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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.
It’s painful to see a church that I love almost completely abandon evangelism, becoming spiritually dry and question the very radicality and community principles that made it so uniquely biblical in the first place. Second and third generation members are the ones that to the largest part try to “reform” the church into a normal, mainline, un-challenging pudding. In fact, I’ve spoken to older church members who were surprised that I was both young and radical – in their context it’s usually either or!
As I’ve spoken to friends about this many have pointed out that this is the usual course of events: revival strikes, people gather around on the blazing cross, a generation passes, their kids think it’s boring, and so revival ceases and has to stir up somewhere else. And yes, I am aware that this is a common pattern. This very thing has happened in the Vineyard, where signs and wonders once used to be normal but nowadays are exotic and sometimes even unwanted. Christy Wimber, the daughter-in-law of Vineyard founder John Wimber, wrote a few years ago:
I have been in service after service throughout the world these past few years where miracles are taking place and the response of the people is one of surprise, not expectation. In fact, I heard a Vineyard pastor say not that long ago that he didn’t really know John, and his model and influence comes from a different Movement. He in fact said he doesn’t particularly like the whole signs and wonders part. And I know this Movement that’s influencing him doesn’t move in the gifts.
That’s fine to me, except it left me wondering as to why he is a pastor and leader in the Vineyard Movement? What is happening now in the Vineyard that he signed up for and bought into?
Today I’m starting a new series on my YouTube channel called Radical Bible which aims to do Bible study in a prophetic, profound and a bit provoking way. The first episode is about people having sex in church pews and what to do when ministry gets messy.
My newest video on the HSA Youtube channel is about the Azusa Now event in Los Angeles last month and how the Lord put the Azusa Street revival on my heart six years ago. What the Lord did there is absolutely amazing. Just take a look at this testimony from the first issue of the Azusa magazine Apostolic Faith, published in September 1906:
A Mohammedan, a Soudanese by birth, a man who is an interpreter and speaks sixteen languages, came into the meetings at Azusa Street and the Lord gave him messages which non but himself could understand. he identified, interpreted and wrote in a number of the languages.
Not only were the miracles at Azusa astonishing but its still ongoing global impact is breathtaking. In the video I refer to my PCPJ interview with Jennifer Miskov who has written a book called Ignite Azusa together with Baker, Johnson and Lou Engle. She argues that a new revival greater than that of Azusa will birth a new Jesus Movement that combines miracles with community living and total reconciliation between people.
Amen to that!
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:
The Jesus movement in the 1970’s impacted Sweden quite a lot. Lonnie Frisbee and other American Jesus hippies visited the country, multiple communities called “Jesus houses” sprung up, and Jesus people were evangelizing in the streets and parks. People like Ylva Eggehorn, Stefan Swärd and Ulla Österjö-Jansson arranged Jesus conferences and Jesus marches – no wonder they were called Jesus freaks.
In my hometown of Uppsala, a theology student called Hans Sundberg were impacted by the Jesus movement and started to evangelize. Once, he was sharing the Gospel in the street together with some Christian friends, when an Iranian man who believed in Baha’i started to argue with them. Hans argued back, and their discussion went into sort of a stalemate until Hans’ friend Maria started to speak loudly in tongues. Hans was initially a bit embarrassed (after all, the Bible says that nonbelievers will think that we are lunatics if they hear us speak in tongues (which it is right about)), but he then realized that the Iranian man understood everything Maria said. She was speaking farsi, about how Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Hans saw prophetically how an arrow came out from Maria’s mouth and gently hit the heart of the Iranian man with peace and eternal life.
Meanwhile, a small Swedish town called Surahammar (which means grumpy hammer) was struck with a youth revival as the Jesus movement came to town. Youths from the local Pentecostal church gathered daily in a bakery to pray, study the Word and then hit the streets to evangelize and heal the sick. One of the kids involved in the revival was Simon Ådahl, who after refusing military service due to theological reasons became a musician and, eventually, a prophetic evangelist. You can read more about him here. (more…)
The Bible describes how the early Christians were able to speak new existing languages when the Holy Spirit baptized them. There are reports of this happening in modern times as well.
