Chosen, 2010. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
There has been no shortage of criticism of the charismatic and Pentecostal movement over the years. And much of what is found in this volume has been said many times over. But what makes this book unique is that it comes from an insider, not an outsider.
For those of us who have had reservations about the movement, although willing to be associated with it, there is not too much new material found here. But what is so refreshing is that Grady is a key leader in the movement. As editor of Charisma magazine, he is a long time mover and shaker in the area.
Often to give any constructive criticism of the movement has been seen as being negative, judgmental, hindering the Holy Spirit, and so on. But here is a clear-headed and sober assessment of the many shortcomings, extremes and errors of the movement.
The unwillingness to be open to assessment, the tendency to greed and worldly fame, the over-emphasis on signs and wonders, a weakness in sound doctrine and theology, and the lack of accountability, especially moral accountability, have all been big drawbacks of the movement.
Grady of course applauds all the good that it has done in putting the person and gifts of the Holy Spirit back on the map, after so long being denied or ignored by the church. But he rightly notes that there has been far too little self-criticism and discernment.
The movement has produced much good fruit: “millions of people converted to Christ, churches planted, spiritual passion ignited. Yet in the short history of the movement, it has also produced its share of wood, hay and stubble.” That is the burden of this book: to expose the many shortcomings, mistakes and sins of the movement, and to get back on to God’s program.
He warns how the work of the Spirit can so easily be faked and how the Christian life can be turned into an excuse for selfishness: “We reduce a holy experience to the spiritual equivalent of a fast-food drive-through. We’ve also turned this experience inward and made it all about us.”
And there is a desperate need for real discernment. So much that passes for the charismatic movement today is based on emotion, showmanship, and manipulation. “We have turned the holy fire of God into a circus sideshow – and naive Christians are buying this without realizing that such shenanigans are actually blasphemous.”
There is also the major problem of a me-centred gospel, especially a money-centred message. How many leaders in this movement have simply used it as an excuse to live a lavish, selfish lifestyle? “Greed has actually morphed into a virtue in some charismatic circles, where pastors take hourlong offerings and guest speakers require limousines and five-figure honorariums to maintain their celebrity lifestyles.”
He also provides plenty of examples of false miracles, lying prophets and fake healers. He examines not just the American scene, but looks at how the movement worldwide has so often been discredited by charlatans and fakes. He even mentions the recent case of a leading Australian minister who faked having cancer to hide his pornography addiction.
Indeed, the issue of purity, especially sexual purity, is one which needs to be addressed with great urgency. How many leaders in this movement have fallen from grace due to sexual sin? And worst of all, Grady documents how many of these leaders seem to think they are above the moral law here.
Some have even made excuses for their sexual immorality and marital infidelity. Some have claimed a special dispensation from God for their sinful activities. And many have taught that to raise any objections or criticisms of such wayward leaders is to resist the Holy Spirit himself.
Grady rightly warns us not to elevate leaders, not to elevate anointing over character, and not to overlook the clear biblical standards expected of God’s leaders. He notes that the movement has been far too independent, far too lax on moral standards, and far too lacking in accountability.
He argues that the movement’s leadership has “become a demonic nest of unspeakable immorality”. Example after painful example are provided here, and Grady correctly admonishes us to get our act together soon, or experience God’s chastising hand, or the removal of his presence altogether.
“God is not married to our ministries, our television studios or our cathedrals. If He allowed foreign armies to burn Jerusalem and destroy its glorious Temple, He will also write ‘Ichabod’ on the doors of churches where there is no repentance for sexual compromise.”
Indeed, we have forgotten that the central person of this movement is the Holy Spirit. Where is the holiness in so much of this movement? Grady compares the present mess with New Testament Christianity and some of the great revivals of the past.
“Two profound characteristics marked the Welsh revival. First, waves of conviction drew people to repentance. Often sinners wandered into the meetings and immediately knelt at the altars. Second, Christians felt an urgency to share Christ with everyone around them because of the reality of hell and God’s judgment. They seemed almost possessed by the love of God for the unconverted.”
That’s quite a contrast with the sin-excusing and wealth-addicted churches of today. Grady looks at the “scandal of greasy grace” in the churches, and how leaders like Todd Bentley were allowed to get away with so much mischief while receiving so little careful biblical scrutiny.
He urges us to get back to biblical accountability and church discipline, and stop putting these leaders on pedestals, and treating them as if they were beyond correction and reproof. If some proper discernment and correction was exercised earlier on with some of these leaders, we wouldn’t have had so many ugly public scandals which have dragged the name of Jesus into the mud.
A fundamental lack of integrity, transparency and accountability is one of the major defects of this movement, and it must be addressed immediately and forcefully argues Grady. The rot of compromise, greed, ego and showmanship must all be stamped out of God’s church.
In their place we need a return to biblical humility, godliness, holiness, openness and unity. Enough of the personality-driven ministry, the celebrity status, the empire building, and the desire to be men-pleasers. Either we concentrate on being God-pleasers, or we should get out of the ministry.
Grady’s warning is timely, powerful, yet given out of deep love and concern for the church in general and this movement in particular. It is time for the charismatic movement to grow up and demonstrate some godly maturity. This book goes a long way toward helping to achieve that end.