy nights, and right before closing time….with squirreled away “fun” money.

  15. I explored being charismatic and came out nearly destroyed on the other end. Some people love signs and wonders more than they love other people and it’s a shame. The way in which many revival services are run are irresponsible and open a door to abuse and delusion. Then there’s the status certain people attain when they are able to tell the best story or act the most “broken before God” or have the best slight of hand when sprinkling glitter (a.k.a. diamond dust from the angels) on themselves without detection. People are elevated and given an inordinate amount of power over others. It’s often the truly sincere and desperate ones who get hurt. As a church we need to protect the vulnerable, not use them as props in a side show.

  16. My question for the Pentecostals would be:

    If the power of the Holy Spirit is so strong in your churches, why does there appear to be a greater percentage of your members with serious family problems (divorce, sexual and physical abuse, etc.) compared with those in other denominations?

    I don’t get it either.

    • Do you have documented percentages? Has there been a study on this? I’m not naysaying your statement — I’d just like to see the evidence behind it.

      My own suspicion is that Pentecostal churches “appear” to have more serious family problems than those in other denoms is not because they have more — it’s just that Pentecostals tend to be louder and more emotional.about their issues. (Not entirely joking.)

      • Your question is a good one and not unanticipated. I do not have a documented study to back by statement. I have only my experience.
        I live in a county of 100,000 with 230 churches. The Pentecostals make up less than 10 percent of the churches. I work in the only Christian based resource center of its kind in the county. Because of the center’s interaction with the local court system, I have a unique view of what is happening in the county in which I live.
        Unfortunately, my statement about the Pentecostals is true where I live and it’s based on numbers, not on loudness.

  17. I have experienced what seemed to be more emotionalism than a “move of the Spirit” more times than not in US churches over the years. But on a few occasions here, and especially in pentecostal churches in Romania, I’ve experienced the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in ways that truly humbled me. They saw and spoke to Someone I could not see or hear but felt his presence in ways I will never forget.

  18. “I have to admit it—I don’t get Pentecostalism.”

    I are one, and I don’t get it either.

    No, that’s not completely accurate – I are one, and sometimes I get it all too well. I’ve seen the over-emphasis on the “sign gifts,” often with a complete lack of the corresponding sign of the fruits of the spirit. I’ve even walked into a church where it was obvious the congregation was faking it, mimicing tongues, when the sign over the entry should have read “Ichabod” (The Glory is Departed). And having researched Brownsville and the “Toronto Blessing” I wouldn’t touch either with a 10 kilometer pole.

    The core issue? More of an experiential than Biblical base, to the point where the Bible needs to be interpreted in the lighf of our experiences. The thought of allowing the scriptures to reign in our excesses is almost anethema to many in pentecostalism.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’ve seen the over-emphasis on the “sign gifts,” often with a complete lack of the corresponding sign of the fruits of the spirit.

      When I was associating with Pentecostal types during my college days, I noticed something about them. When asked “Which Gift of the Spirit do you want God to grant?”, they always answered the same thing: Speaking in Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, and Tongues. (And did I mention Tongues?) I was the ONLY one I know of who answered “Wisdom.”

      The reason was obvious to me (and apparently to me alone):
      Wisdom is the command control over all the others.
      Wisdom tells you when to use them — and when not to.
      (However, Wisdom DOES often make you want to choke the stupid out of people.)

  19. Dan Allison says

    When people claim to have the “gift of discernment” and they cannot see what any atheist on the street can discern in two seconds — the plain truth about people like Todd Bentley and Benny Hinn — I have to be skeptical. And that’s putting it politely.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      These days “discernment” means seeing DEMONS under every bed. (Like the DEMON of Burned-Out Light Bulbs or something.) What results is Monotheistic Animism, with everything being done by Spirits (or Witches).

  20. Well, if Mrs. Knox’s ‘healing’ is the real thing, is there any medical back-up?
    Are there medical records that exist from the time of her accident until prior to the ‘healing’, and what do they show ?
    And after the ‘healing’, has Mrs. Knox submitted to medical examination for verification of her ‘miracle’?

