Charismatic is a term used to describe those who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Church, such as healing, miracles, “speaking in tongues,” are available to Christians and can be experienced today.
We make up 8.5 percent of the world’s population (and 27 percent of all Christians). Pentecostal, Charismatic Christianity is second in size only to the Roman Catholic Church.
As Sarah Bessey wrote, “While many strains of the church decline in influence, Pentecostals and Charismatics continue to grow by leaps and bounds, particularly in the Global South. The church overall is looking more and more charismatic. Even more traditional denominations recognize charismatic experiences and awakenings worldwide. The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board recently lifted their ban on members speaking in tongues. And two of the biggest movements in Christianity right now, Hillsong and Bethel, are staunchly, unapologetically, and deeply charismatic/Pentecostal in their language, theology, expression, and passion.”
I clearly remember the first time I heard a guy speaking in tongues; it made such an impression on me. This was after listening to a testimony of a man who was healed of HIV, which made an even bigger impression on me. And then I saw a few hundred people breaking into song while my mom played the tambourine… to perfection… and that is still making an impression on me.
The first time I “fell under the power” I was in a Catholic mass with my high school girlfriend; trying to impress her mom and making fun of the weird priest who was praying for healing and casting out demons.
Oh yeah. We are comfortable with terms like casting out demons, third heaven experience and getting drunk in the Spirit.
*Kind of comfortable.
A few weeks ago I spent two hours on the floor of our church’s kitchen, surrounded by 20 of our staff and students while laughing loudly in God’s joy, in a random and unplanned pentecost moment. (ctfraleigh.com / schoolofrevival.com)
Trust me, I KNOW how weird we sound… and how weird we worship and pray and wave our flags. But this is my family. And as embarrassed as I feel sometimes, I will not deny them … us … me … Him … ever.
More than that, I can’t deny the results. Every time I have felt God’s presence (even when I have struggled to understand it) I have left those experiences more in love with Jesus, hungry for the Word and with a renewed willingness to love others.
According to Jesus, “You shall know a tree by its fruit.” And the fruit of charismatic experiences in my own life has been very, very good.
Of course, like every other branch of Christianity there is good and bad.
I have personally seen abuse and spiritual manipulation in our Charismatic churches. I am still concerned with our eschatology. I have issues with our inconsistent politics and power ambitions.
I have also seen people with mental issues pretend to be prophets, and men dressed in wedding dresses proclaiming to be the bride of Christ. I have heard un-biblical sermons preached through the veils of spirituality and seen Jesus misrepresented as an angry conservative who hates Muslims.
Yes everyone, Charismatic Christianity could be dangerous. It’s raw. And messy.
But when I read the Gospels and the book of Acts I see so many glorious similarities. And I recognize that the worse danger for me would be to completely ignore the Holy Spirit and the family that celebrates His presence.
“If you assign ten new believers the task of studying the Bible to find God’s heart for this generation, not one of them would conclude that spiritual gifts are not for today. You have to be taught that stuff!” ― Bill Johnson,
There is enough bad about us online (seriously, go check). A lot of it is valid and necessary. Yet, there is also 2000 years worth of proof that we are credible; still weird yet still relevant.
Jesus had the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. He performed miracles, signs and wonders (lots of bizarre ones) and told us that we would do even greater works than Him. Then in Acts 2 the disciples experienced tongues of fire on their heads and new tongues in their mouths. Then Paul wrote and affirmed the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 and beyond.
And it did not stop there.
I have cessationsts friends. Some of my favorite teachers are from mainline churches. I don’t believe everyone in the world needs to roll on the floor or shake like a quake. But denying the active work of the Holy Spirit (even when it’s weird and outdated) would be to deny half of Scripture (and a third of the Body of Christ alive today).
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley wrote, “I was fully convinced of what I had once suspected … that the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn was not only that faith and holiness were well nigh lost, but that dry, formal orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”
There is madness and imposture in the Charismatic movement. But there is just as much outside of it. And in the midst of a changing landscape, a new generation of Charismatics is arising… a people of love and service and revival fire.
This new prophetic generation is loving the poor, embracing the sacraments and falling in love with the Jesus of Scripture. They are a bunch of weirdos that are cool with being bizarre and are continually being empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world.
And I’m proud to be one.
‣ For more detailed (and interesting) information, I recommend: 2000 Years Of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st century look at church history from a pentecostal/charismatic perspective by Eddie L Hyatt. Superb read.
And here are 6 examples of the gifts of the Spirit functioning beyond the Bible, by some of the most respected church fathers/theologians ever:
1. Irenaeus (125-200): “In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church who possess prophetic gifts and through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages. … Yes, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.”
2. Tertullian (150-240): “We too acknowledge the spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift … and heaven knows how many distinguished men, to say nothing of the common people, have been cured either of devils or of their sicknesses.”
3. Augustine (354-430): In his work The City of God, Augustine tells of healings and miracles that he has observed firsthand and then says, “I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work that I cannot record all the miracles I know.”
4. Gregory the Great (540-60) “Many miracles of which he had personal knowledge, including the raising of the dead.”
5. Hildegard of Bingen (A.D. 1098-1179) Contemporaries reported that “scarcely a sick person came to her without being healed.”
6. Vincent of Ferrier (A.D.1330-1419) Countless conversions and remarkable miracles were reported. Butler reports that some fainted or, as would say today, fell under the power.
We must not by our prejudices and preconceptions make watertight compartments for the working of His Spirit, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. We must leave God free to work as He wills and to leave what evidence He pleases of the work He does.
– Watchman Nee in