Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 2


The yolk is on us...Something is amiss in the charismatic movement.

If you read the first part of this series, in this post you’ll find more analysis of what’s wrong with the charismatic movement and what we can do to clean up the mess it has created in the Western Church.

Problems: Too many charismatics are more interested in what they can get than what they can give. Also, we love to talk about taking dominion over the kingdom of darkness, but we forget the primary means by which we cripple the Enemy’s purposes.

Solution: We need to be drilled on the Great Commission.

The selfishness of the charismatic movement that I mentioned in the first part of this series is dramatically evident in the general lackadaisical attitude too many of us have toward the Great Commission. So many of us in the West are chasing after gifts and ecstatic experiences that we’ve completely lost the others-centric focus of the Gospel. We’re experts at claiming promises and prosperity for ourselves, but terrible at leading people to Christ. And even when we do get that juxtaposition of soul-winner and Spirit-seeker like you find in some Pentecostal churches, the discipleship program consists of “Now here’s your Bible, good luck.”

As they say in my neck of the woods, that ain’t gonna fly.

Now we can talk all we want about Joel’s End Times Army and psych ourselves up for spiritual warfare, but nothing breaks the Devil’s back more than leading others to Christ and discipling them to maturity. So for all our talk of dominion, unless we’re making disciples, we’re losing the war. End of story.

And we are losing, I hate to say. At least in the West. In other countries, charismatics are astonishingly good at leading others to Christ. They stand as an Ichabod-like statement against us Western charismatics, especially those of us obsessed with prosperity gospel teachings. My fear is that our disease will infect the still-vibrant Third World charismatic Church some day and not the other way around.

Problem: The charismatic movement is a cult—of celebrity.

Solution: Time for the old guard, who failed to guard what they were entrusted with, to get off the stage.

I mentioned in my post entitled “Burned” that the prominent leaders of the last 20 years of the charismatic movement need to move on and let someone else lead for a change. By and large, the self-appointed apostles and prophets out there have run the movement into the ground. They simply don’t know what they are doing, and for people who supposedly exemplify Spirit-controlled leadership that’s a damnable crime.

We need to see new faces in the charismatic movement who are untainted by past stupidity. Better yet, we need more nameless and faceless people rise up. I think the second someone in the movement announces “Hey, I’m a prophet,” we should run the other way. The mark of God’s blessing on someone’s ministry is that he draws people to Jesus without drawing attention to himself. That’s the gold standard as far as I’m concerned. That’s humility. It recognizes that if we’re doing this thing right, then anyone is replaceable.

I’m really sick of these slick charismatic celebrities and their private jets and Armani suits. They’re killing the movement almost singlehandedly. Their followers should be ashamed, too, not only of the way their “heroes of the faith” act, but at the braindead way in which they’ve followed them.

Listen, no one should be immune from questioning. This “touch not the Lord’s anointed” thing is little more than a power trip used by self-centered leaders (and their minions) and a “check your Bible at the door” capitulation to spiritual sloth.

Frankly, I’m appalled at the backtracking I’m seeing from some of those supposed leaders involved with Lakeland. They’re repudiating people and events faster than you can say “blind guides.” That’s despicable. Those people deceived many. If the cadre of jokers leading the charismatic movement today won’t get off the stage, then we either need to boot them off or just start ignoring them. Sadly, the best way is to stop the flow of money. That will be immediately noticed, let me tell you. It may even wake some of these posers up. Repentance is a good thing; so is a little reliance on the need for daily bread.

Problem: We let the miraculous enthrall us.

Solution: We need to be more discerning and less surprised by the miraculous.

“But what about the miracles?” some will say.

You mean the normal Christian life?

Yes, normal. The wordly should be surprised by the miraculous, but charismatics shouldn’t be. Yet we giggle and fawn like Hannah Montana fans, running screaming to wherever the slightest inkling of the miraculous appears, often wasting huge amounts of money in the process.

That’s inane and childish.

What about the miracles? We should be used to them. Not in a ho-hum sort of way, but as mature believers accustomed to moving in the Spirit. Faith makes it so. We trust that God will make good on His miraculous promises, so we rest. It’s the faithless who should go ga-ga.

The Enemy can make miracles. Jannes and Jambres threw down their staffs and those inanimate pieces of wood turned into snakes, just as Moses’ did. The Bible speaks plainly that the antichrist will do miracles. Miracles, by themselves, are proof of nothing.

I will even contend that without the power of either God or the Devil, people may still work miracles. I offer Watchman Nee’s very deep book The Latent Power of the Soul for evidence. I didn’t understand that book the first time I read it. What Nee was saying went over my head. My review at Amazon was not all that positive. A few years later, though, and I see it now. Witnessing some of the so-called revivals that have cropped up in recent years, I wonder if we’re not seeing perfect evidence of the power of the soul on display. It would explain quite a bit.

