Yesterday it seems we had something of an impromptu synchroblog going as we offered responses to the
antics ministries of John Crowder and Todd Bentley, with the labels of revival that have been tossed around. My thoughts as well as those of Robbymac, Kingdom Grace, and Bill Kinnon were born of an email conversation we had struck up following the thoughts of others, including Andrew Jones (see my earlier post for additional links). I love the graphic that Rob made up, and even Bill’s pic is a good one — he even looks thoughtful. The image on Grace’s post says a lot, and had me thinking about some years back when we were praying for a pastor for the church plant we were undertaking. A friend of mine on the team was famed for saying he’d even follow a donkey, as long as it was God’s donkey. Good line, but as I looked at the circus image, I was struck by the fact that following God’s donkey is alright, but you have to exercise discernment to make sure you don’t end up following the wrong ass. Just a general observation of course, not a characterization of anyone in particular.
Cynthia Clack has some good insights on the mess. I agree with Grace, who said, “I miss corporate expectancy and openness to whatever the Spirit of God might do.” On the other hand, Cynthia’s observation is apt: “Personally, I would be much more likely to believe a movement of the Holy Spirit if everyone was selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Cynthia also includes some characteristics of true and false revival. On their own, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with her third, fourth, and fifth points describing false revivals, but taken as a whole they do indicate warning signs. (For example, there were popular preachers during the Great Awakening, which was a genuine revival.)
I’m probably more open to an inexplicable amount of weirdness within what I would still call a genuine move of the Holy Spirit, but my stance is that things tend to go off the rails quickly, and I have difficulty recommending anyone drink from the well once it’s been poisoned. Even if there is more water than poison. Yes, God does some good works (healings, salvations) in the midst of these messes, but I do wonder if there aren’t more casualties… like being a civilian in a time of war. Grace is quite correct in her statements:
As the hype of revival grows, so does the number of people hesitantly hopeful that God might touch their life, that He might hear their plea and have a cure for their need…
While the atmosphere of revival often builds faith, it also creates the notion that one must go to a special location to receive from God. Once there, people will do almost anything to be touched by the guest minister.
It is in this fertile soil of desperation that sincere people are ripe for being taken advantage of, for being abused, and for being led into false teaching.
Thus, it’s those who are weak and desperate that are the likeliest of casualties. Those charismaniacs who are familiar with the whole scene and pride themselves on “mainlining the Holy Spirit” are unlikely to come away wounded. They’ll walk away “pumped up” with claims of greater faith and expectancy.
But I have to ask whether they love their spouses any more. Are they more generous toward those in need — or just toward those engaged in spreading the hype? Are they encouraged to the endurance of a long obedience, or does the hype fade until the next conference?
I confess, in the days I was immersed in renewal — and we were cautious to call it renewal rather than revival, as it didn’t extend beyond the church — we had some wild times. Good times. It was fun, and it was enjoyable. But is that enough? I’d have to say it isn’t wrong, not until you start preaching that everyone needs to have your idea of “fun” if they actually love Jesus. And those who are quick to find a miracle need to be cautious… there was one case of a man who thought that God had turned the fillings in his teeth to gold — until his wife reminded him that his dentist had done that work years ago. Yes, God can do extravagant things for reasons we don’t comprehend… but I suggest that gold dust is a confusing sign and not an indicator (positive or negative) that a work is of God. And it is unwise to glorify confusing “signs.”
I have to stand by what I said yesterday, of course — if these things occur, they should be downplayed. Don’t dismiss them as “not of God,” but be far more afraid of attempts to steer them and leave God less room to maneuver as he sees fit. There are those who would “control” the Holy Spirit… a sure sign that they don’t really know him or the Godhead of whom he is a part. The indicators to me are that such people are not necessarily evil, but certainly lack wisdom and judgment. As such, these are not the best representatives of God for one to follow and flock toward. We could offer many indicators of whether a move of God is genuine or not, and perhaps we should — but my working assumption would be that in most cases, God is doing something that man is attempting to steer. I’m reminded of God’s words through Moses to the people of Israel concerning who is and is not a “real” prophet:
“But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.
This suggests to me that we shouldn’t fear what’s going on or even demand an instant answer as to whether or not it’s God. It’ll all work out in the end. In the meantime, are the people engaged in leading the movement the type of leaders you want to follow?
I’m curious what other think — there’s still time to get in on this impromptu synchro-blog or leave your comments below. What do you think?