benotafraid

My dear Brothers and Sisters:

I have been wanting to write this letter for a while now. Perhaps it’s silly to think that it will matter in any meaningful way, but I’m okay with being silly. Remember, we have always loved to sing about how we’ll become “even more undignified than this.” Acting a fool for the Lord is an okay place for me.

Our charismatic roots stretch back over 2,000 years of Christianity but our more modern family history begins with the Pentecostal movement of 1901 moving through to the Charismatic movement of the 1960s and then the Third Wave of the 1980s. That is when I joined our tribe – a skinny kid with a sensitive spirit and a thirsty heart and a mean dance-kick. I have been a charismatic woman for more than 30 years now. Even after a season of my life when I walked far away from our traditions, gathering the greater story of our Church and history to myself, I now find myself corkscrewing back over and over again to the teachings of my childhood, the songs, the practices. For more than one hundred years, we’ve arguably been at the forefront of the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and those gifts in operation for the growth of the Church and the redemption of the world. But perhaps that is the root of our suspicions – we’ve been outsiders for so long that we’ve become convinced that we are, in fact, marginalized. When nothing could be further from the truth. Out of all the movements of Christianity, our tribe of Pentecostalism or charismatic Christians is still the fastest growing in the world. As Harvard theologian Harvey Cox said, pentecostalism is “reshaping religion in the 21st century.” People who want to moan and groan about the waning influence of the Church have forgotten the global story and the bigger story of our little movement.

I think that kind of influence brings a demand for thoughtfulness and care, don’t you?

But over the past few years, as I’ve personally become even more charismatic in my practices and in my theology, I have found myself distancing myself from our broader family of charismatics, particularly our more public voices. I crave thoughtful voices, I crave hope and faith, and even, yes, a prophetic imagination. Even as my theology remains staunchly charismatic, I have found myself distancing from the culture of being a charismatic.

But we’ve all splintered as a movement over the years – which perhaps shouldn’t surprise us. It has happened to every other movement within Christianity, we shouldn’t be so proud as to think we would be exempt from this natural growth and change. It’s inevitable and likely even helpful.

Yet here I am writing to us all now, as a larger family united by the Spirit, wherever we fall on our history and practices, church affiliation or theology.

Family, I believe the Spirit has a word for us: be not afraid.

This message has been central to our history and it is key for our future.

I’ve been particularly grieved by two incidents within our tribe over the past few weeks. First, our brother Michael Gungor, one of the most thoughtful musical artists of our time, has been publicly vilified across Christian media – both traditional, online, and social – for openly discussing his belief in an old earth rather than a young earth. Our tribe has been quick to pounce on him in particular since he is one of our own. Yet he is not alone in this belief, of course, many well respected and orthodox Christians throughout the ages have held to the scientific evidence of the universe while still affirming the creeds and Scripture fully. But instead, many in our tribe have settled with fear-mongering misinformation. Often putting words and beliefs into Michael’s mouth that simply aren’t true, accusing him of everything from heresy to abandoning his faith to pride.

This reaction to Michael’s beliefs has grieved me for several reasons. First the lack of charity for him, the swiftness with which so many have kicked him to the curb, the hateful tones, the way that many in our leadership have simply fanned the flames of fanaticism and fundamentalism rather than engaging in thoughtful and careful care not only for each other’s souls but for the Church.

But second, I have been grieved because of the underlying truth at the heart of these reactions: fear. People talk about Michael and they are AFRAID. Afraid of the slippery slope, afraid of nuance, afraid of anything other than a literal black-and-white reading of Scripture, afraid of the breadth of tradition within orthodox Christianity, afraid of science, afraid of education, afraid of university, afraid of Michael himself even. Fear, fear, fear.

And secondly, there was the article published at Charisma News – once our flagship media empire but sadly now descended into fear-mongering and poorly disguised click-bait to incite emotional reactions. Written by Gary Cass, the article was entitled “Why I Am an Islamaphobic” and then proceeded to not only argue that it is impossible for any Muslims to come to Jesus, but that the only way to “deal with” our Muslim neighbours was to deport them, sterilize them, or take up arms against them. The article was eventually removed after a major public outcry but tellingly, there has been no retraction printed. Charisma has often in the past few years printed articles similar in tone or content, this was not a one-off incident but the latest in a long string of terrible and dangerous editorials. Brian Zahnd had a godly response to the article; in fact, he was the one who brought it to the broader public attention as well.

Like many charismatics, I parted ways with Charisma years ago for a few different reasons but this article went so far beyond ignorant stupidity. It flatly advocated the same tactics, theology, and beliefs that resulted in the WWII Holocaust and the Rwandan holocaust. It stank of evil and murder, genocide and hatred. Nothing could be further from the message of the Jesus who we claim to follow than this. And at the root of that evil and hatred – fear. Fear, fear, fear. 

