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A Pentecostal Season: The Methodists in England and America, Part 1

Crowder goes on to say: “We need an extreme tolerance for manifestations. Think of how patient the apostle Paul was with this stuff! When Paul visited Macedonia in Acts 16, a slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination followed him for “Many days” … Paul allowed this girl to rattle off for many days before getting “greatly annoyed” and casting out her devils. … Paul afforded great leniency with manifestations. Give God room to work, and don’t stress out about devils around every corner.”[33]

The need for “watchmen on the wall” is often raised in charismatic circles. There is certainly a need for watchmen and watchwomen! But Crowder clarifies their purpose: “The most important thing is to recognize when the Lord is truly moving, so we do not miss out on His fullness. The watchmen on the wall had a two-fold responsibility in Old Testament times. They sounded an alarm when they saw the enemy approaching. But this was not their primary task. The greater responsibility was to watch for the king coming, so the gates could be opened and the inner chambers prepared for him.”[34]

A king would come to one of his cities far more frequently than an enemy. The watchman would be watching more frequently for the coming of the king. Thus, when David writes in Psalm 24:7 “Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in,” it would have been the watchman who would have cried out this command to open the gates for the coming of the king. And even here, the watchman saw the arrival of the King of glory, not an enemy.

In another place, Crowder asks a poignant question: “Unlike those early disciples, much of the church is so afraid of the demonic, that we won’t open up to new ways of spiritual expression with which we are unfamiliar. … Is your fear of the demonic greater than your hunger for God?”[35]

Wesley wrote decrease but many historians want to read disappear.

Wesley wrote: “I have generally observed more of less of these outward symptoms to attend the beginning of a general work of God: … but after a time they gradually decrease, and the work goes on more quietly and silently.”[36] But Ann Taves notes: “Methodist historians, wanting to downplay the role of these “outward symptoms” in the Methodist movement, have wanted to read disappear where Wesley wrote decrease, but in fact these “outward symptoms” continued for decades.”[37]

[Author’s note: When I took my Methodist history course at one of our United Methodist seminaries, from a prominent Methodist historian, who wrote the textbook on Methodist history that we used in the course, why did I not learn anything about the supernatural manifestations of the power of God that took place in Wesley’s ministry and the ministry of many other early American Methodists? The answer is “bias by the historian.” If the historian does not believe in the supernatural, or believes that Wesley and the early Methodists were just ignorant products of their time, believing unscientific and superstitious ideas of their day, then these “facts” would not be included in their histories.]

Ann Taves goes on to write: “Methodist historian, Stephen Gunter indicates that “for two centuries students of the Methodist revival have tended to ‘play down’ Wesley’s emphasis on…miraculous intervention.” The fact is, Gunter writes, that “[Wesley] searched incessantly for testimonies of conversion experiences which would substantiate the validity of his claim that human experience was a form of proof for divine activity.” According to Gunter, “Even Charles, who was more resistant to this emphasis than John, requested the converts to provide written accounts of their conversion experiences. Scores of letters by converts were sent to Charles fulfilling this request, many of which have been preserved. A reading of these accounts will destroy the myth that this emphasis was short-lived.” The tendency to minimize the supernatural aspects of these accounts, as Gunter suggests, “can probably best be accounted for by recognizing a personal aversion to such phenomena on the part of scholars themselves.”[38]

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Category: Church History, Summer 2018

About the Author: Frank H. Billman, B.A. (Houghton College), M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Th.M. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), D.Min. (Eastern Baptist [now Palmer] Theological Seminary), is an educator, pastor, author, and international speaker. He is currently leading the doctor of ministry program in supernatural ministry at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. While on the staff of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries for 12 years, he led workshops, local and regional renewal events, was supervisor for International Ministries, Methodist School of Supernatural Ministries, and Supernatural Ministry Intensives, and was a general session speaker at the national conferences. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of Shepherding Renewal (Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, 2011), and The Supernatural Thread in Methodism: Signs and Wonders Among Methodists Then and Now (Creation House, 2013).

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