Discussion is often seen on the Internet regaring the charismatic movement. There are descriptions of spiritual experiences such as healing, vomiting, falling, crying tears, speaking in a tongue and seeing visions. Some people have experienced it, some have seen it, and some have just heard of it. Recently, a pastor named Brother L, who had been in a charismatic church for five years talked of his experience there.
In fact, most Chinese believers have no idea of denominations and they don't know to which "denomination" their church belongs nor did this Brother L. The first time he listened to the gospel was in this charismatic church. He went when he did not have a deep understanding and discernment of faith, and slowly learned that there are differences between churches based on denomination background and doctrinal beliefs.
Brother L's experience in a charismatic church
This charismatic church was founded by a church planting mission, and when he first went there, he felt the atmosphere of love. In addition to the worship, there were English lessons, food and games--it was very attractive. Apart from the sermons preached by speakers from this church, there were outside speakers who would come regularly. He saw people speaking strange tongues and people falling to the ground.
He said, "In my city, this is a relatively moderate charismatic church. After all, it is the church that enlightened my faith. Even after I have left, it still influences my faith."
Along with having received the bulk of his faith nurture from this church, he was also trained in pastoral care and preaching. So he was able to join the co-workers team and receive theological training. There had been "prophets" and preachers invited to give sermons. Therefore he understood well the whole system of the church.
It is known that charismatic churches that do not teach from the Bible but rather pursue a spiritual experience, are very rare. Most churches teach from the Bible, but some only use it occasionally. "I left the church under God's leading and a few years later I learned that they were still operating in the same way. "
The church also teaches the Bible, knowing the Bible is fundamental but what he could not accept was that the believers collectively "faked it" on certain issues. "One person speaks in a tongue and the others imitate this, which gives the feeling that without one is not spiritual if one does not speak in tongues. So there is this secretive competition in speaking in tongues."
This led to an increase in vanity. The church did not operate like a church, but rather like a company promoting a religious cause through various departments and ministries. Those involved in the ministries, however, relied a lot on human reasoning and having meetings about certain church issues but lacked in prayer and dependence on God.
Brother L could not accept the "obedience" that his church stipulates. Normally in a church, the co-workers have, to varying degrees, their own understanding of God and should generally be evaluated according to God's calling and their own giftedness. However this church looks at who obeys and listens to the words of the person in charge in order to be appointed as team leaders and department heads.
In a regular gathering, they also like to teach the Bible but in a rather patterned way. After up introducing a theme, they teach it in fragments and then fill it in with Bible verses. Many believers in the teaching time are not very enthusiastic. But as soon as it is time for worship, they get very excited. There are musical instruments playing moving songs accompanied by powerful singing and a very dynamic worship team. The whole church, from pastors to believers, become engaged. Brother L. feels that it is not the Holy Spirit's moving, but rather feels it is like being on a rocking boat--it is not worship but a concert.
That church has four or five hundred believers. A few years later he discovered that the church was the same as before. Its believers like to be filled with the ‘Holy Spirit’, then lie on the ground trembling or giggling for an hour or two, and say they have seen heaven and Jesus.
What is puzzling is that some who often claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit are not a good witness in their family life by living selfishly, often quarrelling with their spouse and even swearing when talking so that it is difficult to believe that they are "filled with the Holy Spirit."
"They 'showcase godliness'," he thought. Moreover, because he could not accept the church's style and after finally deciding to leave, many said that he had betrayed the church and had not received God's blessing. "I can only pray silently for the church and answer the doubts of some believers."
Slowly, he found that some of his fellow workers who were seeking after truth had one by one left the church, and that their faith was somewhat superficial. Those who liked to be leaders based on their length of membership had stayed. A few of the co-workers only cared about family matters after having children and were no longer God-centered. And most believers were self-entertaining and self-righteous and the foundation of their life was very weak.
Also, Brother L said that the church was barely connected to the other local churches. Its system is closed. Only the insiders had contact with each other.
This was just the personal experience of brother L, and every time he recalled it, he just wanted to be able to bless other believers to understand faith and spirituality correctly.
His understanding of some charismatic churches
First, he argues that most of the charismatic churches have this problem: the believers have shallow roots with some vanity and they pursue things superficially. They revel in the atmosphere. "Getting high is experienced as a sense of release, in my opinion. It's just an expression of emotion and catharsis. In fact, they are not so hungry for biblical truths.
Second, if a church does not focus on biblical truth but rather sidelines it, then the church's 'high' is problematic. Although the believers will shed tears and get excited in showing love to each other, the big problem is that their lives do not grow. They just find feelings in the church and easily fall when encountering a problem. And those who really desire the truth, sooner or later, will leave, and the co-workers who really want to serve the Lord will feel marginalized."
Third, he finds that believers, though they speak in tongues and have dreams and visions, tend to make it up. Actually, the church is fundamentally governed by people and developed through nepotism, not by the Truth.
Such a charismatic church is generally popular with young professionals and business people, because, on the one hand, young people who become stressed in the workplace can find release. On the other hand, friends can talk about projects, financing, micro-business by using the resources of the church to develop business networks. If the church is very casual and open without establishing boundaries, it is easy for believers who truly follow the Lord to be tempted and even hurt in family relationships and money by believing that evangelism and doing business means building relationships.
- Translated by Charlie Li