    Miracles are known to happen. In the Catholic Church, at Lourdes, there are cases that cannot be explained, but the cases are documented medically. By more than one source.

    I don’t judge Mrs. Knox, but because of the bad reputation of so many charlatans, I am cynical.
    What is the proof of her healing ? Or is there no medical documentation?


  21. I see this “revival” has a schedule listed on its website. Nice.

    I sometimes get Pentecostalism, I’m not one and largely grew up Reformed/Covenant.

    I get the integration. If the whole church could see blacks, Hispanics, whites, and Asians like at a standard AOG or Vineyard church, it could be a great thing.

    I get the emphasis on The Spirit. I think of a lot of it can be reactionary to other traditions where the Holy Spirit is given little more than a mention in a few sermons and maybe a prayer, but I get that they want Him to be a conscious member of The Trinity.

    I also get the difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic. Having Assemblies friends in college made sure that I knew the difference — it’s like asking a General Conference Baptist pastor if they’re just like the Southern Baptists 🙂

    I also get that a lot of AOGs, Vineyard people, Calvary Chapel, and CMA are often embarrassed by Benny Hinn, IHOP, Todd Bentley, Toronto, Brownsville, etc. Some of the better responses to those movements have been written by charismatics. A former pastor who spoke in tongues (although none of us heard him) was especially harsh on chasing the latest revivals. One of the biggest critics of the prosperity gospel cancer in Uganda is a Pentecostal minister.

    On the other hand….

    I don’t get the extremely limited view of “The workings of the Spirit.” Somehow the gifts of The Spirit have been reduced to three or four that get the most attention. Wisdom? Counsel? Encouragement? They’re footnotes it seems. Acts 2 is quoted, but 1 Corinthians 13 is mostly remembered as the Love chapter — not a stern rebuke to those who value showy gifts over their brother.

    Likewise, I don’t understand how “operating in the Spirit” can be used to describe ultra-vague prophesies and “tongues” that contain 5-syllables, but somehow when the cessionist-Baptist forgives a man who killed his family we don’t say the same thing. That anyone would suggest that a Chaplain isn’t operating in the fullness of the Spirit as he prays with a dying person is a symptom of a misunderstanding of God and His Spirit.

    I also don’t understand why “wanting more God of overflowing/more of the Spirit/the glory/the anointing/etc” is so individualistic and self-oriented. I would think wanting to see the Spirit move would involve those comments about visiting widows, loving the poor, forgiving enemies, etc. Showing the fruit of the Spirit generously would also be a top priority. Sometimes self-control is seen as a hindrance and not evidence of the Spirit’s power (and this is mostly aimed at the more “revival-chasing” oriented circles).

    And as someone else said, I don’t get the circular thinking and poor use of language that is all over (“The Baptism of the Holy Spirit can’t be defended via the Bible” “You wouldn’t say that if you were Baptized with the Holy Spirit.” “How about Billy Graham?” “Think of how much more he could have done if he was filled with the Spirit!”)

    I watched a little bit of the GODTV thing tonight. Between that and the IHOP show last night, I need to stop. This stuff isn’t healthy and it leaves me quite cynical – which is decidedly not one of the fruits of the Spirit.

    • Justin, I could not have put it better myself. I’m theologically Pentecostal, but eventually walked away from Pentecostal churches because of many of the practices you mentioned above.. I finally got to the point where I found a Pentecostal service almost the worst possible place to encounter God — everyone around me was so busy doing oddball stuff and making noise that I couldn’t concentrate on God enough to worship or pray.

      It seems strange to me that the folks who are most likely to believe that God speaks directly to His people today are also the least likely to stop what they’re doing, shut up and actually LISTEN to Him. Especially at prayer meetings.

    • Curious, did the IHOP show feature an “apostle” speakingin Harrisonville MO. ? I have relatives that were @ that event, that’s why I’m asking ?? Thanks


  22. I’m another one who doesn’t get it either.

    I’ve been in and out of the charismatic movement for years. I got started in college with a prayer group.

