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Henry I. Lederle: The Third Wave: New Independent Charismatic Churches, Part 2

Spiritual Warfare

John Wimber explained his approach in battling demonic spirits in Power Points, warning against a pre-occupation with the satanic realm. There is an age-old heritage of exorcism found within Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and, to a lesser degree, in mainline Protestant churches, such as the Anglican and Episcopal communion. Usually specific priests have this as a designated ministry, and ritual formulas and prayers are used. In practice, however, little of this has remained in operation due to the Western scientific mindset and the preeminence of rationalism. It is mainly among some denominational Charismatics that this more liturgical ministry is being practiced. In evangelical Protestantism, however, there is a new a growing awareness of the importance of spiritual warfare that is quite independent of any Pentecostal or Charismatic influence. Often the focus of these groups is on preserving doctrinal truth. As with Wimber, there is an acknowledgement and interest among these non-charismatic evangelicals of the role that worldview plays in our thinking, but Neil Anderson, in his well-known book The Bondage Breaker, concentrates on spiritual warfare as a conflict between truth and error. For Wimber, it is not merely a “truth encounter,” exposing the lies and false teachings of Satan, but also a power encounter, in which victory and liberation are demonstrated.

Independent Charismatics from the Empowered Evangelical movement deal with the thorny issue of Christians and demon possession by relying on a new approach among scholars that suggests it is better for Christians to change our terminology. The New Testament word usually translated as “demon possession” should rather be rendered “demonized.” A Christian cannot be possessed by Satan in the sense of ownership, but a high degree of oppression or evil influence is possible as people give a foothold to demonic spirits through habitual sinful practices. It is appropriate to pray prayers of deliverance in such situations.

A further contentious issue is the concept of territorial spirits. With some humor, the question has been raised: Do demons have zip codes? Are they to be associated with specific geographical areas? Peter Wagner advocates this understanding and encourages Christians to do “spiritual mapping”—discerning the prevailing spirits over cities and nations according to the most prominent sins (such as drug abuse, prostitution, greed, racism, divorce, etc.), and doing battle against them in the Spirit. Although there are references in Scripture to demons exerting influence over specific locations, such as “the Prince of Persia” in Daniel 10, one needs to be cautious about generalizing this idea. The role of intercessory prayer and prayer walking as a practical strategy against these powers and principalities has been vividly illustrated by ministries in Argentina. Wimber himself cautions that it is God who sends angels into battle. Perhaps prayer for God to deploy angelic forces is more appropriate than intercessors commanding angels themselves.

The understanding of Ephesians 6 and the believer’s battle against demonic forces is of pivotal significance in this understanding. Bishop Michael Reid of England, formerly of Peniel Church in Essex, England, who is a bishop with the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, has written a book whose title expresses his view: Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare: A Modern Mythology? Reid rejects this Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare approach associated with C. Peter Wagner and George Otis, Jr. and warns against demon-phobia and quasi-pagan concepts. While Reid’s view is supported by some senior Classical Pentecostals, it is clear that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and I believe the Bible reveals a physicality to grace as well as to evil that our rational minds find difficult to accept and grasp. Response to such manifestations of spiritual evil may lapse into an animistic superstition, but that is not necessarily the case.

The Vineyard movement grappled with two contentious issues in the late 1990s, which caused it, at first, to reevaluate its identity as Empowered Evangelicals. Then, eventually, it recognized that it wished to retain its original identity and the ideal of a democratizing of ministry and so severed ties to two new movements that it had initially embraced.

Prophecy

The first was the encounter with a new style of prophecy. The Kansas City Fellowship joined the Association of Vineyard Churches in 1990. Prominent leaders with a prophetic ministry included Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, and, especially, Paul Cain. Cain had been involved in the New Order of the Latter Rain. Predictive prophecy as practiced by leading individual prophets introduced an element into the movement that threatened the thorough-going democratization of Wimber’s original vision. Just as the healing ministry had been concentrated in the hands of prominent leaders in the 1940s and ’50s, so prophecy was becoming concentrated in a small number of gifted prophets. The leadership of the Vineyard movement weighed the situation and decided to steer back to its more mainstream evangelical roots. Reservations were expressed about some of the prophecies as well as behavioral issues. Wimber did not come to reject the gift of prophecy, but ultimately he did not find the Kansas City Fellowship’s expression of it in line with his vision.

Toronto Blessing

The encounter with the “Toronto Blessing” followed the same pattern of initial support, followed by a gracious, if contentious, parting of ways. The Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship had begun as a home group founded by John and Carol Arnott in 1990. It soon became associated with the Vineyard movement as it grew into a church. Then revival broke loose. What came to be known as the “Toronto Blessing,” started on January 20, 1994. Arnott had invited Randy Clark, a Vineyard pastor from St. Louis, to come and minister at his church. Clark had recently been exposed to the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, a South African-born evangelist from Tampa, Florida, whose meetings were characterized by involuntary fits of laughter. Howard-Browne had been reared in the Word of Faith teaching at the Rhema Bible Church in Randburg, near Johannesburg, South Africa. This laughing revival drew much attention. Howard-Browne had led a revival at Karl Strader’s Carpenter’s Home church in Lakeland, Florida for fourteen weeks. He also ministered powerfully at Oral Roberts University, where students were so overcome by the Spirit that many still needed help walking in order to return to their dormitories three hours after the service had ended.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Henry I. Lederle, D.Th. (University of South Africa) and M.A. (University of Orange Free State), is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He is the author of Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of Spirit-Baptism in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Hendrickson, 1988), Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Word & Spirit Press, 2010), and several collections of essays, articles and reviews.

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