Look, I’m absolutely in favor of “…with signs accompanying.” But one crucial lead-in statement must go before that trailer: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in doctrinal purity….” If the charismatic movement misses that, it’s missed everything.

Problem: The charismatic movement is obsessed with novelty.

Solution: We must understand that there is nothing new under the sun.

I’ve written in the past about this obsession charismatics have with novelty. If I hear “new move of God” one more time, I’m going to scream. Why? Because that’s marketing hype, not Holy Spirit truth. If God moves in a untouched place on the globe among people who have never heard the name of Jesus, then by all means call that a new move of God. But the manner in which God moves doesn’t change because the means by which He has chosen for us to minister is perfect as is. We are to minister by the Spirit of God according to His Word. That was new once, but that was a long time ago. We should have gotten well acquainted with how that works by now.

Instead we work to add on to what God has done. We try to make it fresh when there was nothing wrong withits freshness to begin with. we are the ones who got stale, not God. And for the reasons I’ve already outlined in these last two posts.

My advice? The smartest thing any of us can do is to ignore the circus barkers who keep yelling “new” and “anointed.” If we do that, we’ll keep out the tired lies that are the foundation of so many of these supposed “new moves.”

Problem: We continue to tolerate the aberrations of the past, the worst excesses of the charismatic movement, digging them up repeatedly for each new generation after they were long buried.

Solution: It’s time to grow up and face today. In many cases, the good old days weren’t all that good. Wrong doesn’t get right over time.

Big-league heretic William Branham has been dead for decades, yet his name was invoked over Lakeland. Then someone dredged up Paul Cain. Sadly, the charismatic movement today resembles a bad horror flick: we are overrun with vampires who suck out the life out of people or zombies who eat our brains. And then there are the vampire zombies. Hey, if you’ve been hanging around the charismatic movement long enough, then you know what I’m talking about….

You know a movement has reached the putrefaction stage when it starts mining its old heresies and heretics for new material. I just don’t understand the fascination.

I’m going to end today’s comments with a warning.

While many aspects of Lakeland were old news, one was not. I’ve not seen anyone comment on this, but it’s something to watch for. This kind of convergence may serve as a warning in the future.

Lakeland was new in one startling regard: It brought many of the different streams of charismatic practice together.

Looking over the most recent “revivals,” each had a flavor unique to their particular stream. Toronto was largely a Third Wave charismatic happening. Pensacola was Pentecostal.

But Lakeland was different; it attracted everyone. It was the Rosetta Stone of charismatic events. You had charismatics of all stripes: Pentecostal, Third Wave, Mainline, Sympathizers, and variations thereof. Toward the end, in what was probably the pivotal moment of Lakeland, you had Third Wave poobah C. Peter Wagner swooping in with his New Apostolic Reformation banner attempting to tie it all up under the auspices of his group.

I’m telling you now, watch out for this. The days ahead will be marked by increasingly bold attempts to unite all the streams of the charismatic movement. I believe that will not be a good thing because instead of bringing a cleansing to the movement, it will instead unite all the craziness. Lakeland already proved this to be the case. We have not seen the last of this, though.

Be open to the Lord, but never stop being watchful, faithful, and wise.


Posts in the “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup series:

21 thoughts on “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Part 2

  1. Imagine a charismatic movement led by expository preachers… that’d be refreshing.

    Mark Driscolll observed at our (newfrontiers) leaders conference in July that if the old guys don’t get out of the way the next generation will just go and start a new movement and the current one will die off as the old guys become the old guys they broke away from in the first place.

    • Dave,

      Refreshing, but (sadly) nearly nonexistent. Just about the only large charismatic group going through the Bible one book at a time are the Calvary Chapel churches. While they seem to be having their own struggles as Chuck Smith faces his inevitable meeting with the Lord, no one can fault their approach to preaching the Word.

  2. David Capener

    Great post again,

    Its so true that many in the charismatic movement can so easily become ‘star crossed miracle gazers’ looking for the miracle and then falling of their chairs in complete amazement when it happens.

    It should be the mark of everyday church life.

  3. Chris E

    Just one more observation. As Dan pointed out, a lot of the problems in the charismatic movement centre around Christology – but there is also a radical misunderstanding of Grace.

    A lot of churches in Charismatic circles are clinging to a doctrine of Christian Perfection, this is why they were quite willing to tolerate wierd behaviour and violence during the revival – after all, the Lord’s Annointed must be (small p) perfect. This is also why they threw him under the bus as soon as his marriage problems surfaced – and why people suddenly discovered discernment at that point.

  4. connie

    C. Peter Wagner went down there to give Todd Bentley someone to be accountable to. Not to ordain him. There has been a lot of misunderstanding of his role.

    Todd didn’t have any real oversight -which was a lot of the problem. Now he has people who are committed to overseeing him, people he can be submitted to.

    I think everyone needs to calm down and take a breath. There were bad things AND good things going on in Lakeland. Mature friends of mine went down there (during a week’s time where Todd was not even there) and found God at work.