    I have serious problems with its emotionalism, and lack of sound theology. For some, attached to a solid church, it is fine. (My last two attempts were connected with the Catholic Church, one very necessary for a spiritual battle I was involved in, the other an attempt to meet folks that I could bond with).

    I believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but hesitate with the showy ones. (That said, I still have a private prayer language, and one time had a message in tongues).

    • Ditto. Maybe it’s time for a church that holds to “Pentecostal theology” without holding to “Pentecostal behavior.” Anyone have any suggestions?

  23. Another thing I don’t get, how do charismatic groups see the next generation “Joel Osteen” type of followers where they play down the charismatic gifts (at least in public) but make a big deal of God empowering you to live a successful life. I know what many readers of this blog think of Olsteen, but how do traditional charismatics view him?

  24. For years, I no longer ‘got it’ – Even though I still believe that the real Spiritual gifts are still active today.

    I never understood why a theology with it’s core roots on personal holiness has the highest percentage of it’s leaders caught in gross sexual sin. And some wonder if this is partially due to the fact that the pentecostals at Azusa Street were the first ones to allow women to preach from the pulpit

    I never understood why a theology with it’s core roots on the love of money being the root of all evil is one of the biggest embracers and enablers of the “name it and claim it” / prosperity gospel aspects of the Word of Faith movement. Along with the fact that the pastor is to live like a king and you are to live like a pauper.

    I never understood why a theology with it’s core roots on “being free in the Spirit” adamantly practices a quazi-form of James Cone’s liberation theology where there is always someone oppressing them and that someone is always out to “get them, kill them, and suppress them” (Pharoah – commonly identified as workplace owners/bosses who embrace a mainline Christian theology) and that one day, there will be a Moses type of prophet that will lead them out of their circumstances (Egypt) across their chasm of hopelessness (Red Sea) and into a Promise Land where they will one day have dominion.

    I never understood why a theology with it’s core roots on “being Bible based” came up with the worse teachings of the past 50 years such as Joel’s Army, Joshua Generation, Nehemiah’s wall bulders, remnant, Gideon’s army, 30/60/100 fold blessings, etc.

    I never understood why a theology with it’s core roots of a constant consistent Christian walk always seems to live life similar to a up-and-down stock market chart or a roller-coaster ride and somehow needs “revivals” to turn them around and can only obtain them when they repent long and hard enough for sins they committed or sins they invented. The Acts based church never needed revivals, why should we. That’s why I will pass on the revival in Alabama. I have God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures, and that is enough for me.

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies with suffering loves to brag about their enemies or people who left their theologies suffering as a sign of God’s wrath and also a sign as God’s love to the pentecostals for touching His anointed.

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies with suffering loves to equate a leader’s suffering with “Satanic attack” while trying to convince you that your suffering was brought on yourself through touching God’s anointed, disagreeing with your pastor / Miriam’s leprosy, voting Democrat, secret sin, not praying hard enough, lacking faith, etc… when it rains on the just and unjust

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies with spiritual warfare and not fighting against flesh and blood has always tried to fight battles in flesh and blood ways via the culture war / voting, name calling “you’re a ____ in the Spirit”, and boycotts

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies with denouncing witchcraft, black magic, and occult practices will pray down in a heartbeat for God to kill, mame, put cancers on, make deathly ill, etc. those they perceive as their enemies.

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies with unity has the most church splits with both sides having their tongue-talkers praying and their prophets “prophe-trying, prophe-lying, and prophet-sighing” that God is on their side and that God will destroy the other side?

    I have never understood why a theology that identifies itself as living out the New Covenant / New Testament always has to resort to some scripture twisting of some Old Covenant / Old Testament verse to either get more money or make people into their version of Christian clones.

    Maybe it’s not I don’t Get it. Maybe it’s the belief that it is the most hypocritical theology….

    • WIsh there was a like button for this. Very well written.

