October 29, 2020

iMonk Classic: A Growing and Awkward Silence—Things I can’t talk about with my Pentecostal and Charismatic friends

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer

Note from Chaplain Mike…
The lively comment thread on our recent post about the 50th birthday of the Charismatic Movement led me to think I should let iMonk weigh in on the subject. I’m not sure when this was first posted, but it’s classic Michael Spencer.

Further note…
See the end of the post for a definition of what Michael meant when he used the phrase, “Pentecostal-Charismatic.”

We used to be able to talk. Over coffee, at church, and long into the night. I actually enjoyed the conversations. Sure, there were always challenges and differences, but we weren’t fighting as much as we were trying to explore a common fascination. We were pilgrims on the same road, discovering the adventure together. We both wanted to know, “What is the truth?” “What does the Bible say?” “How can we find the reality of God, and experience it every day?” We respected one another. Even if the conversation got intense there was always plenty of laughter, and we could pray together in genuine fellowship. Those prayers and conversations always left me wanting to get together again, and dig further and deeper. But this doesn’t happen much anymore, and I miss the good times we shared. Things have changed. There is a growing, awkward silence between myself and my Pentecostal/Charismatic (P/C) friends, and it’s not a good thing.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has always had an uncomfortable relationship with the rest of evangelicalism. It hasn’t been easy from the first rumblings of Azusa Street to these days of TBN, Rod Parsley and Benny Hinn. Pentecostalism’s founding vision said that the mainstream church had, through neglect and rationalism, lost the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christians were always intended to enjoy and manifest. Miracles and supernatural gifts were for today. Pentecost was still going on. God was speaking through prophets, in visions, and even in sending angels to do his work. The mainstream of the Christian church had said these things were ancient history, or had boxed them up in the theological attic and forgotten they were there.

Pentecostals and Charismatics made sure we remembered that Jesus cast out demons, that God spoke in visions, and that the early church spoke in tongues. They wouldn’t let us forget those pesky chapters in I Corinthians with all their mysteries. They prayed for the miracles we were too shy or doubtful to pray for. They didn’t just sing hymns that said “Hallelujah!” They said it. Loudly and often. They talked about a kind of faith that believed God would act in your behalf in the present, and that the power of the Holy Spirit to bring down walls and raise the dead was still available. The Charismatic movement brought these lively insights to the church on the corner, and even with all the resulting controversy, I count it as a good thing.

I remember going to a conference many years ago sponsored by the United Methodist Conference in our area and held at the big UMC church in town. The main speaker was Oral Roberts. This was Oral at his best, before he went really nuts, when he was first building ORU and there was plenty of good will between Pentecostals like Oral and Charismatic sympathizers in the mainlines. The conference was on the work of the Holy Spirit, and I recall it as a sweet time of fellowship, with plenty of curiosity and conversation, but little controversy. Oral wasn’t fuming at the deadness of the church, but was rejoicing in the openness and renewal going on in the church.

For those few days, Oral Roberts wasn’t a strange televangelist, but a wonderful, Spirit-filled man who represented the hunger for the reality of God that has always been part of genuine Christian experience. He spoke for a movement that would, we all believed, benefit the church. I think my Methodist friends looked at the Charismatic movement of those days as a possible repeat visitation of what God had done with Methodism in the past, revitalizing the church in ways unexpected. For many Charismatics and their sympathizers, that conference and many others represented hope that windows and doors were opening, and the Spirit was doing a fresh work in the body of Christ.

We could talk to one another in those days. I was drawn into the Charismatic movement by way of an Episcopal family who were involved in a “Spirit-filled” prayer group in a Catholic church. We talked for hours about what the Bible said and what the Holy Spirit could do. I met lots of Charismatics in the Methodist circles I moved in, and I enjoyed fellowship with Pentecostal brothers and sisters at work. Yes, they seemed to have something my experience didn’t have, but even accounting for that initial curiosity, there was good fellowship based around a common faith. Even when I left the Charismatic movement over my own understanding of Spirit baptism, our fellowship remained good, and we loved and respected one another.

Part of the reason for that harmony was the fact that the “non-denominational, generic, Charismatic/Pentecostal churches” were rare. Most of my Charismatic friends were in “regular” churches, but attended conferences, prayer meetings and special events with other Charismatics and Pentecostals. In a few years, most Charismatics would be in their own churches, and part of the Charismatic-Third Wave explosion in evangelicalism. It would be in these churches, ranging from the Vineyards to thousands of Independent Charismatic fellowships and Word-Faith Churches, and in the resulting expanded network of P/C influence- that the alienation between evangelicals like myself and many Charismatics would become more profound.

These early days of fellowship with my P/C friends is represented in my mind by Gary and Fay, two of my co-workers at a grocery store where I was employed for several years. Both were Pentecostal, but both treated me graciously and as a Christian brother. Gary loved his Bible, and was devoted to Biblical preaching and teaching. When we disagreed, we quickly went to see what the scriptures said. He was open about his own spiritual experience, but he never argued with me about mine. He answered my questions and responded to my criticisms, but we enjoyed many times of prayer and worship at work and away from work.

I dated Fay for several months, and we had a good relationship that continued as a friendship for several years. In the many hours we talked about spiritual things, she never implied that her Pentecostal experience was superior to my Baptist experience, or attempted to persuade me to attend her church. Beyond the well known tenets of Pentecostalism, I never heard Fay advocate anything that seemed at all bizarre or strange in her church or experience. In fact, our devotion to our respective church backgrounds was part of why we did not continue dating. I had much better Christian fellowship with Gary and Fay than with my Roman Catholic, Church or Christ or Independent Baptist friends. The kind of fellowship we enjoyed is almost unknown in my experience today.

Today I have many more Pentecostal/Charismatic friends, but few- and I emphasize very few- are friendships where significant discussions of our faith can take place without real tension and discomfort on my part because of significant and irreparable deviations in how we each understand basic Christian concepts. Despite many years of being around the P/C community, I continue to experience feelings of inferiority and rejection as many of my P/C friends find it impossible to fellowship as equals. Over the years, something has changed in the way Pentecostal/Charismatics view themselves and their relationship to the larger body of Christ.

This change is, of course, mutual in some respects, and I recognize that I may be less open-minded and generous in my attempts at fellowship than in the past, but this essay wants to look at the changes I have seen in the P/C community. I certainly recognize that Pentecostals and Charismatics have been the subjects of negative criticism and harsh reviews from the evangelical and conservative mainstream. ( I give most books critical of the P/C movement very low marks.) I’ve heard Baptist pastors say cruel things about Charismatic friends, and I know that issues of worship style and Christian experience have brought about ugly responses from all sides of the fence. But I am not writing about the obvious flaws in human nature. I want to explore where Pentecostal-Charismatic belief and practice are creating a significant barrier to fellowship. I will restrict this essay to four important areas where fellowship has become difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes, impossible.

(I am very aware that some of my Pentecostal/Charismatic co-workers, friends and readers may read this essay and be surprised at what I am going to say. PLEASE hear me out, read carefully and read to the end! I believe this will be fair in every way to your concerns and criticisms of myself and other evangelicals. And please note that in every case I have tried to make it clear that I have P/C friends about whom none of this is true at all.)

