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Originally published at pcpj.org.
Ever since rev. Campbell Morgan called Pentecostalism “the last vomit of Satan” and the Los Angeles Times warned the public about the “new sect of fanatics [that] is breaking loose” from Azusa Street, Spirit-filled Christians have had a bad rap. Other Christians as well as non-Christians oftentimes find us weird, and sometimes a bit dangerous. A lot of those perceptions are based on myths and misconceptions. Here are nine common beliefs about Pentecostals and Charismatics that are totally wrong.
1. It’s a small movement
Depending on where you’re located, the Pentecostal and Charismatic (P&C) movement might seem pretty small. But when you look at it on a global level, it turns out that 600 million people are P&Cs. 200 million are Pentecostals, 100 million are charismatic Catholics, and 300 million are charismatics in a big variety of denominations and churches. Since the number of P&Cs amounted to around zero in the beginning of the 20th century, the P&C movement is commonly described as the fastest growing religious movement in the world.
2. It’s a Cult
I’ve heard surprisingly many casually state “All of Pentecostalism is a cult”, to which I like to respond “That’s about as true as the statement ‘The moon is a tomato’.” Cult is not synonymous with “religion I don’t like”, it has an academic meaning of an isolated group with an authoritarian leader, and while there surely are several sad examples of charismatic churches that have developed into cults it is simply ridiculous to claim that we all would be part of some sort of Jonestown. At least that’s what my Leader tells me and he’s always infallible when he drinks goat blood.
I’m happy to announce that I just received the finished draft of Charismactivism from the editor at Ettelloc Publishing. After I’ve looked it through, the book will be ready for printing.
This has been an exciting three-and-a-half year long journey. Charismactivism sums up the message I’ve been preaching ever since I entered ministry, namely that charismatic spirituality and activism for peace and justice are not opposed to each other – they need each other!
The book covers the Biblical basis for charismactivist theology, it deals with objections to miracles, evangelism, pacifism and social justice, it takes an extended look at church history to showcase how charismactivism has been part of radical discipleship over the centuries, and it ends with suggestions to how to nurture and plant charismactivist churches.
An excerpt from the first chapter:
Basically, charismatics hold the power cord to the vacuum cleaner and activists hold the hose. Charismatics possess God-given superpowers that are of enormous value and should welcome help and guidance from their activist brothers and sisters in order to use them for good. Activists have a God-given vision for how to make the world a better place and should welcome help and guidance from charismatics in order to promote it more effectively.
I’ll keep you updated with info on how to get the book as soon as it becomes available.
The following is an excerpt of my upcoming book Charismactivism, due to be published later this year by Ettelloc Publishing.
The Protestants of the 16th century were far from the first who protested against Catholic errors and heresies, but this movement was the first one to escape being totally quenched by inquisitors and grow to a big, substantial size so that it was clear once and for all that Catholics and Orthodoxs didn’t have monopoly on the name of Jesus. This was primarily because unlike most previous Christian rebels, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) did not question the state-church system — on the contrary they endorsed it! Thus, many Protestants weren’t persecuted; they persecuted others. Furthermore, while prophetic, charismactivist movements demanded believers to take discipleship seriously and actively seek holiness, Luther’s hostility towards works made it quite easy to be a Christian in his church.
Reformers like John Wycliffe (1331-1384) in England and Jan Hus (1369-1415) in Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic) had already protested against Biblical ignorance, papal fundamentalism, ecclesial luxury, and indulgences. The latter refers to golden tickets to Heaven that you had to buy in order to decrease time in your or your loved one’s painful purgatory chamber, the existence of which was questioned by Wycliffe since it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, and Hus translated some of Wycliffe’s writings. The Catholics burned Wycliffe’s books, and Hus’ living body. The pope initiated not less than five crusades against Hus’ followers in Bohemia, which they violently countered in the so-called Hussite wars.