    • If you reread your own objections and think about some of the common denominators, you’ll realize why Paul wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians, where you hear the most about charismatic problems and the attendant worldliness, immaturity, boastfulness, immorality, divisiveness, etc.

      The manifestations of the Spirit are like fire, in need of careful handling and management so that everything can be done decently and in order, and that’s often not the case.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Anything of concentrated Power is “in need of careful handling and management.” Because anything that Powerful is automatically Dangerous as a side effect of that Power.

  25. A question about tongues for someone who knows:
    Why is there so much speaking/praying in tongues but it seems very little “interpretation of tongues” as Paul writes about in 1st Corinthians, chapter 14?

    I was once peripherally involved in a charismatic group and they had lots and lots of tongue talking but never any interpretation of what the tongue-talkers were saying. None.

    It made me wonder if it was, at worse, a show or at best, well-meaning folks involved in some culty group-think or self deception. It was interesting and odd at first but after a while it was just wierd.

    • One thing I noticed growing up around people who praying in ‘tongues’ is that they repeat the same lines over and over each time they pray, usually only one sentance, sometimes rearranged. ‘abracadabora booley abooley humshilly humshilly ra da da da’ sort of things…
      Maybe the words have many different meanings so can cover the so many different situations they are spoken for…

      I copied my mothers ‘tongues’ and said it back to her one day she got a bit of a fright.

      I think I could make up my own… especially if I felt pressure to be seen to have the ‘gift of the holy spirit’…

      I never heard an interpretation of any tongue language in my church either. Questions I raised about this as a teenager went un-answered or somebody would recollect that they heard that somewhere someplace (not anyone we knew) got a translation….

      Doesn’t the bible have verses about praying to your father in private with no one around? Perhaps this is why? People will see and think you’re silly in the head.

    • I spent the first 18 years of my life in a setting where tongues-speaking was common. I honestly think that a lot of people ‘pray in tongues’ without seeking and interpretation because, at least in our setting, it was encouraged that you use your ‘prayer language’ as much as possible and not much was ever said about the scriptural need for someone to interpret it for the edifying of the group. I agree with the other commenter that it always sounded to me like the repeating of the same syllables over and over, kinda like it became a habit of the tongue.

      When I was a young teenager and very much influenced by herd mentality, I remember my own ‘prayer language’ just being a bunch of mumbling that repeated itself. Not saying that there’s no such thing as real tongues, just that I can identify with the idea that some people genuinely wanting to ‘experience the Spirit’s move’ may just do what feels good.

      On the down side, there is occasionally someone who wants to put on a show. A woman who attended regularly for a while would often shout in tongues when everyone was praying quietly and then 10 seconds after she was done, she would shout her own interpretation “thus saith the Lord”. I don’t think anyone knew what to make of it until one Sunday, the pastor actually interrupted her and said that it wasn’t the right time for what she was doing. I don’t think she came back after that. I’ve gotta admit, I had extra respect for him that day.

      • Hmm I think that lady might have come to our church too…

        • Cedric Klein says

          Every Charismatic/Pentecostal church gets one. It may be a man also. But the person who always prays three words in various order is always a woman. (I refer to her as “the mahiah-makiah-mashiah lady”.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Or “Rhonda-Khonda-Shonda”, according to the guy formerly known as Totem to Temple.

            Actually, the best description I have ever heard of Speaking In Tongues from an outsider’s POV came from a reporter covering Pat Robertson’s bid for President back in the Eighties:
            “Sounds kind of like scat-singing in Hebrew.”

    • I even wonder if the tongues spoken in many churches are really from God. I read in Acts 2:9-11:

      Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”

      It would seem to be that if someone does speak in a tongue via the gift of speaking in tongues, it would have to be (1): a different language from the normal language they speak (2): a language that is commonly understood on earth by some people group (3): spoken for the edification of the saints.

      It would seem to be that if someone has the gift of interpretation of tongues that it too would be (1): a different language from the normal language they speak (2): a language that is commonly understood on earth by some people group (3): interpreted for the edification of the saints.