1. Scripture. Clearly, the P/C community is in very troubled times when it comes to how the Bible relates to contemporary Christianity. From the beginning, Pentecostalism looked at the Bible as more about what God had done in the past than as a final, authoritative word that could not be supplemented. In many ways, the P/C view of the Bible tended towards the kinds of Biblical theology you might hear from liberals who said the Bible should not be a final guide for us today, but is a record of how God worked in the past. Here was the record of what God had done before, but the question was now what was God saying and doing today?

Here is an observation: I have never heard a high profile P/C pastor exposit and interpret the scripture systematically. (Jack Hayford is the closest to an expositor, but even he does not expound the Bible verse by verse.) The great heritage of Protestant Biblical teaching is held in suspicion among P/Cs today, and many P/Cs have never heard an actual exposition of a Biblical passage in their church. (Watch T.D. Jakes or Paula White to see what P/C preaching is all about .) Today, most P/C Christians approach the Bible in the way a Rod Parsley or a T.D. Jakes does: How can we most rapidly jump from the Biblical story to the present action of the Holy Spirit? This method is well known in the African-American Church, and is not, if practiced cautiously, always the wrong way to go. But unhinged and exiled from solid Biblical interpretation and hitched to the unchecked personality of the latest P/C prophet, chaos ensues. Combined with the personal Word given only to the prophet and a deviant theology, the Bible becomes secondary, if not an outright obstacle.

I recently heard a Charismatic preacher using the story of David as a model for how God brings revival. Saul was the opponent of revival. David was the anointed leader of revival. Jonathan was the waverer, still hanging out in the dead church. The lessons on revival were flimsy, but the use of scripture was frightening. Yet, in the P/C community, this type of Biblical preaching is common and hailed as the very Word of God. The problem is that no one else could or would ever read the Bible this way, and now I cannot read this Biblical story with my P/C friend. I am apparently involved with the legalistic, religious words of the Bible, and not the living “Rhema,” prophetic words that P/C prophets and ministers routinely proclaim. My assumption that the Spirit says whatever the text says is not shared by many P/Cs. They believe the text is true, but the Spirit has something fresh to say today and that message isn’t found in the text, but in the Spirit’s speaking to individuals.

On another occasion a coworker showed a tape of P/C preacher Jesse Duplantis- the “Happy Heretic”- describing a vision of heaven. The sermon contained a lot of obvious sensational material, likely fabrication and a generous helping of outright contradictions of the Bible. My P/C friends admitted that the message was flawed, but felt it was helpful anyway. How does a bizarre vision on a subject the Bible so obviously talks plainly about qualify as “helpful?” More significant, what is the view of scripture implied in the whole business?

Many Charismatics are involved in teaching that is openly announced as “special messages for the end times church.” Here the Bible is read in a way that explains current and future events mystically and spiritually. Images, parables and teachings of scripture are given a special meaning for the “last generation of the church.” Dreams and visions become interpretative tools for understanding obscure passages. Again, no one would normally read the Bible in the way these convinced end-times Charismatics read it, and real discussion about the Bible is made impossible.

Actual criticism of “Word-oriented” churches is not unheard of in the P/C world. A whole array of P/C prophets now speak a “living Word” to the P/C community, only marginally relating to the actual meaning of scripture passages. It is difficult to discuss what the Bible says and means with people who have seldom experienced Biblical interpretation and instruction, but have usually only encountered the Bible as the launching point for highly personal, subjective prophetic words and interpretations.

Many of my good memories of conversations with my P/C friends were over what the Bible said and taught about the Christian life. Today, P/C friends who gladly say the Bible is the final and authoritative Word from God are very rare indeed. (I thank God for those I know, and encourage them to faithfully study the scriptures.) True fellowship in the Word is almost impossible, unless I agree that God is speaking through prophets today, and such words are the “living Word of God” for today. How can evangelicals and P/Cs continue to fellowship when the Bible plays such a shrinking role in the P/C understanding of Christian experience?

2. Worship. Pentecostal/Charismatics have always maintained a strong and vital understanding of worship. Much of this is grounded in Biblical truth neglected by the mainline churches and evangelicals. Clearly, the stifling traditions of many evangelicals could benefit from appreciating the more expressive and diverse worship of P/Cs. With the advent of contemporary “praise and worship” music, Pentecostals have demonstrated their more creative, expressive, and emotional worship style with undeniably good results. Evangelicals are far better for the contribution of P/Cs to our worship.

It is sad to see, however, that worship has become one of the great divisions between P/Cs and other evangelicals. And here I may particularly anger my P/C friends, but again, I ask for your patience and consideration. Clearly, P/Cs have won the day in terms of influence in worship style. A vast number of non-P/C churches are now using praise music, raising hands during worship, and encouraging individual expressions of praise during worship. More than one Baptist senior adult is convinced his church has been taken over by “Holy Rollers.”

Initially this P/C influence provided a good basis of fellowship, as non-P/Cs and P/Cs were enjoying much of the same kind of worship, and the “worship renewal” held out the promise of uniting a vast generation of Christians around common expressions of worship. This hope continues, and the good influence continues.

Sadly, however, many P/Cs have become proponents of a strident rejection of any kind of worship other than their own. Instead of appreciating the influence of P/C worship in the larger Christian tradition, many P/Cs now believe that “worship” is what they do, and only they really do it. “Worship” has now come to mean “Pentecostal/Charismatic worship.”

It is a characteristic of most Christian traditions to suspect that they are closer to the mark than anyone else. Certainly a Roman Catholic, an Anglican, a Pentecostal and a Campbellite could each make their case that they are expressing the best worship tradition. But in the end, most Christians can come to a point of seeing the value and the Biblical basis in a large variety of worship styles that present a panorama of Biblical truth and many aspects of God’s nature and praise. Here, however, many P/Cs hold firm: their worship is uniquely an expression of the Holy Spirit, and other kinds of worship are “dead rituals” and “human traditions.” It is sadly the fact that one can go to a large number of P/C churches and hear that their worship is the Holy Spirit’s “restoration” of true worship in the last days.

It is easy for an educated and analytical person to want to educate P/Cs that their worship is as much a part of history and culture as any other church, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Many P/Cs are convinced that the emphasis on praise, emotion, individual “freedom,” and the direct intervention of God is uniquely what true worship is all about. Rather than be generous toward other worship traditions and styles, many P/Cs are arrogantly critical in ways not unlike the way mainline Christians might sometimes look at rural and lower class Pentecostal worship.

In the last several years I have been unable to discuss worship with more than a handful of my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends. When the subject comes up, they quickly and authoritatively denounce every aspect of traditional worship as being human traditions at best or spiritual bondage at worst. When they attend a traditional church, they are overwhelmed with criticisms of anything that is not spontaneous, highly expressive, or novel. Strong value judgments abound. One Charismatic friend expressed genuine wonder that our church would want to say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. (I wonder how one bad worship chorus can be sung to the point of mesmerization.) Another friend routinely classifies all liturgy or unified response as evidence that a church has been utterly forsaken by the presence of the Holy Spirit and has become a museum of dead spirituality.

This hostility toward other worship traditions, coupled with the inability of many P/Cs to find any Biblical or reasonable boundaries to worship practices, has contributed to a Grand Canyon of separation between non-P/C evangelicals and many P/Cs on the subject of worship. When we do talk, we are most often defending our own understanding of worship from what we fear about the other tradition. Evangelicals fear the weirdness and wildness they see in Brownsville and elsewhere. P/Cs fear being closed off to the next move of the Spirit in and out of the church by a preference for predictability. Instead of finding ourselves brought together by the worship renewal of the last few years, traditional evangelicals and P/Cs are often farther apart than ever.

