History: The Importance of the Azusa Street Revival
The terminology Charismatic is used to distinguish a group of people who affirm the importance of the sign gifts, miraculous gifts and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Surprisingly, the Charismatic movement is the second largest family of Christians following the Roman Catholic Church and is found in practically every nation and ethnic group in the world. Some define it as the most important religious movement in the twentieth century due to the attention it has received. Starting with the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 led by Pastor William Joseph Seymour continuing till present day. During this revival, the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission held three services a day, seven days a week and this continued for three and a half years. The revival was marked by expressive worship that included shouting and dancing. The revival itself wasn’t about man, musician or movement. The roots of this revival came from a combination of the worship tradition from African American Christians and the White American Holiness Religion. This revival spread through missionary’s world wide, first starting in Norway and spreading throughout all of Europe. Through the influence of William Durham the revival continued throughout Canada, Italy and South America. Understanding how this revival started is important in understanding how others start today and noticing their distinct differences.
Over more recent years, the Charismatic movement has received harsh criticism and in some circles even completely rejected. One of the harshest critiques comes from the brilliant author, John MacArther. His statement concerning the Charismatic church is shocking, “The charismatic movement creates an extreme emphasis on external evidence, and thereby encourage bogus claims, false prophets, and other forms of spiritual humbug. Where such things flourish there is bound to be scandal”. (MacArthur 23) MacArthur has a very clear understanding of the problems within the Charismatic’s, and in many case studies his claims are true. Although he has gone through all of the theological problems in his book he has not uncovered some of the “root” causes of the Charismatic downfall. In this work I will discuss the problem I found in my many years in the Charismatic church and how narcissism and idolatry is consuming the heart of the Christian artist and ultimately leading Christians into self-worship and even cultism. It is when the artist becomes distracted when their art, specifically when they use music and preaching for their own self-promotion.
Charismatic worship started out as a very good thing. The worship produced by Charismatic’s was led by the Spirit, full of expression to the validity of the Church as the living body of Christ and made everyone feel apart and engaged. In the Welsh revival from 1904-1905 the pentecostals had long, extending meetings that were spontaneous and even distinguished by loud (emotional) music and revelatory visions and dreams. Spontaneous worship was a form of unique music that was created to give those in the church equal opportunity to bring about praise to God.
Unfortunately, this expressive worship can be quickly turned into something totally different then the original revivals of the past. A “blatant egoism” can take control partnering along with emotionalism, individualism, and the desire to please man and an obsession with the spectacular resulting in chaos and disorder. Music can take the throne of Jesus in the heart of the artist involved and pride can take root. The puzzling question is why? Art has become an obsession and the fame, power and control that comes along with it also. Glorifying God might have been the original goal, but somewhere along the way the desire to please others, and make oneself famous took over. Those who watch and follow have the power to make the artists popularity rise and fall so in order to maintain their kingdom. This is an observable fact in the Charismatic church because it has been repeated so many times and because they have learned to manipulate the responses of their audience. As Wayne Grudem puts it, “few things destroy an atmosphere of worship more quickly then than a soloist of choir who enjoy drawing attention to themselves, or a preacher who parades his own intelligence or skill in teaching.” What is it that creates and sustains these destructive patterns?
“My people have committed two sins:They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
The Question of Genuine Worship
MacArther’s first claim against the Charismatic’s is their desire and obsession with “external evidence”. This leads us to a critique of one of the main worship styles of Charismatic churches. The new obsession with free spontaneous worship isn’t as new as most think. When studying Church history we can see that throughout its’ long existence Christians have tried to keep a free element of worship in place. The Quakers in the sixteenth century, and seventeenth attempted to keep up this dimension of worship along with the Plymouth Brethern. In itself, spontaneous worship is a demonstration of Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But this style of worship has taken a turn for the worse in recent days. This worship style has ceased being spontaneous and become routine. The first example of this is the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. The International House of Prayer began as a Harp and Bowl Ministry that was a recreation of the Old Testament Model of David’s Tabernacle in Amos 9 and Acts 15. Not only is there some theological error here, but also one key aspect of their mission points to the main problem with their ideology. Concerts of prayer have been apart of the Church history for a long time but none stood on the ground that they were the ones who ushered in restoration and the revelation of Christ. This is hints at a “blatant egoism” and individualism. This is not only a misuse of worship completely but a misinterpretation of worship. The Church isn’t responsible to restore David’s Tabernacle because Christ already completed this task. The cause for IHOP’s deception was their faulty thinking and an obsession with external evidence. In order to get this external evidence, they twisted the meaning of worship completely.