      So, can we really now say that if it sounds like ‘abracadabora booley abooley humshilly humshilly ra da da da see-me-tie-my-bowtie ronda-konda-shonda’ (and not like some language defined as being normally spoken by a particular people group on earth) that the tongue spoken was a demonic tongue in nature? I have wrestled with this question for quite some time now.

      • I have heard a few stories of someone speaking in tongues and a visitor in the crowd from another country happened to speak the language of the ‘tongues’ and interpreted it. This is completely anecdotal and unverified though, and if it is true, it is certainly not the norm.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Wish somebody could provide hard documentation for incidents like that.

          All too often a trace peters out into Urban Legend country.

          • I grew up in belgian pentecostel churches, and my father, who speaks in tongues, has had such a thing when I was still a kid. Once when he was praying in tongues a visitor, who had been a missionary in Africa, identified his prayer language as an African dialect, and translated it.

            I see no reason at all to doubt this story. I see the weed and the wheat growing up together in this kind of charismatic stuff though. some things that I can’t deny were clearly from God. Others were just mass hypnosis, and others were channeling something less kosher without any sign that anyone had any ‘gift of discernment’, I am affraid.

            I don’t know how to place some things in my worldview. But I will never be able to deny them…

      • Cedric Klein says

        When demonic? Why not just human origin?

    • Hi, I’ve been Pentecostal all my life. For those of you not so familiar with the biblical bases of Pentecostal theology regarding tongues and interpretation read 1 corinthians 14:13,

      ” Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret,”

      and 1 corinthians 14:27-28,

      “27If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God.”

      What you need to realize is that a lot of Pentecostal churches practice moments of “corporate” praise and prayer where the entire congregation will pray or praise God out loud simultaneously. During this time since everyone is talking anyway I guess people feel that they are not causing disorder.

      However, based on Scripture you shouldn’t speak in an uninterpreted tongue. 1 corinthians 14-15 says,

      14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. 15What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also.

      I think this is how Pentecostals typically approach it.

    • Probably the most common explanation would be to distinguish the interludes in a service or meeting (sometimes called “waiting on God”) where individuals pray in tongues to themselves vs. a tongue spoken out, commanding the attention of the entire assembly. (In other words, not everyone who speaks in tongues also manifests the public expression of that meant to minister to an entire assembly.)

      When the latter happens, obviously there needs to be an interpretation if it is to have any value for the others. Occasionally, the tongue-speaker also offers the interpretation, but it’s more common for someone else to do it.

      When many in the assembly are praying to themselves simultaneously, it is considered to be communication directly with God (i.e., no different than praying in your native language sotto voce during the service) and not intended for the edification of others, hence no need for interpretation.

      It sounds like so much mumbling to a non-participant, but, properly handled, doesn’t need to cause offense or confusion as long as individuals aren’t drawing attention to themselves, which is why Paul issued the cardinal rule that everything be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14)

  26. What makes conservative charismatic or pentecostal Christians worse than modernist-liberal “Christians”? It always seems that Chaplain Mike bashes any movement that is considered fundamentalist or too conservative but gives the green light to movements that question the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

    • Randy Thompson says

      “Worse”? I think that’s your term, not his.

    • Mark, I would think someone as smart as you would have more discernment than that.

      I am a “post-evangelical.” That means that I have been involved in the system of American evangelicalism for more than half my life, but have found it wanting in many ways. Therefore, I have left it behind, but have not yet settled on a home to replace it.

      Michael Spencer himself developed this blog because of the same experience. That means one of the main things we talk about here is why we can’t accept the evangelical system of practicing the faith any longer, and what we are seeking to replace it in our lives. Pentecostalism is a part of that evangelical movement. That’s why we’re talking about it today.

      In leaving evangelicalism, that also means we have been looking at the broader and more ancient church, including Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, traditional mainline denominations, the Anabaptist churches, and so on. The fact that we find good things in all these expressions of Christianity does not mean we endorse every single doctrine or practice found in them.

      Mark, Internet Monk is a series of discussions between people who have been captured by the grace of Jesus but who are on a journey when it comes to the walk of faith and life in the church. You keep insisting that we should have arrived by now. I’m sorry, but many of us haven’t.

