Letting go of the hype of “Charismania”
It was 2009. Lori and I had just gone through another Charismatic house church that imploded. A good measure of this implosion was the result of bad theology and the resulting bad practice from that erroneous belief system. It was not the first time that this “Charismania” had come crashing in upon us and caused emotional devastation and spiritual ruin. I have found myself over the years, being seduced by the Charismatic Movement, and that seduction has only lead to more disappointment, pain, sorrow, and disaffection for the “church” and the “Kingdom of God.” Today, I find myself in a place where I have finally reached the limit. I have nothing left. All that I want, and all that remains at the end is Jesus, and He is enough, and for me, He needs to remain enough. I need to guard myself against the teachings and ministries of the Charismatic Movement and Revivalism.
Robby MacAlpine recently stated in one of his blog posts:
“Nothing qualifies me as an “awkward continuationist” more than the deep desire for revival — where Christians are so impacted by the Holy Spirit that they renounce sin in their own lives, are convicted of where they have compromised with the world’s thinking, and are emboldened to share their faith in the marketplace as they serve “the least of these”.
“We don’t need another charismania three-ring circus.
“We need — I need — a Holy Spirit-inspired revival that rocks our world and leads us back to Jesus.”
MacAlpine and Post-Charismatic understanding
This stuff on “revival” is one of the many subjects that Robby MacAlpine has lived through, studied, read, and written about. His two exceptional books, Post-Charismatic? In 2008 and Post-Charismatic 2.0 in 2013. Both of these deal with the Charismatic Movement. In his first book Post-Charismatic?, Robby deals with the overview of the historical development of the Pentecostal Movement, the rise of Latter Rain Movement, then the Prosperity and Healing Movement, and then the section on Covering and Authority. In the second half of that book, MacAlpine goes through a very practical side to the “Charismatic” life, and deals with the five fold ministries, what it means to be people of faith, spiritual formation from a Charismatic orientation, and concludes with a section of what it means to belong to a “community of the Spirit” and the outward application and manifestation of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in life and ministry. My wife and I read this book in 2009 at a time when we were desperate for someone to address the issues, problems and concerns we had with the Charismatic Movement.
MacAlpine calls on “post-Charismatics” to remain open to the Spirit, and as such, one of his premises is that, he is openly chooses to remain open to the Spirit, spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, without all the hype and excess we have come to see from within the Charismatic Movement. I would agree with him wholeheartedly. Being post, simply implies that you have moved beyond what is being defined and explained. For me and for my own understanding, my being a “post-Charismatic” means I still want all that God has for me through the current ministry of the Holy Spirit, without all the hype and baggage, or all the “packaging” that comes through the institutional Charismatic Church Movement and all its ministries and personalities and teachings and beliefs.
From Classical Pentecostal to Evangelical Anabaptist to Charismatic
I was raised a Pentecostal, the son of Pentecostal missionaries and pastors, and I joined the Vineyard movement after my Bible College days, and spending a few years tossed between an Anabaptist congregation and a classical Pentecostal congregation. I was an ordained minister in a variety of charismatic churches and in a non-Charismatic ministry. Each time my wife and I joined another Charismatic church or ministry, we were usually having the same situation manifest in our lives. These are the telltale signs for me that a personal can become vulnerable to the bad teaching and bad application of teaching, and the result is coming under the influence of it all and that influence affecting how you live your life. Too many Charismatic churches and people in ministries exert too much influence in the lives of people. People get manipulated and used, and coerced, all in the name of God and ministers who abuse their authority and accountability ministries.
MacAlpine and Post-Charismatic 2.0
Now, in 2013, MacAlpine wrote the 2.0 version of Post-Charismatic, and his emphasis this time was to really delve into and expose what he sees and understands to be problematic theological beliefs that underpin the wider Charismatic Movement. These include the Latter Rain Movement (Kingdom Now and Dominionism), the Word of Faith (prosperity, health and wealth) and the Shepherding Movement (authority, submission and covering). As in its previous incarnation, MacAlpine gives lots of history, and biographical information, and the evolution of the beliefs that came from these movements to become the major core beliefs of the Charismatic Movement.
Belief has consequences
The damage done by this form of bad charismatic theology leads to a way of living and believing that is really unhealthy for the soul and quite inconsistent to a balanced understanding of Scripture. It leads to accepting some practical outcomes and applications to life, which under regular scrutiny and investigation, most people would dismiss as being inappropriate or totally wrong. Bad belief always leads to bad application and error. This kind of coercion and manipulation done through a poor interpretation and application of scripture is always difficult to recover from. To become safe and stay safe and to minimize the emotional damage and the resulting spiritual chaos that ensues from this erroneous theology, you end up becoming a non practicing post-charismatic, and you do this to just simply survive it all!
My own journey
When I look at my own journey, I see all the stuff that MacAlpine speaks off. It was like he was in my head, and he recited over all the key persons, theological positions and teachings that I submitted to for 25 years of my life. When I look back at just how much influence there was from the Latter Rain movement and all the weird manifestations of the Spirit I encountered and embraced, it is little wonder I am not in a worse state. Then you have the influence of the five fold leadership ministry gifts teaching, of which the prophetic movement became a prominent extension, and to an extent a separate branch from the other five fold ministry gifts, and to be sure at times the so called prophetic movement was more pathetic than prophetic. Within this prophetic stream is the dreams and visions teaching, and out of body and spirit encounters.
