I am Pentecostal. I believe in tongues, prophesy and healing. I am an ordained minister in the Church of God, and until they kick me out for being too outspoken, I'll remain a member. I know many Pentecostal pastors who are genuine and sincere men of God, hard workers who make tremendous sacrifices for the kingdom of God. The problems that I will address in this article really lie with the excesses of a minority of celebrity pastors, evangelists, musicians, and to a deeper extent with the mentality of the majority of those who constitute Pentecostal and charismatic congregations. There are many who will take issue with what I have written. I have even received threats over it - check out the comments at the end. However, I write this article not to criticize but to provoke. My sincere desire is to see reform in the Pentecostal church. Reform from what, you ask? Keep reading.
Desire for the Extraordinary
The many problems associated with fringe charismatic groups stem from one root – a lust for the sensational. Biblical truth is not enough for the typical charismatic. There must be more. As a result they are always looking for something new. They care little about doctrine, proper exegesis or biblical integrity – these things are just not spiritual enough. They want anointing, power, visions, revelations – or any semblance of such – genuine or fake. It saddens me to visit churches and to witness the zeal the members have for spiritual things, but coupled with a poor foundation of sound doctrine, it makes them an easy target for wolves.
Not too long ago in Trinidad (2000), a particular minister was being heralded from the most renowned pulpits in the country. He had allegedly inherited a multi-billion dollar fortune, and had promised to give financially to churches. As a result some pastors were giving assurances that “there would be no more poor people in Trinidad”, and “When the Hindus see how much money there is in Christ, they would not be able to remain Hindu”. When I first heard of him, the very first thought that entered my sceptical mind was “What is this guy really up to?” Time would authenticate my suspicions. Pastor "Kitty" subsequently lured some of the more affluent members of other churches, and formed his own congregation of “elites”. Nothing ever materialized of his alleged fortune. He eventually spent some time in jail and is awaiting trial for fraud. [2014 update: This pastor, after being disgraced and defrocked, allegedly killed someone whom he owed money, and then committed suicide.]
Why do these things happen to charismatics over and over again? Aren’t they supposed to be the discerning ones?
Don’t Question Me
Charismatics believe that it is rebellious to question the teachings and practices of authority figures. They are taught not to question. How do I know this? Because I went to Bible School, and that's what we were taught. Every charismatic has heard this at some point: To rationalize is to make rational lies. It is contrary to “faith”. Once I lent a copy of Hank Hanegraaff’s Christianity in Crisis to a believer, and I would recommend that book to any serious Christian. She later said that the Holy Ghost told her not to read that book. They would vehemently defend their pet preachers - whether they're right or wrong - but scarcely contend for the Word of God. How I admire the zeal of the typical charismatic but how I wish that same zeal could be redirected to contending for the faith (Jude 3) instead of defending the often indefensible.
As a result pastors who think they are prophets can proliferate a plethora of false prophesies, and never be branded as false prophets. "Don’t touch God’s anointed." As long as they have the (financial) support of the congregation, they can get away with anything they want. I think it is imperative for some pastors to keep their people in ignorance, so they will always maintain a following. They would rather be celebrities among their own, than faceless and nameless servants of Christ content to await their full reward in heaven.
More Anointing Please!
Have you ever wondered why charismatic preachers can’t just say what they have to say without the fanfare and commotion? The answer is that preaching must be done in an anointed manner, or at least perceived to be so. They respond much better to someone running around the stage, than some boring guy teaching from the bible. They want what they consider to be "anointed preaching".
Charismatics don’t know the difference between anointing and crowd control. They can’t differentiate between the presence of God and goose bumps. Hence they would always be prey to con artists posing as men of God. From my experience, people pay more regard to personalities and celebrities than to the content of their message. The mere presence of a big named preacher or singer is sufficient to bring the best out of a crowd – and they call the ensuing applause, the anointing.
Because they are always seeking the sensational, the most absurd “moves of God” are wrought in their churches. Meetings where people roll on the carpet, laugh uncontrollably, and even squeal like pigs are now being branded as genuine revivals. What once prompted Jesus to cast out a devil (Mark 9:20,26), is now being foisted as a genuine manifestation of God’s Spirit. There are some preachers who, in their honest moments have their misgivings, but just want so badly to believe these things are of God. They can’t afford not to. To do otherwise is to surrender the sensationalism they so avidly crave.
Anyone can fake a few miracles as long as they have the right disclaimers to bail them out at the right time. So many preachers claim the power to heal, yet so few genuine miracles take place. I have been at a "miracle" service where the evangelist prayed for someone's healing then told them to run up and down the aisle. Then the crowd began to celebrate the great healing they just witnessed. The problem is that the person came in with an ear infection not a leg problem. I wasn't quite sure how running proved that the person's ear was healed.
