My pastors couldn’t understand my rejection of Charismatic theology, despite their professed willingness to let me “agree to disagree.” Most of the time, we did manage to maintain a peaceful coexistence…probably because I was on staff with the ex-gay ministry associated with the church, so going to a different church would have been awkward. So we made it work. In later years, I stayed because, with my disability, I wanted the security of long-established friendships.
On occasion, however, that peaceful coexistence hit a bump when I’d question a prophecy or stay home from a service that I knew included heavy instances of Charismatic experiences. Once a year, a guest speaker with the “gift of prophecy” conducted a Sunday evening meeting, during which people were “slain in the Spirit,” and my conscience forbade me to participate. The poor pastors admired my integrity, and yet my conviction that the speaker’s ministry violated Scripture frustrated them.
One pastor, who had been less sympathetic toward Charismatic teaching when I first started questioning its validity, tried to convince me that the speaker ministered by the Holy Spirit’s power. “He told me things about myself that only God and I knew.”
“You mean, like a psychic?” I asked.
My question ended the conversation, though I seriously doubt my pastor reflected on it. Indeed, when I embraced Charismatic thought (as I did for the first 20 years of my Christian life), I also ignored similarities between “words from the Lord” and the occult practices I’d flirted with prior to my salvation. I understood his discomfort at my inquiry.
Yet the personal prophecies I witnessed during my Charismatic days were nothing other than cheap psychic fortune-telling. Personal prophecies in the Bible, by contrast, always had a broader purpose of preparing Israel for God’s judgment or equipping the early Christians (who didn’t yet have the New Testament) to establish the church. They had little to do with giving average Christians glimpses into their individual futures, and everything to do with furthering God’s kingdom.
My journey away from Charismatic teaching and practices disappointed my pastors and bewildered many of my friends and co-workers. But 25 years later, I find myself resting on the sufficiency of Scripture in order to hear from the Lord.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)
I praise the Lord daily for His Word, through which His Holy Spirit speaks to me. Through its pages, He may not give me the psychic-like information that my friends got from the annual guest speaker, but He does reveal Christ. And I need nothing further.