“I’m pretty sure which church I’ll start going to – it’s the place where most wounded ex-charismatics tend to end up.”
The friend who uttered these words had just come to a crossroads in his journey. Like me, he had been involved in the Vineyard for many years; he was a deeply thoughtful and learned leader, and was as committed to the Vineyard as a movement as anyone I knew. My wife Wendy and I had not been attending a Vineyard for a number of years by this point, but my friend was big-time Vineyard to the core. For him to finally “pull the plug” and leave was – initially – a huge shock.
In the days that followed, as I thought about it, his departure became a kind of “straw that broke the camel’s back” that set me on a year-long journey of research and writing on a fast-growing segment of the emerging church: Post-Charismatics.
Initially, the LAST thing I wanted to call the project was “post”-anything, as I’m about as sick of hearing post-this and post-that as anyone. The first time that I came across the term “post-charismatic” was about twenty years ago when reading the late John Wimber’s Power Evangelism. Wimber had been speculating as early as 1980 that the Charismatic Renewal was perhaps running out of steam and that a new era – post-charismatic – was perhaps beginning in the 80’s.
J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, also used the term in his 1994 book What Happened to the Fire? Grady estimated that by 1990, there were as many as 92 million people who described themselves as post-charismatic. Grady writes:
“Burned out on hype and pulpit showmanship, weary of learning 95 ways to use spiritual gifts when they recognize more basic needs, these believers are in search of a deeper spirituality that emphasizes the fruit of the Spirit as much or more than the gifts.”
In some ways they are very akin to the postmodern people I meet who are open to God but indifferent or hostile to church. These self-described post-charismatics are open to the working of the Holy Spirit, but due to excesses and abuses that they have seen or experienced, they are skeptical and even wary of ministries that are charismatic. Further, there are some who have come to a place where they overtly reject – or passively neglect – the more obvious supernatural workings of the Spirit.
It would probably be more accurate to call these people “post-HYPE”. They are tired of hearing great stories about the good old days, jaded from hearing too many prophecies about the great move of God that seems to always be just around the corner, fed up with exaggerated or even fabricated stories of healings and miracles, and disillusioned with a view of spiritual formation that is lived through a weekly crisis moment at the front of the church.
Broadly speaking, there are four major areas that come up repeatedly as reasons for post-charismatics pulling away from their Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Third Wave roots. The four areas are:
- Abuses and elitism in prophetic ministry, coupled with a “carrot and stick” approach to holiness that many find legalistic, manipulative, and repressive
- The excesses of Word Faith teachings (health and wealth, prosperity doctrine) which clash with the emerging generations’ concern for a biblical approach to justice and ministry with the poor
- Authoritarianism and hierarchical leadership structures that exist more to control people than to equip the saints for works of service
- An approach to spiritual formation (discipleship) that depends on crisis events – whether at “the altar” in a church service, or in a large conference setting – but either neglects or deliberately belittles other means of spiritual maturation (ie. spiritual disciplines)
A saying that I have come to use a great deal in recent years is: “We only deconstruct in order to reconstruct”. As much as postmodernism is a critique of modernism, and the emerging church is a critique, but hopefully much more, of the modern church, I am hoping that a post-charismatic understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in individuals and communities of faith will serve as a critique of charismania excesses and questionable teachings, and lead ultimately to a more mature and balanced understanding, expectation, and functioning in the Spirit of Christ.
In Brethren, Hang Loose (can you tell this book was written in the 70’s?), Bob Girard voiced this lament:
“This idea persisted that much about (Bob’s church) with all its early marks of success was no miracle at all. It wasn’t Acts. It was a monument to the kind of good things man can do... all by themselves.” (emphasis in original)
Will post-charismatics end up creating communities of faith that will ultimately become testimonies to the things that people can do without the Spirit’s inspiration, input, and empowering? This is the danger for post-charismatics. Out of their understandable reaction against the excesses and abuses, there is still a very real possibility that they will end up passively neglecting or deliberately suppressing what the Spirit may be saying in their midst.