      • Like the New Testament scholar D. A. Carson once said in one of his lecture: people are classified into two groups in the whole world – 1) the ones who have the “mark of the beast” OR 2) the ones who have the “mark of the Lamb.” There is no in-between or somewhat half-way there. You either belong to God’s Kingdom or you don’t. If you’re lukewarm or just on the path but not yet there, that means you have not truly made that pivotal step towards wholehearted faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

        • Mark, do you ever listen to what I say? Your comment is not only cruel, but completely misses the point I made.

          • I am so thankful, Chaplain Mike, that you maintain the IM ministry and offer thoughts on the struggles that so many of us have. I am not on the blog daily but am blessed to be a part. The discussion here today is so right up the alleys of many…all you have to do is read. I have read Mark’s comments before. One wonders why he reads the blog as I recall he likes to provoke. I remember the plumb line that he spoke about between the saved and the unsaved and the gracelessness of his position. I am blessed by the Spirit within your commentary, Chaplain Mike. Getting back to the point in the post…I was a square peg in a round hole w/in the Pentacostal/Charismatic camp for many years and there is a sorry tale to it as well. But because Christ is so faithful He didn’t let go of me and though I do not “truck” with all the manifestations and the gift of tongues and prophetic “words” and etc etc…I have the assurance of the Spirit that I am adopted of God, hidden in Christ, and kept by a gracious Lord not because I am good but because HE is merciful and came for folks just like me. It is that grace that I don’t get. But it is what I trust. I used to fear because I listened to the Marks that were helping me camp in the Scriptures that said if and but and that was where I lived. But when the grace of God finally pierced the dark place…it was amazing, just like the old hymn said.
            Be blessed, Chaplain Mike, for it is a blessing that you are to us.

        • Buford Hollis says

          Oh, this thing? That’s so I can get back in the bar. They told me it was a “999.”

        • Randy Thompson says

          It seems to me that these “marks” are visible only to the eyes of God. Thanks anyway, but I’ll leave the judging to God. He gets it right; I never do.

          And, by the way, if you’re “just on the path but not yet there,” how on earth do you think you got on that path apart from the work of God’s Holy Spirit?

  27. Randy Thompson says

    I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, I pray in tongues (to myself), I have witnessed real healings (as well as a lot of emotional hysteria passed off as healing), and have grown spiritually in my contact with charismatic Christians over the years, for which I praise God. I have no beef with pentecostal or charismatic experience.

    However, it has struck me that the Achilles heel of the charismatic renewal has been its general failure to come to grips with critical thinking. Forgive what I know to be a generalization, but charismatic experience is too often undisciplined by critical thinking, and that means discernment suffers. The charismatic door is too often wide open to hysteria, and it all too easily can degenerate into folk religion.

    (And, to be absolutely fair here, all branches of Christianity can degenerate into something else–evangelicalism easily can degenerate into the Republican Party at prayer, just like liberal protestantism can degenerate into the Democratic Party at, well, meditation of some sort.)

    Regarding healings: A friend of mine, who was and is actively involved in the healing ministry, made a distinction that may sound hair-splitty but makes a lot of sense to me. He said that there isn’t always a cure, but there’s always a healing when you pray for someone. In other words, you may be terminally ill with cancer and go to someone for prayer. You may not be cured of the cancer, but in the prayer God touches your (whole) life in a healing way. I’m reminded here of a (true) story of a young mother with terminal cancer who was an emotional and spiritual wreck, and who went to my friend for prayer. She died a week later, but God touched her life in a deep and powerful way through this prayer ministry. A problem with many in the healing ministry, it seems to me, is that they pray for people and think they know what they’re doing. God’s ways are not our ways! Healing prayer needs to be rooted in listening to God, not (just) in the petitioning.

    • Randy,

      Amen and again I say Amen.

    • A loud Amen to that.