Be afraid, the world tells us. And now, sadly, it seems many of our charismatic/Pentecostal media outlets and leaders are telling us the same thing. Be afraid. Be afraid of money, be afraid of losing “the fire”, be afraid of education, be afraid of theology, be afraid of growth and change, be afraid of gay and lesbian people, be afraid of art and science, be afraid of television, be afraid of artists, be afraid of reading books, be afraid of the news, be afraid of Islam, be afraid of the President, be afraid of the UN, be afraid of immigrant children, be afraid of other churches, be afraid of the Pope, be afraid of socialism, be afraid of the government, be afraid of the world, be afraid be afraid be afraid. 

We’ve taught the message that “everyone is out to get us” and “be afraid” for so long that perhaps it is no wonder that we have become fear-filled, defensive, close-minded anti-Christs. I grieve for our witness. Is this the activity and experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Surely not.

We are living out of our worst fears instead of our best hopes. We are teaching and preaching, we are writing, we are leading, we are praying out of crippling fear instead of the hope of Christ.

This saddens me because it is so far from our historical roots as charismatic/pentecostals. And it is also so antithetical to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord will never look and smell and speak fear. The Spirit of the Lord will not bring division and disunity. The Spirit of the Lord will not move us toward hatred, ignorance, fear, and evil actions.

In some ways, I am still very simple and childlike: Jesus is still my teacher, still the one I want to follow to the ends of the earth. And if someone’s teaching or leadership is leading me away from the teachings of our Jesus, let alone away from cultivating the fruit of the Spirit’s operation in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – then I have to wonder if that teaching has anything to do with the Spirit to begin with…..?

I think this is why it’s wise to be test and weigh the words of those who influence our own spirits and minds: are they leading us towards greater freedom and hope and joy? or are they weighing us down with the shackles of fear and torment? 

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

When I remember the early days of my faith, I remember our joy. I do. I remember that even though we were a motley collection of stories and failures, we had been born again in every way possible. Speaking in tongues, prophetic words from the Lord for one another, laying on hands in the belief that God would and could heal, all of it. I remember our songs and our hope, I remember our steady commitment to memorizing Scripture and how we were foolish enough to simply believe that it was true.

I remember how fear was an enemy to be routed and cast out of our hearts, not a pet to stroke and coddle, let alone a tactic for financial gain at the expense of each other.

So these two incidents happened. And I remembered what you all have taught me, family. You were the ones who taught me to cast fear away from my heart. What has happened to us? What has happened to our boldness and courage? I’ll tell you – we traded it for fear.

Our tribe is the one that taught me to wrap myself in the truth of Scripture: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:17).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18).

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

These were our songs, remember? These were our anthems. These were the verses we memorized out of our brand-new never-read-before Bibles and then wrote out on index cards to tape to our mirrors. These were the words in our mouths. These were the prayers we prayed over our histories and our families, over our own minds and our hearts, over our children while they slept.

Fear is not our motivator. Fear is not our address. Fear is not our ruler. We are not a people of fear. We are a people of faith and hope and love. We are the people of Scripture. We are the people of the Holy Spirit’s active movement and intimate involvement in our lives.

When we reject fear and embrace faith, I believe our lives become more open, more generous, more loving, more kind, more gentle, more patient. We are slow to anger and quick to forgive, we are a people of radical hope and forgiveness.

We are a movement with tremendous influence in the world today. What will our legacy be? One of fear? with his children hatred, ignorance, narrow-mindedness, evil, and even murder? Or will our legacy be born of the Spirit? with her children of hope and love and joy, wisdom and imagination, courage and thoughtfulness?

We have lead the Church so beautifully in so many ways, let’s lead well again.

How sad that we have opened the door of our heart, not to Christ and his hope and abundance, but instead to the insidious spread of fear. Fear will choke out the life of the Spirit in us. Fear will poison the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Fear is truly a tool of the enemy, it will destroy not only you and your life but the hope of Christ that you carry within for the rescue, renewal, and restoration of the world, too.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Holy Spirit, remember your first love. Remember that fear is our enemy, not our friend. Remember the words of Scripture and cling tightly to them, hold fast to the hope of Christ. Remember your roots in faith and hope, not fear.

Be not afraid.

Jesus has saved and will save and is saving the world. What can man do to us?

As so many of our brothers and sisters around the world face real persecution and torment, now is not the time for us to become lazy in doing good or to give ourselves over to fear. In fact, I believe that now, more than ever, we are all called to stand in faith, as prophetic outposts for God’s way of life, as glimpses of the ways of life in Christ.

Remember, “praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you,  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6).

Be filled with the Spirit.

I leave you with the words of our brother Paul as recorded in Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In faith,

Sarah

 

"This is getting silly" :: a response to Doctor Who, Robots of Sherwood
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  • Sarah, I relate to this so much. I left the charismatic movement because of the fear. I got so worn out from fearing everything all the time. Ten years later, there are a few aspects I miss. I wonder what of it I can return to without going back to the toxic faith I clung to out of fear and shame. I am so thankful there are people like you within the tribe that are different. It gives me hope.

    • Thanks, Carly – I did return but I’ll be honest and say there are things I still don’t love or struggle with too. And probably always will. But I’m learning to reclaim some parts, too. I hear you.