The major premise behind writing Post-Charismatic, my year-long research project, is that while we need to examine the theological and historical roots that have led to some of the excesses and abuses, we also need to re-construct what it means to be Post-Charismatic, but not post-Spirit.
Rob McAlpine writes from Kelowna BC. ‘Post-Charismatic’ can be read online at his blog: http://www.robbymac.org/charismatic/.
I liked this very brief article enough to follow the link to the full text. I'm glad I did. Well researched, well thought out book-length work. I was familiar with much of this history, but have not seen it put together so well or thoroughly. I hope there will be a paper-printing to accompany the generous online access. This will be a great resource for many I know (myself included) who are trying to make sense of their own post-Charismatic journeyings. Thank you Rob.
Good article. I was a little concerned about the total rejection of the reality of the Holy Spirit, until I got to the last couple of paragraphs. Nice save!!
I see this post-charismatic attitude in many people around me, particularly my wife. I'm happy to say that our church has managed to become an 'emerging, post-charismatic' church, while not being post-Holy Spirit- and I don't even know if my pastor meant to do it! Sounds like the Spirit is in control after all. If that's the case in our little corner of reality, He's probably doing just fine all over the Kingdom.
Be blessed Chris
I am in the process of reading "Post Charismatic" right now and find myself getting a sore neck from all the nodding in agreement I'm doing. I was so excited to see someone writing about this and doing it in such a well thought out manner. If I were to write a book, this would have been the topic...McAlpine saved me the trouble. I'm in the 'grew up charismatic' group and I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to muddle through what it all meant and come to a balance in the end and actually be able to incorporate my experiences and my beliefs into our ministry. It makes me so sad to see how many of my charismatic peers became cessationists and I am determined to minister the whole truth without the hype.
Anyway....good stuff brother - thank you thank you thank you.
A very interesting pondering, thanks for sharing. Life today has not allowed me to read the longer text unfortunately, but I WILL get there:)
As a person who grew up FAR away from the charismatic folks (attending a Congregational church,) much of it was not personally familiar. I found it very interesting as you talked about finding the way to let the spirit flow authentically.
For myself, after choosing Christ as a 34 year old I found myself a few years later wrestling with the Holy Spirit's powerful stirrings in me and being in a very legalistic church at that time I did not find they accepted that. In fact I have longed for the openness to things of the Spirit that the Charismatic groups have.
I guess I am left wondering which scenario is *worse*...denial of the Spirit in us...or artificial inflation of the Spirit in us?
Ahhh, balance is beautiful...
As one who has been involved with charismatics and all for over 30 years, I really enjoyed your thoughts! Jesus said that the scribes of his day didn't know the scriptures (but they knew the words) or the power of God. The same blight is with us today. May people like you help us all to come out of our self induced fog and find our place in God's purposes today.
Hi. My husband reminded me of Eric Little's great phrase: "I feel the pleasure of God when I run." This applies to our present time, to our "now"--we need to feel the pleasure of God when it comes to the charismatic and the movings of the Holy Spirit.
If we do not sense his love, peace, joy and pleasure, then there ought to be a red flag and a caution. It is not a balancing act between cessationists and charismatics. That is a false dichotomy. It is a matter of relationship with the Almighty. It is a matter of the pleasure of God!
I really related to the title of the article, being a self-labeled post-charismatic for years now. My only question about the authorâ€™s intent, not only here, but on the link provided, is why it has to be a balance between cessationist or charismatic viewsâ€¦why not a total re-definition? Personally, I am one who has the same discomfort with what we commonly call charismatic or ecstatic behavior, because of past abuses in my own experiences. For myself, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a matter of throwing the baby out with the bathwaterâ€¦I personally challenge the charismatic definitions of how the Spirit operates. On some level, I feel offended that because I may not be seeking the same experiences charismatics define as the moving of the Holy Spirit, that I am â€œpassively neglecting or deliberately suppressing what the Spirit may be saying in their midst.â€� Personally, I believe prophecy can happen without the showmanship or control exhibit by so many. I believe it can happen without anyone, including the one expressing it, knowing its happening. Just because we said (as charismatics) that healing had to happen when we held a healing service, doesnâ€™t mean God has obligated Himself to those rules. I think we need to take a long hard look at what we have defined as the work of the Holy Spirit, and see if we need to reevaluate our conclusions.