In 1999 IHOP was recognized by the New York Times as a place where worship never ceases but they were not fooled. They quickly picked up the teaching of their leader, Mike Bickle. Questions concerning Bickle’s motives have been raised because of his influence over young people. IHOP attracted very talented musicians and vocalists, whom they use well to “usher in Christs’ coming”. By manipulating others through emotionalism, they convince their audiences that they are the ones God needs, in order to usher in his coming to Earth. The idea is pitched that IHOP needs more gifted musicians for God to use to see to it that they usher in His kingdom. By worshipping him day and night (literally) they will ultimately be the ones that bring forth his manifestations, his presence and even his coming. This model is the model many Charismatic’s have taken up. The art itself has become the means that will bring forth Christ.
Charismatic groups want to see God show up in their worship, and for others to take notice. In their ideology, for God to show up means He must show up in manifestations such as signs and wonders during worship. Not only does this draw in a crowd but also it fascinates unbelievers to come into the world of the supernatural. True genuine emotions are used as propaganda instead of drawing people closer to Christ. IHOP has musicians that are truly gifted and artistic, but behind all of it is their desire for one thing, to intimately draw others into themselves. This is a huge argument, but it is important for Charismatic’s to see, because many other churches that are not apart of IHOP are following. The worship really isn’t about Christ, but about making IHOP famous. As one of their songs say, “I will usher in your appearing (Christ’s), It’s your face that I crave, and your presence that I long for.” The Glory in this lyric goes to IHOP, their worship, and it is their music will usher in Christ. This kind of teaching is manipulative, whether it is realized or not. The final example comes from Bickles support and agreement from Fire Within, concerning contemplative prayer and the understanding the scriptures. He said it is his desire to make this book IHOP-KC’s manual on contemplative prayer.
“Once again, without the teachings of saints like Teresa and John we would be at a loss to suggest what Paul actually had in mind. This, no doubt, is why the mere biblical technician can say so little about ideas like this one. It is only in the perspective of what the mystics say of the culmination of contemplation on earth that we come to see in concrete terms what the apostle had in mind.” (Dubay 12) This statement is basically saying that in order to understand what Paul had in mind we have to become a “mystic” because a mere biblical technician cannot do so. According to Bickle, the scripture itself cannot inform us.
Of course the International House of Prayer isn’t the only example of these abuses, I’ve seen this in the majority of the Charismatic churches I’ve attended. This is a sad reminder for all Charismatics to find their identity in their personal, long lasting relationship with Jesus Christ and not by external evidence and “His manifestations”. The manifestations become the focus of the music, the focus of the preaching, and the focus of the audience. E.C Hoskyns helps us understand the difference between true and false worship. “The contrast between false and true worship does not lie therefore in a distinction between worship which is directed toward some visible and material object, and that which is abstracted from all contact with the visible world, nor does it lie between sacrificial and nonsacrificial or inward worship. False worship is directed toward a visible object regarded as itself complete and final. But true worship is directed toward Jesus Christ.” What exactly is spiritual abuse? Jeff Vanderen, co-author of the Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse explains it this way: “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority … misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly godly purposes which are really their own.”
The Downward Spiral
How does this start? This fallout begins with the artist’s realization that their art, mainly their music or teaching draws others attention and even affection. The musician or preacher sees the reaction of the crowds and begins to gauge what the crowds want in order to please them. This always captivates the audience because they too have a part to play in the whole ordeal. They want and desire power; the power to heal, the power to manifest God and to attract others as well. It’s a slow propaganda and very deceiving because its’ all under the name of Jesus Christ and His glory. Also, it is very hard to see because if you are a Charismatic you do believe in miracles and the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, if you look closely into the manipulation in these situations, the motives all point to an obsession with either one of three things; fame, power or money rather than to the glory of God.