  • Amen and Amen. May the Spirit guide us to the shalom and may we become heralds of God’s coming Kingdom, joining the Spirit’s work of spreading the Kingdom one inch at a time.

  • AMEN. Well said. May this message resound throughout Christendom. Perfect love casts out fear.

  • Traci Rhoades

    Sarah, It seems one of the enemy’s best tool is dissension. Our churches will never be perfect but may we do a better job of going about the business of our Lord… Go. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach.

  • Julianna Morlet

    SO GOOD.

  • So true beyond the Charismatic but even to the greater Evangelical community. I recall Jen Hatmaker preaching on this at IF – that we don’t need to “take care” of our poor little Jesus in the corner, we need not fear. Thanks for not being afraid to speak. (I automatically clicked on it when you said, “yes, I’m going there.” Where? I thought. Who cares! I’m going too.)

  • Preach!
    I always been a little apprehensive about (some) charismatics, but never for the common reasons. I do think the Holy Spirit is alive and well and powerful beyond our imaginations. I don’t dance when I worship, but sometimes I wish I had been raised to do so (good old former Presbyterian right here). There was always something unspoken there that held me back, though, and I do believe now that it was the fear that I sensed.
    Fear that leads to burning cds for one song or comment made.
    Fear that leads to treating gay children as evil, demon possessed creatures and kicking them out of their homes when they can’t pray it away.
    Fear that keeps women in terrible, abusive relationships because they’re told they have to in order to keep marriage sacred.
    So many things to be afraid of and scream as evil, and not seeing that they act in ways that are completely opposite of how Jesus would act.
    The only times that I have felt that my faith has truly caught someone off guard in a positive way have been when I have consistently shown grace and love. It saddens me that people are shocked by Christians who just love people. Who they are, where they are… just love.

  • Jenny Foster

    “Where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…” Amen!

  • Alissa

    I am not from a charasmatic background, but this message seems to appropriate to much of the publicized church today: “We are living out of our worst fears instead of our best hopes.” And yet, I think there is a beautiful push from the hearts of believers to reject those public declarations of fear and to return to our best hope – to reaffirm our focus on Jesus. Thank you Sarah, for these great words and TRUTH.

  • Peri Zahnd

    Sarah, you articulate so well what I have been feeling and saying for a long time now. We have become a culture obsessed with and paralyzed by fear. Like the disciples in the locked room, so very fearful. The words of Jesus to “Fear not!” need to reverberate in our hearts once again. We need to be a people empowered by our trust in Jesus, knowing that real security only comes when we lay down our need for security. Thank you for this.

    • This –> “We need to be a people empowered by our trust in Jesus, knowing that real security only comes when we lay down our need for security.” SO GOOD, peri. Thank you!

  • JennaDeWitt

    That’s the main thing that attracted me to charismaticism: lack of fear. Such bold faith. My Spirit-filled friends were just so different from any other Christians I had met… they were confident, expressive, praying for big things, being willing to go against the popular Christian trends to go deeper and leaving the security of the Bible Belt suburbs for the ends of the earth. They were rebels against all of the observations here about the modern Church.

    Now that it’s been several years and I’m several states away, I see that’s not the case for all charismatics at all.

    • I think that was part of what attracted us, too. It was so strong and bold and prophetic. I think that’s why it’s bothered me so much to see our movement become known by our fear instead.

      • Brenda

        I don’t know what fear you are talking about? Can you elaborate. I thought you were speaking from your own inner fears and shame? I don’t hear Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Randy Clark, Graham Cooke, and a list of so many others encouraging hatred or fear. I must be in different circles of Charismatics. The Charismatics I know are living very different lives not out of a conformity or duty but a listening

  • Thanks for this Sarah. I’m with Alissa, in that this is a message for all Christians in these days of violence. My wife, Becca, and I have been reflecting lately on the role of hospitality beyond our boundaries in dispelling the power of our fears. Becca wrote this:

    “So perhaps cultivating the kind of character that chooses love over
    self-preservation involves facing fear. Perhaps we cannot overcome
    violence when we are afraid, perhaps when we are afraid we cannot love.
    But perhaps the converse is true: when we love, we overcome fear.
    Perhaps John’s declaration, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love
    drives out fear,” (1 John 4:18) is not only receptive, “I am loved,
    therefore I do not need to fear,” but also responsive, “I live in love,
    and that trumps my fear.””

  • Sing that sweet Spirit-inspired song, Sarah! This is a word I’m sure so many needed to be reminded of.

    This is why I miss being a part of a charismatic community. Truth is spoken by the Spirit, into the hearts of those who are willing to listen, and always confirms itself with the Word. Healthy churches and healthy Christians learn to rely on the Spirit of the Living God rather than be controlled by the fear of man. It takes practice, and walking closely with Jesus, but it absolutely provides the ability to walk confidently in freedom.

    • Such a beautiful picture of so many communities I’ve been privileged to belong to, Erika! Loved that.