One last word before I move on. This continuing separation and disagreement is grievous to me. Frankly, some P/C concerns are substantial, and others are ridiculous. Rejecting all non-P/C worship as “ritual” and “tradition” is immature and needlessly divisive. The Bible approves of many kinds of worship, and of many different kinds of behaviors in worship. Evangelicals need to take that diversity more seriously. P/Cs need to realize they haven’t been deputized by the Holy Spirit to tell the rest of us whether or not we are really worshiping.

3. Prayer. Historically, it has been true that Christians who disagreed over various matters could at least pray together. Jesus taught that prayer should be simple, and the simple prayers of Christians from radically different backgrounds have often brought them together. Sadly, prayer has become one of those areas of greatest difficulty between P/Cs and the rest of us.

By this I do not mean that P/Cs are more expressive and vocal in prayer. Such a small difference is not a real hindrance to fellowship in prayer. Everyone can adjust to someone who prays in a slightly different “mode.” What has created this division is a vast difference in understanding the purpose of prayer itself.

Pentecostalism has always been about praying for God to act, but in recent years a collection of Bible teachers began to teach doctrines about “praying in faith” that have popularly come to be called, “Name it, Claim it” or “Positive Confession.” This approach to prayer places the believer in the position of calling the shots, or as heretical Bible teacher Kenneth Hagin calls it, “writing your own ticket with God.”. “Faith” teachers go on endlessly about the fact that faith allows us to create reality, and move the hand of God in the same way as prophets such as Elijah. So while P/Cs used to simply pray more confidently and loudly than many evangelicals, today they are quite likely to pray in a way that seems to challenge the very sovereignty of God, and place us in a position of rejecting “not my will, but Thy will be done,” a phrase that has actually been ridiculed by more than one P/C Bible teacher as not meaning what it says.

Most of us are aware of the uglier aspects of this approach to prayer. Certainly any pastor who has encountered P/Cs “claiming” healings for hopeless cases and then explaining the lack of a miracle as a failure of faith knows how insidious and hurtful this doctrine can be. More than once, I have watched sincere P/C friends proclaim events that were going to happen as if they controlled weather, finances, and the operation of the human body. Rather than “making our requests known to God,” these prayers dictated to the Almighty what seemed best from their very human point of view. (Example: Pat Robertson’s prayers to clear the bench at the Supreme Court.) Frankly, this sort of prayer makes me more than uncomfortable. It is offensive, and sometimes even blasphemous.

Right alongside the “prayer of faith” have come prayers reflecting current beliefs about spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is a Biblical theme that P/C Christians have helped bring back into the vocabulary and teaching of the church. For this we should be grateful. But many spiritual warfarists have gone too far, making Satan and demons the explanation for too much, and making deliverance from demonic forces the answer to too many complex problems. The recent death of an autistic 8-year-old in a P/C healing service is an example of the tragedy that can come from simplistic application of spiritual teaching.

On many occasions, when my P/C friends have filled their prayers with direct addresses to the devil and demons, and have gone on to claim various results that they believe will be guaranteed by their faith, I have been tempted to just walk away. It is difficult to feel that this is prayer as Jesus taught it, and difficult to not believe that it is something more akin to magic and shamanism than Christianity. It has created a division between Christians right at the very throne of the Father, where we should be the most united in humble dependence. P/Cs are people of prayer, and that is a great gift to the church. But the false teachings about prayer that increasingly fill the P/C community make it less likely that we can pray, minister, or work together.

And of course, again, the P/C community hasn’t hesitated to claim that their approach to prayer is literally carrying out the plans of God in history. Such confidence can be part of a positive emphasis on missions and church growth, or it can descend into the “word of knowledge” follies that are increasingly common in P/C circles. With the Bible increasingly a book of examples, and communication with God frequently based on subjective impressions, visions and voices, fellowship with Pentecostal/Charismatics is increasingly difficult for evangelicals who do not have these experiences. For many of us, it has become difficult to fellowship with Christians whose views of prayer are so divisive and confusing to Christian unity and ministry.

4. Spiritual leaders. Pentecostal/Charismatics are a personality driven community. There is no doubt that the average P/C Christian gives a greater degree of loyalty and confidence to pastors, evangelists, prophets, and other spiritual leaders than almost any other Christians. Roman Catholics believe in the authority of the church. Liberals give authority to those who are properly educated. Evangelicals are consumers who give loyalty to whoever has the biggest church and the high charting CD. Pentecostals/Charismatics give loyalty to anyone who can demonstrate he has an anointing from God.

The concept of an “anointed” ministry has grown in Pentecostal circles over the years to the point that it occupies a position I am not sure any non-Pentecostal can really understand. Pentecostals, once convinced a leader has an anointing from God, will demonstrate amazing patience, forgiveness, loyalty, and support for that person far beyond almost any other segment of Christianity. Not one of the major televangelists involved in the scandals of the 1980’s is without a church and followers, and many are still on television. Financial scandals, personal irresponsibility, even clear evidence of heresy, fraud and lying–none of these things can derail the support P/Cs give to their leaders. No one has a tougher job than the person who tries to convince the P/C community to withdraw support from someone who is not worthy of support.

This loyalty extends beyond rooting for “our team.” It has become a self-perpetuating, “anointed” class. Benny Hinn proclaims his credentials as receiving the mantle of previous faith healers. Charismatic prophets are expected to anoint their successors like royalty. P/C churches may appear congregational, but in most cases they are wholly owned and controlled by founding pastors, their families, and appointed successors. This is all just fine among P/Cs, and stands in real contrast to most other evangelicals, particularly Baptists.

Who can exercise any authority or correction over an “anointed” spiritual leader? That is a question P/Cs have been unable to answer. Leaders like James Robison or Jack Hayford have a modicum of respect, but no one could persuade a whoremonger like Jimmy Swaggart to step out of the pulpit for even a year. And this leads to more significant problems than the occasional scandal.

A sizable minority of P/C pastors teach errors and even heresy. There is really no other way to say it. I am not talking about the odd or the unusual or even the unheard of, which are all common among P/Cs. I am talking about significant heresy and errors in fundamental and important Christian beliefs. In the P/C community, the Trinity is regularly denied. Christ is demoted. Scripture is denigrated. Salvation by grace, through faith and not by works is replaced by various schemes of salvation unrecognizable within the classical Christian tradition. Many P/C pastors feel no responsibility to the larger Christian tradition (thank God for the exceptions!) and have nothing good to say about any creed or confession.

It is a generalization, but it is true enough to share. One can hardly imagine any doctrinal deviation that would not receive a significant nod of approval among P/Cs if delivered by a recognized “anointed” leader and with a convincing story of how God revealed the message.

When a heretic like Kenneth Hagin or Kenneth Copeland denies the person and work of Christ and invents entirely unheard of categories and interpretations of the Christian life (many of which are occultic in origin), the average doubtful evangelical knows that he or she will be told we are not to criticize or question because this is an anointed teacher. Listening to the nightly roll call of new revelations of TBN, there is no doubt that this is a different world than mainstream evangelicalism, where novel theologies are not unheard of, but generally can only be spread at the cost of great controversy. (Ask Harold Camping.)