J.W. Hutchins was baptised by the Holy Spirit at the Asuza Street revival in Los Angeles in 1906, and when she spoke in tongues a man who had been a missionary to Uganda exclaimed that she spoke the Luganda language. She also heard the external, audible voice of God telling her to go to Africa, so she became a missionary.
My pastor Hans Sundberg experienced something similar when he was evangelizing on the streets of Uppsala, Sweden, in the 70’s. He was debating with a man from Iran who believed in Bahá’í, when his friend Maria came and prayed for him silently. She prayed louder and louder, and Hans realized that she was praying in tongues. The Iranian man dropped his jaw and stared at Maria, understanding every word. She was speaking in Farsi about Jesus, although she didn’t know farsi.
In 2011, Hans was visiting Nepal to teach at a Bible school run by Touching Asia. During a prayer session before class, a man at the front spoke loudly in tongues. Afterwards, another student came to him and asked him some questions, and everyone became really excited. hans asked them what was going on, and they explained that there are over 20 languages in Nepal, and when the man had spoken in tongues he had been unknowingly prophesying to the other man in his own language, that wasn’t spoken by so many, about a coming revival to his village. (more…)
One of my favourite Pentecostal saints of all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated. Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study in an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.
In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”
As she returned to her home country, she bought a piece of land outside Pune and started a Christian social community for young widows called Mukti, Sanskrit for Liberation. She also helped people who were orphaned, disabled or homeless, and when a famine hit India in 1896, Ramabai rescued over a thousand people and brought many if them to the Mukti mission.
Praise God for Heidi and Rolland Baker! These wonderful missionaries in Mozambique are so passionate about the love of the Father, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and their missionary organization Iris Global has experienced glorious revival for the last 20 years. Their Christmas greeting above was published a few days after Christmas (probably because of the amazingly beautiful editing) but who cares about that when the video is a masterpiece when it comes to inspiration, passion and faith?
Heidi shares how 2014 has been a challenge for Iris because of the horrible floods in Mozambique, but she is amazed by how God used countless radical disciples to serve, encourage and relieve the suffering population and bring the Gospel of hope and life. As I’ve written before on this blog, Iris experiences amazing miracles like the blind seeing and the deaf hearing while helping the poor and vulnerable with good, serious development assistance.
Since I’m a monthly donor to Iris I also got a physical Christmas greeting from the Bakers, this postcard with a nice worship CD. The reason they send their supporters worship music is so that their love for Jesus may increase, they say. I love it. They’re just great. God bless them!
IN OCTOBER 312, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, claimed that the Christians’ God had helped him crush his enemies and secure power at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. This marked the end of persecution and the apparent promotion of the Church to a privileged position in society. “Christendom” was born – the Church was wedded to the political power of the day.
In reality, Christendom was a dreadful deception. The Church for the most part abandoned its call to be a countercultural embodiment of the Kingdom of Jesus – which He had described as “not of this world”. Empire and Church were mingled. The proclamation of the gospel was largely drowned out in the clamour of the marching feet of imperial armies. “Love your enemies” morphed into “slay the barbarian”.
Some, however, resisted this development. Men such as Antony, Pachomius and Macarius and other Desert Fathers forsook wealth and influence and moved to the desert. Here they formed radical communities, a quiet but powerful alternative to the political Christianity of the empire.
Antony was a true pioneer, whose influence is still felt today. Born in Egypt about AD 251, his parents died when he was young, leaving him a small fortune. One day he heard a Christian quote Jesus’ words: If you would be perfect, go sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow Me (Matt.19:21). They cut him like a knife. He sold his estate and became the disciple of a godly pastor.Yet his heart grew restless. He didn’t belong to the world he saw around him. He felt a strong pull to the desert beyond the Nile. Here hot and cold, flood and drought engaged men in a daily, physical battle for life itself. To Antony, this mirrored the human soul in its battle between flesh and spirit, love for God and love of self. Here too was a pioneering adventure, where only the real would make it. (more…)
Cristopher Alam is a Pakistani-Swedish-American evangelist who is travelling around in Africa and Asia to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons. He prioritizes to minister to the poor, and just the other day he wrote on his Facebook page about simple lifestyle:
“Wise Words from the Apostle Paul:
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Tim 6:5-12″
Just recently, Alam has been on a healing and Gospel campaign in Maramba, Zambia, and experienced countless miracles and salvations. Here is an excerpt of all the images and texts he published on Facebook:
Maramba, Livingstone, ZAMBIA. Our Gospel Crusade here began tonight. A large crowd came out to hear the Gospel preached. Thousands responded to the altar call to receive Jesus and then many were healed….. A girl who was deaf since she was a baby received perfect hearing. Another girl who had badly blurred vision was received perfect sight. Others were healed in their legs ad different parts of their bodies. Demon possessed people were set free.