The upheaval of signs and wonders and the supernatural
My wife and I were so impacted by the signs and wonders movement within the Charismatic movement, that its impact still lingers in so many ways. The embracing of dreams and visions, and out of body experiences, and so much Gnosticism and New Age teaching and influence gets to the point where there is very little discernment and wisdom applied to understanding these phenomena, and then determining whether or not biblical Christians ought to embrace and practice such beliefs. In the case of my wife and I, we eventually made a rational decision to walk away. Our faith had become so highly subjective and overtly emotional with so many questionable supernatural things taking place and constantly having them being justified by people we once thought to be mature, but we always wrestled with it in our own spirits and had a check on it. It was frustrating having all these checks, and with wanting to belong, and with wanting to be on the same page with God and what He appeared to be doing in these churches, conferences and meetings, we always caved in, so we could be part of “what God is doing” in that moment in space and time. And, that was wrong. We should never have caved in. We should have listened to that inner voice, and we should have stopped, stepped back, and waited and prayed, and ceased from our striving in this area, and get God’s heart for us on that matter. We ended up really hurting ourselves spiritually.
I remain open to the Holy Spirit, but not to the manipulation and coercion of men and women
In our quest to remain open to God, my wife and I unfortunately have repeated this pattern all too often in the last decade. We would get to the point of wanting to be part of the current move of God, and we would find a place that embraced all that God has, and it had to be “non-cessationist” as neither of us believed all the gifts of the Spirit were no longer present or needed in the world. We both operated in supernatural leadership and ministry gifts. We have speak in tongues, and move in the interpretation of tongues, we both have experienced the gift of healing, and I have had an overflow of the teaching gift and spiritual administration, and a good measure of the apostolic. Lori-Anne had really flowed in the miraculous, healing, and prophetic evangelism. So we needed to be in a church community that respected the Holy Spirit and the gifts for today, but it had to be without all the hype of the Charsmatic Movement.
So, we found places, with some lovely people, but it always ended up “getting weird” in how certain beliefs and practices materialized and were encouraged and practiced. Everything from “fire tunnels” to the feeling of “rain inside the building” and calling on “everyone to prophesy” even if you did not have the gift. The ongoing singing and repeated use of contemporary worship that was coercive and manipulative and emotionally disruptive only led to more and greater emotional rushes. The need to have altar calls for every service was too much to bear. Even when the message given did not need a personal or congregational response, the worship teams would be called forward to set the stage for an emotional plea and response. Over and over this kind of manipulation in the name of God would ensue, and it was usually the same people week in and week out who would come forward for personal ministry time, and to get their ministry fix for the week, until it would happen all over again. Enough! Not anymore. This time it looks really done. For good. Finished. Kaput. Fini. Over and out.
Walking away unfortunately includes walking away from people
My wife and I have walked away from all the charismatic chaos (don’t mean to quote John MacArthur) we experienced in this process. It truly is completely chaotic. For us it was and is devastating to go through. When you leave any church community, you end up losing relationships. Some relationships remain simply because of the mutual investment in them, and the mindset that people matter more than beliefs. So some mature Christians have no problem with people separating and leaving and they understand the choices involved in doing so. However, there are many people that have a “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thinking. As soon as you separate, they treat you as if you were never part of the community. I think this is a defense mechanism that kicks in, enabling people to deal with the emotional pain of separation that leaving a Christian community creates for some people. The sense of not belonging, or the sense of not being part of something bigger than yourself can become a bondage that holds people down and paralyzes them and makes it even more difficult for people to maintain healthy relationships even after they suffer this kind of separation when either they leave a church community, or their own friends leave their community to go elsewhere.
The lack of discernment is a great concern.
A.W. Tozer wrote a book, Tragedy In The Church, on the missing gifts of the Church, and he referred to discernment and wisdom in this book and how lacking it was in his own day, and it is even more so now. There is so little room in the contemporary Charismatic Movement, or even the questioning of supposed manifestations of the Spirit, or spiritual phenomena, and what is actually the root of these extra-biblical experiences. Just because people have these experiences where they have visions, dreams, visitations, teleportation, and such manner of things, and they even see Jesus and other biblical characters in spiritual encounters. It really doesn’t mean any of it is biblical, or even from God. Certainly these are spiritual encounters, but of which spirit is it? How many of our Charismatic experiences and church practices and beliefs are actually biblical and valid and worthy of adaptation and acceptance? How many need to be chucked aside as Gnostic superstition and New Age mysticism, totally unworthy of being even considered or embraced. There is so much room for deception today, and I am concerned that there is massive deception within the Charismatic Movement.
Remaining in Christ
For Lori-Anne and I, we both eventually awoke and we asked ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here?” Why are we part of this movement when it is totally the opposite of what we value and believe? If we don’t believe it, we should not practice it. If we don’t practice it, then we don’t have to deal with the chaotic mess that results. Sometimes it is best to be safe and standing on solid biblical grounds, and be satisfied that if God is silent, He is still present. We choose to remain faithful to Him as He continues to remain faithful to us as He has always been, and he continues to sustain and keep us in His heart and will and purpose. I know that I know that I can trust Him, and I do not need a Charismatic experience to validate my Christian life!
~ Samuel M. Buick