I recall reading about a prominent faith healer whose heresies and deviations from orthodoxy were well-known and notorious, but because there were continual testimonies of healing at his meetings, he continues to be cited as an important and “anointed” prophet and teacher. This is the contradiction that P/Cs seem reluctant to resolve. When it is resolved, too often the solution is to be open to the possibility that God cannot be put in the “box” of Christian orthodoxy. The problem them becomes, can we talk about anything or anyone being genuinely Christian because of what they do or do not confess and believe? Is this not an entirely new “box” that may not be Christianity at all?

Sadly, it is hard to predict how much fellowship will be possible between Christians when the central issues of the faith can be denied or compromised, but criticism of those false teachers is not allowed or taken seriously. P/Cs are the largest segment of evangelicalism, and there is a growing concern among many P/Cs to relate positively to the larger Christian tradition, but the issue of what constitutes a legitimate ministry stands in the way.

There are other areas that deserve consideration. Theology is important to the church, but the P/C community is often hostile to the entire project of doing Biblical theology. The P/C movement has produced some fine scholars and adequate theologians, but one can easily see that this is the back row of the P/C show, and we should not expect P/C theology to be driven by serious scholarship any time soon. The Christian life and experience is a major interest of P/Cs, but increasingly the P/C version of the normal Christian life is unrecognizable to many traditional Christians. (What P/Cs see in “revival” movements like Brownsville and Toronto seems a different and frightening universe than the honored path of Christian devotion, obedience and discipleship.) Certainly the well-worn area of Spiritual gifts continues to stand as a controversy, particularly as gifts such as “words of knowledge” have taken on huge significance among P/Cs. Many of us would like to hear some solid application of Biblical teaching to the whole area of prophetic ministry, as it appears the “prophets” have ascended into the leadership of much of the P/C movement and are dominating the future direction of a significant number of P/C Christians and churches. If Kim Clement and other prophets are the future of P/Cs, the prognosis for fellowship is not good.

In conclusion, I want to repeat that I am aware the issue of fellowship between P/Cs and myself is not a one-way street. I am certainly guilty of frequently being stand-offish. I can easily become guilty of making hasty judgments and of being overly critical. But I am a person who understands and supports much of what I have seen in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. I have a generous nature towards my P/C Christian brothers and sisters, and it is out of a heart for the good I have seen over the years that I write this essay full of concern. I have many times come to their defense, and I have risked my good standing with my fellow Baptists many times to allow P/Cs the opportunity to minister to the students I work with. But my P/C friends also know I try to be a “straight-shooter” when it comes to the work of the Lord. I want to see P/C churches and Christians rooted, grounded, and growing in the good soil of Biblical truth. If my words have seemed hurtful, it is not out of a desire to tear down, but to encourage.

A large part of my own energy and vision in ministry has come from a desire to see the church experience the kind of renewal so many of us hoped for in the early days of the charismatic movement, when it appeared that the best of what Pentecostalism represented could be brought into the church on the corner without a war between people who all loved God and wanted more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I am wondering if we must reach a point where, in order to be faithful to the Bible and what God has revealed to the church throughout history, we must cease calling some Pentecostal-Charismatics our brothers in Christ, and urge them to come back to the family they have influenced so positively, but like impulsive young adults, have ultimately abandoned for their own path.

In the meantime, maybe we could get together and talk….like we used to.


By P/C, I mean groups or individuals that teach:

  1. Baptism or Filling in, with or by the Holy Spirit taught as a single, subsequent and significant event “completing” the Christian experience, evidenced by tongues.
  2. Using Acts and the Gospels over the epistles to justify normal Christian experience and to interpret the Bible in general.
  3. Endorsing all gifts, miracles, signs in the Bible as part of the normal and ordinary Christian life.
  4. “Anointed” leadership, reflected in church and ministry structures that are leader centered.
  5. Endorsing the role of the “prophet” as a continuing NT office.
  6. Believing there is a special significance to the P/C movement in God’s plan.

I do NOT mean:

  1. Anyone with a P/C worship style.
  2. Anyone who is expressive and emotive.
  3. Anyone who is not a cessationist. (I’m not a cessationist in the sense that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases.)


  1. Dan Allison says

    Nobody can say it like the iMonk, for sure!

  2. Really charitable and honest reflections. I think he got more curmudgeony with time (which I don’t mind at all) with respect to the movement…I’m remembering his response to the TB disaster, some comments on Rod Parsley, and some on John Crowder… all probably well warranted.

    I want to be charismatic, at least with regards to some pieces. I spent a few years in a reasonable charismatic church, and encountered only a few true wackos here and there. But what seems like the “middle ground” of reasonable charismatic people to me is increasingly something I have trouble desiring to engage with on a serious level, or even be friends with in many cases. I almost have a knee-jerk “don’t bring up the Bible” impulse because I’m so sure something will be said that I will find utterly ridiculous and maybe appalling. I was very close to one family for almost a year and was continuously flabbergasted at certain things that were said that seemed to me to clearly violate the basic, simple truth about God’s grace in Jesus and replacing it with elevated statuses for people who prophesy the most, etc. Church services were seen as opportunities to have weird experiences to loud music instead of for the body of Christ to love one another and see the love God showed us in Christ. Lots of superiority welled up over people who didn’t operate in the gifts(to their satisfaction), didn’t have lots of visions and stuff, didn’t hear God’s audible voice on a daily basis…

    My knee-jerk posture against could be a conditioning I need to get over. Not that these things describe all P/C’s but it’s not like there’s no reason I feel this way when I’m around them. I’m wrestling with it right now…

    • Nate,

      No doubt we all tend to have sinful responses to issues we dislike. I used to feel guilty about how I felt regarding excesses and abuses in the P/C world that I was familiar with. I now think it was because I felt alone. The extremes that you mention are distractions at best (for you and for them), and very unhealthy or even dangerous at worst (again, for you and for them).

      In my own experience, I finally realized (back in 2001) that it was spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually unhealthy for most of my theological struggles to involve wading through a sea of bad hermeneutics, wacky theology based on individual testimony, faith/prosperity mentality, and so many other things. It wasn’t all bad, by any means, but my negative experiences had sensitized me to even the small issues. So in my case I had to step out of the fray for my own sanity.

      Fortunately, my wife and I still stay in touch with several friends from those days. We didn’t burn any bridges. 🙂

  3. Caleb Hicks says

    I kind of like Mark Driscoll’s description of himself, “Charismatic with a seatbelt.”

    One of my (many) complaints about mainstream Protestantism (at least the churches I have experience with) is that there is so little room for the mysteries of Christianity. The Holy Spirit is virtually ignored, and the general consensus seems to be “God doesn’t work that way anymore” and “those people lifting their hands are on something.” When it comes to the more (in)famous parts of a Charismatic worship service, I’ve also heard, “they’re faking it,” or “they’re just acting that way because it’s expected.”

    From my limited experience with Charismatic churches, that lack of room for the Spirit seems to be one of their major sticking points as well. I was once criticized for going to a retreat because there were no healings or exorcisms.

    So while I disagree with mainline Protestants’ general view of the Holy Spirit, I will admit I was more than slightly offended when this Charismatic acquaintance denied that God was at work during our retreat because nobody fell on the floor shaking.

    But where are modern day miracles? Having witnessed a medically confirmed healing, and having seen the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of people right in front of me, I can’t say “God doesn’t work like that these days.” The rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work here and now is as dangerous as faking it.

    I think this is one case where the discomfort goes both ways, and while I agree with the points in the blog, perhaps the Protestants could be the ones to reach out a hand first. Either side could be first. Ready, go.

    I will add that this kind of mutual disrespect between Christians is one of the most painful things I see in the Church as a whole.

