Movements create the need for meaning as the message of the movement matures. Great moves of God are interpreted by the consequences of the experiences people have during the moments of personal encounter, and these consequences are often based upon an interpretation of Scripture that seems to fit the experience.
The great revival movements of the past produced mini-movements usually based upon over-corrections or over-emphases upon personal experiences, or new and novel ways of understanding what the movement’s purpose and consequences were designed by God to produce. Certain historians attempt to categorize these revivals and the consequent mini-movements as a way of talking about them; in doing so they tend to lump things together because of what they perceive to be the sources of mini-movements when sometimes the birthing of things is simply a shared time more than a shared belief system.
Brownsville Revival was my experience of transformation, though never a member of the Assemblies of God. I have never interpreted the experience of life transformation through the denomination’s viewpoint, in other words, although the local church was associated with the Assemblies of God. As that relates to this blog, I certainly never assumed the revival was a “latter rain or manifested sons” mini-movement, and I had never understood the historic significance of those terms as they would be applied to a history of revival. Just because the distinctives some historians gave to “latter rain” including the laying on of hands didn’t mean that the Brownsville move of God was a rehash of any other flavor of revival, an idea pretty much lost to the critics and some historians.
Believing as I do in the fullness of the Spirit and the Ecclesia, I was somewhat taken back by those who lumped my books, teachings, and ministry into a category of “Latter Rain” just because I believe the last apostle hasn’t died yet, prophecy and impartation are consistent with the ministry of Jesus and the New Testament Ecclesia today, and the function of the kingdom of God here and now isn’t in hiatus. Somehow this allowed some people to assume that I also believed a whole bunch of stuff they had lumped into a grouping entitled “Latter Rain and Manifested Sons.” So, I began to do a bit of historical study. Interestingly, most of what the critics were saying was about a “bad at the root, bad in the fruit” kind of thinking that allowed them to discredit anyone who didn’t agree with them by simply dismissing what they say as part of the worst kind of odd behavior and thinking they could find in the world.
Note what one person said about it:
“Contemporary criticism of the Latter Rain movement has arisen by fundamentalists, as demonstrated by their websites that attack the movement. Writers on such sites typically use association with the Latter Rain as a way to discredit modern Charismatics. Some identify the roots of more recent Charismatic trends such as Kingdom Now theology, the Kansas City Prophets including Paul Cain, and the New Apostolic Reformation including C. Peter Wagner as being rooted in the Latter Rain. Scholars have not established the historical connections. The modern charismatic movement, while clearly influenced by some Latter Rain ideals such as the fivefold ministry and the laying on of hands, generally rejects the more extreme elements of Latter Rain theology.” (Emphasis mine.)
Note the words, “Scholars have not established the historical connections.” Even this particular statement lumps together some stuff that only has similarities of emphasis and alliance or function, and the participating parties do not fully agree at the ultimates of their thinking and practice. Believing and practicing one thing or allying with an emphasis doesn’t explain a particular doctrine. People analyzing these beliefs and practices title a group of things together so they can be discussed as a whole, in other words. The titling is pragmatic: “let’s talk about this group of people who believe and practice this group of things.” Of course, the people who share one set of distinctives and practices may be really different at the end points or consequences. Some people who lay hands on people certainly don’t share my beliefs and behaviors!
Since I have a doctorate from Wagner Leadership Institute, I had some trouble understanding why C Peter Wagner was being confused with Dominion Theology. (I am talking about Rushdonny, Schaefer, and Whitehead, etc) That is a whole different kettle of fish with a very different historical foundation. I also discovered that some code words like “latter rain,” “manifested sons,” and “Joel’s Army” had different meanings in the mouths of different people. When I heard one person explain what they meant by a “manifested son,” I was alarmed and appalled, not in the sense of the person being appalling but the ideas they were espousing being ridiculous beyond belief. I certainly use the phrase “the manifestation of God’s children” since it is a quote from Scripture, but I don’t identify with everything everyone who uses that phrase means when they say it!
I had never heard anything like this from the people I was hanging out with in revival or at Wagner. I certainly hadn’t run into this oddness among the people who lay hands on people, prophesy, or discuss how the kingdom of God functions right now. They certainly didn’t convince me that God was going to produce a race of super humans to take over the world in lieu of Jesus coming back! (That still makes me giggle.) Usually, leaders would look at me when I asked questions like that and say, “Well, that’s just too crazy for the time of day. Ignore it.”
