Prophetic Groundhog Day: Escaping from Fads, Fantasies & Faulty Prophecies.

One of the distinguishing features of the charismatic movement is the constant prophesying that global revival is "just around the corner", or every few years or so, the claim that revival has come and all we need to do is "receive" the new blessing. These claims are made so often that the church can begin to look like Groundhog Day.

The following testimony, from John Richardson, a former Charismatic and university chaplain, was written in 1997 and highlights these issue very effectively.

 "One of the things you need in order to understand the Charismatic Movement is a long memory. Mine goes back twenty-five years! In the seventies we were promised that ‘speaking in tongues’ was the key to personal and corporate spiritual renewal brought by being baptized in the Spirit. Later, the emphasis moved to healing as the key with tongues being secondary. After that, ‘words of knowledge’ became the focus of interest. Later still, in the early eighties, it was ‘dancing before the Lord’ which would kick-start spiritual renewal. Then, in the mid-eighties, John Wimber brought ‘Third Wave’ spirituality to revive the Movement and in the late eighties he himself introduced the ‘Kansas City Prophets’ with the usual spate of new books in attendance. Unfortunately, the prophecies (e.g. of a Europe-wide revival beginning in London at the end of the decade) failed to materialize. Then one of the ‘Prophets’ was found to have been using his position to gain sexual favours from women in the congregation, so they quietly drifted from the scene. But just as all seemed lost, out of the Vineyard stable came the ‘Toronto Blessing’! Only later did people realize that the true origin of this was in the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, associated with Kenneth Hagin’s ’Word Faith’ movement – something which most mainstream denominations would not previously have touched with a barge-pole. But by this stage it was too late – people had bought the package. Yet where is the ‘Toronto Blessing’ today? Hasn’t everyone been there, done it, worn the tee-shirt and sent the card? But have the churches been revolutionized? Have the millions been converted? I don’t think so – but don’t worry. Charismatic Celtic Spirituality (Rodney Howard-Browne in a kilt?) is coming to the rescue. And so it goes on. But people don’t notice, because keen Charismatics are usually young Christians, and young Christians have short memories. I used to be a Charismatic. But I gave it up in the early eighties because I was spiritually exhausted by the Charismatic Movement’s constant failure to deliver on its promises. Fortunately, I didn’t give up being a Christian, or become a ‘post-evangelical’. Instead, I rediscovered my faith in God’s word and the power and sufficiency of the gospel. The road to recovery was long and slow. It is only fairly recently that I’ve been able to understand exactly where Charismatic theology is wrong. But now I want to turn back the tide that I believe is actually drowning the church."

Sadly, too many Christians, weary from 'renewal' end up falling off the bandwagon and leaving church altogether. Richardson's testimony, however, offers an alternative. Instead of trading Bandwagon Christianity for church-less Christianity, it can instead be swapped for a church which places its hope in the sufficiency of the scriptures. In other words, a church which places its confidence and hope in the scriptures; the sacraments; and gospel of Jesus Christ – not fads, fantasies or faulty prophecies.