A Tiny Indicator Of Charismatic Influence…

This post has been updated, expanded and re-posted here.  Just fyi.



So in the StrangeFire aftermath, one of the complaints that has been lodged at the conference and the whole cessationist case is that we always grab the “low hanging fruit” on the fringe of the movement as some sort of normative representation of the movement as a whole.  We’re told that we grab absurd examples and try to pass them off as some sort of example of the mainstream.  The level-headed folks are the obvious mainstream representatives, and the entranced glossolalaholics and Fletch-clone healers are the fringe, right?


This argument has always made me puzzled since it’s so horribly obvious to me that the theologically absurd charismatic church of 20,000 obviously has far more influence in the movement and “on the street” than the theologically restrained charismatic church of 2,000 (and that’s being generous since the theologically absurd churches aren’t just bigger, but far more numerous).

So, I thought to myself, how can I give some sort of objective measure of influence? How can we say who is mainstream and who is fringe? Then I had an idea. Its not a great idea, but an idea none the less. I’m going to look at online presence in  the form of Twitter reach (as measured by followers) as a general indicator of just how many people are paying attention to whom. Continue reading

A Charismatic Primer Part 9 – The Outreach Top 50 (#36-40)

Time for the ninth installment in this series.  So far, we’ve looked at the New Apostolic Reformation, the Outreach Top 50 #1-5, the Outreach Top 50 #6-10, the Outreach Top 50 #11-15, the Outreach Top 50 #16-20, the Outreach Top 50 #21-25, the the Outreach Top 50 #26-30, and the Outreach Top 50 #31-35.  We’ll now look at the Outreach Top 50 #36-40, which includes one church of minor interest, which you may heard of (but possibly not, especially if you’re Canadian):

36.  New Direction Christian Church of Memphis TN – Pastored by Stacy Spencer.  This is a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), so it’s a liberal church that uses a common (and fairly useless) spiritual gifts test that suggests rather strongly that they’re practical cessationists, though possibly tame continuationists (but they likely think that “spiritual gifts” are a sort of metaphor for something else entirely).  Their doctrinal statement is almost nonexistent (and says “New Direction’s Basic Beliefs are the principles, symbols, and faith stories to which we spontaneously and habitually return to for strength in times of confusion or stress”), which is fairly suggestive about the nature of their beliefs (they’re liberals and liberals don’t stand for anything except the most bland of generic spiritualism that are metaphors explained by cliches explained by Oprahisms…).  How does a denomination that has shrunk by over 65% in the last 45 years have a church with 10,000+ members?  Who knows.  I’m guessing it’s a combination of being multi site (including South Africa…and if that’s not lying about numbers I don’t know what is…), having cool graphics/iPhone apps, etc., having a virtual campus that allows people to attend church from bed, and having a ton of resources and a ton of ministries (kinda like every other megachurch).  Unbelievers love coming to church to have all their wants met and leave feeling inspired.

Also, it’s worth noticing that their on campus books store exists “to assist members and guests with a host of books, music, NDCC paraphernalia, and novelty gift items that will provide inspiration”…(novelty items that will provide inspiration?  I can only imagine…)


37.  LCBC Church of Manheim, Pennsylvania – Pastored by David Ashcraft.  This church is a pretty tame church that, according to their doctrinal statement, seems to be committed cessationist (at least on tongues, which pretty much tells you all you need to know).

38.  Elevation Church of Matthews, North Carolina – Pastored by Steven Furtick.  Steven Furtick needs no introduction, but if you haven’t heard of him, this should give you an idea as to what kinda fellow this guy is, and if that doesn’t then this will (honestly, everyone is worshiping God there, not Steven…).

38a. Elevation church has a doctrinal statement that suggests that they’re conservative, and on the issue of spiritual gifts, it actually appears on a surface glance that they are.

38b. Steven Furtick makes some comments here on 1 Corinthians 14, and here he comments here on how Elevation doesn’t practice tongues, though he admits that he looks up to some people that do…which brings us to what we have come to expect from Steven Furtick; total inconsistency.

38c.  He held an event called the Code Orange Revival, and if you haven’t heard Matt Chandler’s sermon there and Steven Furtick’s following message, you need to.  Here’s a quick summary of the mind-numbing irony. (Steven Furtick handles the Bible in ways that are simply shamanistic).  Here’s Matt Chandler’s sermon in full, and Steven Furtick’s sermon is nowhere to be found online (unless you pay for it at the Elevation Church store).  Also of interest, Jentezen Franklin appeared at the Code Orange Revival (you remember him, right?).  I wonder if Matt Chandler got flack for showing up there.  He preached an awesome message and I don’t fault him for doing so, but that was a gutsy move (though most in attendance probably didn’t have a clue how Chandler’s sermon judged Steven Furtick).

38d. I cannot find any consistency in Steven Furtick at all, and that’s frightening because it either means he’s a genius or he’s an double-tongued manHe preaches on the Holy Spirit and seems to talk down at various typical charismatic attitudes (and even mock charismatics while he still admits that he has spoken in tongues), but then he brings in well-known prosperity teachers like T.D. Jakes or Christine Caine or Jentezen Franklin (who, well, are textbook examples of everything he bashes in the previously linked sermon) as guest speakers at his conferences, and he shows up speaking at conferences hosted by prosperity preaching churches like Hillsongs and yet he also shows up speaking at respectable universities, like Liberty.

General Idea – Steven Furtick is most certainly a smart guy, but his theology and practice makes me wonder if he actually slept through seminary. I’d be taking an educated guess based on what I know of Steven Furtick, but I’m guessing he’s a continuationist who somewhat tows the Southern Baptist party line on spiritual gifts in public (as little as he has to in order to keep the watchdogs off his back) but privately is actually a charismatic that embraces some ideas of the prosperity gospel movement (i.e. positive confession) but is highly inconsistent from issue to issue, if not actually two-faced.


(picture props to – http://benheine.deviantart.com/art/Two-Faced-Marcin-Bondarowicz-81580805)

39.  Lake Pointe Church of Rockwall, Texas – Pastored by Steve Stroope.  This church is a Southern Baptist Church that talks about the charismatic gifts here.  They teach that tongues was a heavenly language (*sigh*) but they also talk about tongues probably have ceased (but may not have ceased). They seem, quite clearly, to be practical cessationists…which isn’t surprising because they’re a Southern Baptist Church.

40.  St. Stephen Church of Louisville, Kentucky – Pastored by Kevin Cosby.  This church has the shortest doctrinal statement I’ve seen, and it doesn’t even include the second coming or God’s coming judgment as part of their “core beliefs”.  They don’t have enough information on their website to know if they’re anything about anything.  If you were looking for a church, their website wouldn’t tell you if they handle snakes or use a liturgy.

And that sums it up for this installment.  Short and sweet, but there’s not a whole lot more to say.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “inspirational novelty blogger” Unger