Today every one is a prophet. Everyone has a prophesy or a word for you. From the moment someone starts to give me a word, my defences immediately go up. Because I know from experience that these prophets can say anything they "feel". Even if their prophesy does not come to pass, they will just say that you didn't have faith. The latest craze is prophesying earthquakes and natural disasters if the country does not turn to God. And of course, if nothing happens, they will just say the church prayed away God's judgment. People outside the charismatic church can easily spot these errors, but for some reason charismatics are blinded to them.
It is true that what I wrote does not apply to all charismatics, but it does refer to a significant enough minority. If charismatics were not so gullible, there would be fewer scandals plaguing their churches. It is ironic that in a movement where the power of God is so emphasized, that laymen are so emasculated of the power to think for themselves, and to rationally search truth for themselves. My desire is to see such reform in the charismatic church.Home PDF Comment Bookmark
You have a really bitter spirit. I am a Pentecostal and I have never heard anyone squeal like a pig. You are brandishing the entire movement because of a minority group.
You have obviously not read Matthew
23. The things Jesus said there make my comments seem like compliments. I know
my heart, and I know that what I've written was out of compassion and desire to
see reform in the Pentecostal church. It was not out of bitterness. A friend's
rebuke is better than an enemy's compliment.
You are also obviously not familiar with the Brownsville revival or the Toronto Vineyard revival. People there have squealed like pigs. That and many other funny noises and manifestations - all done in the name of the Lord. Maybe those are the minority. But the problem is that there are so many Pentecostal and charismatic leaders who used to make the pilgrimage there just to bring some of that "anointing" back to their local churches. I am not making this up. The minority actually do it, but a much larger percentage covet and crave similar "revivals" in their own churches.
Finally you are not familiar with all the positive emails I get from Pentecostals, including a couple from Pentecostal pastors, encouraging me to continue speaking the truth without fear or intimidation. I only include the negative comments in this section – the ones that elicit further discussion.
scanned your various articles and found them thoughtful. I have also been moved
to respond to you since I have dealt with the same issues in my own Christian walk as a
Let me just briefly comment on the article on Pentecostalism by saying that while I do agree with you that a lot of what you wrote about is characteristic of the so-called "Pentecostal-Charismatic" movement I would add that 1) There is a theological distinction between Classical Pentecostalism (where I have my roots for instance) and Charismaticism (where much of the confusion is found). The key to reforming Pentecostalism (or we might call it, "neo-Pentecostalism") is to get back to the basics of sitting at the feet of Jesus (reading, hearing and knowing His Word) and thereby to draw closer to the presence of His Spirit within us. True revival is not found in the sensational or even the miraculous (much as we need genuine miracles in the Church of Jesus Christ today). True revival is found in allowing the Spirit of God, through His Word working in us, to bring out in us all those things that will make us better channels for His use. We are told to "let the Word of Christ dwell in [us] richly" and to let the grace of God "effectually work in [us]".
I resonate with what you write in this and other articles I've scanned because I too have seen a lot of this and wept for the Church and our movement. I have been involved in Cessationist churches as well as Reformed (Calvinist) churches. I spent two years at Bob Jones University. Yet my dad is an Assemblies of God pastor and I was also involved in Calvary Chapel for 5 years. I have seen a lot and fellowshipped with a lot of Christians. I will close now so as not to write too much. I would appreciate talking with you more on these subjects. God bless you and keep stirring others to examine things in light of the Word of God.
Thank you for these very insightful and encouraging remarks.
Who gives you the authority to speak on behalf of Pentecostals when you are ignorant to their beliefs and their practices it just proves how foolish and dogmatic people can be who do not have the Holy Ghost leading their lives. Your comments I say are slanderous and evil and no weapon formed against the people of God shall prosper and every “evil” tongue that rises against them in judgment shall be condemned. You ought to be ashamed of yourself to speak such evil all in the name of Jesus, Satan the Lord rebuke you. The blood of Jesus is against you and I curse every evil attack, every evil assignment is cancelled in Jesus name. I will say this once and once only if you continue to make false allegations against my faith misleading people I promise you that you will regret it. I’m asking you to remove your slanderous comments from the website, this is your only warning.
There are three possible responses to this. 1) The non-Pentecostal would stand agape, shocked out of his mind. 2) The die-hard Pentecostal would shout, “Amen Sista!” 3) The moderate Pentecostal would shake his head in embarrassment and lament what has become of a once great denomination. This reader epitomizes everything I said above.