Last night I listened to a sermon given at a Charismatic church. The curious mixture of references to “anointing”and allusions to low self-esteem had me looking for a wall to bang my head against. And the pastor inverted the Scriptural narrative (which he admitted to paraphrasing rather than reading), totally misapplying it to his congregation. He concluded by having everyone leave their seats to come forward to receive prayer and to have members of the prayer team anoint them with oil.
Thirty years ago, I would have scolded myself for feeling uncomfortable with the situation and then I would have submitted to the prayer team. I would have assumed that my misgivings resulted from rebellion against the Holy Spirit and His work. In short, I would have caved into peer pressure.
Churches like that depend on peer pressure. They may allow a certain amount of questioning behind closed doors, but they view open dissent as divisiveness.
Interestingly, Scripture’s warnings against divisiveness target those who deviate from sound doctrine, not those who speak out against aberrant teaching and practices.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)
Today, I would leave the room while everyone else went up for prayer. If anyone asked my reasons, I’d explain each of my objections to the sermon, showing why it deviated from God’s Word. Next, I’d meet with church leadership and show them the problems with the sermon. Then I’d start praying for a new church home.
Sadly, Charismatic churches will only grow worse as time progresses, and they will utilize peer pressure to prevent anyone from challenging them on the basis of Scripture. Yet their influence, fueled largely by promising to help people understand how special God thinks they are, now creeps into non-Charismatic churches, opening people up to mysticism and experience based spirituality.
Right now, I’m disgusted with this shoddy approach to Christianity. Some people in Charismatic churches may be genuinely saved. I’d go so far as to say that some Charismatic pastors may be genuinely saved. But the system, with its promises of self-esteem and anointing, locks people in to the deception and keeps them trapped through peer pressure.
Christians, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to get good teaching to Charismatics so that His Word will free them from the real divisiveness. No Christian should be divided from the correct teaching of God’s Word and made to participate in silly shows like filling before prayer teams to be anointed with oil. We need to know the Bible well enough to identify such foolishness and to openly reject it.