There is something seriously wrong when people engage in bizarre behaviour like body contortions, slaying in the spirit, writhing and twisting on the floor, dancing around the room in an unseemly manner and believing crazy things like Prosperity theology, ‘name it and claim it’, and private revelations that are contradictory to the Spirit of compassion, healing-mercy and loving-kindness.
Pentecostalism attracts a disproportionate number of people who are mentally and emotionally ill and some of these need professional help from independent, properly qualified psychologists and psychiatrists.
Most people are probably mentally and emotionally stable but a growing proportion of adherents are being attracted who believe Charismaniac theology and engage in their bizarre practices.
When such people run rampant in a church, they can do a lot of emotional damage to others. Sometimes pastors do not know what to do about them and, at other times, pastors encourage this kind of behaviour because their numbers are increasing and they believe that a HOLY SPIRIT REVIVAL is in happening in their midst.
The fastest growing churches are Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and , among these churches, the fastest subset of growing churches are those that adopt some of these Charismaniac practices and adhere to elements of Charismaniac theology,
Such practices and theology are extremely damaging to the Christian cause. If you are a classical Trinitarian Pentecostal church, I implore you NOT to adopt these crazy Charismaniac theologies and practices and seek to instruct your people in proper biblical exegesis, avoid false and bizarre prophecies and words of knowledge, and seek to steer those who are mentally unbalanced towards mental and emotional healing,
2. Why are people attracted to Pentecostal and Charismatic churches?
Some are attracted by the vibrant music and the seemingly strong energy that comes from these meetings. Those who find Mainline church services boring or Evangelical services too staid and straight-laced (like some Fundamentalist Baptist churches) are sometimes attracted to Pentecostal and Charismatic services.
You might be doubting the veracity of the bible because you do not see that miracles are occurring in your church services and beginning to doubt that miracles ever occurred. A Pentecostal comes along and tells you that miracles are occurring in their churches and that what happened in bible days is occurring now. You might want to go and check this out and, if you do, you might get sucked into believing that they are right.
You might be wondering whether there is a God who answers believing prayer since your prayers don’t seem to be answered. God seems to have gone to sleep and appears to be more like Baal than the God of the prophet Elijah. So some enthusiastic Pentecostal tells you of numerous cases of God answering prayer and you might go to their services to find out if this is true.
You might be going through a long dry patch in your religious experience and lacking ‘victory in Jesus’ and wondering whether God has deserted you. After your initial ‘born again’ experience has waned and withered, a Pentecostal comes along and enthusiastically tells you that your lack of Spiritual power is due to the fact that, although you are ‘born again’, you have not yet experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of miraculously speaking in other tongues that you do not know but are known to others.
You might be told that ‘speaking in tongues’ is the spiritual powerhouse. You might be told that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit will revolutionize your Christian life. These kinds of tactics are used by Pentecostals to bring members of non-Charismatic churches into the Charismatic fold.
It all seems attractive to many disillusioned Mainline and Evangelical Christians who know that they once had an ardent desire to follow Christ but this desire has waned over the years because of the ‘daily drudge in Jesus’ that they are experiencing.
Imagine if miraculous healings were occurring today. Imagine if God was actually intervening in human history today just like he is supposed to have done in biblical days. And if you have just EXPERIENCED the wonderful Baptism in the Holy Spirit, you will be walking on ‘cloud nine’ and will begin to believe that there is a God who actually does intervene and that the bible is true and the very WORD of God.
You will believe in the 9 manifestations or Gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and will begin to read the bible like a Pentecostal Fundamentalist or Pentecostal/Charismatic Evangelical.
The hypnotic techniques (often unconsciously learned by Pentecostal pastors), the rhythmic singing, the dynamic (but often uncontextual) preaching and wonderful (but unverified) stories of people hearing genuine tongues spoken (instead of gibberish) by someone who never knew that language and unverified organic healings (that are supposed to have occurred in China or in some other far off place) will likely CONDITION YOU TO BELIEVE THESE THINGS.
