I left the Charismatic Farm

13 May

After spending over ten years of my spiritual journey being shaped by the charismatic renewal something began to happen to me in 2004 and 2005. I became aware that the “charismatic” label seemed not to fit me anymore. For a long time, I proudly wore the label “charismatic,” but something happened. I was no longer reading books by Pentecostal/charismatic authors. I was no longer investing in relationships with those who call themselves “charismatic” Christians. I slowly began to see the unhealthy values of the charismatic movement (which I called charismania). I went to a gathering of Pentecostal/charismatic pastors and church leaders and I realized I no longer fit in.

Something had changed.

Something had changed in me.

I left Maggie’s Farm.

I had a “head full of ideas that were driving me insane.” While my friends in the charismatic renewal lived with a “bedroom window made out of bricks,” I began to look outside of Pentecostalism and saw a wealth of knowledge about God and his church outside of the charismatic establishment. I wasn’t mad at anyone; I just needed to move on:

Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
– Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” (1965)

I felt like everyone wanted me to continue to endorse a spirituality that was a mile wide, but only an inch deep. I was bored. I was trying to be who I know God wanted me to be, but I could not become that person if I only drank from the charismatic stream. I could not continue to grow on the Charismatic Farm, so I left. But…I never stopped believing in the power, presence, and person of the Holy Spirit. From Primal Credo, Chapter 8:

I believe the Holy Spirit is God. The Spirit shares all of the attributes used to describe God’s nature. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God, but the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Christians have faced the temptation since the beginning of the church to speak of the Spirit as something less than personal and relational. Augustine described the Trinity in terms of lover, the one being loved, and the love shared between the two. Love is indeed a part of God’s nature, and Augustine’s description of the Trinity attempts to describe God in relational terms with the Holy Spirit as the personification of love. However, a personified virtue like love is still less than a person. If the Holy Spirit is God, he must be as personal and relatable as God the Father and the Son. The biblical descriptions of the Spirit are nothing less than personal. He is not a power or energy. He is nothing like Luke Skywalker’s force from the Star Wars universe. We refer to the Holy Spirit as “he” and not “it,” because the Spirit contains all the personal attributes of God. He becomes our experience of God, making God very real to us in our lives of worship.

I believe the Holy Spirit interacts with God’s creation. The Old Testament bears witness to the unity and oneness of God. The New Testament testifies to the plurality of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we begin to read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, fingerprints of the Trinity begin to appear. In the very opening lines of Genesis, we see “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit hovered over creation and served as God’s instrument in the act of creation. As God spoke creation into existence by his very breath, vestiges of the Spirit can be seen. He works also in God’s special creation—the human family. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and gives us a new birth into God’s kingdom. He empowers us, speaks to us, and gives gifts to build us up and enable us to serve others. The Holy Spirit makes the difference between empty religion and a real relationship with the Triune God by making our encounter with God experiential. We know God not by memorizing a collection of God-facts; we know him by personal encounter. We experience his grace, his forgiveness and kindness, his promptings, his healing, his glory and beauty not by categorizing information about God in a mental checklist; we know God personally and experientially by the Holy Spirit who gives us access into the very life of God.

I believe in the Holy Spirit and refuse to allow him to be co-opted by religious fanaticism. Not everything promoted as the “moving” of the Holy Spirit is actually the work of the Spirit himself. Our belief in God the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of holiness and truth, requires a discerning ear to what some well-meaning Christians claim to be the activity of the Spirit. Too often the Holy Spirit has been maligned by emotion-infused propaganda, which may generate excitement for God but fails to produce lasting fruit, the evidence of the Spirit’s presence. Gandalf, the wizard of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, warns Frodo through a poem not to dismiss a potential friendship. The poem opens with words remarkably reminiscent of the Holy Spirit:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

The Holy Spirit may not always sparkle the eyes of religious fanatics. He very often may not feed their need for sensational novelty, but his roots are deep in the heart of the church. As we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we can have great confidence in his ability to keep us free from the frost of spiritual apathy.

Order Primal Credo today!


Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Life, Theology


4 responses to “I left the Charismatic Farm

  1. rick

    May 13, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I was actually interested in applying for that church but like yourself the sizzle and pop of pentecost for the last 20 years have left me very wary and it takes me back to what a wise man said spirit and truth is where the true church has to land. Too much spirit leads to excess and chaos too much word no spirit leads to legalism. The anti intellectualism rampant in most circles leads to the fall of many churches

    • Derek Vreeland

      May 14, 2011 at 4:10 am

      Anti-intellectualism is killing many forms of evangelicalism, particularly the charismatic stream. In pursuing a more intellectually credible faith does not mean that I desire less of the Spirit. On the contrary I want more of the Spirit’s power and presence in my life. I just don’t want to make critical error of assuming every goose bump or outlandish account of miracles IS the Holy Spirit.

  2. Deborah Henry

    May 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    The Charismatic movement was a special time with special friends and memories. There were a lot of new beginnings. Now we have the Kingdom movement. There will always be religious fanaticism. No wizard words, musician lyrics, or star power,can be everlasting. The Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin, guides us in discernment, is every present in worship, gifts, and evidence of speaking in tongues, is personal expression, present always, and powerfully ushers us into new birth. Our encounters with God are Holy Spirit infused. I believe the Holy Spirit is of love, and emotional sensations, and excitement. Shout to the Lord with a voice of triumph! I see the move of the Holy Spirit in church worship and altar calls and prophetic wisdom hindered in the name of “order” and I want to fall on my knees! I believe there is a “cry from the people” today that is not being addressed. I keep praying that the anointing of the Holy Spirit not be hindered. I also believe that as we grow in the things of God, we can look back and see the roots of our beginning. The Holy Spirit guides us when it is time to make changes. With changes, comes growth, comes knowledge. God always provides where the Holy Spirit guides. We use to sing “Growing fruit of the Spirit from the branches of the vine, I won’t stop, I won’t stop till all the fruit is mine.” I love that song. The fruition of our lives with the trinity of love is a holy combination that sustains us.

  3. David Lee Hatton

    April 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Many of us made this shift! Glad to read about yours. I still have a foot in charismatic lessons learned about trusting God for special grace in guidance and healing, but my weight has been dramatically shifted to the foot I’ve always kept planted in biblical doctrine. My concern for doctrinal truth has led me into many unforeseen places and priorities that renewed my spiritual excitement. Some were simply a radical return to the implications for human destiny in the doctrine of the Incarnation and Resurrection, especially as they relate to our present sexual embodiment and to our future governing of the universe at the side of our God-Man King and Bridegroom. Charismatic enthusiasm was a shotgun blast, and it got broad attention. But down a rifle-sight focus on incarnational callings as individual saints and corporate churches is where I believe the Holy Spirit aims to carry out God’s ongoing, long-term will for His Kingdom.


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