Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Slippery Slope to Charismania

Or "How a Nice Dutch Reformed Girl Ended up Charismatic."

I shared some of my denominational background in the post, Tiptoeing through the Tulips. I also shared some of my testimony in the post, Growing Up Christian.

My childhood church experience was pretty limited. I didn't have any religious exposure outside the confines of our church.

When I left home to attend college, I was in my "girl gone wild" phase. I only attended church when I was home visiting mom and dad.

By the middle of my second year in college, I had made a complete train wreck of my life. Fortunately, God used this desperation to draw me back to Himself.

My first step was to look for a church. There weren't any Reformed Churches in town, so I tried the Methodist Church. I don't know why I picked the 8 a.m. service, but there was just me and about a dozen senior citizens there. Awkward!

Next, I attended the Baptist church. Seemingly unrelated to whatever the message was, I remember that I was met by the presence of the Holy Spirit and felt completely undone.

Then I began attending the campus ministry. My issue with the campus ministry was that most of the kids who went there were just kind of weird. I wasn't thrilled about hanging out with them. But I decided to humble my cool self and join them.

By this time, I had begun reading my Bible and was struggling, wondering whether God would have anything to do with me.

One night a bunch of kids from the college group were going to "revival" meetings at the local Assembly of God church, so I tagged along. This first visit to a charismatic church was certainly an eye-opener for me.

That night was pivotal in many ways. I encountered Jesus in a way that was life-changing for me. I was introduced to the charismatic realm. And I met the man who would eventually be my husband.

I began attending bible studies with a group of young adults that met several times a week. Interestingly, they listened to a lot of Kenneth Copeland. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a book about the Holy Spirit by Dennis Bennett.

When I started dating my husband, it was just a matter of time until I joined him in being charismatic.

Knowing that not everyone who reads this believes the same, let me just say that I am simply sharing my experience. For me, an additional experience beyond salvation of being filled with the Holy Spirit made sense both scripturally and experientially.

The experience was also life-changing for me. It is hard to describe, but it definitely drew me closer to the Lord. I felt more able to know Him and to understand the Bible. There was also an immediate change apparent to those who knew me, a softening and also more visible joy.

Since then, my husband and I have experienced almost every possible aspect of charismatic church, the good, the bad, and the ugly. My husband will no longer wear the label of charismatic because of what it represents to him.

Like the term christian, I agree that it has a lot of baggage. However, neither of us want to deny the importance of the aspect of the life of the Holy Spirit in our christian walk.

The definition of charismatic is "the belief that supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit are available to and experienced by Christians today."

We still believe this. Perhaps we will adopt robbymac's terminology of post-charismatic, but not post-Spirit.


Cindy said...

Grace, thanks for this bit of further insight into your life and experiences.

How did jury duty go?

I'm preparing the service for tomorrow morning, can't you tell. :-/

grace said...

Hi cindy.

I wasn't selected, thankfully.

I'm cleaning house, can't you tell. ;)

FC Men's Ministries said...

Ah... "The Holy Spirit & You by Dennis & Rita Bennett...good book for gaining insights into the working of the Holy Spirit. God used that wonderful book in a very special way in both myself & my wife's lives.


Pam Hogeweide said...

Hey Grace,
This is a good area to explore. I look forward to Rob's essay and also future thoughts from you.

I am going to a conference next month called Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit? One of the workshops featured at this conference, sponsored by . is titled Why I left the Holy Ghost Parade. I'll have to email you a report, Grace, about it.

For me, I have been a Spirit-filled, tongue speaking, prophesying follower of Jesus for many years. Over these years I have gone to three types of churches:

a) churches that teach about the baptism of the Holy Spirit but do not give place nor disciple believers in the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in I Cor 12

b) churches that have no theology for the filling of the Holy Spirit after conversion believing that all are filled upon conversion, and also cessasionist in belief about the gifts of the Spirit

c) churches that preach and teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit and also have an emphasis on the believer being built up in the knowledge and practice of spiritual gifts

I have noticed that charismatis people, including myself, get really excited about manifestations. Like when someone falls down, or shakes, or shouts, or cries. I have felt pressure, unspoken but pressure nonetheless, to "manifest" when I have been prayed for. I have seen people hyped out and have emotional experiences that they later described as Holy Spirit manifestations. I have seen really weird stuff, like people vibrating as if they were being electrocuted and then claim they had no control over it. Ok. I talked with a woman I sat by at a conference who kept doing the chicken thing, you know, the lurching of the head a bit forward when the speaker says something of particular significance. I asked her why was that happening. She was very meek and simply said, "I don't know. I have no control. It just happens." My theory is that it is a physical response to a spiritual happening. I am not declaring that it is wrong or unbiblical, I just think that some people have strong physical responses when they are being affected by God in some way. And of course, there are those who just fake it for attention and they really need counseling. Or a hug.

