If you haven’t heard about it yet, Its coming to a conversation near you. Being held at Grace Community church in Southern California, the Strange Fire Conference is one of the most controversial conferences in the evangelical community today. The main focus of this conference is to bring awareness to the alleged mishandling of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. John MacArthur the founding pastor of the host church, says his desire is to bring awareness to what the bible actually says about manifestations of The Spirit. Let me start by saying, I have high respect for John MacArthur, a man who has been in the ministry for decades and to my knowledge has never been caught up in any financial, marital, or sexual scandal. These days it is a miracle for someone of his caliber to have such a stellar record. His integrity is something that those who are just coming into ministry should take note of. With that said, I have great concern for the content of this conference. At the time I’m writing this, the conference is about three months away. So my blog is not to criticize something that hasn’t happened yet, rather I’m writing to exhort those who will be attending and who may get audio from it at a later date to be discerning. While I have a mountain of concern with the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement these days, I also have concern with those who have what I would call a misled view of the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am very critical of what I call “Charismania” in the church. It makes me sick how people will take someone as precious as the Holy Spirit and make Him into something that will bring glory to their perverted ministry.While all along playing God’s people for utter fools. There are people who are so addicted to “manifestations” of the Spirit that they will believe any experience that a person claims they had . They don’t test the experience in light of scripture, all they care about is the person had some type of experience while in church. With that said, I am deeply concerned about the impact this conference will have on the church as a whole. The Bible clearly states in Acts 2:17 (NIV) ” In the last days, says God, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. I believe we need the power and manifestation of the Spirit more today than we have ever had. I also believe the devil is going to do everything he can to try and silence the power and manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the local church. Oh how I love and cherish the Holy Spirit and His gifts! There is an effort in some circles of the church that don’t fully understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit to totally avoid any manifestations of the Holy Spirit. But in that fear many fail to remember that the Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity which means it has everything to do with God. So in essence you are nervous about God himself moving in your church. You may have grown up in a denomination where there were no outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but does that make it something that is not real? What some don’t experience themselves they are quick to write it off as a lie or a figment of someone’s wild imagination. Again if you have not experienced something, does that now mean it isn’t possible? I’m Sure people on the day of Pentecost were really taken back by how radically God moved that day. There was nothing ordinary or easy to explain with the logical mind about that day. Same is with us today. We can’t predict every single time exactly how God will decide to manifest His presence, nor should we try. I believe that so many pastors fear that if they allow the Holy Spirit to move, that it would be open season for every flake to come out of the woodwork. But if it is truly the Holy Spirit, there won’t be disorder, but rather there will be a beautiful unity of the gifts operating together. So if there is ever a service where a there is disorder, God is not in it. It may have started out a God thing and then someone wanted to come along and try and “help” the Spirit and when you do that, you can guarantee that everything will go south from there. The Spirit doesn’t need our help, rather its in holding Him back, or trying to enhance Him. He knows exactly what He’s doing. While I don’t disagree with MacArthur on everything, I strongly disagree with him on the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate in this modern epic. MacArthur is a Classical Cessationist. Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues all ceased with the death of the Apostles. As you carefully examine the scriptures you will find that such a belief is simply not found.
So one who holds such a view will be very leery of any manifestation of the spirit in the church. In 1Corinthians14 you find Paul instructing the local church on how to flow in the gifts properly. Paul is not instructing a group of apostles or super Christians, rather he is talking to Johnny pew sitter, people like me and you who are filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to win people to Christ. There is no way that you can argue that the people at the church in Corinth was any different than we are today. I’ve been in Pentecostal churches for years were the gifts of The Holy Spirit were in full operation in a very biblical and orderly way. This continues to happen at the church I attend today. Gifts are in operation every weekend without things getting out of control. I would call on pastors and ministry leaders across the country and the world to prayerfully examine the scriptures and allow God to move as He wishes, realizing that the Holy Spirit is always up to something good. I would also admonish churches and pastors who for the sake of money and fame desecrate the sacred name of Jesus with your ungodly ridiculous side shows on Christian television claiming that it is the moving of the Holy Spirit when its really just made for TV hype. That is a disgrace. Some pastors feel if no one is laying on the floor by the end of service that not much was accomplished, but if those people who fell on the floor in the spirit rise up and are still living sinful lives there is a problem. People need to be pointed to Jesus and not some experience They need true breakthrough and deliverance, not just a pat on the head so they will fall out and inflate your ego as a pastor or evangelist. It’s not about us as pastors and leaders Its about our precious Saviour who died on a cross. There is nothing Glamorous about that. As a Christian we should always test experiences in light of scripture. Don’t fall for everything that someone claims is a move of God. Find a church where the leadership is addicted to who God is instead of what He can do for them. If God chooses to do a miraculous thing in a church service that’s great! But that’s not the main reason you are there. You are there to worship Him for who He is. You are also there to be equipped to serve and win others to Christ. When our minds are only focused on the gifts rather than the Giver, we will fall prey to all kinds of strange gifts and strange fire. So as this conference will soon take place I exhort you to exercise discernment. I do believe the light needs to be shined on those in the church that are sending up strange fire but at the same time we need to guard against an all out attack on the Pentecostal church and reject sweeping criticisms of the Pentecostal church as a whole.