  • Chandra

    Amen! Let them know us by our love, Lord! And yes, perfect love drives out fear! Let your love be perfected in us, Lord. This is a beautiful letter written to us all! I call myself a Bapticostal now that I’ve been out of the charismatic church for about 10 years. But, I need this as much now as I needed it 10 years ago! Thank you!

  • Charlotte

    such a great message…and one that is not entirely limited to only the Charismatics. There are other denominations & movements that use fear to control and manipulate their members & teach them to be afraid of “the others” and everyone & everything that is not “like them”.

  • Charis Psallo

    I arrived late to the party, having been kept out of charismatic circles by my open but cautious [fearful] attitude. Fear is something I have fought all my life; I know what it looks like and how it hinders. Now that I am “in” I have found such freedom and my relationship with Christ has seen accelerated growth, but I am also seeing fear pop where I never expected to see it. May I suggest that this may be due in part to the heart sickness that comes from hope deferred? Rom. 5:5 talks about the hope that does not disappoint, the hope that is the result of perseverance through suffering and of developing strong character. Some in the charismatic movement have become accustomed to instant answers to prayer. Character development takes us deeper into the undiscovered country of faith and trust. Strong character also includes humility and requires a humble admission that sometimes courageous people (who are still learning) have been wrong. Sometimes people have said, “This year!” when their prophetic zoom lens showed them the mountain tops but not the valleys between. Some have fallen into the trap, like Elijah’s servant, of exploiting the gifts for self-aggrandizement. Some have promoted their one piece of the puzzle as it it were the only piece, separating themselves from others that might help them to see the bigger picture. I have noticed that fear slips in where things are not brought out into the light, where is lack of admission of error. Repentance means acknowledging where our thinking has been off and cooperating with the Lord to renew our minds. It means returning to our first Love, It means loving justice, showing mercy and walking humbly with our God.

  • Sandy Hay

    Well said Sarah.

  • Yes…yes… Fear… Fear is what drives us to control… Fear of being wrong… Fear of uncertainty… Fear God is not big enough to handle diversity… Fear pushes us to live black and white… Fear robs us from living in Grace and love!!!!

  • Marjorie

    Sarah, thank you thank you thank you.
    I don’t belong to your tribe but I have been calling to task family members within MY tribe who are passing on email diatribe SPAM similar to the Islamaphobia article to which you refer. It is simply fear-mongering. This is what I’ve tried to say over and over again. “Don’t hang onto the fear. What you’re advocating is so opposite what Jesus would ask you to do. Our God is greater than any extremist group you use to excuse the fear and hatred.”
    Thank you for so eloquently saying what I couldn’t get across. Maybe I’ll SPAM them with the link to this page. 🙂

  • Wesley

    Thank you for writing this Sarah. What the Lord has been speaking to me in my life over the past 7 or so months is to “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” and He has been speaking to me of the fear that cripples my heart. In the process of casting out fear this song was written by me and a couple of friends. It’s called “Still You Fight” I pray it blesses you and speaks into what you might be feeling.

    http://dbranches.bandcamp.com/releases

  • Thank you Sarah for speaking plainly against hate and fear. It seems that ‘we’ only love our neighbours in the abstract – fear erases that ‘love’ so quickly. Keep speaking up for those of us who speak in smaller circles.

  • a Frog At Large

    Thanks so much for this Sarah, you put into words how I feel at the moment and where I see people slip into .

    It’s a lot less obviously polarized in the UK where I live but one thing I’ve noticed among some of my charismatic brothers and sisters is the taking on of ‘have no fear’ and ‘standing in faith’ as meaning ‘don’t fear to be disliked or even hated for your beliefs’. They might wrap it in charismatic language, using words like ‘wake-up call’ and being countercultural to me it basically looks like fear-mongering; it’s all about how we are turning away from being a Christian nation and how it’s all doom and gloom from now on unless we start to stand up and call sin a sin when we see it otherwise we are part of the problem and not the cure. All of this has ‘biblical’ precedent of course, but unfortunately it doesn’t look a whole lot like Jesus either.

  • Katie

    How do you pick and choose which Scripture to trust? You said it’s not black and white and what it says on the surface. Then doesn’t Gods Word become subjective and then doesn’t it means something different for everyone? Doesn’t it then lose it’s authority? What if I did that to this post and decided you didn’t mean what you said? What you said on the surface isn’t actually what you mean? You quoted great passages at the end to trust and hope and cling to. But how can you know for certain those are the passages you can take at face value? Just throwing that out there…

    • John

      It’s not a question about picking which Scripture to trust, it’s all trustworthy (2Tim3:16) it’s about discerning which parts are literal and which are metaphorical or parables. For instance, Jesus told parables that were simply stories to illustrate his teachings; we wouldn’t/shouldn’t take them as literal events.

      It’s also important to remember to avoid vain arguments (But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Titus 3:9) Arguing about creation or evolution simply distracts from the message of the Gospel, that He Loved us and sent Jesus to save us. Just note how many of these discussions come across as amicable (from either side.) No. Instead we as the Church are happy to use all kinds of bad tactics to malign our opponents. Where’s the love of God in that?

