I had a meaningful conversation with Len recently. There are some common threads between us. One of them is a significant involvement in the charismatic realm. As the conversation unfolded we spoke of how the charismatic movement added something to the lives of many mature grounded Christians who came from other church backgrounds. For these people the emphasis’ of the charismatic movement were a welcome addition to their faith. Those who know only the charismatic realm are missing solid biblical and theological grounding and are much more prone to fall for the distortions and aberrations of the charismatic movement today. The anti-theological and anti-intellectual attitude so prevalent in the charismatic movement has severely handicapped the movement ability to stay faithful to a pure, simple devotion to Christ. Discernment no longer resembles mapping things according to the guideposts of scripture. The criteria now is more about a sense of anointing or whether the name of Jesus is used.
Now the worst extremes of authoritarian theology, the prosperity gospel and revivalism have infected much of a movement that brought real benefit to me and many others. My feelings span the spectrum from saddened to sickened. Sometimes I’m even more disheartened at the reaction of those on the outside who recognize how bad things have become. On one side we have those who really don’t want to do anything. On the other we have critics that are so vitriolic any solid point they make is easily dismissed by those they might be able to correct.
I think the charismatic renewal is warning for other would be renewal movements like the missional church movement or simple church movement. If we discard too much from the historical church we may not realize that we are missing essential elements of church life until it is too late. As pioneers in these new movements we bring strengths of conventional church with us. For example the first generation of simple churches may stay faithful to Christian orthodoxy because so many simple church pioneers come with abundant theological education. If the second generation of house church leaders doesn’t have the same grounding it could easily go sideways.
If we aren’t faithful and thoughtful we may end up making the same mistakes over again.