All Glory to our Lord Jesus! This was our first night. Let us join together in faith for great things from God during the rest of this week! (more…)
Two friends of mine here in Sweden have studied a year at SOS Mission Bible School, and a few days ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies about miracles thay had seen in Mbeya, southwest Tanzania, where they had done a missions trip. Mission SOS have put several videos from this event on their Vimeo, and I would like to share these amazing testimonies with you:
First we have an intro video, where the campaign coordinator shares that miracles are taking place even before the campaign has started.
Then comes the report from the first night of the campaign, where many were healed and saved. A young girl shares how she prayed for another girl who was totally deaf, and she starts to weep of joy when she explains how she was healed! (more…)
Hippies aren’t always popular among evangelical Christians. Mark Driscoll has famously said: “Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. […] I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” I do agree that Jesus wouldn’t shop shoes or be a Buddhist, but He surely would be able to beat up. In fact, that’s what they actually did with Him on Easter.
The hippie movement emerged in the 60’s and 70’s in the United States and spread quickly to Europe and other parts of the world. It was a youth movement with international influences that emphasized love, peace and understanding, freedom and environmentalism, music, sex and drugs. It was influenced by eastern religions and sparked both new age occultism and the sexual revolution. These latter bits make it understandable why Dricoll doesn’t like hippies very much.
However, in the early 70’s thousands of hippies were saved in what is simply called the Jesus Movement, or the Jesus People Revival. They protested against both drugs and occultism, saying that we should “get high on Jesus” and be baptized in the Holy Spirit instead, but they preserved the hippie passion for peace, justice and a simple lifestyle. Over 100 000 Jesus hippies lived together in communal houses, they were preaching the Gospel in the streets and on the beaches, and many miracles happened as they prayed for the sick and prophesied.
I love to read reports about evangelistic campaigns in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and just two weeks ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies from my Facebook friend Tommy Lilja who organized a campaign in Kitwe, Zambia. Many were saved, healed and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Here is what he reported (translated from Swedish):
Resting after having eaten some french fries. A good first night. A little bit chilly. Many healings. A man around 25 years old had been blind since he was 10, he was healed, another young man shared how his ear “popped” when it opened and he received his hearing again.
Thousands came to receive Jesus. So many were baptized in the Holy Ghost, a real breakthrough. It was a life-changing meeting. Many came broken, sick and without hope. But they went home with Jesus and hope for a bright future. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was there and the Pentecostal revival is spreading across the world.
“At the cross the work was finished
You were buried in the ground
But the grave could not contain You
For You wear the Victor’s crown” (more…)
I have a facebook friend called Niklas Frihaven who’s really on fire for Jesus. He has a facebook page called Gang of God where he regularly posts testimonies about healing and salvation from wherever God calls him to be. This is genuine, homemade excitement about the Holy Ghost, and I’d love to share some of what he has posted:
Wonders and Miracles in India
Much happened during our two weeks in India, want to share some testimonies .
An old woman had such pain that her back, she looked like a fishhook , during prayer , she became straighter and straighter , not completely straight but still free from pain and about 10 cm longer , Thank you Jesus!
Another woman had a large painful outgrowth like a tumor on the left hip , after the first pray the pain was gone, after the second prayer while we were talking to her the outgrowth disappeared right before my eyes, Halleluja!!!
I am so thankful to God that I get to experience all this , totally me and Dina got to be there when some 550 people were completely free of pain , disease , disability and psychological distress .
The girl in the picture was a bit special miracle , her mother brought her to the church, she was mute and deaf since birth , we prayed for her , and immediately she began to hear and then she started to say her first words ever , was so beautiful to see her happiness when she said her first word, JESUS!