      So, most importantly, take the meaning of the Scripture, trust what it says, and prayerfully ask God for enlightenment. You should be doing that anyway, rather than blindly accepting what someone else says that it means.

  • brianleport

    This awakened the charismatic in me! I didn’t literally shout “amen” every paragraph, but I could have done so. Thank you for this truly prophetic piece.

  • Briana Meade

    True. true. What fascinates me is that it was the bravery that originally drew me in to the charismatic movement: the belief that God was real and strong and here and working….the constant focus on using the power found in the Bible. Standing on that truth. That’s why it’s interesting to me that there is such a double-edged sword to charismatic faith because I had such a profoundly “good” experience with the passion and grounding in God’s truth and his strength.

  • WendyPaineMiller

    “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Good & needed post, Sarah. Thanks for writing & publishing it.

  • When I read posts like this, I feel hopeful for the future of Christianity. If only I could step into a church and feel the same way. But unlike what you advocate in the title of your post, I am afraid. And that fear is getting in the way of growth.

  • I so appreciate this Sarah, and I would add a slight addendum, fear not, and grow up…I was filled with the Holy Spirit at 8 years old and have been a Pentecostal/Charismatic my entire life, and of late seriously considered leaving my tribe because of the incredible lack of maturity I see among leaders and gate-keepers and it is as you have pointed out, simply fear wearing wisdoms wig. We do not need to be afraid of science, or theology, both will catch up to us eventually, so we need to stop dismissing them as red-headed step-children of unbelief, they are not. Our theology is in desperate need of maturing, the Penal Substitution model of Calvin and his cronies is driving people away from a Janus faced dualistic god who loathes their sin so much Jesus held his breath for 33 years (NOT!). We need to see our roots go back further than just about anyone elses, but they are infact joined to an orthodox theology that welcomes science and dialogue without apprehension…it’s ok not to have all the answers now, love and the power of the Spirit are enough…but for crying out loud enter the dialogue and start having coherent conversations about hell, same-sex-issues, climate change and healing miracles as well…

    We have nothign to fear…

  • Nancy Le

    oh Amen, and thank you

  • Aaron Andrus

    Absolutely..exactly what has been on my mind all week..fear. BE NOT AFRAID!

  • Robin Foutz

    I believe the foundation of where the charismatic movement began is good, however, humanity has reigned too often in most areas of every church. Judgement, fear and shame have worn the mask of correction without love. There are many men and women in the Big “C” who have been ripped apart by insults and pushed into the corner to wear the dunce cap. However, I’m seeing believers not being afraid of being who they are in Christ. I’m seeing believers who are learning to love because they understand what it means to not have been loved. There is a unity among the churches like I’ve never seen before. I’m seeing people understanding the importance of the Holy Spirit and living IN Christ. A friend of mine and I were just talking tonight about the greatest gift, the most powerful gift…love. Everything Jesus did, everything the Holy Spirit did through the disciples was done from a place of love. For God so loved… Can we all stop throwing the stones while people are on their own revelatory journey, their own working out their salvation? Can we give grace to the charismatics, the Baptists, the Catholics, the methodists, etc. and say we are figuring this thing out too? Can we ask, humbly, what are you learning? Can love each other when we disagree? Can we forgive when we’ve been hurt? When we can use our gifts and talents from a place of love with the goal of pointing people to Jesus… ahhhhh, what unity we will see! The Bride of Christ, stepping into its rightful position. I’m a former charismatic church goer. Now, I finally get it, I’m just a daughter of the King in union and communion with the Lord. I’m ready to see His power, the power of love, moving in the church. His love heals. His love restores. His love redeems. Let’s filter everything we say and do through the love of the Father. Thank you for using your gifts to speak forth truth and unify the body of Christ.

  • Rita P

    Thank you Sarah, I think your words are spot on.

    I am not part of the pentecostal movement itself, but I do love what God is doing through “you guys”. And I am very sure that what you’re saying is not only applying on the charismatic/pentecostal christians, but on all Jesus-loving congregations. We all might be quite different. But to be different is not only ok, in my opinion it is good. I believe that – especially through our differences – we are able, as the body of Christ, to represent or reflect the different aspects of his deity. Or at least some of them.

    So. I will start this day choosing not to be afraid (because our day is only beginning, here in Germany) and let the hope spread. 🙂

  • Helen Cottee

    It’s funny when Jesus takes other people down the same rabbit hole you have just fallen down. My love for the charismatic church and my wanting to bang my head against the wall on its behalf is summed up in this so well. I love that Jesus gives us wide open space, freedom, intuition, deep soul longing and of course his word – and I love that none of these lead us to fear, small lives, hatred and panic. I love that others round the world are joining together to pray for the church with all its beauty and mess, that it will rise up and sing God’s song of freedom to the world rather than the pervading cultural cries of terror. Love this Sarah!!

