The Charismatic Movement is Dead

On June 30, 2009, no less an authority than J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma Magazine, declared that “the Charismatic Movement is dead.”

I came across his editorial after I wrote my blog on “New Wine and Old Skins“, and thought it was too good to ignore. It seems that Grady and I see eye to eye. (As an historical side note, I was the editor of a magazine called New Life Journal that merged with Charisma back in the early 1980s after I decided to change direction and began focusing on Christian political engagement. But that’s another story!)

As a “charismatic” who believes that the full gifts of the Spirit are available to the Church today, I nonetheless must agree with Grady. Although we should keep what’s good and what transcends the traditions that have grown up within this former move of God, we nonetheless must acknowledge some of its wacky aspects and bear witness against its many dysfunctional “leaders”.

We also must bravely admit that much of the culture and methodologies that define “Charismatic” churches are simply the latest incarnation of man-made, but futile, efforts to make it seem as though the “anointing” is still present.

But it isn’t.

Oh, I know . . . we try to poke at our “Charismatic” ways so they seem to jerk back to life, reach into our “Charismatic” bag of tricks to provoke excitement Sunday after Sunday, and try to hold onto our vain anti-tradition traditions as badges of honor and smug affirmations of God’s continuing favor. But that’s not what God favors anymore (if he ever did!). We may find comfort and have affinity for the familiar, but is that really God?

The cloud has moved on, and so must we.

As Grady puts it:

I am not a coroner. But I do believe the historic period we call the American charismatic movement ended a while ago. By making that pronouncement I was NOT saying that (1) the Holy Spirit isn’t moving today; (2) the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit aren’t available to us any more; or (3) people who are associated with this movement are all washed up.

On the contrary, we could be on the cusp of one of the most dynamic spiritual awakenings in history, and it will most certainly be accompanied by the supernatural work of the Spirit. Yet if we want to shift with Him into the next season we must lay aside old mindsets and worn-out religious paradigms that we picked up during the past 40 years. When God comes to do “a new thing,” as Isaiah promised He would (Isa. 43:19, NASB), we must embrace new priorities, recalibrate our spiritual values and set aside the baggage of the past.

New wine requires new wineskins. New growth only comes after pruning. Change is often painful.

He goes on to say:

When I say the charismatic movement is dead I am issuing an obvious challenge. It is time for us to lay aside the past so we can embrace the future. We are in a season when church leaders should be asking the hard questions:

  • Are we locked into the past in an unhealthy way?
  • Are we using language, methods or ministry styles that are stale, dated and ineffective?
  • Are we training younger people to lead the next generation?
  • Are we willing to slaughter any sacred cows and pet doctrines that hinder outreach and church growth?

Old Testament laws forbid people from touching anything dead (see Lev. 21:1,11). That’s because corpses spread disease. Dead things stink and defile.

This is certainly true of dead religion. It can make a church barren and lifeless, even if it is hidden under a superficial coating of trendy songs and casual clothes. It’s not enough to update your music and take off your tie. We need the new life of the Spirit.

My response? WOW and AMEN!

While I deeply honor those who labored faithfully in that prior move of God (and bear vocal witness against so many of its leaders who manipulated that move to serve their own pride and self interests), I nonetheless join in declaring — as one who has deep roots in it — that the Charismatic Movement is dead.

Let’s stop touching that which is dead and seek the new life of God’s new anointing for a new generation.

(c) Copyright 2009, Fulcrum Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

To read Grady’s full editorial, go to

6 responses

  1. I happened on the charasmatic movement by chance in the early 70’s when I was hungry for the Word of God. I had been particapating in a bible study near the college that I was attending at that time. Then my girlfriend from HS invited me to a Bible Study that she was going to.

    I was blown away by the praise and worship! I didn’t really plug into the study (part) until a short time later after I had been “Born Again” and water baptized. Wow did that ever start a ‘firestorm’ at home when I told my parents that I was going to be Baptized!

    But in the course of time and events I made it through college, a break up with a long time steady boyfriend, and I finally stumbled back to the same group of kids who had been part of that Bible Study, only now they were part of a “Non-Denominational’ church(?) Huh(?) I had never heard of anything like that before.

    I went to a few sundays and tried to hide in the back of the building, but it wasn’t long before God had ‘pluged’ me into this group of Believers. The teaching was great, the homegroups were great, the fellowship was great!

    I had been brought up in the Methodist church and going to the services was boring, and the preaching didn’t match what I was going through in my life. In this “New Life” Church…God’s Spirit was so tangble you could almost touch it. The Holy Spirit moved through the services every Sunday. It was great, none of us wanted to go back to our humdrum lives. We wanted the church services to go on forever.

    I so want my kids to experience something like that.

    But as with most things in this life, things happen. God shakes a branch here and there…and well stuff happens. That church went through several transformations and then discombooberated and died a horrible death. By that time I was married with toddlers (3) and found myself going to a Presbyterrian church. The teaching was good. God made me feel that this was where he wanted me to be and I stuck it out. But now even that Church is going through change.

    And once again I find myself battling ghosts from my past, and unfortunately there is no one to pray me though it. but here I am until God leads me somewhere else.


  2. Jim, you do well to espouse what Grady has written. I am saddened by the evidences I see in my own denomination. I have long opposed a central tenet that has become a sacred tradition and the denominational “distinctive.” But the Holy Spirit is not dead and He is powerfully active whenever and wherever we follow His leadership.


  3. Comment #55 is so scary.(followed the link to the article at Charisma) You know those sometimes pesky comments that are added to blog articles? It’s pretty amazing to find your blog article that puts words to thoughts unassembled in my mind. How could we not agree? Looking back it is somewhat repugnant to have lived through such cheap manifestations of flesh and had it pawned to us as the real deal and it was only zirconium. Thanks Jim I even saw one pathetic post asking for prayer over the defunct Heritage USA in SC, whining that it had been purchased with money from Christians and even the widows mite. All that glitters is not gold, sometimes it is just fool’s gold, and the price isn’t rising on that commodity.


  4. I think Christians are desperate to see the Holy Spirit move again, and many, because of that, try to “work up” a move of God. Went thru the charismatic movement, laughing movement, gold dust and feathers movement. After the charismatic move ebbed, I think Christians began to work up the gold dust, feathers move, and now, I guess, another emphasis on angels. Let’s just repent, cry out to God, spend time in His Word and in His presence, and wait on Him to manifest His presence. He will!


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