    • Surely my occasional ability to keep my mouth shut when I had something cutting to say, or to be patient, or to put another first, is as miraculous as healing or speaking in tongues. I know well that any godly behavior on my part is not of my own doing and not a result of natural laws followed to their natural conclusions. It is a miracle, as amazing as the dramatic ones and (I think) a lot more helpful to me and those around me.

      • Caleb Hicks says

        While I agree with you, that’s not the dominant view that I’ve heard from mainstream Protestants. There’s just no room for the Holy Spirit, inward or outward. Perhaps that is just my experience, as most Protestant churches I’ve had experience with have been more about what we do to reach God than what God does for, in, and through us.

        I hope I’m not generalizing too much…

  4. Having interacted fairly extensively with Michael Spencer, as well as the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement in Canada, I have to assume that we tend to experience in my area up here is considerably tamer than what Michael has experienced in his area. (Toronto Blessing aside.)

  5. I wish Michael Spencer wrote about how mainline liberal churches are birthed by Satan. But even if he did, Chaplain Mike would never repost that for our consumption.

    • WOW, “birthed by Satan” he says.

      Someone remind me of the Fruit of the Spirit again…

    • Christopher Lake says


      Pride is Satanic too. Pride was at the root of both Lucifer’s rebellion against God and Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the forbidden fruit. Was spiritual pride involved in your decision to post the above comment? Think about it.

      • Christopher Lake says


        I don’t disagree with many of your statements about how modernist theologians tend to look down upon those (including me, actually) who hold to what historic Christianity has always taught, regarding the sinfulness of active, practiced homosexuality, and the fact that Christ is the one true Savior from sin. Very recently, I was involved in a lengthy discussion on a Christian message board, in which I was literally the *only person* arguing against the legalization of gay marriage. (!)

        What I find troubling in your comment above, however, is the sweeping nature of it. “Mainline liberal churches…. birthed by Satan.” I find myself wondering, who and what, exactly, are you thinking of when you post such “descriptive” words? Are all Episcopalians written off, in your mind, as mainline liberal agents of Satan? What about United Methodists? PCUSA’ers? American Baptists?

        I am firmly against modernist (“modernist,” as understood in the technical theological sense of the word), heretical trends in Biblical scholarship. I deplore and lament the damage that such trends have done, in both the Catholic Church and in Protestantism. I’m just uneasy with the very sweeping terms that you use.

      • How many such Christians – i.e., members in those types of churches who also believe and do the things you list – regularly read and post here at iMonk?

        I suspect that one reason iMonk’s topics and discussions – and criticisms – tend to deal with the more so-called conservative churches and more so-called conservative forms of Christianity is because that’s where most of the readers and commenters here live and dwell and have their being.

        • That should be “live and move and have their being.” 😐

        • Christopher Lake says


          There is a fairly big tent here at IMonk. I’m not sure that most of the people who comment here would describe themselves as conservative Christians and/or members of conservative churches. For many people, such terms might carry some unwanted baggage. Imonk readers are all over the map, from strong Calvinists to disenchanted/questioning evangelicals to mainline Protestants to Catholics to agnostics and atheists. The wide spectrum of belief and practice among those who read and comment here is one of the things which makes this site so interesting, stimulating, and challenging.

    • Dan Allison says

      Words cannot even begin to describe my reaction to this kind of hate-mongering. General, sweeping attacks against Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists are, for all practical purposes, attacks against Christianity.

    • Mark, I’m going to let this stand only as final evidence of your intractably stubborn spirit. Any more comments like this and you will be on permanent moderation.

    • Mark: hope you don’t feel too piled on here, bro: let me be among those who invite you to the discussion here at IMONK……but you’lll probably have to put down the poison pen to stay (and that, of course, is not my decision, thank God )

      I’m hoping you decide it’s worth it to stay and be part of the IMONK discussion
      Greg R

      • Greg, thanks for saying this. I have deleted some comments that react to our brother Mark. No more. He’s been duly warned. Let’s all move on.

  6. Wow. I’m familiar enough with the Catholic Charismatic movement (and more appreciative of it now than when I was actually a student at Steubenville). As to the Protestant side…whew. It’s certainly taken a different path, at least in the mainstream form.

    Tired, late-night musing: the day of Pentecost; the gifts of the Spirit described by Paul – all of those were part of the “honeymoon” phase of the Church; “the rejoicing of the bridegroom in the bride” and v.v. But honeymoons don’t last – something quieter but more enduring has to come along. You can’t cling to the honeymoon – and you can’t mistake mere enthusiasm for love of God, which is a danger very much inherent in the Charismatic movement. It’s a movement; a second honeymoon maybe; still a means to an end rather than the end itself.

  7. Ain’t this the gospel truth. I was raised in Calvary Chapels, and much of what is written here, especially on the topic of worship, is right on with my experience. And CC is a pretty stereotypical example of mainstream fundagelicalism, so I fear some of these problems are more far spread then we may realize. People hype up over and over again about some special “power”, and when they can’t deliver in their own power, people loose interest and quit church. Try talking to people from CC or vineyard about using the Lord’s Prayer. Amazing how quickly they can quote the verse about “vain repetitions” without realizing the grammatical structure of the sentence uses “vain” as a QUALIFIER for repetitions, thus delineating that repetitions in and of themselves are not inherently vain.

    Bleh had to get that out.

    • here at Vineyard, we don’t mind repetition , as long as it is sung: The Cows are in the Korrrrrrn, Martha, the Cows are in the Korrrrrn…….

      Greg R

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        We talking “7-11 Praise & Worship”? Seven words repeated eleven times with eyes closed and hands upraised?

        • ONLY 11 times ???? if only…….. 🙂 but I should add that at my Vineyard, the worship music is actually several steps better than that, and actually getting better and better, IMO:

          I like the “eyes closed” bit….(as a joke, that is)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Calvary Chapels always struck me as the type examples of everything that could go wrong with Nondenominational Evangelical Christianity. Can’t really explain why in any understandable manner beyond “a really bad feeling about this”, but they have this vibe that makes me want to stay as far away from their brand of Christ as I can.

      • Dan Allison says

        I attended there for two years — I’m now happily in a PCUSA congregation — and I have to agree. I could enumerate the problems with the CCs, but I won’t. It doesn’t profit anything, and when people are ready to leave, they leave.

        • Re: CC and Vineyard as well – Rent/buy/borrow the movie Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher (I think that’s the title). It’s about Lonnie Frisbee and the movie will fill in a deliberately missing gap in the history of those two churches. The special features constitute almost a 2nd full-length documentary.

  8. Christopher Lake says

    This is a tremendous essay from Michael. Honest, pained, and wise.

    In David Neff’s CT article on the charismatic movement, he makes a reference to a short quotation from Luke Timothy Johnson– a quotation that, in my view, speaks volumes about what has happened, widely, within the charismatic movement. Here it is: “Christian mysticism that finds no center in the Eucharist or the Passion of Christ drifts into a form of self-grooming.”

    Much of what has become the contemporary charismatic movement had its beginnings in historic, confessional Protestant churches, such as the Episcopal Church in the very late ’50s/early ’60s. As the charismatic movement increasingly cuts its ties with historic Christian creeds and confessions, it falls prey to strange, and even heretical, teachings. Anchors, such as creeds and confessions, are, I believe, necessary to keep our faith from devolving into a dangerous subjectivity.