  • Michael Roth

    I so badly want to see members of the body of Christ stop being a cancer that is zapping the very life out of the body we all share. It does grieve our head Jesus very much. He died so we could experience amazing eternal life right here on this earth, yet many cling to a comfortable, slow decay. Saying they love freedom, but putting others in bondage. Saying their acceptance is unconditional, yet constantly judging. I have had to get away, clear my head, lower my expectations, then attempt to crucify my own judgment of others, and just recuperate from the disappointment of broken dreams. I am truly an idealist, but I must admit I am often tempted to throw it all away for “reality”. Well, my spirit is saying it’s time to stop crying over spilled milk and get back in the game. It’s time to believe for even MORE, not less. To be less of a human doing, and more of a human being. Breathing life where others have unwittingly or carelessly sucked it out. The cure for this kind of cancer does exist, but it is found internally. We all have a smile to wear, a part to play, and a destiny to shape.

  • zinncristy

    This! Thank you, Sarah. I have been so sad about the way people have treated the Gungor’s and I am so grateful for voices like yours that speak the truth in love. For these words especially…

    ‘And if someone’s teaching or leadership is leading me away from the
    teachings of our Jesus, let alone away from cultivating the fruit of the
    Spirit’s operation in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – then I have to wonder if that teaching has anything to do with the Spirit to begin with…..?’

  • Kristin Potler

    Amen sister! Amen.

  • Laura

    Oh Sarah. Such important words. The fear of “them” is not of God. As you quoted, He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-discipline. Thank you!

  • You have put into words something that is lying so heavy in my heart at the moment. You are so right when you say that fear is where this need to drag those don’t who don’t fit into our mould of ‘Christianity’ comes from. It saddens my heart reading on twitter (and elsewhere) people who seem to make it their mission to tear down others, if only our energy could be used elsewhere. Think what we could do if we focussed on harmony and on Jesus instead of back biting and name calling.

  • Rea

    “Fear is not our motivator. Fear is not our address. Fear is not our ruler. We are not a people of fear. We are a people of faith and hope and love. We are the people of Scripture. We are the people of the Holy Spirit’s active movement and intimate involvement in our lives.” I want to stand on my couch and say “Yes and Amen!” May we all move boldly into faith and hope and love today.
    (Somehow my feedly stopped getting your posts…I’m glad someone linked to this one, I’ve got some catching up to do!)

  • Steve Rogers

    Thank you so much. As you so often do, you speak what I would like to say.

  • Excellent letter.
    “Even as my theology remains staunchly charismatic, I have found myself distancing from the culture of being a charismatic.” Me too 🙂
    Brilliant insight: How much evil springs from fear. “Do not be afraid indeed.”

  • michelle

    Thank you. I’ve been so saddened by the treatment of the Gungors. And you are so right, the root of it all is fear. Thank you for this post

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  • Melinda Cadwallader

    Amen, Amen, and again I say Amen. Used to sing that one every Sunday, too. A declaration of unity. Unity in Christ. Unity in the Spirit. Like a bridegroom with nothing but LOVE for his bride. All inclusive and greatest of intimacy. I left because of the dissolution as well, and what came out of the wilderness with a loving Father was an acknowledgement of my rightful place in the Church, the body of Christ, and a greater sense of personal responsibility. We are called to be active in our methods to unify. Unity, in Christ, will bring unity in the body. Courageous peacemakers, loving fathers, awake mothers and bold warriors, all unified towards becoming a brilliant display of His love and power. Amen, Sarah. Amen.

  • I’ve never been charismatic. I was Presbyterian. And then I was nothing. And then I was raw and bleeding and close to death. And then I was baptised and redeemed, a disciple of Jesus. But I think the same fear can be found throughout the Christian movement (not just the charismatic). In my church (before the massive breakup) it was fear of other movements, as if ours was the only one that could lead to God.

    But I am with you on this with all my heart. I feel like I’m constantly stretching my heart and my mind to embrace differences, trusting God to move other people’s hearts as he sees fit. To not condemn without listening and loving first, even if I don’t initially agree. Sometimes I am afraid that I might become worldly in the process, but the fear that guides me the most is the fear that my heart would not be pleasing to God.

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  • Darci Mielke Hanley

    Sarah, thank you so much for putting into words what I have been feeling about the church for a while. Thank you for the remind to be not afraid!

  • SueCQue

    This is an extremely well written piece. Over the years the boundaries have become blurred. In many areas because of fear compromise has snuck into the charismatic movement to where it is difficult to tell the church from the world. Thank you for this gentle and loving ‘kick’. It brought many things back into focus. While my heart may be steadfast-my conversation is not. I need to check my words as they carry life and death into the atmosphere. In Him there is no fear, but we as a church need holy boldness to proclaim the simplicity of the Gospel to a dying world. If this is getting silly, you need to ‘giggle’ more often.

  • pastordt

    Beautifully said, Sarah. Thank you.

