I want to share something with you that I spoke about recently. The story is original to me but the five ways we mishandled the move of God is not original to me. They come from an article that appeared in Charisma News in an opinion piece written by J. Lee Grady in May of 2016. The truth is timeless and bears repeating so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
In the early 1980’s, I owned a restaurant in the town I lived in. Having a restaurant afforded me the opportunity to hear the “town gossip”. There was a church in town that I used to hear a lot about – most of what I heard was negative because the church was growing and disrupting traffic according to the locals. I was not saved at the time, but I didn’t really have a problem with the church attracting people. It brought business to my restaurant.
On Valentine’s Day of 1984, I walked into the office of the church I had been hearing about, looking for help with my life. It was that day that God saved me. What I didn’t really realize at the time was that I had been saved right in the middle of a move of the Spirit. As I began to attend the church, I saw hundreds of people giving their life to the Lord and saw many hungry people from churches who didn’t believe in the move of the Spirit come to the church seeking more. I received the equivalent of a “master’s education” ministering in that church and learning from the leadership.
What was happening in our church was also happening in many churches around the country. When God begins to move, Satan always seeks to corrupt the move of God by tempting and manipulating the people in the move into sin so that God has to discipline the people and remove His hand of blessing. This is what happened to the move of God I was a part of.
I believe God is going to visit again soon, so we must prepare now to avoid the mistakes of the past. I’ll begin by taking a look at a man whose zeal for the move of the Spirit superceeded the temptations Satan sent his way.
The man is Elisha. He helped Naaman the Syrian but refused the honor and gifts Naaman sought to bestow upon Elisha.
I not only love the following words of Elijah but believe they are a mantra for the next move of God:
Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? 2 Kings 5:26
These are the words of the prophet of the double-portion of God’s Spirit. Elisha was not about to “sell out” the move of God for anything. If we are going to handle the spirit of Elijah correctly, we better have the spirit of Elisha.
Here are five ways we mishandled the outpouring of the Spirit in the last season:
- We exploited it.
The first attempt at quenching the Spirit’s power in the New Testament church was made by Ananias and Sapphira, who were full of greed (Acts 5:1-11). The same thing happened to the charismatic movement in the 1980’s, when prosperity preachers with dollar signs in their eyes showed up to merchandise the Spirit’s anointing. Swaggering evangelists in white suits and Rolex watches began pushing people to the floor and convincing crowds to dig into their wallets to give in “miracle” offerings. And so began the slow but steady sell-out. We didn’t realize that greed was driving us farther and farther from the Spirit’s blessing.
- We fabricated it.
In the early days of renewal, charismatic leaders had a sense of holy awe when they prayed for people. They didn’t want to do anything to grieve the Spirit. But somewhere along the way, some ministers realized they could fake the gifts of the Spirit and still draw a crowd. This gave birth to charismatic side shows, complete with faked healings, spooky stage drama and manipulation. God’s holy anointing was replaced by mood music and a quivering voice. If you had discernment, you knew that the Spirit had left the building.
- We corrupted it.
In the early days of the movement, meaty messages were the order of the day. A regular component of the preaching of that period was the fear of God. These messages demanded holiness. But if you fast forward, you will find that much of the preaching in our movement has been reduced to drivel. It is sad that people can attend a “Spirit-filled” church today and never hear a sermon giving biblical truth about fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc. We are selling a form of cheap grace that, instead of saving people, will actually send them to hell.
- We denominationalized it.
When the Holy Spirit began to fall on certain groups, their leaders began to assume that the blessing of God indicated that they were “special”. Some groups even taught that all other Christians would one day come under their group’s banner because of their elite status. Spiritual pride is still pride! There are trendy new groups today that claim to have a corner on truth. Don’t let this attitude quench the Holy Spirit.
- We professionalized it.
In the early days of the renewal, there was a sense of childlike wonder as people discovered the power of the Holy Spirit. The meetings were Christ-centered, the sermons were solidly biblical and the fellowship genuine and sweet. We felt a deep bond with other believers, even those with whom didn’t believe as we did.
But, it didn’t take long to replace that sense of wonder and love with something colder. We began to emphasize titles. We discovered slick marketing techniques. Churches and their budgets grew. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the megachurch: We lost our simplicity. We turned church into a business. We stopped being relational and we became professionals.
I know it is difficult when a church begins to grow in numbers to keep relationships strong and to continue to be a pastor rather than a public speaker. But, we cannot sacrifice the warmth of relationships on the altar of professional Christianity or we will discover that the Holy Spirit has withdrawn from our ministries and all that is keeping the people together is the memory of a past move and a culture of intimidation toward those who dare question the absence of the Spirit.
I’m not judging those who made these mistakes because it is likely that I would have made them too. Nevertheless, we must guard our own hearts against the corruptions of success and refuse to take glory that belongs solely to Jesus!
Move Spirit of God! And as You do, keep us humble and pure so that the Presence of the Lord can find a home where it can bless the people of our churches and our land!