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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pentecostal/Charismatic self-criticism

Self-criticism and self-analysis is a sign of health for individuals and groups. Every person and movement is open to growth and prone to temptation and decay. The best and most productive criticism is that which comes from within a movement because it demonstrates clearly that such criticism is not "anti" the cause, but is rather deeply concerned for the integrity of the cause. Because a focus of my writing has been with trends in charismatic and Pentecostal circles some, most notably Samuel Rodriguez, have accused me of being somehow "anti-Pentecostal" or secretly uncomfortable with the growth of Pentecostalism around the world. To those critics I offer these words from Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma magazine which is arguably the flagship publication of the charismatic movement. Grady raises concerns that I have never even touched on in my writing and does so with a level of concern and condemnation that is significant to see.

In some charismatic circles today, people are claiming to have spiritual experiences that involve communication with the dead. One Michigan pastor told me last week that some church leaders he knows promote this bizarre practice…Although little is said about these experiences from the pulpit (since the average believer is not ready to handle this "new revelation"), people in some streams of the prophetic movement are claiming to have visitations…And we are expected to say, "Ooooooo, that's so deep"-and then go looking for our own mystical, beyond-the-grave epiphany. That is creepy….Those who seek counsel from the dead-whether through mediums and séances or in "prophetic visions"-are taking a dangerous step toward demonization.
Not long after ecstasy became known as a recreational drug, someone in our movement got the bright idea to promote spiritual ecstasy as a form of legitimate worship…Recently I told a friend in Pennsylvania that when people get tired of this drug imagery it won't be long before we see some Christians having sexual experiences at the altar. "It's already happening," my friend said. He described a recent "worship concert" in which one of the musicians simulated sex while stroking a microphone and whispering sensual phrases to Jesus. What is next-orgasmic worship? God help us…I know of a case where a man was caught planting fake jewels on the floor of a church. He told his friends he was "seeding the room" to lift the people's faith. I know of others who have been caught putting gold glitter on themselves in a restroom and then running back in a church service, only to claim that God was blessing them with this special favor. Where is the fear of God when Christians would actually fabricate a miracle?
This is a time for all true believers with backbones to draw clear lines between what is godly worship and what is pagan practice.


  1. Lee Grady's stern, prophetic warning is all the more notable because he was listed as a member of C. Peter Wagner's International Coalition of Apostles, along with Charisma publisher Stephen Strang, up into 2008.

    But after the debacle that followed Wagner's officiating over the "apostolic alignment" of Todd Bentley in summer 2008, Lee Grady and Stephen Strang seem to have withdrawn from Wagner's ICA. Their names were not on the 2009 ICA membership list.

    I would certainly still consider Grady and Strang part of the general movement Wagner has helped organize but, for Grady and Strang, the Bentley affair seems to have been a bridge too far.

    While Bentley resigned from his ministry because of a marital infidelity scandal, his hypercharismatic and often violent form of faith healing was, needless to say, controversial, as were his claims to be a second William Branham, his claim to have his own personal angel, and so on.

    It seemed of a piece with what Grady was warning of in his 2009 Charisma column you've quoted here. Indeed, in an August 2008 column titled "Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out The Confusion", Grady wrote,

    "Evangelist Todd Bentley had heralded the Lakeland revival as the greatest Pentecostal outpouring since Azusa Street. From his stage in a gigantic tent in Florida, Bentley preached to thousands, bringing many of them to the stage for prayer. Many claimed to be healed of deafness, blindness, heart problems, depression and dozens of other conditions in the Lakeland services, which ran for more than 100 consecutive nights. Bentley announced confidently that dozens of people had been raised from the dead during the revival...


    Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?

    To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible.

    From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer.

    But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: “This is God. Don’t question.” "

    This was not mere talk on Grady's part; in a March 2009 Charisma column titled "The Tragic Scandal of Greasy Grace", Lee Grady went after Rick Joyner's "restoration" of Todd Bentley, who had moved to Morningstar and placed himself under the supervision of Joyner, along with Jack Deere and Bill Johnson. Wrote Grady,

    "Many Christians today have rejected biblical discipline and adopted a sweet, spineless love that cannot correct. Our grace is greasy. No matter what an offending brother does, we stroke him and pet him and nurse his wounds while we ignore the people he wounded. No matter how heinous his sin, we offer comforting platitudes because, after all, who are we to judge?"

    This touched off an acrimonious feud with Joyner.

  2. By the way, Greg, I have a recording of a West Coast speech C. Peter Wagner gave in 2008, at the commissioning of a new branch of his Wagner Leadership Institute, in which Wagner declared that Pentecostalism, as a movement, was dead. Wagner said Pentecostalism had died in 2006, the year of its 100th anniversary. Of course, Wagner wants that to be so, given that he's fashioning its replacement.

  3. Religious belief regards charisma
    as a natural gift or power given to an individual from the divine. It is an award of spiritual power in the form of an individual’s influence and ability to sway others because of their possession of an overabundance of appeal and magnetism.

  4. Some people in search of charisma for their own selfish purposes will be glad to get a formula (as some of the commentators already suggest). Your final point though is where all the "juice" lies. Bonafide empathy or ethos cannot be faked or even mimicked.check this A lack of authenticity will ultimately derail the believable demonstration of charisma. Thank goodness for that. The last thing the world needs is any more phony leaders.