  • Fawn DeMurl Carriker

    This is so beautifully done, Sarah. As I was reading, the hymn was singing through my heart: “Be not afraid, for I am with you always, come, follow me, and I will give you rest.” – Fawn

  • Saw your post on twitter. This is a beautiful letter. Powerful and profoundly of the spirit. I’m not part of the charismatic movement, but we are all in this time of transition together – all of us. The Spirit of God is moving all people – stirring the spiritual waters for God’s purposes. The church has lost her way, not just Pentecostals, but all of Christianity. We are off course as a collective people and we must be re-oriented. God is stirring the waters on our behalf. Many will fear, but fear will not prevail.

  • I am of the United Pentecostal Church Tribe. I can imagine some of my UPC friends convulsing, thinking we could be a “tribe”. I have watched our organization change during the past 40 years and I agree with you, that Fear is the cause. It is bizarre, that people having the Spirit of God to reveal the Word of God and fine tune our application of it could be so gripped by Fear. A friend is researching why so many Charismatic/Pentecostal people suffer from depression. We are sharing information from our projects about what is causing this phenomenon. I’m going to send your blog to him.

    I am not happy with what is happening but, for me and my family, there is no place to go. We believe the doctrine and Biblically supported lifestyle and enjoy the vibrant worship. My wife and I recently downsized and attend a smaller, friendlier/less stressed assembly and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere.

    You have excellent perception and ability to express yourself in writing. I gain much from your posts, as do others, and am thankful, to God, so many are encouraged by your maturity to keep improving their relationship with God. The only mechanism he left us is the Spirit filled and led human administrated church and he expects us to make it work.

    God bless.

  • Waldemere

    Sarah, there are people who disagree with Michael’s theory (it’s a theory, since he wasn’t actually present for the flood or for not-a-flood, as he would have it) and yet despite that disagreement don’t fit your caricature of a pentecostal/charismatic/bible believer. It’s easy to bundle Christians into neat little packages, tie them up, and send them off, which is what people have done with (a) Michael and (b) Michael’s detractors. It’s useless to try to make one cohesive statement about either “side” since there are decidedly more than two points of view on this. We don’t need to wad anyone up and throw them away. Why is it necessary to reconcile an opposing viewpoint? Just let them all be. Group hug. Move on. Like, who cares how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, anyway?

  • Sarah, a gazillion thanks to you for writing this. You articulated so well what so many of us are thinking and feeling these days. There is so much truth in what you’re saying, and I know it breaks the Father’s heart. It reminds me of Screwtape’s guidance to Wormwood about using fear to stir up all kinds of trouble for the human. I agree with others that this does extend beyond just the Charismatic community and has infected much of the Body of Christ at large. The organization I work for, Hill Country Institute, is doing a lot of work to try to reduce this by bringing together Christian thought leaders who are experts in their fields – Science, Art, Theology – who maintain different perspectives on these areas and creating safe spaces for dialogue between them. There are free recordings available on our website for people to explore. (http://www.hillcountryinstitute.org/Resources). I personally have had a lot of judgment and gross stuff cut off of my own heart as I have sat with Believers with different perspectives on various “sensitive” topics and have gotten to HEAR their hearts and learn why they believe what they believe. So helpful. So healthy. And, by the way, for those who haven’t read Michael Gungor’s book, “The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse” – it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read to call artists to what really matters. It’s beautifully real, honest, and totally Christ glorifying.

  • Thank you Sarah, for the authority and truth you’ve spoken here. It’s needed and I’m thankful for your courage to proclaim the good news.

  • James Jennings

    While I still believe, I have abandoned the culture of the Church in America, because it is corrupt, and devoid of anything beautiful. I started out decades ago trying to be a voice like Michael Gungor’s, and have nothing left to give this church but my disrespect. Michael correctly pointed out in one of his posts that Christians in America have an unhealthy and likely idolatrous relationship with cultural loves, like guns. He was vilified for that also. He has a prophetic gifting and the American pharisees accept a prophetic word as much as the ones in Jesus’ day did. I recognize that there is a bitterness in my soul now, that wasn’t there 20 years ago. I am responsible for that bitterness, but I at least recognize sin as sin. Those idealogues in the church that insist on things like a young earth, biblical literalism, conservative politics, and America as the new Jerusalem, don’t see how their insistence in demanding unwavering allegiance to these things is evil. I’ve given up hope that they ever will and the devil loves both my hopelessness and their pig headedness.

    • Michelle

      I just want you to know I get it. The bitterness. I’m praying for you, James. And for the rest of us, too. That we can learn to listen. That we can hold different viewpoints with respect and still be in unity as believers. I am in the middle of my own wilderness in regards to the American Church. I’m praying for God to reach into our hearts despite our pain and frustration and speak his message of love, hope, and redemption.

      • James Jennings

        Thanks for your kind and humble response. The church needs more like you ( though they will never embrace your approach, I think. ) Some of the anger is at myself for not being true to myself and walking away from the cancer of fundamentalism years ago. There are good people in the church, and the will always have my love, but I have no more patience for the false and dangerous message presented by the evangelical Church. I believe people can and do change, but sometimes that requires an intervention. Martin Luther understood that it’s sometimes necessary to tell the existing church goodbye and recognize it for the dead thing it is.