My point is that lumping what God is doing with and through people who believe there are apostles and prophets functioning today or that the kingdom of God is a spiritually functioning reality here and now into a discussion of oddest fringes of what Pentecostalism produced is a heartless and hopeless ignorance of the movement. It represents a juvenile effort – a hardening of the categories – that is designed to demonize a whole group of people by a “bad root-bad fruit” argument. Assuming I believe that God is preparing to manifest some super saints that will be Christ’s Body or Joel’s Army to take over the world is ridiculous! So, if I say that Jesus is taking over the world and we are helping Him because that is our assignment, people assume I mean that I’m about to get bigger guns than existing governments and press people into some kind of religious servitude? (That makes me giggle as well.)
To go out and find someone who lays hands on people and believes in odd and ridiculous teaching that include universal salvation and “supermen for Jesus” so you can use that connection point in an attempt to discredit anyone who lays hands on people is rather obviously poor logic, based upon rather obviously poor motivation, and rather obviously your attempt to justify your rejection of anyone who doesn’t agree with your historic context for what is appropriate and authentic Biblically.
To carry the “bad root-bad fruit” idea that far would be to conclude that the original bad root was the ministry of Jesus! He laid hands on people, taught his disciples to lay hands on people, and the established a ministry in which the laying on of hands as a kingdom posture and gesture makes the power and authority of the kingdom available in a transferable way. So, I guess the bad root would be Jesus if we are using this level of poorly conceived thinking.
Some people who experienced the gifts of the Spirit have gone so far afield that what they believe is a mixture of new age witchcraft and Biblical faith. Does that mean that everyone who experiences the gifts of the Spirit as recorded in the New Testament is into the new age movement? Some guru in India lays hands on people. Does that mean when I lay hands on people I am releasing that same demonic spirit? Demons speak in tongues through people. Does that mean when I speak in tongues, a demon is speaking through me? (I’m still giggling.) That’s preposterous and reveals an intellectual dishonesty. You can only believe that because you want to believe that, not because it makes sense in some way.
The idea that people who believe in apostles and prophets today also believe that Jesus isn’t coming back to give us glorified bodies just isn’t true. The “in a moment we shall all be changed” and the belief that apostles and prophets still function are not mutually exclusive because someone else combined the two thoughts. Nor is the idea that apostles and prophets are part of the fivefold ministry leadership that Jesus bestowed upon the Ecclesia to bring us all to maturity a teaching that somehow means that men are the source and resource of eternal salvation or kingdom authority and power. No one I’ve ever heard talk about apostles and prophets believes that they are supermen who are saviors and lords (I guess some people do say this, but I haven’t heard that personally from any of the leaders in my life); the function of these foundational leaders, however, was something Jesus bestowed upon the Church to bring every member into preparation and position to produce unity and maturity. That is what I mean by the fullness of the Ecclesia, not that apostles and prophets are supermen in the making! (Those that do believe that don’t look so super either.)
The question is “just how mature and powerful do you want the Ecclesia to be?” Surely not everyone who believes in dispensationalism has to believe in its extremes anymore than someone who rejects the cessationist aspects of dispensationalism has to believe in super-humans as the fullness of the church. Some apostles and prophets believe in “the charts, the seventieth week, a rebuilt Temple, etc.” At some point the reconciliation of the restoration of the Ecclesia and end time scenarios must be made, but no segment of the Body has developed an end-all on the subject. The consequences of believing one way or the other then determines what the church looks like right now, and there is a very broad spectrum of discussion about this reconciliation of the ultimates and what the Ecclesia looks like on the way to the ultimates.
In other words, one group of people believes there are no apostles or prophets and comes to the conclusion the church is going to be weak before Jesus comes and a great falling away will occur, etc. They have a good case for the present condition of the church in some places, but not a good case for their insistence that no great revival or harvest will come before His return. Another group of people believes that with the restoration of the functions of all the five leadership ministries Jesus provides His Body, the Ecclesia will become increasingly more functional, mature, and unified as Paul insists it should. They have a good case for the present condition of unprecedented moves of God worldwide, connected through media, and outbreaks of miracles, signs, and wonders at unprecedented levels. So they insist that the Church will get stronger as the leadership functions Jesus designed are restored to the Body, and a great harvest in the latter times of the age will occur.
These are the consequences of belief systems that carry out ideas to their fullest consequences, applied to every aspect of redemption and restoration so that they produce an even broader and varied field of discussion by the time they hit the shores of end times. In other words, as you apply ‘what you believe about the foundations’ to ‘all you believe about eternity,’ you observe an increasingly wider field of discussion. And, you will also discover a field of exaggeration as men attempt to apply their foundations to their “ultimates.” In my experience with systematics, every doctrinal system tends toward exaggeration at some point or at the very least at an over emphasis upon its distinctives in an effort to prove they are exclusively right.
