Charismatics, what are they and who are they?

Charismatics are closely associated and affiliated with Pentecostals, the two terms often being used interchangeably. The Pentecostal movement around the turn of the twentieth century of the early Assemblies of God churches may be considered the first charismatic movement, however, the Charismatic movement that is distinguished from that of the earlier Pentecostal one actually began in the U.S. in the early 1960s within the Episcopalian Church with a revival of speaking in tongues. Much like the Pentecostals, charismatic churches emphasize the gifts of the Spirit, especially speaking in tongues -- a sign of a baptized, born-again believer and an early Christian practice which seemed to disappear from history after the first century. Unlike the Pentecostal movement, which was primarily Protestant, the Charismatic movement (or its second wave) spread among various denominations, including the Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches. In 1977, the Kansas City Charismatic Conference was held with all three wings of the Pentecostal movement present -- Old or Classical Pentecostals, Protestant Charismatics, and Catholic Charismatics. Charismatics believe in spiritual healing, miracles, casting out of demons, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and that signs and wonders should accompany the preaching of the gospel. In the 1980s, a third wave of the charismatic movement arose, known as Power Evangelism, developed primarily by John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Peter Wagner, a professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary Institute of Church Growth. This third revival in the gifts of the Spirit focused on healing and prophecy.

The word charisma comes from the Greek charizesthai, which means to show favor or grace. It is primarily an ecclesiastical term for divinely inspired gifts. Some have also attributed it to the zeal with which many charismatic churches worship and proclaim the gospel, but it is foremost a movement within the last century involving a revival of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The term charismatic generally applies to anyone who believes and practices the following:

  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit is universal for all believers and transcends denominational boundaries. The Apostle Paul taught that through baptism we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galations 3:26-29). John the Baptist said that his baptism was by water for the repentance of sins, but that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16). Jesus confirmed this baptism to his disciples in Acts 1:5 (also recounted by Peter in 11:16). When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9-10, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34). He later told his disciples that they would also "be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with" (Mark 10:39). According to 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free -- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." When Paul encountered twelve new converts in Ephesus, he discovered that they had not received the Holy Spirit, so he baptized them in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit then came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesized (Acts 19:1-7). Paul later taught the Ephesians that there is only one baptism, just as there is only one Spirit, one body, and one faith (Ephesians 4:4-6).

  • Being born again is a spiritual rebirth and is generally considered part of baptism. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, "no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (John 3:5-6). Nicodemus could not comprehend this because he was trying to understand the concept in relation to the physical process of birth. Peter puts the experience into a simple perspective: "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). Those born of the world do not recognize Jesus, "yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13). Being born again makes you a child of God. "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:1-3)

  • A personal relationship with Jesus may be attained through obedience to his commands (John 15:9-17). Jesus said to his disciples, "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father" (John 16:25-28). By this, we are encouraged to communicate directly with God because, as friends of Christ who was one with God (John 17:22-23), he will hear our prayers and whatever we ask will be given (John 15:7-8, 16:23-24).

  • Spiritual gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distunguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostleship, teaching, administration, and helping (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 27-28). According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." By Paul's estimation, the greater of the gifts is prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). The top five spiritual gifts are apostleship, prophecy, teachers, miracle workers, and healing (1 Corinthians 12:28). He also admonishes all believers to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) and to excel in those that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

  • Speaking in tongues, which is one of the spiritual gifts, has two functions. The first is speaking in foreign languages which are unknown to the speaker, but understood either by those present who know the language or by someone gifted with interpretation. An example of this would be the tongues of fire given by the Holy Spirit at Pentacost in the first part of Acts chapter 2, wherein about 3,000 people of different languages were converted (Acts 2:41). The account of Acts 2:4-11 is as follows: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: 'Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs -- we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!' " This gift is for the edification of others (1 Corinthians 14:9-19). The second function of speaking in tongues is for the edification of God and the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4) and consists of a unique, personal language spoken by some charismatic believers, of which no one but the Spirit of God knows the meaning of. It is a spiritual language spoken with the human tongue by the guidance of the Spirit, with no human interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:14-17). As such, it is recommended to be spoken quietly while in the presence of others (1 Corinthians 15:28). This second purpose of speaking in tongues is more controversial due to a lack of clear scriptural teaching on the matter. Paul said, "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:2). He also said, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:18-19). Those who believe in the speaking of this intimate kind of language generally attribute the gift as a sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45-47), particularly during baptism (Acts 19:4-6). Those who don't, however, shouldn't forbid it (1 Corinthians 15:39). It was Paul's desire that all believers speak in tongues of one kind or another (1 Corinthians 14:5).

