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A widely publicized study released in late April about why Americans have given up their faith or changed religions is actually good news for charismatic churches. The survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, described as the largest study of its type about why people change their religious affiliation, interviewed 2,800 people. It found that respondents had not become more secular or rejected their religious affiliation because of anger over doctrinal or leadership issues but because they had “just gradually drifted away from their faith.”
Why is that good news? Because it’s an indication that people want something that will meet their needs.
Thirty-five years ago my late mentor, Jamie Buckingham, newly baptized in the Holy Spirit, put this provocative comment on his church’s marquee: “For More than a Sunday Morning Religion.” He knew that people aren’t interested in just hearing a dull sermon and singing the same songs that have been sung for decades. They want a vibrant faith—the living Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is why Pentecostal and charismatic churches around the world are growing.
Like many of the churches noted in the survey, charismatic churches have the problem of people coming in the front door and going out the back door. But I believe the survey results are good news for those of us in the charismatic movement. Here’s why:
People want an exciting worship experience. They don’t want “boring religion.” One thing people say about charismatic churches is that the services are anything but boring.
They want a genuine encounter with God. Often that comes through praise and worship—the subject of this month’s cover story. In fact, the charismatic church has led the way in this area through musicians such as Israel Houghton, Darlene Zschech and others we include in the article.
People want answers to their personal problems. Charismatics pioneered the concept of inner healing, pray for deliverance from life-altering addictions and lay hands on the sick, trusting they will recover, for “by His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5, NKJV). We believe God has answers for our personal problems, and that resonates with people who are searching.
If people want community, they can find it at Spirit-filled churches, which are more ethnically and generationally diverse than other segments of the body of Christ. Are they perfect? Of course not. But when you find a mixed-race church, it’s usually charismatic.
Our churches tend to be independent, if not organizationally, at least in attitude. Independence can sometimes create a lone-ranger mentality. But it also frees up leaders who have a passion and a vision to get outside the box and share the gospel with those who are hurting.
It has also spawned new churches and ministries, including Christian TV, which reaches millions who don’t go to church. Many who watch Christian programming later get active in a church, but even those who don’t are hearing the gospel and being touched.
Sharing the gospel and reaching out to poor and hurting people are values almost universally shared by Pentecostal and charismatic churches. There’s a need for us to do more. But charismatics have grown around the world because they emphasize outreach, both here and overseas.
As a movement we certainly aren’t perfect. Sadly, many of our churches are just as dead and boring as the ones spoken about in the Pew report. Timothy warns against “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). And there is nothing “deader” than a dead Pentecostal or charismatic church.
However, we don’t approve of deadness, and charismatics won’t put up with it for long. They vote with their feet by going where the presence of God brings life.
I’ve been covering the charismatic church for three decades, and I believe we’re continuing to grow at a time when many other churches aren’t. But the Pew report should remind us that people want answers and we have them—all from the Word of God.
To me, that’s good news.
From time to time something is e-mailed to me that I think is worth passing along. The item below by Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, highlights the recent outrageous attack by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) against the rights of Christians. On their DHS Threat Assessment list, they recorded conservatives, veterans, pro-gun people and others as "right-wing extremists," and as possible terror threats. Mat articulates the details about this in the letter below. Read it and let me know what you think. read more
Though the hate crimes bill, which could put pastors in jail and protect pedophiles, has already passed in the House, we still have a chance to stop it in the Senate. The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) does a nice job of explaining the bill and sharing how Christians can help stop it. Read their newsletter below and then give your comments about it on our Web site.
The other side is on the run. The Traditional Values Coalition did not let them get away with their lies about their so-called hate crimes bill. We worked to force them to go on record about what this bill really does -- it protects bizarre sexual behaviors, pedophiles and could send pastors to jail. read more
About two weeks ago the nation celebrated the National Day of Prayer. I had the privilege of being invited to speak to a group of 100 business people in Jacksonville, Fla., as part of an outreach called Christian Professional Resources. The half-hour message was videotaped and put on the Internet. I'm sharing it with you here because I spoke about "Calling America Back to God" and mentioned some things that I've reported on in the Strang Report. I hope you'll watch it, share it with others and then give me your feedback in the comments section.
Here is a letter from Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a religious freedoms law firm.
On Wednesday by a vote of 188-186, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down a same-sex marriage bill because it contained a religious liberty protection clause. The state Senate had previously passed the bill along party lines by a vote of 14-10. Governor George Lynch, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, said he would veto the bill unless it contained a religious liberty protection amendment. The amendment was added to the House version of the bill, and that is where it met opposition by an openly homosexual member of the House, who lobbied against the bill because of the amendment. read more
This was sent in a newsletter by Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.
On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order that opened the floodgates for funding more human embryonic stem cell experiments. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has drafted guidelines for distributing these funds. These guidelines devote your tax dollars to experiments with embryonic stem cells, from destroyed human embryos. But the only successful treatments and cures come from adult stem cells, taken from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat tissue and other body tissues. Thousands of patients have had their health improved and their lives saved with adult stem cells. Dozens of diseases and injuries including cancer, juvenile diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease have already been treated using adult stem cells and more treatments are being developed.
Rep. Tom McClintock gave the following speech to the Council for National Policy in Washington D.C. on May 16, 2009.
Here, in the winter of our despair, I want to pause to take stock of the state of our nation on this date of May 16.
Voters have swept our party from office after a failed Republican administration that abandoned conservative principles. The most left-wing President in our nation’s history has taken office with a 66 percent approval rating and strong majorities in both houses. His agenda includes radical intervention into energy markets, highly inflationary monetary policy, a determination to dramatically reduce our military spending while dramatically increasing overall domestic spending with deficits as far as the eye can see.
That was the state of our nation on May 16 … 1977. read more
Somehow it seemed impossible-retracing Moses' footsteps in the Sinai desert in nine days when it took the children of Israel 40 years. When I was first invited to join a pilgrimage to the mountain of God, it seemed so remote, I could barely comprehend the fact I might actually go.
But I determined to go, despite the tough preparation that was necessary. I needed to shop for special equipment for the desert, spend weary miles jogging to get into shape, and read-including the first five books of the Bible. read more
On our calendar May 14 is the date of Israel's independence. The Israelis celebrate their Independence Day on the 5th day of their month Iyar, which was April 29 this year because they go by the Jewish calendar.
Thirty years ago today I was in Israel when the country celebrated its 31st anniversary. Jamie Buckingham, 12 other Americans and I went to climb Mount Sinai. It was my first trip to Israel-indeed my first trip outside the United States. What an experience! We met in Israel with some Christian friends of Jamie's who took us around to interesting sites. My reaction-like so many others-was that it made the Bible come alive. read more