    Subjective spiritual experience is not inherently bad. With discernment, it can be healthy, and even, to a degree, perhaps necessary in the Christian life– but it alone cannot be an anchor. When subjective experience is basically cut adrift, outside the bounds of historic, creedal Christianity, it has precious little protection against heresy. I wonder, could this be why the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church does not seem to have fallen into the heresies that are found in found in certain non-denominational charismatic Protestant circles?

    • Read The Azusa Street Mission and Revival by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. The Pentecostal movement had problems from the beginning and in its early years, problems that are destined to recur with each move of the Spirit if one doesn’t read and learn from history. I think it’s one of the best and most thorough and balanced books on the subject, and I’ve read many to the point where they all seemed to be repeating the same things ad nauseam. Robeck has done his research and presents information I found or read nowhere else. Whether you’re Charismatic, non-Charismatic, or anti-Charismatic, this book will find a welcome place on your bookshelf.

      • Christopher Lake says

        Thanks for the information, EricW. I will definitely look for that book, especially as I have been in Reformed Baptist (not-so-charismatic) circles for several years and am now contemplating a return to the Catholic Church, which, at least in America, does have a strong charismatic movement. I want to try to understand and appreciate it as much as possible, as one who has leaned toward cessationism in the past.

    • Anchors, such as creeds and confessions, are, I believe, necessary to keep our faith from devolving into a dangerous subjectivity.

      Very well said, Christopher;
      Greg R

  9. “When they attend a traditional [P/C] church, they are overwhelmed with criticisms of anything that is not spontaneous, highly expressive, or novel.”

    Michael’s statement hits on something that I see is a trend among people in general. Many have become wrapped up in the constant need for something new, something different, something that isn’t the same as yesterday. I see it in the quick way Hollywood produces crappy movies and iTunes has the latest CD from the latest artist, which sounds pretty bland. I see it in the “Christian market” where there seems to be an obsession with the newest book, study bible, CD or DVD.

    Much of the growth in my Christian walk came not from the novelities and new developments of the faith, but from rediscovering what has already been done over the history of the church. It is the rediscovery of classical Christianity that I believe will bring about a more substantial, if subtle, revival in the church.

  10. I’ve only attended a P/C church once but I will say that the sermon was extremely serious business. I’ve never seen so much Hebrew in a single sermon, and only rarely as much Greek. It nearly could have been a lecture in a Hebrew or Old Testament university course. I had a bit of emotional whiplash going from the typical P/C worship into this guys Hebrew lesson.

    It was bout 15 years ago, but it was certainly possible to find solid exposition at that particular church. I’m sure that church was quite the exception though.

    • Theresa Simione says

      When I first came into a Pentacostal Church the emphasis was on “precept by precept” teaching from the Bible – but I too have seen the deterioration. I’d like to think it is not the “norm” in Assembly of God churches – more the independent denominations, but sadly I see it and hear of it – I can hardly stand to watch anyone on TV – Thank the Lord my church is still Biblically based – but…. all I can say is I understand this essay and agree with 90% of what Mike is saying and that makes me very sad. But my hope is in God and in the personal relationship with Him – Have mercy on all of us Lord – PS the only ones I can stand on TV these days are 2 Catholic Priests – Fr. Groeschal and Fr. Corapi Ha HA LOL but they are real in what they preach – I am blessed everytime I tune them in even when I don’t agree with a particular doctrine. Maranatha

  11. Chap Mike: thanks for the re-post; I find myself in the “needlessly divisive” camp after reading most of this re-post, which is ironic because I’m a Vineyard-ite. My tone and approach has been to find fault, and not find the common ground and areas of praise and excellence. I will re-focus and try to build better bridges in the future, without going brain dead or weak kneed.

    And thank you , again, IMonk, if you are listening in.
    Miss ya , bro
    Greg R

  12. I’ve been a Christian for 34 years, moved around a lot and therefore been a member or attender at all kinds of churches across the theological spectrum. If I’ve learned anything over the years it is that the differences between us (i.e., different traditions, schools of thought, denominations) are larger in our imaginations than in any real, objective sense. “A tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33), and not so much by the fine distinctions partisans tend to make.

    Therefore, I have to smile at some of the criticisms that Michael offers for the simple reason that they exist in different forms in various circles, not just the “P/C” realm (of which I don’t really consider myself a member, using his definitions).

    For example, the concept of “anointing,” which is vague, elastic and at times troubling in P/C churches, is manifested in the followings of all types of ministries, including some that would severely criticize the P/C term and its use. There are, in fact, ways that people regard Michael’s ministry in the same way that I have observed P/C followers lift up their favorite ministers/prophets/Bible teachers and other “anointed” individuals.

    I’m sorry if that offends anyone, because it’s not intended, but it is an honest observation and in no way a reflection on Michael. (Even Paul and Apollos had those who said, “I follow Paul,” etc., something Paul disapproved of.)

    The pitfall to watch out for when we start launching fusillades of criticism is self-righteousness: knowing what is right without realizing that you aren’t necessarily doing what is right yourself. That doesn’t preclude the possibility of criticism, correction or even rebuke (2 Tim. 3:16), but without examining yourself in this respect it’s not truly “mak[ing] every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) and it leads to the kind of divergence that Michael lamented.

  13. I think IM’s observations are all pretty fair. I grew up in Assemblies of God and eventually left for many if not most of the reasons mentioned. The good things I came away with, though, are 1) a love of the Bible and 2) a desire for heartfelt engagement in worship. In spite of ever-growing theological problems today, people in the AG church I grew up had a genuine reverence for Scripture and that has stuck with me. And even though I play classically-oriented music in church now, even within that style, I bring real emotion and feeling to what I’m doing and people have always commented on how they appreciate it—-that’s all a positive thing taken from my Pentecostal upbringing.

    As IM has said, it was great when P/C folks were simply bringing life and energy into mainstream churches, within which there was a sense of continuity and of authority (i.e., restraint). It’s the free-for-all lack of any restraint or discernment whatsoever that has led to the problems in my opinion. Interestingly, nearly 1000 years ago, there were similar “revivals” where people more eagerly sought a New Testament Christianity and where charismatic teachers brought renewed energy and zeal to the church. At that time, the authority and restraint of the Catholic infrastructure kept things in check and only the best of the “new” from that revival has remained to this day.

  14. Since I attend a Vineyard church and have attended the Vineyard Leadership Institute, I’d like to take a moment to respond to these questions from my perspective.

    Before I begin, my church is kind of charismatic lite. People who have a “prayer language” (ie pray in tongues) usually do so quietly, and not during the main service. Occasionally, People will speak up during the service to share a “word” with the congregation, or to share a piece of scripture, but that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, I’m not sure if the Vineyard qualifies as a Charismatic/Pentecostal movement based on the definition given at the end.

    Anyway, here’s my reply to the points raised above:
    1) Scripture: Like I said, I’ve attended the Vineyard Leadership Institute and I have some good news on this front. At VLI they teach relatively sound, biblical theology. The guy who runs VLI, Steve Robbins, is a Paul scholar. We were not taught, for example, that baptism in the spirit was a single subsequent event. We were taught that prophecy is an ongoing gift, but prophetic messages don’t override scripture.

    The theology class was more of a historical theology course, rather than a systematic theology course, but it still gave us a good perspective of how theology and church tradition have developed over the years.

    All this is to say, the Vineyard is trying to raise up a generation of leaders who know their bible and know their theology. I’ve heard people give some teachings that were a little off-base at conferences and such, but I have high hopes that the next generation of leaders will be better equipped.