      In my experience the problem is that Pentecostals/Charismatics talc about the work of the Spirit in such a way that healing is equated with a cure and help in a problem with the problem being taken away — rather than God helping us IN our sickness or other difficulty.

      But I find non-Charismatic, cessationist Evangelicals doing similar things — one of my biggest problems is talk of God’s leading in the most minute details of life with such absolute certainty that others, who struggle with doubt and uncertainty in decision making are left feeling guilty and faith-less. Much cessationist Evangelical language would make more sense if they admitted belief in a contemporary revelatory gift of prophesy.

    • Another excellent comment from our Randy Thompson. Thanks, Randy.

    • Wow, very good post there, Randy. Your words would be a great flier for prayer ministry teams throughout the Body. Well said.


  28. Wow. So if we haven’t found a church “home” we have the mark of the beast?


    • that was in reply to Mark above…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Mark Said It;
        Mark Believes It,
        That Settles It.

        What would Christ do at the Great White Throne without Mark there like a secret police informant to point out the Sheep and the Goats?


    • Methinks Mark doth protest too much …

  29. Lori Pollard says

    Nope, I don’t get it.

    I was saved at 19 in a campus ministry in the early eighties while attending college in the NW. I considered myself charismatic and was taught in the church that most denominations were “dead”. Being young and gullible, I, of course, believed this. Then life happened. Over the years, I slowly found out that I “didn’t have enough faith” to handle life on planet earth. Many years were spent in ‘trying to find faith’ (in emotionalism and works righteousness) in American Christianity. My experience is with Charismatics not Pentecostalism. Only lately have I come to the knowledge of the true gospel – law and gospel of Christ within the life of the believer – not the church. I am now reading Mike Spencer’s “Mere Churchianity” and am finding that it accurately addresses the absence of Christ in many of our churches. Should I care to label myself, I guess I would be Reformed (for the most part ;)).

    I recently attended a Charismatic service and found myself completely astonished and sad. It’s obvious that many people hunger for God and are probably confused when the emotional high abates. Yes, like Chaplin Mike, I am not a cessationist and believe that God cannot be boxed in His actions and deeds, but my personal experiences do not reveal genuine ‘miracles’ of healing or the practice of the gifts having transformed lives or bearing lasting fruit. Perhaps many are searching for true faith (Christ and Him crucified and risen for our SIN) and we’ve been taught in American culture that something is valid only if it FEELS right. The emotionally led services focuses the believer on the flesh and “experiences” rather than on the Spirit in worship of God. I also do not understand how you “schedule” a revival. I guess it gives God notice to ‘schedule’ His appearances.

  30. I don’t get it either
    It feels good to read that I am not alone.

  31. I don’t think we can ever “get” the mystery of God and how he moves. Yet we long for it. We seek it whether via Pentecostal experience or via ancient faith practices or via intensive study or via serving or the thousand other ways we try to find God. Any way we think we can be in contact with God we try it. We are filled with deep spiritual longing that can never be filled this side of death or eternity. That is as much as I get it with any form of Christianity. We are finite longing for the infinite. We long for God to be real to us. We long for what seems to be promised in Scripture to be true.

    We can always criticize one another whether they are too liberal and unscriptural, they are too weird and pentecostal, they are too cold and intellectual, they are too works oriented, they are libertines, they worship on the wrong day, etc., take your pick.

  32. Ok I know this is by no means definitive and I for one would like to hear from her doctor, but the woman in the video, Delia Knox, seems to be known as a gospel singer and apparently has been in a wheelchair for a long time. Here is an article I found though I’m not sure exactly how trustworthy it is. I would personally like to see more verification.

  33. I personally think we spend too much time trying to find our places. When helping translate for Haitian friends before church deacons (my friends are jobless and cannot feed themselves daily), I dared not correct someone who said they might be able to do something different because I am a member. It was a nice thing they thought to do, but I dared not say I’m not a member. I didn’t want to hurt my friends’ request for assistance. I struggle with that. I don’t identify with any particular church or denomination though I”ve been at the same church for 5 years. I’ve been hurt and misled by the church, by organized religion (I grew up in non-denominational evangelical Christian churches). Prosper me? I’ve been blessed with many unlikely friends that do not have any idea what it means to “prosper” in the way I learned in church that God wants to prosper me.