The BEST article Next-Wave has published in 2006!!!
You Go Charlie!!!/ Rob!!!
If itâ€™s okâ€¦Iâ€™d like to elaborate, and maybe modify my former comment. I do want to say that Robâ€™s web-article-book is very well thought out and articulate. I really appreciate the time and attention to history a subject like this needs. On re-reading it, my last comment sounds like Iâ€™m offended with Robâ€¦and Iâ€™m really notâ€¦I think the word â€œdefensiveâ€� best suits me when Iâ€™m challenged with an article like the one above. This is great work, and great conversation fuel, and I really appreciate it being shared so freely here, and on Robâ€™s site.
This has caused me to rethink everything I was raised to believe. I have been a Pentecostal since I was 6 weeks old. Before I came across this article I left a church for almost every reason listed in this article and what he has on his site. This is awesome. I wish somebody would have shared this with me 20 years ago when I went to bible school to be in the ministry. I now sit on the edge of learning everything again and I am excited.
I'm a late comer. Agree whole heartedly with article,but wander into any AG church today ( for ex ) and affiliated ministry's and you won't see many changes. The large non denominational churches still have abuses still the "don't touch Gods annointed" as does YWAM.Why? Because all the people in leadership today in those churches were discipled through the shepherding movement. While I appreciate what EC is trying to do unless you get some educated people in the pulpits with sound seminary training and holy lifestyle that is above reproach AND psych evals on all in leadership... 15 years from now EC is going to be looked upon as just another regurgitated later day rain movement,combined with new age and catholicism thrown in. People who are hyperspirtual jumping from country to country for the latest outpouring. They need to get a job!! The supposed outpouring in Europe and elsewhere will just have the same effect( ship wrecked lives) there as it does with 'us' reflecting now and posting in this article.Subjective experience DOES NOT SUPERCEDE objective truth!. Every generation needs their own Jesus movement which will just fizzle out if it is not grounded on sound doctrine.Pay attention and listen to those that have come out of all the heresy in the last two decades. It is arrogant to not learn from it and wo to those who teach error.It is no joke.Bad theology leads to bad life choices and decisions.
interesting stuff! today I was wrestling with this question after coming back from a prayer meeting with my pastor and a few others from my church.I feel a great pressure to "perform" as they do when in a group, such as calling out or the intensity of the praying, right down the phrases etc..and there are some people who while they may be sincere, are very much the showman type and try to manipulate the flow of the prayer meetings...yet i know everyone has their personal style, and I feel that the quiet ones get overlooked and even put down, while the super expressive ones are encouraged etc and included. I think God was trying to remind me of the fact that He has made me unique and with his design, & not to worry about giving into a prescribed norm. When we do this, we are actually looking for their approval before God's! All God wants from us is a willing and sincere heart, for us to seek Him in the truth of His Word, and to be receptive to the leadings of His Spirit, no matter what our style may be...
I like this. In fact, I have just received a copy of the book 'Post Charismatic?' I don't usually agree with titles that have a question mark. It's a lazy way of creating a title for something. But in this case, the question mark is correct. None of us should even begin to attempt to create yet another 'movement'. Haven't we had enough of those by now? But in this 'Lakeland' era, it seems that we are, once again, not being allowed to ask questions. Those who follow Todd Bentley and his teachings seem annoyed when you ask questions. They appear to accept the whole package without filtering any of the ingredients. But one of the streams of thought that runs through the Bible is this whole idea - even responsibility - of asking questions. 'Come, let us reason together' implies that a question or two might be asked of God somewhere down the line. And of course, he might have a question or two to ask of us! The true meaning of 'logos' is not 'word', but 'discourse' or 'conversation'. Jesus is the conversation of God. So even the nature of the Son of God implies some reasoning, some questioning, some debating. Kick against whatever presents itself as 'the anointing', because if it is the real thing, it can take the knocks.