Many of us had the experience of living through most of the Charismatic movement. At least, we caught the latter part. The movement began in “high church” circles such as the Anglican and Lutheran churches. It was pentecostal in nature, but got the moniker “Charismatic” which spoke of the gifts of the Spirit. The movement quickly spread to the Catholic Church and some of the early leaders were priests of Catholic or Anglican persuasions. It was an exciting time.
The problem came when people became dissatisfied with the regimen of worship that was rigid, formal, and lacked life. People began to meet in homes around the country. Many of these homes were large, fine, homes of mid to upper income folks. Churches opened their doors to these meetings in classrooms and libraries. Meetings were open ended with teaching, singing, prayer, deliverance, and anything that was God. People were seeking and hungry for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Out of this movement many of the churches we know were started. The movement has had many upstarts and failures, churches opening and closing. Many of the churches flourished and grew. Networks formed and streams of favorite teachings formed and groups around particular teachers formed. We have the remnants of all those flavors with us today. However, missing today is the fervor and desire for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Missing is the pursuit of the gifts of the Spirit. Missing is the anointing that comes with a move of God. Oh, we have remnants of the anointing. We have tried to create the anointing, but you cannot create the anointing, it comes from above as a sovereign expression.
While we could reminisce about the movement, it only becomes counterproductive. We have hoped that some of the short term events were a new move, but they only lasted momentarily. They were called revivals or blessings, but not a movement. As John said last Sunday, “not interested in revival, a regurgitated expression, but a new fresh move of God.”
Herein lies our dilemma: while desiring to see God move, we cannot define and demand a certain type of movement or expression because we will make it like what we have known and what we want. Having been a part of that movement, I was surprised and saddened at the time how few older people were a part of it. Oh, there were some who supported and imbibed of the new move of the Spirit, but oh so few. I was privileged to have a handful in our church which gave me some connection to the previous move of God known as the “Latter Reign Movement.” Those who had lived in it during the 40’s and early 50’s saw the Charismatic movement as God’s next move and joined. The new move was different. It had people that smoked. It had people who drank socially. It had people who wore fashionable clothes which seemed to some immodest. One young man at the time related how he came to the Lord. He said there was a group of guys who were sitting around smoking, cussing, and talking about the Lord when the Holy Spirit showed up and they were converted to Christ. Not your typical conversion. All these various people were coming to Jesus and being filled with His Spirit. God’s definition was different than man’s definition.
We are seeing the same thing happening today. Our definitions are being challenged once again. Things are not neat and clean like we like them. Styles have changed, mores have changed, communication has changed. Are we going to be upset because somebody reads the Bible on their smartphone and do not carry a book bible? That would be really close to the Catholic church centuries ago fighting the people having a Bible in their own language. If it were up to those folks, we would all be reading Latin and still stuck in works for salvation.
Can we change? Do we know what to change to? It is easy to want change, but where are we going with it? Are we just going to be iconoclasts and tear down, but have nothing to put in its place? Do we really know what God is doing right now? Are we to copy what others are doing just because they seem to be successful? I do not think so.
We do know that God is moving, but not in the dynamic way that a movement produces, but it does not alleviate us of pursuing and following what he is doing now. It may not be the big parting of the Red Sea, but it is the moving of the cloud for guidance and path choices. The day to day following of the cloud was not as exciting as the parting of the waters, but it did take them to the Promised Land.
In the interim there is hard, grunt work. Change will require attitude adjustment, it will require opening ourselves to new ideas, it will require us accepting people that do not fit our idea of what church people should look like or do, and it will require prayer to discern where we are going.
Do I want another movement? Yes, but remember, they are messy. You do not remember all the messiness because you have selectively remembered the good testimonies, salvations, and people being filled with the Spirit. You may not remember the wildfire, the false prophecies, the judgmental prophecies given, and the crazy teachings that flew around. You survived. Your selective memory may rejoice in the “good ‘ole days,” but they were not as good as remembered.
If anything, following the Lord is a journey requiring adaptability, flexibility, and lots of hope. We change, we have to. The survivors of the previous movement cannot be the cork to block the next move and the next generation. I want to be the Caleb or Joshua and join the movement that takes us to the Promised Land as it looks today.
- Pastor Bill