All these things prepare people for what Pentecostals claim is a dynamic, vibrant, EXPERIENTIAL encounter with God. People genuinely do encounter something, but we need to ask whether it is God they are encountering or something else.
If you are trapped in a Pentecostal church and have been CONDITIONED to turn off your critical faculties, I implore you not to. Young people are being attracted to Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in droves because they are promised a dynamic encounter with the God of the bible. Beware and keep your critical faculties razor-sharp. Do not succumb to the mental and emotional conditioning in such churches and lose your ability to critically analyze what is happening.
The real problem is that an increasing number are being attracted to Charismaniac practices and theology. If the only form of Christianity likely to survive by the end of the 21st century is Pentecostal/Charismatic, then these movements NEED TO GET THEIR HOUSED IN ORDER AND CLEAN UP THEIR ACT.
3. What steps can a classical Pentecostal church take to help reduce Charismania?
These may help reduce, but may not necessarily eliminate, Charismania.
(1). Pastors, please preach expository sermons.
Expound the Scriptures in their immediate and broader context. Give attention to the form, structure and setting of a book. Look at what is cultural and trans-cultural within a passage and seek to be Christocentric in your approach to the bible. This will help to prevent the great number of people who lift verses out of context to justify their supposed leadings of the Holy Spirit.
(2) Teach your congregations proper methods of biblical exegesis and sound classical Pentecostal theology and warn them against Charsimaniac theologies and practices.
(3) Don’t accept ‘prophecies’ and ‘words of knowledge’ that are inconsistent with the compassionate heart of Jesus revealed in the Gospels.
Tone down the “Thus says the Lord” and other oracular certainties that often occur in services. Say ‘I think the Lord might be saying … ‘ . There are too many false prophecies and ‘words of knowledge’ occurring currently in Pentecostal and Charismatic services and some People act on these to their severe cost and disappointment .
(4) Subordinate so-called private revelations to the biblical witness to Jesus, contextually interpreted.
(5) Develop a Christocentric theology of the Word.
Have a look of some of the Anabaptist and neo-Anabaptist theology or Barth’s volumes on Church Dogmatics.
(6) Accept historico-critical methods of reading the bible and teach your congregations these methods.
A good dose of Bart Ehrman’s books can help you fashion your views if you are looking for easy to read material and haven’t already studied such methods at a Mainline or Liberal theological seminary. You won’t agree with Ehrman but he will make you think and rethink your position. You may end up with a different version of Christianity than you now have but it will cure one of any Charismaniac tendencies that have been picked up on the way.
4. How can a Classical Pentecostal church promote emotional healing and wholeness?
I am no expert in this field, but here are my tentative musings on this subject.
(1) Think of every person as a beautiful person made in the image or likeness of a God of peace and compassion. Proclaim this kind of God of love in your services and treat every person with dignity and respect.
(2) Seek to develop healthy, cooperative relationships and encourage dialogue among the members. Allow for theological diversity but within a framework of a compassionate, Christocentric theology of the Word of God.
(3) Focus of the graciousness of God in a way that produces graciousness in people. Allow people to be where they are at without trying to change them. Accept them where they are and let the graciousness of a God of love heal their lives and relationships in his/her own time.
(4) Look to the humanity of Jesus and examine how he treated outcasts and do likewise. Accept them where they are at and welcome them into community. Have a warm, open, tender heart towards these people.
(5) Look at the generosity of God revealed in Jesus and seek to express this kind of generosity towards others in our lives, lifestyle, deeds and words.
(6) Focus on the GOOD NEWS of peace and compassion proclaimed by Jesus who announced the coming of the reign of God, God’s reign of shalom. Get your congregations to focus their MINDS AND HEARTS on good news, joyful news, news of happiness that uplifts the human spirit.
(7) Find good, independent qualified psychologists and psychiatrists in your community that you could send mentally disturbed people in your congregation, if they are willing to go. Some people desperately need the right kind of professional help to heal mentally and emotionally.