I met a woman one time who claimed that God put gold in the fillings of her teeth. In the back of her mouth. The teeth way in the back. She opened her mouth wide and insisted I look. I saw a mouth full of dental nightmares. I didn't see any gold, it was pretty dark way back there, but I asked her, "If God's power was to touch you that much wouldn't you want your heart affected instead of your teeth?"

I myself have been caught up in all kinds of charismania. Some of it was emotional, some peer pressure, and some of it, I hope with all my heart and like to think, was genuinely inspired by the Spirit of God. Like the time I shouted a prophetic word to someone. I was quite flustered afterwards as this is not my natural bent. I do not go around shouting at people, except my husband and kids, on occasion and it certainly woulnt' be called prophesying!
But there I was, the woman on the floor, and me standing over her shouting about God calling her to intimacy. I mulled that one over in my mind for many days. Was I caught up in emotionalism? Doesn't God ever show strong emotion, so we will too, even under His inspiration? There is a lot more to be said, but I think I have made my point.

I agree with you Grace, about what Rob is calling it : post-Charismatic, but not post-Spirit. I love the Holy Spirit. He has become a good Friend and Guide over the years.

David Cho said...

grace, as you know, I have set myself out to investigate the Holy Spirit after having embraced the conservative evangelical brand of Christianity for nearly 20 years and admitted to myself that I know very little about the Holy Spirit.

I have concluded that the major pathology of the evangelical church is the absence of the Holy Spirit and it is evident in rampant legalism, which to outside and detached observers is glaringly obvious, but not to insiders who are in deep denial.

So it interests me greatly to read about "post charistamics."

The concept of being "post Charistmatic, but not post Spirit" is also interesting to me. I guess the same should apply to me as well.

"Post conservative Evangelical, but not post Scripture." How's that? Conservative Evangelicals tend be obsessed with the Word and doctrinal purity so much so that Scripture dwarfs The Author. But I should not be post Scripture just because I have been so burned by and grown so sick and tired of that mindset.

grace said...

I have since learned that book was very influential during the early charismatic movement.
Blessings to you too.

Are you going to the David Ruis conference? I am so jealous!!!!!

I grew up in church b, and as an adult have been in both a and c. My husband and I led the spiritual gifts teaching ministry at our former church.

I really enjoyed reading your stories about charismatic experiences and manifestations. I am considering whether I will share some of my stories here or not.

I love the Holy Spirit also and don't want to do church without Him.

Thanks again for your comments.

I agree with your conclusion that when we see rampant legalism it is due to the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I also understand your comments about being post-Scripture. When you have only seen scripture used as a weapon, to see the beauty of God's word requires seeing things in a whole new light.

I hope your exploration of the Holy Spirit is an exciting and rewarding experience for you.

Thank you for your input here.

David Cho said...

"When you have only seen scripture used as a weapon"

That is an EXCELLENT observation. Yes, it is only used as a weapon to deal with theological disagreements.

Please DO share your stories.

Bruce said...

I'm very interested in more of what you have to say about this. I'm like David - working on being "post conservative evangelical but not post Scripture."


grace said...

David and Bruce,
Thanks for your encouragement to share more. I have over 20 years of charismatic history, so there are plenty of stories to tell.

RonMcK said...

When we were first touched by the Spirit, we were part of a homegroup within a traditional church. The group had a minimalist human leadership, but the Spirit was moving. As we prayed for each other, people got healed and others were set free from demonic oppression.

My subsequent experience (post theological training and ordination) in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches was very different. The gifts of the spirit seemed to be limited to the leadership. They ministered at the front of the church while most of the people watched. There was a lot of noise, and falling down, but I am not sure that many people got healed, as the same ones seemed to be going forward again and again.

If we are to complete the commission that began in the book of Acts, we will need all of the gifts of the Spirit. We need to recover the gift of Healing so that the preaching of the gospel can be confirmed as Jesus promised.

grace said...

I think you make a really important point. My experience has also been that the gifts operate more freely in a group of believers one-anothering, rather than as the "anointing" of the professional up front. I think we will experience more of the gifts of the spirit as we return to a truer expression of church and the kingdom.