    2) Worship – At my church we do the contemporary P/C worship style, but we also experiment with different forms of musical worship. We sing gospel songs, we occasionally sing old hymns and we sometimes sing in other languages.

    I am concerned a little bit about my church. We have a strong worship band, so a lot of people have this idea in their heads that worship = music. Often times when people say “worship” they mean, “worship music” specifically.

    Setting this aside, our church does dabble in more traditional forms of worship. This past year we celebrated advent (with the wreathe and candles and everything). I actually visited another Vineyard church around the holidays that was also doing advent. Also, during Good Friday we had a tenebrae service. heck, reading this blog has made me curious about more traditional, liturgical forms of worship.

    I don’t understand the strange notion that P/C style worship is the only form of worship. In my opinion, the best thing about P/C worship is the freedom. Having experienced that, it can actually be fun to experience other types of worship to see the richness that they have to offer.

    3) Prayer – This is a place where I feel the tension. I’ve heard teachings that lean both directions. I share your concern about “name it and claim it.” (Incidentally, so does Steve Robbins, the head of VLI). In my prayer I want to listen to what God is saying and do what God is doing. I have prayed for healing, but I know that not every prayer for healing gets answered, and not every answer comes right away. I would never tell someone that their healing didn’t come through because they didn’t have enough faith.

    Unfortunately, I have heard people preach that all healing will occur if we pray with enough faith. This was from speakers that our pastor invited to the church. They had a bad interpretation of Job to go along with their terrible teaching. I spoke with the pastor afterward and he remarked that he was still doing “damage control”. (ie Consoling people who were disappointed when the healing didn’t come). So I understand the dangers of such teachings, but they are unfortunately common.

    Spiritual warfare is a subject that can be confusing. Part of the problem, I think, is that along with spiritual warfare, there is a need for discipleship and maturity. Casting out demons only gets us so far. At some point we need to work on our own disobedience. The main problem is that people expect prayer and deliverance to be a “quick fix” when, most of the time, real healing is a long and difficult process.

    4) Spiritual leadership – I haven’t experienced too much of this myself, although I’ve heard of it happening quite often. One of my older friends was abused by spiritual leaders decades ago and her walk still suffers for it.

    At VLI, Steve often talked about the need to heal the rift between pastors and prophets. There needs to be openness and mutual accountability. he also cautioned against listening to “spiritual superstars”; people who are very anointed, but don’t have any accountability.

    I think there’s a misunderstanding about how anointing works. No one gets all the gifts. Someone can be an anointed healer, but that doesn’t mean they should give a message (see my above example with the speakers who came to our church).

    This is especially true with prophecies and such. If it goes against scripture, then it obviously isn’t true prophecy. I don’t understand why people think God would give prophets the right to reinterpret scripture.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience from within a “Charismatic” church. Hopefully this is encouraging and/or helpful.

    • AS a fellow Vineyard-eterian: do you think Vineyard, being somewhat in what Wimber called “the radical middle”, has offered anythng unique in the discussion that IMonk was referring to ?? Do you see hopeful signs (uh…..ooooops, mean that in the secular sense 🙂 ) in this communication esp. with the more charismatic churches ?? Just curious what you’ve seen from your part of the Vineyard. Here in KC, I really don’t think there is a ton of communication with the major “prophetic schools”. As far as I know (a ‘layman’s view, for sure)

      welcome to the Imonk village, BTW
      Greg R

      • I go to a Vineyard in San Diego. It’s a relatively small Vineyard, and we don’t communicate much with the local P/C churches, as far as I know. We actually communicate more with the local Presbyterian church because we meet right across the street.

        I hope that answers your question.

        • Interesting……..like I mentioned before, our interaction is with a local Anglican church and with a non-denom that looks a lot like Saddleback……. I’m not drawing any conclusions here, just observing. I think one reason might be, as Monk noted, there is just more room to talk about things we agree on (sevice focused evangelism, community life in the church, making bridges to the neighborhoods and community at large) these are things we agree on, it seems.

    • In fact, I’m not sure if the Vineyard qualifies as a Charismatic/Pentecostal movement based on the definition given at the end.

      Many would say that the Vineyard Movement is part of what C. Peter Wagner dubbed “The Third Wave,” the first wave being the Pentecostal Movement (Topeka, KS, and Azusa Street, Los Angeles, CA) and the second wave being the Charismatic Movement (dating from Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett’s 1960 announcement that he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues) where the Pentecostal practices began manifesting in and spreading throughout regular denominations – but which led to the formation of non-denominational Charismatic churches.

      Bill Jackson’s The Quest for the Radical Middle is a good account of Vineyard’s history, IMO, as is When the Spirit Comes With Power: Signs and Wonders Among God’s People by John White.

      We used to be in a Vineyard church when we lived in Kansas City, but that church left the Vineyard Association when Mike Bickle’s (now head of IHOP) Kansas City Fellowship became Metro Vineyard Fellowship (and later Metro Christian Fellowship when it later left the Vineyard). Those were “interesting” times – the Kansas City Prophets grabbed magazine covers and John Wimber came in to help put a stop to the Bickle-Gruen controversy. (Ernie Gruen was the pastor of a large Pentecostal/Charismatic KC church, Full Faith Church of Love, that began and grew during the Jesus Movement.)

      • A small postscript to your post, EricW

        who know who is saying what to whom on an unofficial level, but from the pulpit, there is zip said about Metro and/or IHOP (Bickle’s currnet ministry). I’m at the Overland park Vineyard (started by the Kirby’s and what used to meet over at Barstow school many yrs ago) So it’s as if the major “school of prophets” or anything akin to it didn’t exist (though we know , of course, that it does)

        For my mainline friends: Vineyards have a great deal of autonomy, and hence are VERY different city to city and state to state. Some are actually very liturgical, some much more charismatic, perhaps a few even Pentecostal (though I’ve never seen one like that) I have never been, or seen, a Vineyard that reminded me of the whole Toronto blessing thing, though I’m not saying they aren’t out there (then again, maybe they ARE “out there….. 🙂 )

        Given the lack (seemingly) of interaction here in KC, at least with our OP Vineyard, I was wondering what Jimmy had seen/heard from his neck of whereever.

        A sidebar: I think more and more charismatic churches will seek to be “Third Wave-ish” as they try to meld the best of charismatic and evangelical experiences and practices. The music and worship services are already heavily Vineyard oriented, and have been for yrs.

      • I’ve read the Quest for the Radical Middle. It was a good book, although I found it strange how he talked about the “tension” of remaining in the radical middle. These days it’s much more typical for Evangelical churches to have a charismatic influence, so it never seemed very radical to me.

        • maybe it depends on your neighborhood; here in KC, there is still a (mostly quiet) tension surrounding the whole prophetic thing, what it looks like, what place it has or should have in the life of the church and evangelism, etc. Like I said, ‘quet’ for now, but my gut tells me this issue is not reallly solved.

          here in OP, the more charismatic one wants to be, esp. in the pentecostal sense of the word, the more likely that person will eventually find either a different Vineyard, or a more pentecostal local church . We lean towards the mainline middle, I think.

          Greg R

    • I know nothing about the Vineyard or VLI so this is not really a comment about the specifics of those entities but rather on the comment “the Vineyard is trying to raise up a generation of leaders who know their bible and know their theology”. I agree that’s a good, hopeful thing.