    My take? God IS getting ready to clean house BUT He also is responding to the true hunger of His people who want to bless others, who want to see others healed and saved and set free. I’m not going to say Todd had it together-that would be ludicrous- but I am also not going to say he was a charlatan or a total heretic.

    It is time for us to bring a holy discipline to our movement but at the same time we need to care for and minister to our wounded, and certainly Todd and his family fall into that latter category. I think if we are careful and pay attention, God can teach us all a lot through all this.

    And I also think that people might be finding out they don’t need a Big Name to go visit in order to find a visitation from God. He likes to show up where the nameless and faceless are diligent to seek His face.

    • Connie,

      I believe the New Apostolic Reformation folks went to Lakeland for one thing and one thing only: They didn’t want to be left out. If they didn’t try to bring Lakeland in under their auspices, they’d be on the outside looking in. And the worst thing you can be when you’re supposedly on the bleeding edge of what God is doing is getting locked outside the party.

      Is that a cynical thing to say? I don’t think so.

      The man in question at Lakeland had an entire ministry with a board of directors overseeing him. Who issued the press release announcing the step-down? There WERE people in charge. There were already people to whom others should have been accountable. No one needed Wagner and crew to step in and assume the mantle of spiritual directorship. Everyone who came in contact with the person in question had a responsibility to reign him in. No one did.

      Here’s my last point: When someone is that out of control, there’s no way he or she should be anywhere near a stage. Yet at no point did anyone have the courage to say, “It’s time to get off stage.” That’s the real tragedy.

      It’s like giving a 4-year old a microphone and saying, “Kiddo, the place is yours. Teach us.” Would that fly in any church? ANY? Yet what a perfect metaphor for what has happened. It’s simply mind-boggling. And to have the NAR folks backing away from this so fast is just awful.

      I have talked about this before, but one of the major lacks in the charismatic movement is that next to no one gets checked out by leadership before they are allowed to minister “charismatically.” You’ve got far too many brand new believers telling impressionable (often desperate) people all sorts of made up words of knowledge and bogus prophecies. That’s the fault of the leaders overseeing those babes in Christ, pure and simple. Yet it’s rife within the charismatic movement now. That wasn’t the way it was a few decades ago, even. Now it’s as if no one has the guts to say, “Hey, you don’t belong up there doing what you’re doing!” The early Church stuck one of their best men, Barnabas, with this guy Saul because they were leery of their former persecutor. Why aren’t we even slightly cautious with inexperienced fellow believers? I know a pastor who said he didn’t consider anyone a genuine believer until he’d seen them walking with Christ for at least five years. That may be a tough standard, but in light of what’s going on, it may well be the sanest reality out there.

  5. Brian


    Regardless of whether Todd had any “covering” that held him accountable, the local pastor of the host church was responsible for what went on in his house, and he should have asked the guest to leave when the guest started throwing garbage around the living room. Just like I’m responsible for what I let into my home via TV, and for monitoring who my daughters’ friends are.

    Pastors should thoroughly screen their invited guests. I thank God that my pastor won’t invite anyone in just based on others telling him how good they are. He wants to know them and their ministry personally and be comfortable giving to their ministry himself before he asks us to.

  6. I caught an early brodcast of Lakeland being beamed into an A of G we were visiting one Wednesday evening last spring. I appreciated the dynamic worship and the intensity I saw in the gathering crowd.


    as I quickly learned, what accompanied it was extremely troubling. (It is why I’ve found a home in a theologically-conservative liturgical church, even though I call myself an unrepentant Charismatic.)

    Your analysis is spot-on. Fantastic work, Dan.

  7. Pingback: Blog Highlight: Cerulean Sanctum on the “Charismatic Crackup” « Musings of a Wannabe Muser
  8. Dee

    People or charismatics in general have lost the meaning of the most important miracle of all… the miracle of salvation.. how about the miracle of the sun rising every morning.. Miracles should never be the focus… it is a real shame.. I don’t need a miracle.. I need Jesus! I don’t need the giggles and the feeling.. I need grace and mercy.. I mean really what has the church become when its focus is not on Jesus?

    I have been so saddened as so disturbed through this but i can only pray that those who seek after miracles more than Jesus will open their eyes to the truth! A wicked generation seeks after miracles. Sure there is glory to see someone walk out of a wheel chair, but there is more glory and excitement to see people who have given their lives to Christ!

  9. And yet just as many people who say they are Christians actively resist the Holy Spirit, which is a sin.

    The truth is to test all gifts and without forbidding them entirely. Forbidding them entirely is not discernment, but a blanket condemnation. I cannot believe that blanket condemnation pleases God in the least.

    I have said many times on this blog that I believe the charismata to be rarer than most charismatics make them out to be. What I have not said is that they have vanished altogether, because it takes a great amount of textual dancing to make them go away. The clear reading is that they were given to the Church for all time; anything else, I believe, is a tortured reading.

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