        • Michelle

          I agree. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away. Praying that we are both able to discern between the things of men and the things of God. Blessings to you in the Wilderness and prayers that you are able to remain in God’s grace as you go through this time.

  • I was born into and dedicated in an Assembly Of God church in western Montana in 1986. My father moved us around the state every 6-12 months until I was twelve years old, and we attended a different denomination (or flavor of non-denominational) church with every move. After he was gone, I chose to leave the church we were attending at the time, and moved from one to another searching for a place I could belong, and would accept me scars-and-all. At 28 years old, I have attended rolling-on-the-floor charismatic churches and wear-your-best-and-whisper Baptist churches, tiny house churches and multiple-hundreds churches; I also attended a one year Bible institute that was inter-denominational, and graduated.

    Crippling, twisting, distorting fear is not limited to the charismatic or Pentecostal movements. It’s a serious problem across the scope of American Christianity, and it’s growing.

    Thank you for writing this, Sarah. I’m sharing it, saving it, and will be including it in my 10 Things post for October (if you don’t mind).

    As a survivor of child abuse that included instilling terror of outside authority figures and institutions, hatred of “others”, and a belief in a world on the brink of Revelations-scale apocalyptic persecution of the Church, I thought I knew fear – and I thought I had left it behind when I escaped with my life. My shock and sadness when I realized that every-day Christians live in similar fear almost killed me.

    I want a better legacy for my daughter, and I want a better environment and family for the lost I hope see Jesus in me.

  • Underneath all the fear, I think, is Try Hard. We’ve got this list of things we’ve made for ourselves so that we’ll know for sure we’re okay and on God’s good side. We’re threatened by people who don’t keep our list, and the rain falls and the sun shines on them anyway. . . That makes us wonder if our list is wrong, and their list is right. But. Our list is right! It has to be! The Bible Clearly Says! We’re in way too deep to back out! So we spend a lot of time and emotion shouting about how wrong they are. It makes us feel safer. It makes us feel righter. But we also know, deep down, that we can’t even keep the list we’ve got. Which makes us afraid. Which must be someone’s fault. But not ours. Because our list is right (smile, smile, smile, it’s Sunday morning, smile). I personally needed a nervous breakdown to get smacked off that mountain of complete spiritual crap, to learn that my list could not save me or anybody else. No matter what The Bible Clearly Said. Never more thankful for anything, than for the day I finally fell.

  • Fred Schmoll

    so excellent

  • Fred Schmoll

    we are finally starting a youth centre with equine attraction for teens at risk after years of being told no its too big and FRIGHTENING YYUUUUKKKK!!

  • Fred Schmoll

    we have nothing to fear but fear itself

  • Em Willmann

    Yes yes yes. Thanks, Vineyard Sister, for speaking such truth and life. I can sense a change in the charismatic movement deep in my belly. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy. I can’t imagine a world with only legalistic righteous unaccompanied by the peace and the joy.

  • Sarah,

    I have never met you, but I thank you from the bottom of my gay-disabled-pentecostal-academic heart for this. I am currently working on a PhD to help God’s Church with, “be afraid of gay and lesbian people,” and the dialogue is not easy. But I thank you for your voice–and God’s, I think!–returning us to “do not be afraid.” The Holy Spirit has a perverse sense of humour, but I know in my bones that the Church will come through the conversation being more in love with Jesus than before. I look forward to the day when the Church will look back and find: that’s exactly what happened.

    Thank you for your letter.

    A flaming pentecostal and lover of Jesus, your brother,
    Rob

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  • Tami Kirkpatrick

    I love this! I can’t tell you how much I have felt the same thing. Been in the charismatic movement since around 1989 and now I think I’ve finally decided that catholic anglicanism fits me better than anything else. It gets so tiring hearing all the voices in evangelical Chrisitianity saying the same things for decades and not even going back to research how old and precious our faith is. This post reminds us to not fear…something i have learned the hard way. You are one of my favs. Had no idea there was a whole tribe of us misfits!

  • Sooz

    Well said!

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  • Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; ~1 Peter 1:8

    What say you about being born again, Sarah?

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  • This is pretty awesome stuff, Sarah.

  • Lisa Gilstrap Callicott

    Beautifully written. I come from a different background, but fear is no respecter of denominational lines. This is my constant refrain, “Be not afraid”. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful insights.

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  • WorldwideEpiphany

    Yes, I am proud to be called a charismatic Pentacostal ( if we really need words)…. In fact – there have been those times in the Presence of The Lord where weeping and sobbing made me feel like the poster child for Charismatics Anonymous……..Wonderful article – I’ve felt the same way myself….. These are our roots and yes, Jesus is our Teacher – not the Mega Church guy with the 15 CD set for only $199.00….. You made some great points…. We have to return to our roots with no apologies…. There is a generation that wants something real – not a well planned marketing scheme….. Blessings…

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  • Savannah Ellis

    You are amazing. This is amazing. Praising God for you and your wisdom.

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