In the middle of the 20th Century the Charismatic Renewal Movement was ushered in as the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers it is said as a fulfillment of a Joel’s prophecy:
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29)
What has the Church accomplished in the half century since then? Let’s answer this question honestly.
The primary purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 was to empower the disciples to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
It was ultimately to enable us to fulfill the Great Commission before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Has the Charismatic Church as a whole fulfilled this primary purpose of the 20th Century outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Sadly, the answer would appear to be “no.”
If we look around at the world today—especially at the many nations resistant to the gospel—it does not seem that we are close to making disciples of all nations. Of course only the Lord knows, but the resurgence of Islam today might even show us that we are losing ground instead of closing in on completing the Great Commission.
Instead, the Charismatic Church has for the most part turned inward. Yes, after we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we enjoy indescribable peace and joy overflowing in us. We focus on receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit like speaking in tongues and prophecy to build up our most holy faith and to edify and encourage one another. But unfortunately for the most part, we stop there. We do not learn about our supernatural authority and power over disease and demons (Luke 9:1-2) to reach out and demonstrate to the lost at the ends of the earth that Jesus is the only way to the Father. We have largely ignored the non-Christian gospel-resistant nations overseas and focused mainly on personal blessings for ourselves. But this tendency to put our own needs first is, after all, in line with our human nature.
“What would T. L. Osborn say about what has happened?”
In some circles the Charismatic Church has turned inward also by preaching success and material prosperity on earth for ourselves. These themes of course are certainly not the central message preached by Jesus Christ in the gospels—which was self-denial and carrying our cross daily. The success and prosperity message so popular today is taken primarily from the Old Testament and a smattering of New Testament scriptures outside of what Jesus taught in the gospels.
But if we want our church to continue to grow in numbers, we must continue to preach such an “encouraging” message. The message of self-denial and sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom of God will not draw the big crowds. But then again Jesus did teach us to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter [through the narrow door] and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). This was the Lord’s immediate response to someone who had just asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
Other charismatic circles now focus on unusual manifestations and strange practices not taught in Scripture, like “grave-sucking.” Other supernatural manifestations include gold dust appearing on people’s faces, diamonds appearing on the floor, and people “pancaking” (flipping over backwards from the pew) during meetings. While some of the manifestations may be sensational, it’s debatable what their source is. And even if their source is in fact the Lord, should we divert our attention to such sensational manifestations—instead of focusing on the Great Commission?
We conclude that the modern Charismatic Renewal Movement—born over a half-century ago with the outpouring of the Spirit—has essentially failed. Instead of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission—the original intent and purpose of the outpouring—we have instead fulfilled our own personal needs. Yes, without a doubt many charismatic believers have indeed been greatly blessed—spirit, soul, and body. But “blessed to be blessing” has become little more than a pretext for accumulating God’s various blessings for ourselves in this present life.
Legendary servant of God and pioneer missionary T. L. Osborn was all too aware of this happening.