I consider myself fortunate to have been in a rather unique position in my church experience. Many grow up in one denomination or another and know little else. My experience (and that of some of my blogging friends) is slightly different.
1. I grew up in a reformed charismatic church called "New Covenant Church".
2. I then watched it change into a cessationist reformed church called "West Street Baptist Church".
3. I went to back into charismatic circles in the "Newfrontiers" family (again reformed and charismatic).
4. I spent 2 years in reformed evangelicalism in "Sovereign Grace Ministries".
5. I am now happily back in charismatic circles particularly enjoying fellowship with Rob and Glenda Rufus's church in Hong Kong called "City Church International" that has taught me about the grace of God for the first time.
So why is this so fortunate? I have experienced both charismatic and cessationist life. My former senior pastor Dr Stanley Jebb wrote a post yesterday called; "Why I Left the Charismatic Movement". The reasons were no secret but this is the first time he has really written them down. Let me say that Dr Jebb is a man I hold in the absolute highest esteem. I possess several hundred audio tapes of his ministry (both pre and post charismatic) and love listening to them still. I love his insight into the Word of God and his relationship with God. My respect for him is unchanged over his decision. It doesn't mean I agree with it.
So there's a reason why I see no need to leave the charismatic movement.
Dr Jebb's main reason is this;
"One of which is the number of charismatic leaders that have fallen morally. Yes I know that Reformed and Evangelical leaders have fallen also. But there is this difference: charismatics claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore they claim to manifest spiritual gifts such as prophecy which can reveal what is in a person's heart".
This premise would work only if reformed and evangelical leaders do NOT claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit (and they do - only they argue they get it "all" at conversion). Secondly this premise would only work if it could be proved that being filled with the Holy Spirit eradicated sin - such as the Holiness movement used to teach. And it doesn't. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is the most glorious and wonderful encounter with God - if anything it exposes brings an added degree of spiritual warfare and temptation.
Was the charismatic movement perfect? No - far from it. There was excess and moral falls. But any church historian worth their salt knows that this is always the case when God by His Spirit is at work. The devil doesn't want the church alive or full of life. Dr Jebb tried to bring a word of balance by saying;
"Many churches and ministers who are sound in doctrine, orthodox in theology also give the appearance of being lifeless if not dead".
With that I do agree. I suggest the devil is not particularly bothered by lifeless and dead-looking churches because they are unnoticable to the community around them. Such churches fill every stereotype the world expects - dull and dreary hymns in dusty pews with long monotonous preaching. But when the Holy Spirit brings life to His church then things happen! The world notices! For example I remember as a child at church;
1. Doing a "March For Jesus" through our home town along crowded streets.
2. Holding a prayer meeting for rain up the hills around our town during a drought - with the result that rain did come.
3. Praying for the closure of a night club in our town that caused increased crime - with the result (I believe) that it closed.
4. Praying for the capture of a serial rapist around our town (known as "The Fox") - with the result that he was captured and arrested by a policeman who attended our church (among others).
And those are just the examples of life I remember! I am not trying to say that the moral fall of charismatic leaders is not and was not serious. It is always heart-breaking and I am sure particularly for Dr Jebb who knew many of them personally. But I do not and will not agree that the counterfeit actions and temptations of the devil is worth throwing the life and power of God out.
There is much more I could have said about Dr Jebb's dismission of spiritual gifts but I think that is unncecessary. Most will know my attitude towards spiritual gifts - that yes there may be a degree of "pretended" revelations. But my life has been changed by prophecies that "exposed the secrets of my heart" (not to condemn and reveal 'sin' as Dr Jebb suggests) but to "exhort, edify and encourage" (as 1 Corinthians suggests). I am eternally grateful for the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit and suggest that instead of seeking;
" ... earnest, fervent, believing-prayer ... (instead of) ... pseudo-gifts, carnal excitement and pretended revelations"
We should see earnest, fervent, believing prayer AND the genuine powerful spiritual gifts, the excitement and thrill of the Presence of God and genuine, real revelations from the Word of God. Why have to choose one or the other when both is freely available?