3 Things Charismatic Christians Say and What We Actually Mean
Let Me Translate For You
Have you ever heard one of your Charismatic Christian friends say something and you had no idea what they meant? Have you ever walked into a Charismatic church service and thought the preacher was nuts, and you wondered why everyone was rolling around on the ground and laughing? I'm with you!
I didn't grow up Charismatic. In fact, I grew up in a church that was the complete opposite: showing emotion was irreverent, order was prized over authenticity, and the Holy Spirit did little more than remind you of memorized Bible verses when you needed them. The biggest issue was that my church believed that many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased. Translation: God used to use his people to work powerfully, but now He chooses to use the Bible instead of empowered people.
Through podcasts, spiritual promptings, and Francis Chan's Book Forgotten God, God convicted me of my quenching the Holy Spirit. As I moved into the Charismatic world, I constantly had to go before the Lord and ask Him what he thought of the things I was discovering and seeing.
God Used This Book to Convict Me of Quenching the Holy Spirit
One of the ongoing internal conflicts I have had is that my old church believes that many of the modern manifestations of the Holy Spirit (tongues, using prophetic gifts, healings, glory clouds, joy explosions, miracles, and physical manifestations) are demonically influenced. I was led to believe that if one of these tongue-speaking crazy Charismatics laid their hands on me, I would be in danger of receiving a demonic impartation.
When I realized that the building I was moving into in Redding, CA was comprised of students from a *certain supernatural ministry school, I was totally freaked out. I could write volumes about what it as like to live with 29 of these students for 9 months, but I'll save those stories for other articles. During those 9 months, I set out of on a personal quest to figure out what I believed and if what they were saying was biblical.
The Verdict: They Love Jesus, and They are Family
Sometimes my Charismatic brothers and sisters do and say funny things, but what my journey showed me is that the Body of Christ is so much bigger than I had previously thought. I have found that we often believe the same things, but that our cultural differences keep us from understanding one another.
1. Come On!
Translation: I agree, keep preaching, right on!
Have you ever been in a church service where the congregation shouts back at the preacher? If not, the first time you experience such a service, you might be offended or sit quietly and let the others do the shouting. You might even think it's irreverent or disorderly.
In many Charismatic churches, church services are more participatory than many other denominations or Christian traditions. You may have come from a church background where your services are quiet, solemn, and contemplative.
I believe that there are two underlying currents as to why there is such a drastic difference within Christian traditions.
A High View of Church
Starting with the Catholic church, church services have focused on ceremony and tradition while sitting under the authority of a Priest. Protestant denominations that came out of the Reformation still have residuals from their Catholic forefathers. While corporate worship, the priesthood of all believers, and the centrality of the Bible have been restored to The Church, the Charismatic church believes that the Reformation is incomplete. It might help you to understand some of the unique things Charismatics believe:
- That all believers are equipped for ministry, regardless of their profession.
- That all believers can hear God's voice and speak His words.
- That they don't just go to church—they are the church.
- That God isn't just a theology to intellectually accept, but that He has a tangible presence to experience.
- That the gathering of the Body of Christ should be mainly celebratory, not mournful. The emphasis is swayed to the side of what Jesus has done for them, not how wicked their sin is. This does not negate the call to repentance and the mourning over sin, it just emphasizes the newness in Christ instead of the deadness in sin.
Worship is Both External and Internal
In more traditional churches, worship is often private, structurally dictated by a worship leader or authority figure, and internally contemplative. The focus is on the internal change that comes from singing out the truths of God. For example, a worshiper in a traditional service may focus more on the theology of the words of a song than on the experience of singing the song. As the worshiper sings the beautiful lyrics of Amazing Grace, he or she may spend the majority of their time thinking about how much grace God has given him or her.
In Charismatic churches, there is freedom to be externally expressive in worship. The theology of the song fuels the soul of the worshiper, and then the worshiper is free to express physically what God is doing both internally and externally. Charismatic Christians often perceive the presence of God and see a worship service as a deep communion with Him. What does this look like?
- Hand lifting
- Artistic expressions
- Kneeling or laying on the ground
- Using a personal instrument like a shofar
Back to Shouting Down the Preacher
Since all believers have the authority and the ability to hear from God and feel His presence, there is no dividing line between preacher and congregation. Charismatics honor preachers for their God-given giftings but there is a sense of equality. Thus, when a congregant shouts out his or her approval of what was said, it doesn't offend the preacher but shows him that God has revealed the same truths to the congregation.
To shout or not to shout?
Within the Charismatic community, there is a wide variety of what is acceptable and differing opinions on what an orderly church service should look like. I personally love to participate verbally in a service but decline that privilege when I'm visiting churches that believe that orderliness equals pin-dropping quiet. My conviction is that you should be respectful and show honor to the community of believers you are worshiping with, without quenching the Spirit.
2. Open Heaven
Translation: We have access to the power, favor, and presence of Heaven because of Jesus.
Until I entered the Charismatic world, I had never heard the term "Open Heaven" before, but I kept running into it in Charismatic services, events, and materials.
For example, Elevation Church put out a song called "Jesus I come" with a chorus as follows:
I will rise, stand redeemed
Heaven open over me
To Your name eternally
Endless glory I will bring
Prominent "Open Heaven" usage:
Bill Johnson, who pastors Bethel Church, explains in his article, What is an Open Heaven, that the prophet Isaiah cried out to the Lord, "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—" (Isaiah 64:1, ESV). He explains that "rend" means to violently rip the heavens open. I believe what he desires to see and what he means is that an open heaven means that there is no separation between Heaven and Earth, allowing God's Spirit to be poured out powerfully.
Even if you don't agree with the confusing theology behind it, I believe in an open heaven over me because of what Jesus did on the cross. God ripped the temple veil when Jesus died, forever proclaiming that through Jesus our Great High Priest, there is no longer a separation between God and man. Because of Jesus, I always have open access to Heaven.
"Open heaven over me"
3.Shifting the Atmospheres
Translation: God's presence changes things!
When I first started running in Charismatic circles, I was confused and slightly offended by Charismatic Christians saying things like, "The atmosphere just shifted" or "When I walked into the room, the atmosphere changed."
I kept thinking, "What do you people mean?!" To me, it often came off as arrogant until I realized my authority and power.
Charismatics believe that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us (ROM 8:11). Therefore, when they walk into a room, they carry God's presence with them. They live with the expectation that God wants to set people free, and the way He often chooses to work is through human hands. They believe that darkness trembles because of the presence of the Spirit inside of them.