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Charismatic Movement...Use and Misuse of the Holy Spirit
by J. Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor
21 September 2002

How the Charismatic movement has changed for the worse.

 

 


In the l950s and thereafter, the charismatic movement seemed to come out of nowhere. That is because, regardless of what position one takes on speaking in tongues or not speaking in tongues, the Lord God Himself moved upon His worldwide church in very unique ways.

There were Anglican / Episcopal rectors, Protestant ministers and missionaries, Catholic nuns and priests who were brought alive in the Holy Spirit. They did not all agree on everything; but those come upon by heaven did agree that their souls were being changed anew toward Christ.

Congregations that heretofore had sidelined Scripture were now holding weekly Bible studies in homes and churches. There were interchurch praise gatherings. Guitars were twanging and believers were giving forth with Christ-centered choruses. Prayer requests were received and presented to heaven's throne. There was a lightness of spirit in the gatherings. There was much joy and trust.

Then from the grassroots believers branched out to gather in larger conclaves. They spent hours together under one roof. At times miracles were reported, then investigated and found to be genuine. Magazines praising the work of the Holy Spirit sprung up here and there.

The Jesus People Movement coincided chronologically with much that was happening in the charismatic movement. Therefore, there were barefooted youth seemingly everywhere lifting their hands in prayer to God. There were street meetings overseen by young people as they sought to reach out to the common fellow. Coffee houses were erected in basements as street people were invited in to hear the gospel. The secular press covered such far and wide.

Dried up sermons were coming to life. Worship services that had been given over to rote routine were now focused on the spontaneous and Spirit-led. Pulpit and pew were enthralled with the scriptural study of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the trinity was finally receiving due attention.

Denominational tags did not mean that much then. What was important was one's daily walk with the Spirit. People hugged one another, laughed with one another, had faith in one another. The churches were broadcasting their awakenings far and wide.

Some of the higher echelon within the ecclesiastical framework had to listen to the grassroots leadership for a change. They had to take heed or else lose their grassroots to where the action was. Consequently, some within the bureaucracy started to come alive themselves in the work of the Holy Spirit. Then some Holy Spirit inspired leadership got hold of modern means of communication, hence the television and radio broadening of the charismatic movement.

And so the winds of the Spirit breathed throughout the church globally. No human being was orchestrating this spiritual phenomenon. It came from above.

Then, realizing the spiritually fallen world we live in, we discovered that in every garden there is a snake. Slowly but surely the serpents started to appear within the charismatic movement.

Some started to become enamored with money. And so they sold out the work of the Spirit for the dollar. This showed up in fancy temples and affluent wardrobes, private jets and penthouses, turning the penniless Jesus into the head of a health / wealth craze. Even some of the television charismatic leadership became celebrities overnight, a spiritual contradiction in tself. So they prayed over sacks of donations, talked much about money they needed to keep "the work going."

As this continued, competition set in between various segments. Who could outdo the other? Who could get more money than the other? Who could attain celebrity status quicker than the other? Who was the prettiest, the most handsome, lived in the largest house, drove the biggest car, banked the largest salary?

Such affluence began to be seen on television as a drama, a money display, a strut and prance that was the direct opposite of the Holy Spirit's original manifestations at the movement's outset. At first, this was bothersome to many; then even they became worn down as the affluent lifestyle became commonplace-- almost a sign of religious success. Then the health /wealth craze became baptized with out-of-context Scriptures so as to make it legitimate, indeed ordained of God.

In time, the snake practically took over the garden. There was little original foliage left to the primitive attractive Eden grown by God alone. Now humans started to proclaim a "word" or "revelation" that topped holy writ. Finally, what humans carved out as spiritual became the order of the day. The Bible took a sidelined neglect while human ego danced in center stage.

Personality cults became common. Groupies attached themselves to these personages. Code words of the Holy Spirit movement were still used when profitable, but the biblical reality was not there. It had been substituted with a man-made religion in the name of the charismatic movement, in the name of the Holy Ghost.

When this occurred, the Lord God became exceedingly righteously angry. He is a jealous God. He will not tolerate anyone tampering with His revealed truth. He will not permit anyone taking His place in carving out truth. Therefore, the Spirit, being grieved to an extreme, removed His gracious presence from one corner after another until today the charismatic movement is basically a relic of the recent past.

There are, of course, still vestiges of the original Eden left where souls are still genuine before the holy throne. But these are rare. And they are under extreme pressure to conform to the present glitz.

The Jesus People movement is basically gone. The charismatic movement in its God-inspired cleansing wave is basically gone. What miracles are left are provided out of the sheer mercy of the divine heart. Otherwise, they are trumped up acts of religion that have no tie with the divine power.

It is all a part of the end time prophecy. The Bible predicted that what is taking place would take place, regrettably so. But religion, even within the evangelical / fundamentalist / pentecostal / charismatic folds, has digressed far from the straight-and-narrow Bible truths. What was missing the most in the charismatic movement was the call to holy living. There was much hoopla over miracles and speaking in tongues and praise services. There was much enthusiasm given to interchurch fellowship and prayer meetings and chorus fests. But the hard rock truth of holiness, the call to sacrificial giving, the disciplined life in carrying the daily cross, the faithfulness in prayer and fasting, the interceding for lost souls--all this was not deepened.

The charismatic movement therefore, instead of growing spiritually in the Spirit, became more and more childish, immature and lacking in spiritual wisdom while proclaiming that it was the seedbed of eternal wisdom.What is left of the charismatic movement? A few religious museums here and there with the title "charismatic movement" attached but the divine power gone. God cannot prostitute Himself to error. Mankind can, but God cannot.

Therefore, what is left for the charismatic movement to do is repent of its waywardness and return to God. That return will have to be spelled out in humility, meekness and lowly service, in holy living and contrite lifestyles. It will have to be shown to heaven and earth that the spiritual leadership is no longer into money but into Christlike simplicity.

Gaudy displays will have to come down. Prance and dance will have to go. Misuse of Scripture will have to give way to Bible teaching and preaching that refuses to compromise.

And in this there will still be left the discerning of the Holy Spirit Himself to determine whether or not the worldwide church is worthy of still another breath from the throne of heaven.

Email J. Grant Swank

BIO

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church, Windham ME

Graduate of accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.

Married for 41 years with 3 adult children.

Author of 5 books and over 2000 articles in various Protestant and Catholic
magazines, journals and newspapers. Writer of weekly religion column for
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD newspaper, Portland ME.

Hobbies: Traveling to So American, Europe, Middle East, Canada; writing;
watercolor painting; meeting new friends.

Current occupations: Pastor; Teacher at Alternative Learning School for
at-risk youths.

Pastorates: Calgary, Alberta; Indianapolis IN; Akron OH; Fishkill NY;
Manchester CT; Walpole MA; Windham ME.

Winner of First Prize Writing Contest which yielded a three-week guided tour
of the Middle East.