In the midst of this destructive conflict, a Bohemian reformer called Petr Chelčický (1390-1460) stepped up and preached the message of the Sermon on the Mount: nonviolence, enemy love and good deeds. Instead of just reforming the church to a slightly better state, he wanted to restore the Biblical, apostolic church completely. He believed in the free will of the individual believer, criticized the marriage between church and state, and promoted economic redistribution and communalism (not to be confused with extremist revolution and communism). (more…)
In this recording from some months ago, I teach at Kettering Jesus Army on what Zacchaeus’ story in Luke 19 implies for us when it comes to encountering Jesus, the supernatural and generosity for the poor. I also share some testimonies about miracles in our lifetime.
I’ve been arguing for years that churches today need to look like they did in New Testament times – Jesus-centred, fully charismatic, publicly evangelistic, home based, and practising community of goods. Now churches like this are very rare as you probably have noted yourself. Even among Pentecostals and charismatics it is rare that the church publicly evangelise, they usually have church buildings and they almost never have community of goods.
Isn’t this a clear indication that I’m simply mistaken on what qualifies as a Biblical church? Not necessarily. Arguments for what a Biblical church should look like should always be based on the Bible, not popular opinion. If Christians who don’t practice community can’t defend their position biblically, it doesn’t matter how many they are.
In fact, whatever one thinks that a Biblical church looks like one has to admit that there have been historical periods where very few have been part of such a church. The Catholic and Orthodox dominance for over a thousand years would be such a period for us protestants. And even modern Catholics rarely agree with previous Catholic opposition to freedom of religion and endorsement of torture and crusades. (more…)
One of my favourite Jesus Army songs, performed here with my friends Sangitha and Mark!
- If you’re looking for a purpose,
Fighting without cause.
If you’re burning with a passion,
But you haven’t got a war:
Wanna start a revolution? (×2)
You wanna make a difference,
But you know you gotta change.
If you’re fighting for real freedom,
But you’re shackled by the shame:
Wanna start a revolution? (×2)
If you wanna be a beacon
But afraid to be seen,
Living in this nightmare
But haunted by a dream:
Wanna join a revolution? (×2)
Jesus army; a people of light!
Jesus army; we will fight!
Join the revolution. (×2)
Jesus army, pour out our lives,
Love, power, sacrifice;
Jesus revolution. (×2) (more…)
Today on the MennoNerd vlog I talk about how awesome it is that the Jesus Army organises their local congregations around their intentional communities, where people live, eat and sleep every day, rather than around unbiblical church buildings that stand empty most of the time:
This is just one of many things that make the Jesus Army different from many other churches. The church owned businesses where everyone receive the same wage, the support for celibates, the emphasis on covenant and unity and the loud and proud emphasis on Jesus is quite extraordinary. Where does this church come from and what does its history look like? Those were the questions me and Sarah brought to Mike Farrant, who lives with me at the Holy Treasure community in Kettering, in a recent episode of our Swedish podcast “Jesus People”:
Mike shared how it all began when an outpouring of the Holy Spirit hit a Baptist chapel in the small town of Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire, which made hundreds of student, hippies, drug addicts, businessmen and many other sorts of people join the church. They soon started to practice community of goods like in the book of Acts and changed name to Jesus Fellowship Church. Mike has been living in community for 41 years and obviously knows a lot about both its advantages and challenges.
Article written for New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army’s community organisation.
I’ve never viewed Pentecost as a mistake.
The first time I read the remarkable account in Acts 2 of how the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ disciples with miraculous power so that they could speak other languages; how Peter’s passionate sermon resulted in 3,000 receiving Jesus; how all the disciples then had everything in common so that nobody had to be poor – I knew that this was good. In fact, it was awesome. Luke’s point isn’t that this is a tragic event that shouldn’t be repeated, he’s describing the best church ever!
I realised that a lot of miracles are better than a few miracles, that a lot of saved people are better than a few saved people, and that no economic inequality is better than existing economic inequality. I realised that if I were to claim that we don’t “need to” make our churches look like Jerusalem, I would in fact be arguing that our churches don’t need to be as good as they should.