  • Evangelism accompanied with signs and wonders, according to Hebrews 2:4, is one of the ways God chooses to confirm salvation through Jesus (along with gifts of the Spirit). Peter confirmed this at Pentacost when he said, "Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know" (Acts 2:22). John 14:10-14 records Jesus as saying, "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." At another time, Jesus also said, "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37-38). Acts 14:3 says that Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly for the Lord, "who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders." According to Romans 15:18-19, Paul credited the conversion of the Gentiles not only to the gospel, but "by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit." It would only stand to reason that a God who performs miracles and displays his power (Psalm 77:14) would continue to do so even today (Hebrews 13:8). Before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well" (Mark 16:15-18). Signs and wonders were nothing new, but a continuation of Old Testament practices (Deuteronomy 4:34-35, 7:19, 34:10-12, Jeremiah 32:20, Daniel 6:27, Acts 7:36). By the accounts of the Book of Acts, the practice of signs, wonders, and miracles seemed to be common among the apostles (Acts 2:43, 5:12, 6:8, 15:12). Indeed, according to 2 Corinthians 12:12, signs, wonders and miracles are the mark of an apostle, to whom Jesus granted the authority to drive out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who had leprosy (Matthew 10:8). In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul said that he was sent to preach the gospel "not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." He then went on to explain that his message and his preaching "were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

  • Casting out of demons, a common practice of Jesus during his ministry (Matthew 8:28-32, 9:32-33, 12:22, 17:17-18, Mark 1:23-26, 1:34, 1:39, 5:2-13, 7:25-30, 16:9, Luke 4:33-36, 4:41, 8:27-33, 9:42, 11:14, 13:32) was bestowed upon his disciples before he sent them out to evangelize (Matthew 10:1, 10:8, Mark 3:15, 6:7-12, Luke 9:1, 10:17). Although most who are acquainted with this aspect of Jesus may attribute the possession of demons in relation to diseases and illnesses mere medical ignorance, it is in actuality the ignorance of the learned who do not understand the power of spiritual enemies: "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.' " (Luke 10:21)

        "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17-18)
        "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:4-12)

Most charismatic churches consider themselves as non-denominational. Below are a few links to some popular chraismatic/pentecostal/evagelistic organizations and denominations. Because there are so many, these have been hand-picked for relevancy, content, and links to more sites.

Charismatic & Pentecostal Directory

"The Largest Online Directory of Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches and Ministries" (from Tom Brown Ministries)

Church of God of the Apostolic Faith

Church of God of Prophecy

"The Church of God of Prophecy traces its founding back to the New Testament when Jesus "calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:13, 14). The modern history of the church is closely intertwined with many of the major religious movements that have swept across America and the world. The church has a rich heritage rooted in the Protestant Reformation, including the efforts of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others. More particularly, it is a legacy of what is called the "radical reformation." Radical reform groups, such as Anabaptists, Mennonites, Baptists, and Quakers, contended that the major reformers had fallen short of a complete restoration of God's Church. The radical reformers, therefore, sought to fully restore the church on deep spiritual experiences, personal piety, and strict moral discipline. When groups of radical reformers immigrated to America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, their ideas found fertile soil and flourished in the colonies. In America, and elsewhere, they emphasized experiential salvation, God's love, and practical holiness. Love and holiness were, to them, the hallmarks of the true church, in contrast to the complicated and formal creedalism prevalent in their day. Great revivals, some marked by Pentecostal manifestations, occurred among the radical reform groups, especially the Baptists and the followers of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Following in this tradition, the forefathers of the Church of God of Prophecy viewed their work as both a continuation and restoration of the Apostolic Church."

Congretational Holiness Church, Inc.