    Through great personal suffering, I began to seek Christ. I read red-letters of Jesus over and over. I am curious about Jesus’ admonitions to church leaders in Mark 7 about how their traditions were more important to them than the law, thinking “are my religious traditions more important to me than Christ?”

    Nobody has to agree with me. Many don’t understand me. But I met Jesus from a pit of sorrow with my arm raised for help. I had noone to turn to who could hold me and make it better. I was angry, deeply wounded, grief stricken and a bit hopeless at the near sudden loss of my marriage. Prosper me? My life had fallen apart overnight. I’d been a good Christian girl. I did all the right things. Why?!? But prosper me, yes, in spirit and truth. I sought God and chose to trust Him with all of my mess, and I found not only peace but real strength in my weakness. I wish I could say I was miraculously healed of my sorrows but instead I’m miraculously different in that I know who makes me strong when I am again weak.

    I’m not sure why I’m putting my two cents down. Perhaps I just long for Christian community in which my brothers and sisters are more interested in seeking Jesus than identity and community through traditions created over ancient times or modern times. God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. If that means he wants to cure cancer, he will. If he wants to save a marriage, he will. If he will show me who he really is through my suffering, I’ll suffer. That is true prosperity to me. I’ve gotten to saying I can only trust God and my dog while also saying I know I do and will fail people too.

  34. I’ve noticed a real confusion in understanding the difference between the Charismatic movement and Pentecostalsim. For example, the Word of Faith teachers are Pentecostal but are constantly lumped in with the Third Wave Charismatics whom they have no assoiciation with. Sometimes it can get confusing as in the instance of Kirkpatrick who is an ordained AG, which is a Pentecostal denomination, but participated in what was essentially a Charismatic (Third Wave) Revival. For people like me, who were lucky enough to be introduced to Pentecostalism through Jack Hayford and other “neo-Pentecostals,” it isn’t that weird. Sadly, many …both Charismatics and Pentecostals…are acting weird today and it the tends to obliterate what can be very good Pentecostal theology.

  35. I agree. There are a lot of classical Pentecostals and charismatics who have no affiliation with the Word of Faith movement and resent being associated with it. It can get confusing. For example, the Assemblies of God has consistently condemned the excesses that frequently pop up, but because these denominations are often loosely structured some of their pastors and churches may be indulging in the exact activities condemned by the denomination. For example, the Lakeland Revival led by the infamous Todd Bentley was sponsored by Ignited Church pastored by Stephen Strader which is an Assemblies of God church. At the same time the national AG was releasing a video warning people about the false revival.

  36. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    “I don’t get it…”

    “Nobody does. I’m the wind, baby.”
    — Tom Servo to Gypsy on The Satellite of Love,
    Mystery Science Theater 3000

    • HUG you are killing me…..I so much miss that show, and thought of it often while watching “Sharktapus” the other night; that flick was crying out to be MST_3k’d…….. oh well…

  37. Pentecostalism is by and large the protestant equivalent of folk catholocism – ie Mary on a piece of Toast, Santa Muerte etc etc. It is a sociological phenomenon.

    • “Mary on a piece of Toast” nah we’re much more spectacular. I always laugh when I here so called “Pentecostal” revivals claim that participants were miraculously given gold teeth.

  38. The thing about Pentecostals is that if they are right then all other Christians are wrong, and not just a little bit wrong, but vastly in error. The reverse is also true.

    • That’s not really true for most Pentecostals (at least today). Pentecostals generally acknowledge that the experience that some call being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and others call being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is not necessary for salvation. It bestows spiritual gifts and empowerment for ministry, but it doesn’t make a Pentecostal different from any other Christian. It’s readily acknowledged in Pentecostal circles that there are non-Pentecostal Christians who allow the Spirit to use them in ways that would put the average Pentecostal to shame, Billy Graham being a well known example.