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Posts tagged ‘Pentecostal’

Are We Charismatics Doing Enough to Correct Abuses in Our Midst?.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

We’ve heard this charge many times in the last six months: “If you charismatics did a better job of cleaning up your own act, there wouldn’t be a need for a Strange Fire conference and book.”

Is this true?

Before leaving the subject of Strange Fire vs. Authentic Fire (which I plan to do for now with this article, turning my focus to the issue of Hyper-Gracenext week), I feel it is important to respond to this charge clearly and directly, summarizing here what I detailed in more than 20 pages of citations in my Authentic Fire book.

To begin with, let me state plainly that there is absolutely no excuse for the many abuses that do exist in the charismatic movement, both doctrinal and moral, and if some of the worst charismatic TV preachers were true representatives of our movement, I would never call myself a charismatic.

On the flip side, with more than half-a-billion charismatic adherents worldwide, it is ludicrous to think that there is a homogenous “charismatic movement” and that, if a few more leaders spoke out clearly, the abuses and errors would go away.

Pastor John MacArthur has now written three books against the charismatic movement, and with all his influence (and the influence of his last, large conference), he has hardly stemmed the tide of the abuses that do exist. (To be clear, many of his charges are greatly exaggerated, but even where he is accurate and even where I say “Amen” to his criticisms, his efforts have not changed the movement he critiques.)

In fact, one of the real problems in the body today is the lack of true accountability for many leaders and churches (charismatic and non-charismatic alike), making it very difficult to bring correction and discipline when it is needed. (To be perfectly candid though, there were errors that existed in New Testament times and in the succeeding centuries; the church has always had to confront error and heresy.)

That being said, and as I document in Authentic Fire, Pentecostal and charismatic leaders have been addressing errors and abuses for decades now, and we continue to do so to this very day.

As noted by Reformed pastor John Carpenter, “the suggestion that ‘charismatics’ simply never police their own is false. David Wilkerson was outspoken and just as severe in his appraisal of the prosperity ‘gospel’ as is John MacArthur. … The Assemblies of God famously tried to discipline Jimmy Swaggart and eventually defrocked him when he wouldn’t submit. Yes, there should be more of such correction but people are only responsible to discipline what is under their authority. Should we hold all Baptists responsible for the Westboro Baptists? Should we accuse everyone who believes in the inspiration of Scripture (like me) for being as irrational as the King James Onlyists?”

I could easily cite here statements by charismatic leaders like John Wimber and Derek Prince, who raised concerns about certain types of healing and revival services, or of David Wilkerson, who lifted his voice against a “Christless Pentecost” (also using profound quotes from Frank Bartleman, a Pentecostal pioneer involved in the Azusa Street revival), or Prof. Gordon Fee, who wrote about The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, or of Lee Grady, who has penned many columns on these very Charismapages exposing a wide variety of uniquely charismatic sins.

And I could easily cite the life messages of charismatic leaders like Jack Hayford and Jim Cymbala (among many others) who have avoided the extremes by aiming for the middle—meaning the most central issues of the gospel and of life in the Spirit.

In my own ministry (not to pat myself on the back but simply to respond to the endless stream of questions that has come my way), in 1989, my book The End of the American Gospel Enterprisefocused largely on the compromised state of many of our American charismatic churches (since these were the circles I primarily traveled in) while my 1990 book How Saved Are We? contained an entire chapter renouncing the carnal prosperity message along with another chapter focused on carnal fundraising techniques. (For the record, these abusive techniques—honed to a science today on Christian TV by men like Mike Murdoch and Steve Munsey—have only become more pervasive since 1990.)

In 1991, my next book was published, entitled Whatever Happened to the Power of God: Is the Charismatic Church Slain in the Spirit or Down for the Count? (I trust the title and subtitle were clear enough), while in 1993, It’s Time to Rock the Boat: A Call to God’s People to Rise Up and Preach a Confrontational Gospel, addressed more issues of gospel compromise, many of which pertained to charismatics. Then, in 1995, in From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival, I spoke of the need to go beyond the “refreshing” movements that were current in that day and to seek God for a repentance-based, outpouring of the Spirit.

During my years serving as a leader in the Brownsville Revival (1996-2000), I brought messages calling believers and leaders deeper, and right through 2013, I have been addressing my charismatic brothers and sisters. For example, one of the most widely read articles we posted in 2013 was “Sex Symbols Who Speak in Tongues,” largely a critique of our contemporary, charismatic gospel message (as opposed to being a critique of the sex symbols, whose names I didn’t even mention).

