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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.
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…)
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.
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!
On Saturday, over 100,000 people will gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the 110’th anniversary of the Azusa Street revival and passionately pray for a new revival to break lose. The event is called Azusa Now and is arranged by TheCall. Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson and Daniel Kolenda will speak at the event, so expect it to be huge! It will be streamed online for those who can’t attend.
Jennifer Miskov has been laying the ground for the event by authoring a book called Ignite Azusa: Positioning for a New Jesus Revolution. Being a Vineyarder from John Wimber’s own church in Anaheim, she has a heart to combine charismatic fire with worship and compassion. She knows Heidi Baker and Bill Johnson well and she has founded an amazing charismatic intentional community called Destiny House in Redding.
Last weekend I got the opportunity to interview Dr. Miskov for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. Here’s an excerpt:
Earlier this year my friend Faith Totushek explained on Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice why she is a Holy Spirit Activist – or as I like to call it, a charismactivist:
“From beginning to end, we see an amazing God who longs for the world and the people he created to flourish and find life. And time and time again, this God seeks to partner with us as his agents. And he empowers this people with his presence through the Holy Spirit giving gifts, insight, truth, endurance—whatever is needed to accomplish the purposes displayed in the Bible.”
In other words, God doesn’t leave us alone with the big task of loving people and promote life and happiness. He partners with us by bestowing His Spirit upon us. Peter writes: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10). Serving people is one of the main purposes of God’s gifts of grace, or charismata as they are known in Greek.
One of many Biblical examples of this can be found in the last chapter of the book of Acts. Paul is a prisoner of the Roman empire and his guards are taking him to Rome so that he can speak to the emperor. Their ship is wrecked on an island, probably Malta, and God miraculously saves Paul’s life after he is bitten by a poisonous snake. Not only that, God miraculously gives other people life as well through the hands of Paul: (more…)
Whenever I point out that our churches should be more Biblical and look like the apostolic church in Jerusalem that we read about in the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts, many fellow church leaders argue that there are many equally good models that we can form our congregations after, or that church structure really doesn’t matter much and so we shouldn’t discuss that too much. Allow me to disagree:
In this video I show that church structure does matter a lot, taking the example of Jerusalem and how it seemingly shaped the apostle James’ theology, and I question whether churches with different structures than the Jerusalem church really share the same fruit: conversions every day, nobody living in poverty and an abundance of signs and wonders.
Candy Gunther Brown if professor of religion at Indiana University and an expert on both the global charismatic movement as well as healing and how it is measured scientifically. As content creator for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, I was able to conduct an interview with her which you can read here. An excerpt:
MICAEL GRENHOLM: You edited the anthology Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, which discusses various aspects of this international and rapidly spreading movement. In its final chapter, you write: ”The globalization of divine healing networks fuels the twin engines of supernaturalism and democratization, which together forcefully propel the global expansion of Christianity.” Could you expand on that?
CANDY GUNTHER BROWN: People in the Global North are taking cues from Christians in the Global South who tend to pray more expectantly for healing. Likewise, Christians in the Global South have tended to rely on pastors and leaders to do the praying; they’ve taken cues from the expectation of Christians in the Global North that any believer can pray effectively for healing.
This is a very interesting thought. I’ve often said that the North should give more money to the South in order to fight poverty whereas the South should share revival fires to the North in return, and while I think that Brown agrees with that she points at something more fundamental. Church democracy is great and biblical (1 Cor 14:26) and it’s actually something besides finances that us Northeners are able to share to our brothers and sisters in the Majority World. (more…)
I recorded some songs today with my dear friend Andreas Lundström. Here’s one of them, inspired by Simon Ådahl:
You made your decision to get on your knees and pray
You got no ambition, free from addiction to wealth and fame
You are chosen by He who died; so beloved.
Now get up, rise and shine,
’cause it’s time to walk with God
You have authority, nothing’s impossible,
No demon is too strong and no mountain’s immovable
Every gift that you need and require, you got it all
In the midst of darkness and deception
You got the power to destroy the scorpions
And you won’t fail ’cause you walk with God
You walk with God
You walk with God (more…)
For seven years, I have been arguing that signs and wonders should be combined with peace and justice and that the charismatic and activist streams of Christianity should unite. Early on I discovered Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice (PCPJ), and became a joyful member. PCPJ stands for what I stand for, and so it was easy for me to stand with them and promote their website on my website.
Recently, Brian Pipkin from PCPJ contacted me and asked me if I could help them create content for the PCPJ website and Facebook page. Of course I said yes! This is a dream coming true for me, I get to participate in an organization that I love, using gifts that God really has equipped me with.
Please check out the existing articles at the PCPJ website, including this political Christmas reflection by Craig Keener, author of Miracles, and this piece by Eric Gaboruel on Pentecostal veganism. And don’t forget to like the Facebook page and join the Facebook group if your a facebooker.
Without spoiling anything, I can assure you that many more interesting articles will show up on the website. If you like the Holy Spirit and activism and wants to contribute somehow as well, just tell me!
You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a week; that’s because I’m spending much time nowadays finishing my first book! It’s about how signs and wonders are combined with peace and justice in the Bible, throughout church history and today. During the last week I’ve focused on the history part, researching and writing about saints like Francis and Agnes of Assisi and radical church movements like the Moravian church and the Jesus Family in China.
I am so encouraged to see these myriads of people who combine miracles and activism. Did you know that Maria Woodworth-Etter, who is often considered the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement, was baptized in the Spirit in a Quaker church and at one time ministered in a denomination founded by Mennonites? Or that the Salvation Army, famous for its evangelism and social ministry to the poor, experienced tons of signs and wonders in its early days?
I have now arrived to the part where I discuss movements that only have one half of the Biblical Holy Spirit Activism combination. Like patriotic, prosperity-preaching Pentecostalism, or miracle-doubting progressive liberalism. Interestingly, both of these streams originated roughly at the same time, the 20th century. They are not just unbiblical, but historically unique. (more…)