      My experience growing up in the AG, however, is that there many who claimed to be great Bible experts that came and taught and frankly, even as a kid, I found their Biblical and theological understanding to be still at entrance level. It’s not a question of wanting everyone to be some kind of ivory tower scholar. It’s more that the church’s focus was so geared to evangelism, that any understanding never went beyond the basic steps to being saved. Anything else seemed to be the teacher’s speculation of the week, particularly on end times prophecy which was the one area everyone was seemingly a scholar. I think this is coming across more pessimistic than I intended. It’s just that training and education is great and hopeful, but only if the teachers aren’t just presenting the latest writings of the so-called P/C experts who think they’ve got everything figured out but who themselves have never actually cracked scholarly books by the great theologians of the past.

      • Check out the bio of Peter H. Davids. He is a good example of the recognized scholar who is now working with the Vineyard movement.

        • Any idea how Bill Jackson (Nothin’s Gonna Stip It) or Derek Morphew (Breakthrough) are seen outside of the Vineyard ?? I’m too insulated to know…..

  15. I am a new reader of the I monk,.com world. I left my church in my late teens and came back to God in the last 3-4yrs.Reading the Bible daily and reading commentary from John Stott and William Barclay have been a great help. The Bible is all about Jesus and what he has done for mankind. When one puts him or herself in front and tries to make God do his or her will instead of saying to God thy will be done. One is missing the point. I also like the emphasis on “VAIN” repitition. If you think about the words of the Lords prayer or the creeds and their meaning they are beautiful and not vain.

  16. I have zero P/C experience, but point #2 struck a nerve in regard to Frank Viola and the “organic church” movement. Viola has good documentation and good points of critique, but then goes off the rails, IMHO, with scorched earth condemnation of other worship styles. The critique is similar, i.e. rote repetition, no Spirit, etc. The whole motif is James Bond: “Live and Let Die”.

  17. As I said in an earliert post, I missed all this back and forth in the1960s to 1980s about me Christianity. I’m glad I did because it sounds like a bunch of crap. Jesus is all that matters in the Bible and in our religeous experience. How we relate to Him, not how we can use Him for our own benefit.

  18. In general, well said. But let’s not forget the attempt of so many non P/C-ers to replace the Word of God with the words of Thomas Jefferson and others. I personally suspect that the inter-group angst which has been growing between the P/Cers and others, is principally a profound frustration. Very few on any of the sides, are holding the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ as truly paramount for us. There is so much of “Yes, Jesus said this, but look at what Paul says; therefore, we don’t have to consider what Jesus said to apply to us.” Alternate Paul with Roberts, Robertson, and others, and the various points of view of so many profoundly frustrated church-leaders, are summarized.

  19. Hello! This is my first visit (and post) to this site. What an intriguing place!

    Just briefly, I want to comment that I attended an Assemblies of God church in Costa Rica for two years, that was both strongly rooted in an exposition of Scripture and in manifesting the gifts of the Spirit. Both were important. At my current church, I belong to a group dedicated to learning about prophesy and gifts of the Spirit, but which is also strongly Bible-based (and categorized as non-charismatic). I believe that both are necessary for a balanced church.

    As for this part of the post:

    “I am apparently involved with the legalistic, religious words of the Bible, and not the living “Rhema,” prophetic words that P/C prophets and ministers routinely proclaim. My assumption that the Spirit says whatever the text says is not shared by many P/Cs. They believe the text is true, but the Spirit has something fresh to say today and that message isn’t found in the text, but in the Spirit’s speaking to individuals.”

    I believe that many Charismatics/Pentecostals (including myself, if in fact I can denominize myself… I don’t like to stick myself in a category, actually), believe that the Word is true, as you say, but more accurately, not every verse in Scripture is applicable to a particular person’s situation. Rather, as we read the Word, the Spirit touches us with verses that we need on any given day, and sometimes those verses are delivered through others. Neither I, nor most of the “charismatic” believers that I know, believe that the “message” isn’t found outside the text of Bible, as you say. Some might believe that the Spirit isn’t limited to the Bible, but those that I know believe in the importance of the Word-the Bible- for receiving wisdom from God.

    But not all of the Bible is relevant to our personal lives. Some verses don’ t make sense to us or even offend us, and when we feed a verse to others through our flesh and not by the Spirit, the Word cannot bring life, but instead, death, to them. Many heinous crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity because people have taken the Word and used it any which way, instead of under the Spirit’s guidance. But it seems that many non-charismatic churches don’t teach the importance of the Spirit’s lading. Instead, there is an implicit implication that because the Bible is the infallible Word of God, all of it should be relevant to our lives. Not so.

    So I just wanted to clarify what I, and many other charismatics that I know, believe on this subject, because I feel that the post, while it made some excellent points, was a bit slanted in its view of charismatics/Pentecostals. Certainly some are as you say, and this is sad, but those whom I hang out with, are strong, Bible-believing Christians who believe that it’s just as important to expound on the Word as it is to heal others, cast out demons and do other works of the Spirit.


  20. Thanks for posting this Chaplain Mike. I have some theological differences with the P/C’s and have had some personal experiences with them that make me pretty suspicious of anything that smells charismatic. As a result I think I am jaded and probably incapable of writing something like this. I think this has to be one of Michael’s masterpieces – on the spot, yet gracious. I do hope this gets a large reading.

  21. I think what this author is trying to say is, “Why is it hard to talk to other brothers because they only want to force dramatic charismaticism on you?” I attend two churches. One is a Hispanic church that might be considered non-denominational or Aog or something. If you want to be charismatic, fine, if not, that’s ok too. The other church is increasingly, “I spoke in tongues for two hours and saw a vision of angels this morning”, and “Give us Your wine, let us be drunk in Your Spirit”, and stumbling around and shaking and stuff.

    I am trying to figure this Christian thing out and how to live like my Saviour lived and I think the Christian life is more about serving, giving, crying with, reading the Bible for life direction, realization of turning from sin into the God’s arms, etc…and less about getting all the gifts and getting drunk everynight, yelling, “More Lord, more!”, for prayer tme etc…as charismatics do. I cannot talk to people at church about my life or ask questions; they just say, “You need to get the Holy Spirit (aka speaking in tongues)”. I wish I could speak in tongues and do all this shaking and falling down so that I can say, “OK, I can prove that I can do all this jazz. Now, talk to me about how to use money for the Kingdom and other people’s needs, and how to have Godly relationships, and what should I do in this situation, etc…

    If I could say, “Let’s talk about a subject that doesn’t end in how I need tongues and I need word of faith and I need deliverance from the demon that asks questions and I need to be more happy and I need to get drunk on the Spirit and I…” I would definitely talk to my brothers in the faith. For example, “They are building a strip club too close to a school, did you hear?” “Although you need to pray in tongues as much as I do and get joy and happiness, that was not the question, so I’ll leave it alone. About the strip…”

    This is the growing and awkward silence. I wish I could meet someone that could say, “Mary enjoys the sacraments as a Catholic to connect with God. Joe prays in tongues and rolls around on the ground to connect with God. Although we are different, the God revealed in the Bible is more important that Mary becoming Joe or Joe becoming Mary. The fact is that we need the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s message to us through the Word, inspire us to worship Him, heal the sick, convict sin and bring to repentance, bring us wisdom and counsel in matters we seek God, etc…but I wonder why He needs to be forced on people to produce manifestations as the goal we seek. It kind of tires me out.