Even the Hyper-Grace book, which is about to be released, focuses on abuses of the grace message occurring primarily within the charismatic movement. And bear in mind that I am just one leader among many addressing abuses and errors within our movement and, again, I only share these things to respond to valid questions; and even so, I do so with hesitation, lest I be misunderstood. (Of course, when praying and preaching and writing, I always point the finger first and foremost at myself.)

When you read the citations within Authentic Fire, I believe you’ll be shocked to see how many Pentecostal and charismatic leaders have been addressing issues within our movement for decades now, dating back more than 100 years. At the same time, I believe we need to do much better, working harder to deal with the theological sloppiness, the moral looseness, and the personality cults that are found all too often in our midst.

If only leaders like John MacArthur could recognize the marvelous contribution being made to the gospel today by countless tens of millions of faithful charismatics worldwide, we could work hand in hand to correct the very real problems that do exist. And perhaps we charismatics could help our cessationist brothers and sisters address the problems that exist in their own house as well.

As I wrote in Authentic Fire, embracing the true fire is just as important as rejecting the false fire. May God help all of us to do both.


Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

The ‘Strange Fire’ of John MacArthur.

John MacArthur
John MacArthur

As a lifelong Pentecostal-charismatic, I recommend that every Pentecostal-charismatic leader read Strange Fire by John MacArthur. I say this because we need to see how the bizarre “spiritual” behavior and doctrinal extremes by some in our movement are viewed by those on the outside, and used to whitewash the entire movement.

We have done a very poor job of addressing these problems from within, so I do not doubt that God has raised up a voice that is fundamentally opposed to our movement to address these extremes. If God could use a pagan Babylonian king to discipline His people in Israel for their sins (see Jer. 25:8-11), could He not use a merciless fundamentalist preacher to point out our shortcomings?

That being said, MacArthur’s latest book does not represent an honest search for truth. It is obvious that his mind was already made up when he began his research for Strange Fire, and he found what he was looking for. He presents a circular argument, beginning with a faulty premise and proceeding with selective anecdotal evidence that determines the outcome.

He begins with a commitment to cessationism, i.e., the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the 12 apostles and the completion of the writings of the New Testament. That being the case, then modern expressions of spiritual gifts must be false. He then utilizes the selective anecdotal evidence to buttress his presupposition, which leads him back to his starting point of cessation.

It seems that MacArthur wants to believe the worst about the movement of which he writes. At times I felt he was embellishing the bad to make it even worse. For example, Oral Roberts was not a Christian brother with whom he had profound differences but a heretic who did much damage to the body of Christ—“the first of the fraudulent healers to capture TV, paving the way for the parade of spiritual swindlers who have come after him,” he wrote.

Make no mistake about it, MacArthur is not out to bring correction to a sector of Christianity with which he disagrees; his goal is to destroy a movement he considers false, heretical and dangerous.

MacArthur is either unaware or purposely ignores the historical evidence for the continuation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as was presented in my book, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. He ignores clear statements of church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Augustine about healings and miracles in their time. He uses Augustine’s statement about tongues being “adapted to the times” as an argument that the gifts had ceased. He ignores, however, Augustine’s later works, including Retractions, in which he acknowledges the ongoing miraculous work of the Spirit and tells of miracles of which he is personally aware.

MacArthur’s biblical argument for cessation is also very weak. He relies primarily on Ephesians 2:20, where Paul told the Ephesian believers that they were being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. He then argues that the gift of apostleship was only for the foundational period of the church, which in his mind is the first century. He goes on to say that the other gifts of the Spirit passed away with the gift of the apostle.

This, at its best, is convoluted thinking that goes far beyond what the text actually says. Paul’s point in this passage is not to teach cessationism, but to show the common faith of Gentile and Jewish believers in that both are built on the same foundation, which is Jesus Himself, and this fact is witnessed to by the Old (prophetic) and New Testament (apostolic) writings.

MacArthur’s disdain for women and their prominence in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement spills over when he refers to 1 Corinthians 14:34, which carries the admonition for women to be silent in the churches. He then says, “Given the nature of typical Pentecostal and charismatic church services, simply following that final stipulation would end most of the modern counterfeit.” He fails, however, to address the fact that Scripture itself states that women will have a prominent voice when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, as Peter so eloquently stated in Acts 2:17-18. The prominence of women, therefore, may be seen as an indication that the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.

