Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Neo Pentecostalism

A few events over the summer have gotten me thinking a lot about this great movement sweeping the globe right now. For those of you that have no clue what I am talking about let me briefly explain.

Defined... Or at least described
The largest and fastest growing religion in the world is currently Christianity. The fastest growing sect/denomination/movement (insert your favorite term here) within Christianity in the world today is something most scholars are calling "Neo Pentacostalism" or "Neo Charasmatic." This is a hard term to define for several reasons.
1) Most people/churches who are part of this movement do not claim this title.
2) These churches look very different from city to city, country to country.
3) Many of these churches still go by their former name (Baptist, Community, Bible, even some Catholic churches, although this is rare).

There are a few things that are true of all (maybe I should say most) New Pentecostal churches that can help us identify these groups.
1) A very high view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit himself.
2) A very high value is placed on evangelism.
3) They believe they are a "New Testament Church" in the since that their beliefs and practices are largely based off of the book of Acts and the outbreaking of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Hence the name.

My Intentions
Ok, so by now you may have a few of these churches in mind, or maybe (highly likely) you are even a part of one of these communities of faith. Let me make my intentions very clear. I am not here to advocate for or judge against any particular faith community or movement. My intention in writing this is to help paint a picture of what I have observed, experienced and researched myself in order that some may learn something that may help themselves or someone they know live deeper into the heart and life of King Jesus.

Ground Rules
So anytime there is a big movement in any given religious group there are positives and negatives. If you don't believe this you might as well stop waisting your time with this blog. All movements are started by or at least managed by people. People have flaws. Movements have flaws. It's simple math.

The Good
It's always good to start with the positives.
1) An amazing number of people are coming into relationship with Jesus through this movement.
2) People in this movement take their faith very seriously. They are very bold about their faith.
3) People in this movement are finding thriving community through their church families who are part of this movement.
4) The Spirit is often manifesting himself in amazing ways in these communities.
5) There is a very high respect for the Scripture in this movement. Particularly in the book of Acts and in some of the Old Testament prophets writings.

I think most of us could agree that these are all very good things that this movement has brought to so many people. I for one am thankful for these things.

The Bad
Like I said, there is good and bad in every faith community. Lets just be honest and own it. (See previous posts to see how I have owned my faith traditions failures and successes.)
1) There are a few significant leaders in this movement that hold way too much weight in what happens in faith communities across the US. This also trickles down from the US to other nations due to missionary efforts. If we look at recent history we see that movements like this that had one or 2 central charismatic leaders typically crumble and leave horrible aftermath that Christians will be trying to cleanup for generations to come. (Think Kip McKean) I pray that this does not happen, but I dare say that no one man should ever hold as much of a burden as Bill Johnson out of Redding, CA does. I often hear young people talking about Bill Johnson as if he was the next best thing to Christ himself and talking about his church in Redding as some sort of Christian Mecca. It is hard to see anyway that this can end well. Again, I pray I am wrong because if I am not, things will get very ugly.
2) All too often a sense of pride finds it's way into these circles. This pride is largely based on the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Those not experiencing the manifestations of the Spirit are often ostracized and made to feel inferior to the others. This leads to individuals either leaving the community to find a place to belong elsewhere or faking a manifestation in order to be accepted.
3) The Holy Spirit often is given more attention than Jesus himself. This would grieve the Spirit deeply. Everything he does is about pointing back to Jesus. He never draws attention to himself, but only to Jesus.

Closing Thoughts
So here's what I hope you can take away with you.
1) Stay humble. What you believe now probably isn't exactly what you believed 5 years ago and it's probably not exactly what you'll believe 5 years from now. It's possible that you are wrong. So be humble and know that your way of doing things is not necessarily the best way of doing it.
2) Be cautious of people who like to start ministries titled "insert name here ministries." Its an easy to see marker that they are struggling mightily with pride. Don't blindly follow anyone.
3) If the people around you talk about the Spirit more than Jesus, gracefully remind them that Jesus is the King and all of life in His Kingdom is about loving, honoring and serving Him. The Spirit's job is to help us do that better than we could on our own.
4) Let's all get along. It was Jesus' dying wish on the cross that we all live in unison with one another. The least we can do is give him that.

Grace and Peace.