"The Congregational Holiness Church was officially organized as a church on January 29, 1921. It is identified with the Wesleyan (Holiness) wing of the Pentecostal movement in practice and doctrine. In these days of liberalism, the C. H. Church holds strongly to the teaching that the church should stand against worldliness, and that its members should live a life of holiness in conduct and lifestyle. In concept the Congregational Holiness Church is evangelical and embraces the cardinal Christian doctrines such as the Divine Trinity; the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance; the Virgin Birth; the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the imminent, personal, pre-millennial second coming of Jesus Christ."

National Association of Evangelicals

"The mission of the National Association of Evangelicals is to extend the kingdom of God through a fellowship of member denominations, churches, organizations, and individuals, demonstrating the unity of the body of Christ by standing for biblical truth, speaking with a representative voice, and serving the evangelical community through united action, cooperative ministry, and strategic planning."

Open Bible Churches

"Open Bible Churches is an association of autonomous, evangelical, Pentecostal/charismatic churches. We recognize that God has called and ordained us to assume a distinctive role in His plan to redeem mankind. We recognize that the Lord is always contemporary, that the Holy Spirit is the supreme change agent in the life of the individual and in the life of the church. So we embrace change, tempered with wisdom. Since our beginning, Open Bible has been in quest of spiritual balance; contemporary freshness with respect for tradition, joyous relationship within our family of churches while encouraging respect for and fellowship with other groups. Open Bible Standard Churches originated from two revival movements: Bible Standard Conference, founded in Eugene, Oregon, under the leadership of Fred Hornshuh in 1919, and Open Bible Evangelistic Association, founded in Des Moines, Iowa, under the leadership of John R. Richey in 1932. Similar in doctrine and government, the two groups amalgamated in 1935, as "Open Bible Standard Churches" with the national office located in Des Moines, Iowa. Historical roots of the parent groups reach back to the outpourings of the Holy Spirit in 1906 at Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles and to the full gospel movement in the Midwest. Both groups were organized under the impetus of Pentecostal revival. Simple faith, freedom from fanaticism, emphasis on evangelism and missions and free fellowship with other groups were characteristics of the growing organizations. There are over 46,000 members in 371 Open Bible congregations and over 1100 licensed or ordained ministers in the United States. Additionally, there are over 45,000 members in over 700 international congregations."

Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America

  1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  2. We believe that there is one God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious sufferings and atoning sacrifice though His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father and in His personal return in power and glory.
  4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful humanity, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  5. We believe that the full gospel includes holiness of heart and life, healing for the body, and baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.
  6. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a holy life.
  7. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  8. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pentecostal-Charismatic Theological Inquiry International

"The Twentieth Century has seen the birth and phenomenal growth first of what is now often called the Classical Pentecostal Movement, and subsequently of the Charismatic Movement and associated waves. Reaction to the North American Pentecostal Movement in its first half-century was almost unanimously negative, principally restricted to the behavioral scientists scientists and those Evangelical and Holienss leaders whose flocks were being reached by Pentecostal preaching. The vast majority of church leaders and theologians from historic Churches didn�t even consider the phenomenon worth the attention of criticism. Accordingly, Pentecostalists were judged by many to be emotionally disturbed, mentally limited, sociologically deprived, more the object of pathology than of theology. Pentecostal claims to the illumination, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit were therefore dismissed a priori as inauthentic. It startled many when the enormous World Christian Encyclopedia edited by David Barrett determined that Classical Pentecostalism was by 1980 the largest unit in the Protestant family. Depiste the great attention now paid to Pentecostalism, it is still widely perceived as not being of much theological importance."

Vineyard International Consortium

The Association of Vineyard Churches is a diverse group of churches that partner together to advance the kingdom of God by communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Through many localized expressions, Vineyard churches aim to:
  • Worship God and stand on the ancient truth of the Scripture, the guide for faith, life, and service.
  • Grow as a people of both the Word and Spirit, imbued with power for the purpose of making and nurturing mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Create reproducing missional communities of worship, discipleship, evangelism and service.
  • Serve the Father in the power of the Spirit, following Jesus� holistic and incarnational ministry of proclaiming and manifesting the kingdom of God.
(From the VineyardUSA.)

        "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts..." (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
        "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified." (1 Corinthians 14:1-5)
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