In summary, we who embrace the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world must not flinch or compromise our commitment because of Strange Fire. At the same time, may we be diligent to address the errors and extremes that always creep in to any Spirit-filled movement, whether the church in Corinth, early Methodism or the modern Pentecostal-charismatic movement.

This article originally appeared at


Eddie L. Hyatt is a seasoned minister of the gospel, having served as a pastor, teacher, missionary and professor of theology in the U.S. and Canada and having ministered in India, Indonesia, England, Ireland, Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria. His ministry is characterized by a unique blend of the anointing of the Holy Spirit with academic excellence and over 40 years of ministerial experience. Visit him online at

Secularism Sucking the Pneuma Out of Spirit-Filled Christianity.

When Pentecostals don’t speak in tongues and Baptists aren’t getting baptized, it signals a deeper issue of faith. (Ashley Campbell/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Fewer Pentecostals are speaking tongues. Fewer Baptists are getting baptized. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. But what are we to make of the decline of baptisms in water and in the Spirit? I’ll get to that in a minute.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Are We Pentecostals Losing Our Religion by Holding Our Tongue-Talking?.” In it I referenced an AP report about a small Assemblies of God congregation that looks just like every other Pentecostal church service—except nobody is speaking in tongues.

What I didn’t include are the stats from the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world with 66 million members. At the General Council meeting in August, the AG talked about the decline baptisms in the Spirit.

According to the denomination’s statistics, tongue talking decreased by about 3 percent to less than 82,000. That’s the lowest rate since 1995. How is that even possible, given that Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing sectors of Christianity? The Pew Research Center reports that at least 25% of the 2 billion Christians in the world are connected to the Pentecostal or charismatic movements.

“This is a long-developing phenomenon,” Harvey Cox, an expert in Pentecostalism and professor of religion at the Harvard Divinity Schooltold the Associated Press. “They don’t want what appears to be objectionable to stick out or be viewed with suspicion.”

And it’s not just the Pentecostals that are straying from the defining characteristics of their faith. The Baptists are also reporting a decline in Baptisms. Indeed, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) reports water baptisms dipped 13 percent in 2012 to under 300,000. Al Gilbert of the NAMB told One News Now that’s the biggest drop in 62 years—62 years!

“Maybe we’re not identifying the need to help our teenagers and even our older children understand how to publicly profess their faith,” Gilbert says. “Are we even making sure that they’ve understood the claims of Christ and then they have declared that they’re publicly a follower of Christ?”

OK, so what’s going on here and what does it mean for Pentecostals, Baptists, and Christianity at large? It doesn’t take a prophet to see that secularism is attacking the foundations of Christianity and we’re seeing the manifestations in two of the largest, oldest branches in the body of Christ.

Think about it for a minute. When Pentecostals don’t speak in tongues and Baptists aren’t getting baptized, it signals a deeper issue of faith. In an age of interfaith marriages, some may be abandoning their religious roots to avoid offending their spouses.

In a recent article entitled “Interfaith Unions: A Mixed Blessing,” Naomi Shaeffer Riley points out that before the 1960s, about 20 percent of married couples were in interfaith unions; of couples married in this century’s first decade, 45 percent were. She also notes that secular Americans welcome the rise of interfaith unions as a sign of societal progress. But it’s not progress when you abandon the tenets of your faith in the name of compromise.

Secularism is even creeping into churches. What does that look like? Some of the signs are blatantly obvious, such as teaching that Jesus is not the only way to God. But the Bible clearly states that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Approval of homosexual lifestyles is another obvious fruit of secularism in the church, just as is a refusal to confront other sins.

But secularism isn’t always so blatant. There are subtle secularistic messages invading the church. Messages that focus more on moralism than Christ and the cross sound fine and good but morality without Christ is not Christianity. Likewise, pop psychology-centered sermons can take our focus off Christ’s and distract us from our faith in His healing power and place it in steps or formulas that may actually contradict the Word.

When we’re scared our faith will offend, we’re bowing to secularism. When we stop publicly baptizing in water, we may also be bowing to the influence of secularism. And when we stop praying in tongues because we don’t want to scare off seekers, we’ve definitely given in to secularism.

This Scripture keeps coming to mind: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Make no mistake, secularism is among the forces working to destroy our Christian foundation. It’s time for the righteous to rise up, bold as lions, and declare the cross of Christ, get baptized publicly, and speak in tongues to build ourselves up in our most holy faith. And ultimately, secularism must bow a knee to the name of Jesus.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebookor follow her on Twitter.


