Category Archives: Pentecostalism

Constructive, clear-headed insights into the Pentecostal/charismatic movements

Roger E. Olson wrote an outstanding article on the Pentecostal/charismatic movements in the U.S. Having been brought up in a Pentecostal denomination, Olson eventually went to seminary, became a Baptist, and left the Pentecostal movement. His article is about two years old and written for a magazine, but it is still applicable. Originally appearing in The Christian Century, the article is reprinted here thanks to PentecostalFreedom.org.

Association of Former Pentecostals not to blame

I have posted several times in the forums of the Association of Former Pentecostals, and I have read many posts from other participants.

I had never previously seen the kind of violent rhetoric that published reports allege had originated from Matthew Murray, the young man police say killed two people at a Youth With A Mission center in Colorado, and killed two more people at a community church, before taking his own life after being confronted by a security guard.

What I had read at the association’s Web site, ex-pentecostals.org, were difficult, personal stories written by people who were very upset or troubled by their present or past experiences in Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

It is true that people posting on the forums have expressed anger and frustration with pastors, prophets, fellow church members, and assorted self-styled ministers. Some posters have mocked public figures.

It is also true the people have expressed anger and frustration with every president in our nation’s history. Most public figures are mocked at some point in their careers.

Legitimate frustrations, properly expressed, have nothing to do with violent, anti-social behavior.

What I find interesting is that many people on the forums shared the experiences I had in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement: controlling ministers and laypersons, emotional abuse, outrageous claims of special knowledge, promises that one can manipulate God into granting material blessings, and — I cannot state this too strongly — a complete incapacity to express the Gospel in a way that Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, St. John Chrysostom, or the Apostle Paul would have recognized it.

I say this after spending approximately 23 years in nondenominational charismatic churches; you can read about part of my journey by clicking here.

Furthermore, I’m completely baffled by the way some people have suggested that the Association of Former Pentecostals is an extremist group or an anti-Christian group. Based on my experiences while reading the forums and posting on the site, I would estimate that approximately half of the regular posters have remained Christians, while the other half were driven into atheism, agnosticism, or other religions solely by the craziness and unhealthiness of Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

The media and irresponsible commentators need to stop all attempts at guilt-by-association — Murray’s postings and actions have nothing to do with the tone that is common to the Association of Former Pentecostals’ forum.

And, perhaps most importantly, the administrators of the association’s Web site state in a long-standing note that that purpose of the forums is to share and to heal — and then to move on in freedom and in peace.

-Colin Foote Burch

Conferences that conjure power, or, man-made ways to make God talk

I found this on the Web site of a prophetic ministry. Can you discern the heretical doctrines and general nuttiness within this promotional note for an upcoming conference?

There seems to be a remarkable new spiritual energy being released in our conferences. Everyone on our staff, as well as many who have been attending our conferences for years, seem to all think that our recent Harvest and Worship & Warfare Conferences were the best we’ve ever had. Overall, I think so too, but there was also a great spiritual momentum that I have honestly not felt anything like in over a decade. Already you can feel the spiritual energy building for our New Year’s Conference in which we seek the Lord for prophetic words for the coming year. In the past, we have received some that were remarkable. These are obviously crucial times, and we are going to need to have increasingly clear and accurate guidance for them. There is also a great spiritual momentum building, and if you are planning to join us for this conference, please register and reserve your rooms at Heritage as soon as possible, as space is limited and we are expecting this conference to fill up quickly.

Problems with the above promo:

1. How frequently did Biblical prophets hold conferences so they could hear from the Lord? And, conversely, how frequently did the Lord decide to talk to prophets at times the prophets had not previously scheduled? The suggestion is that we, or at least the right sages, can make God talk.

2. How does the Lord’s work depend on “spiritual momentum?” Does God need a running start to accomplish certain things? God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. No build-up required. No straining involved.

3. “Already you can feel the spiritual energy building for our New Year’s Conference in which we seek the Lord for prophetic words for the coming year.” First, see #2 above. Second, since when does God operate on the calendar year?

4. “There is also a great spiritual momentum building, and if you are planning to join us for this conference, please register and reserve your rooms…as soon as possible.” The word “and” sticks out here. Being a conjunction, the word “and” tends to connect related ideas. Perhaps, then, one could conclude that the “spiritual momentum” announced in the first part of this compound sentence is intended to encourage the registrations and reservations requested in the second part. Following the above italicized excerpt, a link to the confence Web site notes that registration for the conference is $50 each for adults and children. The price is a gamble on the possiblity that “some” of the prophecy this year will be “remarkable.”

Like so many ministries that claim special supernatural giftings, this ministry depends on its followers accepting the assumption that critical thinking will hinder the work of God. Thus, they open themselves up to nebulous, vapid, un-Biblical beliefs merely because those beliefs are presented with conviction. Yet the mind, like the heart, was created for humans to use.

-Colin Foote Burch