It would be like saying that a fire extinguisher doesn’t need to extinguish fire, or that a surgeon doesn’t need to save the lives of the patients he or she is caring for. (more…)
I can’t remember what kind of Google search or hyperlink that first led me to the website of Jesus Army almost seven years ago, but I remember how thrilled I was to finally encounter an evangelical, charismatic church that has complete community of goods. The closest resemblance to such an apostolic church that I had previously discovered was in a dusty, old book in my father’s home library called In His Footsteps. I was so excited as I earnestly turned the pages and read about this amazing church in the middle of nowhere which took Jesus seriously, had everything in common and led countless people to the Lord. Then I came to the last page which revealed that it was all fiction.
But the Jesus Army was real! I sent them an email, asking to come and visit them in Northamptonshire for a few days in April 2010. I was interested in the Training Year they offer and wanted to get a feeling about what New Creation community life was like. It was amazing; as I’ve previously shared I was baptised in the Holy Spirit during that trip, and I was so encouraged to see that community of goods is not just possible in the western world today – it’s very effective!
Without giving any convinced promises I told the Jesus saints that I wanted to do a training year (or rather, six months) in 2011. But after some time I told them I wasn’t going. I was feeling too young, insecure and inexperienced to take such a step. God was good and let me experience some amazing things in Sweden during that time. But I now know that of course I would have enjoyed and benefited a lot from a Jesus Army training year back then. I’m not luring myself into believing that whatever my life ends up like is what God wanted all along. He wants me and everybody else to share our possessions from the day we are saved. But even as we fail God can lead us onward, never forsaking us but faithfully caring for us.
Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre which is an awesome British school, has written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:
I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
But charismatics share stories all the time about change here and now, about how when God gets involved, people locked in conflict are able to forgive each other, bodies are healed of life-threatening or debilitating conditions, families are reconciled. Hope stirs. Charismatics expect God to change things around them and through them for the better. Sometimes this takes much longer and is more painful that you would know from what we teach or would wish, but I love the hope of concrete and visible newness that characterizes a charismatic worldview. Hope for restoration, new life, and healing infuses the New Testament and I couldn’t imagine a church that didn’t expect God to be willing and able to change the worst of situations.
Heidi Baker’s amazing missionary organization Iris Global has recently started a new podcast, called Iris After Hours. It is hosted by Join Nathan Kotzur and Crystalyn Human and its first guest is no other than Heidi herself. She gives a lot of details on how God called her and Rolland to Mozambique and shares, as always, many testimonies about miracles and love to the poor.
To make sure that you catch future episodes of the pod, follow Iris Global’s YouTube channel or search for Iris After Hours on any podcast app.
Yesterday Heidi Baker spoke at a church in Stockholm not far from where I live. I wasn’t aware of her trip until it was too late, but I’m not sad since yesterday was an amazing day for me even without Heidi. Jesus showed Himself to me again just as He did when I just had become a Christian and needed a sign for His presence. It was in my house church as the brothers and sisters prayed for a very important decision I have to make, and I sobbed and praised Him for revealing Himself in this manner for the first time in nine years.
But yeah, Heidi rocks! And her ministry Iris Global have just published two beautiful videos about a recent outreach to the Mueda region in Mozambique. The first one is just mute recordings from the adventure with a powerful and touching worship song on top of it:
In the second one Heidi and Iris staff narrates what actually happened on the outreach. Wells were dug, education was supported, a deaf-mute girl was healed and people were saved. Praise the Lord! (more…)
In a British church known as the Jesus Army, around 400 Christians share all their possessions just like in the book of Acts. This documentary explains how such a community of goods works practically, how it affects those who are part of it and what other churches may learn from the Jesus Army when it comes to having everything in common.
Watch the whole film right here:
It took me two years to make Everything in Common. The quality is obviously not top-notch, but the passion and love I have for this way of living truly are! 🙂 I’m very grateful to God and to all those who helped me finish this project.
If you watch the film, I would love to get some feedback! Just comment below or contact me personally. Blessings!