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.


Jeff Robinson said...

Bravo, Jordan. Unfortunately, many who really need to pay attention to this well-written and very balanced observation - won't. I have many such friends and have significant interest in the presence and working if the Spirit in my own life and in the life if the church. I, too, share your same concerns. Part of my concern is the imbalance of interest placing armistice exclusive attention to the charismatic manifestations and/or anticipation/expectations of such. I do not doubt that the Spirit can and apparently does still operate in these ways, but the Christian life and the work of the Spirit is not quite as one-dimensional as this movement would portray it. Blessings and peace.

Anonymous said...

I don't tend to post in public, preferring instead to send private notes. Hence this one. I enjoyed your description/analysis of the neo-Pentecostalism movement. In no particular order, Jesus prayer in the Garden just prior to being arrested still rings true, and still serves as a forecast of how Satan will [successfully??] defeat us via keeping us divided. "I want my people to be one" is, seemingly, a plea that has gone unheeded from the beginning. What a deviously ingenious plan that Satan has devised to have us destroy/diminish ourselves from within; it seems to make Satan's job all the easier.
Next, people - humans -men/women - who allow themselves to become icons or at least icon-ish run a profound risk of eventually injecting more of themselves into their ministry/teaching/leading than of the Holy Spirit. So when Satan swoops in and attacks them at their vulnerable, unprotected, unrecognized point of weakness, they may fall, taking "fans" with them. Finally, my multi-generational concern with the Pentecostal movement has been its insistence, if not reliance, on the demonstrable elements of its community's "faithful." Alas each branch of believers has its "list" of being "faithful:" for CofC, it's attendance and immersion, sometimes with or without an active, burning faith. For some AG's and Pentecostal's it's tongue speaking -- quite apart from taking up serpents and drinking poison! -- for Catholics it's confession and mass [no pun intended] communion. For all good southern traditions it's good meals with plenty of sweet tea.
I close this insomniac diatribe at 4:20 am with my favorite description of God: every couple of hundred years he looks over the arms of his throne to see the earth. He watches what's happening and exclaims, "what ARE you people doing????? Jesus, what DID you tell them?????" To which Jesus replies, "Really, Sir, I told them exactly what you told me to say!!! If we can find the Spirit [pneuma/wind] maybe we better ask Him what He's up to!!!"
Good work, Jordan ... stay the course.

JD said...

Wow I really appreciate your blog. One because I tend to fall into that category.I don't put myself in that category but others put me there.

JD said...

Because I am tended to be categorized with this I pray my comment is as well balanced as your blog (this is why i did not reply immediately). I grew up traditionally African American baptist , however midway through life we went to a church which you have described so well articulately.

JD said...

One thing the Lord has been dealing with me about is THE COMPLETE MESSAGE. Most denominations only pick up and capitalize one or two things. Where is the balance. The Lord has commissioned me to spread the Word of Faith with the Power of Pentecost. I am big on the gifts of the spirit. I believe in praying in the spirit (tongues) and strengthening myself. It is how I was able to make those morning prayers in the tent but in that same instance you probably never heard me speak in tongues during my prayers because everyone don't have the same beliefs as me. One thing I want to express is we can not put a huge of emphasis on one or the other. The same God who created is the son who gave his life is the comforter who comes and empower us. The problem is we take one part of the Word and hold it higher than the other parts. There can be no new testament church without and old testament foundation. There can be no manifestation of the Spirit if there was No Jesus on the cross. But there would be no Jesus on the cross if there was not a God who created and a people like David who sinned.

JD said...

I love Bill Johnson he is a great leader but the problem with this type movement is there is not structure. And I am defiantly not one for organized religion but with a movement that is super charismatic is the it is easy to make it into a cult because the power of Pentecost is great defiantly needed in our generation but it is so easy to make that pure emotional and no word foundation. So I am a firm believer that there needs to be a balance or at no fault of the leader the people will allow their emotions to cause them to idolize there leaders.

JD said...

Okay now I think that is enough Jordan to start dialogue lol because I surely can write a dissertation about this lol.

Rob said...

Is that Carlton Pearson in the picture? You give a very good analysis of the good and bad, but I think some of the bad is being left out. I am very much surrounded by the neo-pentecostal movement here in the Bronx, it is by far the ONLY growing movement within christianity -- and yet I am very troubled by what I experience from its adherents and hear it preach. (There is a pentecostal tent revival directly across from my livingroom and I hear the preaching all night every night for three weeks every summer, with hundreds of different preachers over the last 11 years. It's been revivin' for about 35 years.) I really find that there is an amazing shallowness to both the preaching and the christian commitment of the congregants. It creates experiences of intense emotionalism and almost pagan posession, and incredible pressure to experience these things -- as what it means to be a christian. It seems that being a christian is being posessed occassionally by 'The Spirit" and being Blessed by God for giving Him praises and money. This is very pagan to me. It is not only personally selfish, but worships a God who is personally selfish, not merciful, and more like an employer than a Redeemer. It makes false promises to poor people --who then feel guilty for not being faithful enough when their rent is not supernaturally paid or their no-good husband doesn't come home from the casino. I certainly don't think I've got it all figured out, I try to maintain that humility you are talking about -- but I know for sure that I could never be a part of that part of The Body of Christ.