George O. Wood Sets John MacArthur’s Pentecostal Record Straight.

George O. Wood
George O. Wood

Recently, Dr. John MacArthur and Grace to You Ministries hosted the Strange Fire conference at Grace Community Church in Simi Valley, California.

Dr. MacArthur believes that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased with the close of the apostolic era and that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are therefore theologically aberrant at a foundational level.

By contrast, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians believe that “the promise [i.e., the gift of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39, NIV). With this promise comes the evidential sign of speaking in other tongues and the power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; 2:4; cf. Luke 24:49). Consequently, following the apostle Paul’s teaching, we “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:1).

While there have been isolated aberrations of behavior and doctrine over the past century among those who self-identify as Pentecostal or charismatic, the movement as a whole has proved a vital force in world evangelization—a fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to His disciples in Acts 1:8. On behalf of the 66 million adherents and 360,000+ churches in the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, I thank God that the faith and life of the Acts 2 church are still being believed and experienced today.

The Assemblies of God celebrates 100 years in 2014 and remains committed to the full authority of God’s Word. As a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God has sought to cooperate in the Great Commission with Christians of like-minded faith, even when they are not Pentecostal and charismatic, and we remain committed to that collaboration.

We trust the time will come when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ. We pray God’s blessings on their efforts to share His gospel with a lost and dying world. Pentecostals and charismatics are their co-laborers in this effort, so we ask that they would similarly pray for God’s blessing on us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission that God has given us all.

George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. 



Dozens of ‘Noisy’ Churches Silenced in Cameroon.

Church service in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon.
Church service in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon. (Elin B/Flickr)

The government of Cameroon has ordered the closure of dozens of churches in an attempt to put an end to what it considers to be anarchy among some Christian organizations.

The measure, which authorities began to impose on Aug. 23, targets Pentecostal churches, which are not officially recognized.

The minister of communications, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said at an Aug. 28 press conference that the churches engage in “unhealthy” and “indecent” practices contrary to the goal of spiritual growth of the people.

Bakary also denounced “obvious cases of extortion of people in desperate situation,” “repeat nocturnal uproars” and “proselytizing.”

“In such a situation … the government could not remain indifferent and inactive,” he said. “The administrative authorities that are responsible for the preservation of public order had to take responsibility.”

About 10 churches have had their doors locked in Yaoundé, the capital. In Bamenda, the main town in the northwest, which houses a high proportion of the country’s Christians, some 20 churches have been affected.

In total, 35 churches were closed across the country, according to Bakary.

Pastor Naida Lazare, president of Cameroon’s Christian Media Network, says several churches sought government approval for more than 10 years but received no response.

“Many churches and Christian organizations have sought in vain for their legalization. They have gone through all administrative and legal procedures. But they have not received any notification indicating the rejection or approval of their associations,” Lazare told World Watch Monitor. “Instead of blaming Christian organizations or men and women often above suspicion, the government would gain much by regulating these associations, as many of them have been waiting for over a decade.”

Cameroon is a secular country in Central Africa. Almost 80 percent of its 20 million people are Christians. Freedom of worship and religion is guaranteed by the constitution, reinforced by Act No. 90/053 of Dec. 19, 1990, regulating religious organizations.

This law stipulates that the exercise of religious worship should be subject to the approval of the minister of interior affairs and authorization by the president.

Since the 1990 law, Pentecostal organizations have experienced remarkable growth in the country. Dozens of churches, which often have links in neighboring Nigeria, settled in the country.Such rapid growth has come at the expense of historical churches, such as the Catholic Church, which has seen a great number of its followers join Pentecostal movements.

These Pentecostal churches are renowned for their dynamism and ability to mobilize crowds.

It is difficult to know the precise number of churches in the country. Officially, only 47 permits were granted to churches or Christian organizations between 1990 and 2009, whereas about 500 denominations are operating across the country.

“This would mean that the overwhelming majority of those churches that are currently swarming our cities and towns exist illegally, benefiting from the tolerance of our administrative system,” Bakary said.

Bishop Dieudonné Abogo, president of the Pentecostal Union of Cameroon, acknowledges some churches are rowdy.

“The use of loud music during services may cause real disturbance to neighborhoods in some areas,” Abogo says. “This causes great damage to the reputation of officially recognized churches.”