What we do know is that Jesus is coming back, physically, bodily, in His own glorified body. We do know that “He alone has immortality,” and that we are all going to be changed at His appearing, not through some physical process of acquiring super-human status as God’s kingdom super-heroes or “X-men.” We do know that there is a kingdom functioning spiritually in born again people who should function together as a Body or kingdom Ecclesia, and that Christ is now and ever the Head of that Ecclesia as He is King of that kingdom. We also know that at this time, until He returns physically, that the kingdom is functioning in and through His people. We do know that in that kingdom and Ecclesia, Jesus is Head and has a leadership strategy through human leaders, so the work of ministry and the release the power and authority of the kingdom happens through connected members of the Body. We do know that because they have the same Holy Spirit in them that He had when He was here establishing the kingdom, Ecclesia, and its ministries, they can do what He did and greater.
My experience has been that the people on the fringes may be both goof ball in their exaggerations and goofy in their lives and ministries. What complicates the situation is that God’s power and authority continues to function in some people while they are goofy while God is working to establish a proper leadership structure in their lives. Their strengths may become stronger while their weaknesses become weaker until their weakness discredit their strengths. Usually a closer examine of how they function reveals they are ignoring the protocols of the kingdom that would secure their callings, gifts, and anointings from extremes.
God drives people crazy by using fishermen to heal and deliver! God drives the world crazy with the foolishness of preaching! God offends the minds of people who “have it all figured out” with unusual ways and means of doing His kingdom business while at the same time providing His kingdom people a safe place to grow up, mature, and function together.
So, how much time should be given to correcting the silliness and goofiness? Pastor John Kilpatrick told me that revival will be accompanied by silliness and goofiness that must be corrected. If not, people will walk away, and you’ll be left with nothing but the silly and goofy. Some of this stuff kinda works itself out because it eventually falls apart. Some of it needs firm and decisive confrontation.
Jesus is the One who makes the call on that, and we must trust that He is really involved, working through the leaders He has chosen, and ally and assemble ourselves as assigned to continue to make the purpose of God our focus more than the policing of fringe groups of odd and ridiculous varieties. At the same time, apostles and prophets as foundational leaders will offer strong correction and confrontation, as they always have, to beliefs and practices that invalidate the Bible or the functioning gifts and practices of the ministry of Jesus. People who refuse validation should be suspect. People who say “God told me this was true” or “God told me to do it this way” don’t have the right to pull rank over every other voice, and what they say and do should stand up to scrutiny.
Meaning and Movements
This generation is facing a deep discussion about the definition of “church.” We are dealing with the definition of words and terms in an effort to reset the foundations of the original design, intent, and meaning of Jesus and the New Testament. Because these words and terms have been charged with so much meaning that is inconsistent with what they meant to Jesus and the writers of Scripture, we must set our foundations on what Jesus said and what He meant when He said it. We must refuse to build upon foundations set in place by men seeking to defend the distinctives of movements and experiences.
I know this can be confusing to many people. I know this can be painful to many people. For some, this clarification means they must accept that much of what they were taught, assumed, or accepted may have been less than completely accurate. Good people taught them while they were living good lives, believing good things that were full of Truth while also accepting ‘a truth about the Truth’ system. That system produced internal issues their own movements recognized and sought to correct because it was imperfect.
I’m always a bit entertained by the end-times charts because they keep getting redone. And, the very people who make the charts often come to greater clarity about what they were once willing to stake their entire reputations upon. I certainly did a great job of preaching against nearly everything I am and preach now! Several of the key messages of Christianity are being edited and revised into neo-this and neo-that because we are dealing with truth about the Truth systems of thinking, not with the Word of God.
The meaning of words can be the catalyst for mini-movements that become movements. The clarification of Truth can spark Reformation. The emphasis and practice of ministry can so alter nations and regions that economic systems and cultural transformations occur.
Certainly, the concept that there are apostles and prophets functioning today creates the need for a great deal of dialogue about that function and how that relates to the kingdom Ecclesia. These are foundational leadership functions. Certainly, the discussion has allowed some very odd people to say some very odd things and espouse some very odd ideas and practices. That wouldn’t be any different from any other discussion believers have been having since Jesus established kingdom and began building His Ecclesia.