It is not uncommon for me to receive an email requesting prayer for a loved one or friend. I welcome such requests. I am always willing to immediately pray and honor each request received. To pray for the sick is not only a natural response to my own heart’s concern, it is biblically mandated. Historically, healing is a Christian practice. James 5:14 teaches, “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” As a local pastor for 32 years I prayed for the sick. I visited those who were in the hospital. And I anointed individuals with oil in the name of the Lord. Though no longer a local pastor, I continue to pray and anointed individuals who are sick for the Lord instructs Christians to pray for one another.
To those within the Pentecostal and Charismatic tradition, a word of appreciation is in order for the renewed attention that has been given to divine healing and the outpouring of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Some see three “waves” of God moving within the past century.
The First Wave is associated with the Pentecostal, Charles Fox Purim in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 when speaking in tongues was reported. Heavily influenced by Purim, another outbreak of speaking in tongues occurred in 1906 led by W. J. Symore, a black holiness preacher in the Azusa Street Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
The Second Wave is identified with the year 1950 when the Episcopal Dennis Bennett of Van Nuys, California also began to speak in tongues. Since Mr. Bennett was not a Pentecostal, but an Episcopalian, a new word was coined to cross denominational barriers, charismatics. The acceptance of Charismatic principles of speaking in tongues and looking for signs and wonders began in 1950.
The Third Wave is the name given by Peter Wagner, former Professor of Missions at Fuller Seminary, to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship movement, identified with John Wimber in Anaheim, California. The Third Wave emphasizes free emotion in worship, ‘holy laughter’ and barking like dogs, ecstatic utterances, visions, miracles, dreams, special revelations, personal revelations, fresh revelations from God, and signs and wonders.
While Pentecostals and Charismatics are often sincere in their beliefs and practices, there are some areas of concern voiced from those outside those practicing traditions.
There is concern over the intolerance of some leaders to those who dare to challenge what is going on in Pentecostalism and in the Charismatic community. Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network has said, “I think they’re damned, and on their way to hell and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them. I say to hell with you. Get out of my life. Get out of the way. And I want to say to all you scribes, Pharisees, heresy hunters, all of you that are going around picking little bits of doctrinal error out of everyone’s eyes, get out of God’s way. Quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s going to shoot you if I don’t. Get out of my life. I don’t want to even talk to you or hear you. I don’t want to see your ugly face. Get out of my face in Jesus’ name.”
There is concern that subjective experiences takes precedent over the objective truth of the Word of God. Dr. John MacArthur writes in his book, Charismatic Chaos, that he received a letter saying, “You resort to Greek translation and fancy words to explain away what the Holy Spirit is doing in the church today. Let me give you a piece of advice that might just save you from the wrath of Almighty God. Put away your Bible and your books and stop studying. Ask the Holy Ghost to come upon you and give you the gift of tongues. You have no right to question something you have never experienced.” Pentecostals and Charismatics tend to exegete personal experiences. In other words, they do not try to exegete the Word of God and tell what the Word of God says, but they exegete their own personal experience, which of course is the wrong approach to teaching the body of Christ.
There is concern that Pentecostals and Charismatics do not fully believe the Holy Scripture is a sufficient guide for Christian living. Henry Frost, in his book Miraculous Healing, wrote, “It may confidently be anticipated, as the present apostasy increases, that Christ will manifest his deity and lordship in increasing measure through miracles, signs; including healings. We are not to say therefore that the word is sufficient.” In contrast, the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3 that the Word of God is profitable and thus sufficient to guide the believer in all matters of truth, doctrine, faith, and practice. 2 Tim 3:16–17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Those who embrace Pentecostal and Charismatic principles would be wise to review the historical origin of these modern day expressions of faith, and look once more at what the original leaders embraced for out of the root will grow the fruit. Wimber’s acceptance of occult and New Age practices in “Christian” forms, such as aura reading and manipulation, the teaching of “inner healing,” astral projection, contact with familiar spirits, and psychological and occult methodologies are no small matters. His mystical view of spiritual warfare came dangerously close to spiritism, culminating in the belief that even Christians can be possessed by demons.
Wimber claimed that signs and wonders were the essential ingredient for success in first century church evangelism—a claim which is not supported anywhere in the Book of Acts—and that for today, the only way to get people to believe the Gospel is to startle them into believing through healing, prophecy, and the casting out of demons. Wimber called this “power evangelism.” It was Wimber’s opinion that only by startling the world by demonstrations of clairvoyance and powerful healings would the gospel message receive respectful attention, because by itself, the Gospel is too weak and powerless to break the stubbornness and rebellion of the human heart.
John Richard Wimber died on November 17, 1997 at the age of 63. Unfortunately, he has left behind a spiritual legacy that will not stand the test of time, or careful scrutiny by the Word of God. Proverbs 12:3, “A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.” A word of exhortation is given to those within the Pentecostal and Charismatic structures: Look again to the root of righteousness.