The decision to close nonrecognized churches is not new in Cameroon. A number of Pentecostal churches in Cameroon have been closed in recent years by local authorities following complaints by residents. Abogo says governing bodies such as the Pentecostal Union of Cameroon should work with the government to find a solution.



Are Pentecostal Pastors Telling HIV Patients to Give Up Medicine?.

HIV medicine
Medicines for HIV-positive patents are seen at a clinic. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Young people with HIV are allegedly giving up their medicine after Pentecostal pastors told them to instead rely on their faith in God, the BBC reports.

According to BBC News, medical staff said “a minority of pastors in England were endangering young church members by putting them under pressure to stop medication.”

The Children’s HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors and health professionals who work with babies and children in England after its members reported hearing about HIV patients stopping their anti-retroviral drugs because of their pastors’ advice.

Among 10 doctors who said they have witnessed this problem in the last five years, 29 of their patients said they were pressured to stop taking medicine; at least 11 had done so.

There were a variety of cases. Health care workers dealt with parents who felt pressure to stop giving their young children their HIV medicine—and some did so; some patients were breastfeeding mothers with HIV who declined the medicine that would stop the virus from being passed to their children; others were young people who made the decision for themselves.

The respondents also reported that some patients had been told by their pastors they would be healed by prayer or by drinking blessed water.

Some pastors, however, are refuting the claim.

Stevo Atanasio, a Pentecostal pastor from the East London Christian Church, says he has seen blind people recover their sight, deaf people hear again and those who were diagnosed with terminal illness cured.

“We don’t say to people, ‘Don’t take your medication, don’t go to the doctor.’ I mean we never say that,” the BBC reports him saying.

“But we believe that the first healing comes from inside, it’s a spiritual healing. Some people are hurt, they have broken hearts. If you are healed from inside, then you are healed from outside as well.”

Pentecostalism is booming in the United Kingdom—the number of Pentecostal churches in London has doubled since 2005. But the amount of incidents of HIV patients being told to stop taking medicine is thought to be a small group of people from a minority of churches.

A former Pentecostal pastor says he has seen it happening.

“I’ve heard languages like that: ‘Put your trust in God, don’t put your trust in medicine,” says the Rev. Israel Olofinjana, who is now a Baptist minister.

“Within the context of African churches, if you’re coming from a culture where the pastor is like your fathers or mothers, like your community keepers, the word of your pastor becomes very important,” he explains.

“It becomes very significant. … There is a minority who say, ‘Because God can heal absolutely … what’s the need for medicine?’”

Dr. Steve Welch, chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, says it can be difficult to engage with some faith leaders.

“We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that … their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition, and engage positively with them and not make it a clash of cultures.

“I think it’s about engaging with the pastors and faith leaders who are giving this advice because that’s how we will actually address the root of the problem.”



Biya Orders Shutdown Of ‘Illegal’ Christian Pentecostal Churches.

By SaharaReporters, New York

Saying “we will get rid of the so-called Christian Pentecostal pastors” with their “fake miracles” who “kill citizens in their churches,” a Cameroonian official took aim at the religious sect facing closure orders by the regime of Pres. Paul Biya.

President Biya is said to be targeting some 100 Pentecostal churches in major cities, especially in Yaounde, the nation’s capital and Bamenda, in the North West Regional capital.

But pastors for the growing religious denomination said they were being singled out because they criticize the Biya government which has been in power for more than 30 years.

The Reverend Pastor Elie Pierre, holding an outdoor service, said they would pray for God to touch the hearts of the police that sealed their church door last Friday.

He said persecution would fortify the Church, but that this was not good news for Cameroon. He added: “We have the right to defend ourselves.”

Of the nearly 500 Pentecostal churches in Cameroon, fewer than 50 are legal, according to Mbu Anthony Lang, the official, in a press interview.

The move again the Pentecostals follows the death of a 9 year old girl who reportedly collapsed and died during a prayer session in Winners’ Chapel, a Pentecostal church in Bamenda. According to the girl’s mother, the pastor claimed to be casting out demons that were controlling her daughter’s life.

A march against the closure order was held Wednesday in Bamenda and Douala. Pastors said the Biya government sees the spread of the Pentecostal sect as a threat.

Boniface Tum, a bishop of the Christian Church of God in Yaounde, said that Biya, who has been president since 1982, is becoming insecure about the freedom of speech within these churches.

“Authorizing only the Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Muslim, and a few other churches, is a strict violation of the right to religion,” Tum added.

More than 50 churches have already been closed.

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