Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Caution for Charismatic Christians

Within the family of the Christian faith, those that define themselves as charismatic offer many strengths to the Body of Christ. Among them are a desire for genuine worship, an emphasis on prayer and fasting and a strong belief that God still intervenes in miraculous ways today.

However, these strengths can easily become weaknesses when taken to extremes. A spiritual "anointing" can become justification for sexual indiscretion. A spiritual experience can be considered worship whether God is in the picture or not. And naive folks looking for a miracle can be taken in by Elmer Gantry-type preachers.

But, of course, all Christians are susceptible to allowing the strengths of their churches become weaknesses. Many churches and denominations are so set on getting their doctrinal statements all lined up in a row that they miss God in the process. Christianity becomes a set of theoretical beliefs rather than a life that is transformed. We all need to do some self-examination on whether the faith we are experiencing and believe in is real and genuine.

J. Lee Grady, editor for Charisma magazine, one of the leading magazines for charismatic Christians, has some choice words for his brethren. He has this to say:
"It's ironic that our society does not tolerate sloppy building, yet in the charismatic church we place little emphasis on code enforcement. In fact, in our freewheeling movement we celebrate the independent spiritual contractor who uses questionable materials and answers to no one. Much of our movement during the past 30 years has been built like this—and today we are discovering that what we thought was sturdy was actually stuck together with cheap nails, substandard wood, thin glue and duct tape."
Although the following suggestions from Grady may be directed towards those within his stream of Christianity, I certainly think they apply for all of us that consider ourselves Christians. Here are four areas that he chooses to focus on:
1. Sexual purity. It should go without saying that church leaders must live in moral and marital faithfulness. Yet when we look around today we find that ministries are tolerant of flippant divorce, hidden adultery and even unspeakable perversion. Some ministers admit to serious moral failures yet they never step out of ministry even for a week to get counseling. God has issued His clear warning. Ministries that tolerate sexual sin are already crumbling. It does not matter how big your auditorium is, how massive your television outreach, how many people shout during Sunday sermons or how enduring your spiritual legacy may seem. You can preach about God's grace all you want, but you are trampling on that grace if you continue to practice immorality.
2. Financial integrity. Jesus drove the greedy moneychangers out of His temple with a whip. He requires faithfulness of His stewards. Ministries that have committed spiritual extortion will have a day of reckoning—not necessarily with the IRS but certainly with the heavenly Auditor. Those who sell prophecies or charge $1,000 to gullible people to make them "spiritual sons" will soon lose their platforms. Those who misuse God's money to buy Bentleys, vacation homes and expensive clothes and shoes will soon experience the Great Repo.
3. Christlike humility. We cannot build God's house with pride and carnality. In the early days of our movement God winked at our immaturity—but we have no excuse today. Mature leaders should act like servants, not rock stars or mafia bosses. We must trade in our entourages and high-minded demands and return to the way of the Master—which includes the manger (humble beginnings), the donkey (a humble ministry style) and the towel (serving those we are called to lead). God resists the proud, and any church that embraces the bless-me gospel of egotistical charlatans will not enjoy His manifest presence.
4. Theological soundness. We can walk in humility, integrity and purity and still fail if we mix error with truth. We must preach Christ and Him crucified. We must contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints. We must guard the flock from deception and avoid the subtle lies and compromises that creep in from our culture and from occult influences. In segments of our movement today, charismatic theology has been diluted with New Age spirituality, universalism, pop psychology, Gnosticism, false prophecy and just plain weirdness. We need to reactivate the neglected gift of discernment and get rid of the theological hay and stubble that has caused our movement to lose its credibility.
As was mentioned, all of these areas need to be given due attention whether one considers themself to be Charismatic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic or non-denominational. A church that is made up of humble, morally pure, financially trustworthy people who are committed to God's Word will cause the world to take notice. Unfortunately, a prideful, immoral, deceitful, wishy-washy people will do the same -- but for all the wrong reasons.

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