The Charismatic’s Quest for Fame and Power; Case Study Todd Bentley
Todd Bentley appeared on the Charismatic scene in 2002 as a man who was delivered from drug addiction and sold out for Jesus. He caught the attention of ABC news and many other news broadcasts over the United States because of his bizarre way of preaching and “healing” members in the congregation. His focus was on miracles, visions and the appearance of angels in services. Many compared his ministry to the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth. Unfortunately the reality of his ministry is that it was all based on their key figure. How is it that so many Christians fell into his deception, so far so that they abandoned the teaching of scripture to follow him. As one observer put it, “From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer.”
The reality was, Bentley was personable and fascinating to the masses. People loved him, and loved the excitement of his services. They came to hear him talk about angels, gold dust and the raising of the dead. Believers and unbelievers alike fell into his madness because they wanted not only his power but his authority. It wasn’t until the media caught sight of his “emotional” affair with his young intern Jessa Hasbrook that people began backing off. Due to the decline of his ministry, Charismatic’s became fully aware of the deceptive ministry in Lakeland, Florida. Even the Assemblies of God released a statement with their concerns. It isn’t shocking that their is yet another Charismatic preacher that fell off the deep end, but it is surprising that so many people fell for it. How did Bentley manipulate the crowd so well, that many followed and believed him? It went so far that GODTV which publicized Bentley’s fame through prime time programming to over 200 nations and carried Lakeland meetings live for 100 consecutive nights, told people that any criticism of Bentley was “demonic” and that “listeners” of “criticism of Bentley…could lose their healings ”. Bentley also emphasized the “word faith teaching” which was first brought to the spotlight by preachers like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. This movement is based on what we say, rather than on whom we trust. (MacArther 281) Hagins’ philosophy is that if you say it, you can have it. “You can write your own ticket with God” he says even when it comes to your health and prosperity. This sort of theology makes the healer a god and hero, while those who fail to have healings in their lives are to blame for a lack of faith when a healing does not happen. This is exactly what happened in Bentley’s ministry. He was the hero, and when a healing didn’t happen he blamed the person. It was the “old crippled women’s” lack of faith, and the child fighting cancers fault when he wasn’t healed.
It’s also unclear how Bentley used his money. He claimed that his revivals took 35,000 a night to operate the revival, and the tens of thousands of dollars he gets goes to his constantly growing staff. What is clear is the revival was really about one single man, because when he fell the revival itself fell. His self-promotion was center stage of his revival, and all of his worship services, dreams/visions and even preaching all cleverly led back to his glorification, not Christ’s.
“”So then, you will know them [false prophets] by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:20-23).”"
Redeeming the Charismatic Mess; Jesus Reclaiming the Throne
A Charismatic needs to create a system in order to maintain true affection for Christ alone because of all of the propaganda and imitations of his power. How does a Charismatic Christian check their affections? It all leads back to going continually to Christ and asking Him to “try and test your affections”, so that he can have the throne of your heart. Popularity, fame, money are easy competitors for affection within the human heart. Musicians and preachers can easily fall into this trap by desiring fame and power. This is the same fallout that Adam and Eve had in the garden in Genesis 3. They desired to become like God, and they were deceived to believe that they could be just as wise as Him.
Growing up in a Charismatic church and experiencing these abuses first hand I have to say that it has taken me years to uncover all the ways I too once too was deceived. Yet, I still am a Charismatic because I believe in the true power of God is worth watching out for. Many before us have destroyed our reputation, credibility and made the journey back from ruin impossible. Our identity has to be in Christ, or we will settle for finding identity in an experience we once had. John MacArther is right; scandal is easy to come by because our affections are misplaced. While as artists it is important to create good art, we are to do so unto the Lord. Our art is to point people to Jesus, not to our glory, our miracles, our or worship sets.
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Colson, Charles W., and Michael Scott. Horton. Power Religion: the Selling out of the Evangelical Church? Chicago: Moody, 1992. Print.
Dubay, Thomas Fire Within. San Francisco: Ignatius 1989. Print
Grudem, Wayne A. Making Sense of the Church Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
Johnson, David and Jeffrey VanVonderen The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN Bethany House, 1991. Print.
Karla O. Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1994. Print.
MacArthur, John. Charismatic Chaos. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992. Print.
Synan, Vinson. The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001. Print.
Esv Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print