Pentecostals, Charismatics, and the Third Wave
by Michael R. Ramos
Michael Ramos has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1987. Prior to that time, he spent 8 years in military service as an Army Ranger. Michael has traveled to many countries as a Campus Crusade International Representative for overseas evangelistic concert events and strategic planning. He has helped organize international outreaches for the Campus Crusade Campus Ministry, Athletes In Action, Student Venture, and Josh McDowell. Michael is currently pursuing an M.Div. from the International School of Theology while continuing his international ministry with CCC.
Some contemporary scholars have described an aspect of Twentieth Century church history as consisting of three waves. The first wave being the Pentecostal movement, the second wave; the Charismatic movement and the third wave characterized by the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. To understand the progression of the "Waves", it is important to briefly discuss both the history and doctrine of each movement.
The First Wave: The Pentecostal Movement
The Pentecostal movement began under the leadership of Charles F. Parham, a Holiness evangelist and faith healer. While serving as the superintendent of a Bible school in Kansas, Parham lead his students to reading the book of Acts and to search for the "Bible Evidence " of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of Parham's students, Agnes Ozman, became the catalyst to introduce the school to speaking in tongues. On New Years day in 1901, Ozman had Parham convinced that the experience of speaking in tongues was the initial, physical evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. This belief later became the doctrinal signature of the Pentecostal Movement.
Parham began preaching this new understanding of baptism of the Holy Spirit eventually establishing what was known as the "Apostolic Faith Movement." During this time, while traveling through Houston, Texas, a young African- American Holiness minister by the name of William J. Seymor was touched as well with this new understanding. After working with Parham for a short time in Texas, Seymor moved on to Los Angeles, California where he established the beginning foundation of the movement. Seymor was based in the Azusa Street Mission which became known as the center of Pentecostalism and its main location of growth and expansion .
Although Pentecostalism can be traced back into the 1800's, it's emergence can be considered to begin with the Holiness Movement. It was through Holiness churches that Pentecostalism spread and developed it's leaders. The significant difference between the Holiness movement and Pentecostal movement was the insistence on Glossolalia as the necessary evidence of a person's spirit baptism. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit or the ability to speak in tongues was familiar to both groups, but it was the standard for Pentecostalism.
Though most people would state that the use of "tongues" was the main defining feature of the Pentecostal movement, they would be wrong. Tongues is viewed as a sign of the movement's main emphasis in God's plan. Pentecostals believe they are called to achieve two principles. The first is that they are the announcers to Christ's Second Coming. The second is that they are to be witnesses to the events to come in the last days .
The doctrine of the Pentecostal movement formed around a term know as the "Four-Square Gospel". This is a term alluding to the city in Revelation 21:16. The four cornerstones of this gospel were:
Personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,
Second Coming of Christ, and
Spirit baptism with evidence of tongues.
The first article, salvation through faith in Jesus, is the theological center of the movement .
From an outsiders viewpoint, a early Pentecostal worship service could have been a very unusual experience. With the expressiveness that occurred within a service, (emotionalism was not discouraged as it was in many other denominations), it was understood that "the Holy Spirit alone should direct the order and conduct of a service ." Any type of formality or preparedness hindered the Spirit from freely operating within the congregation. "The ideal service was that which moved from start to finish with no visible sign of any human leadership ." Pentecostal's rejected any type of structure or formality believing that they were developing a fresh, unencumbered expression of apostolic Christianity that would restore the faith to it's original unity.
Though intention may have been sincere regarding the freedom of theological expression, conflict arouse concerning doctrinal irregularity. Clashes over interpretation of scripture caused groups to divide. The founder himself, Parham, of the "old" Apostolic faith, and William J. Seymour of the "new" Apostolic faith disagreed with regards to the emotionalism and freedom that should be allowed within a service. Parham considered Seymours church undisciplined, whereas Seymour saw Parham as simply jealous.
Two other areas that have caused division within the body of the Pentecostal movement are the doctrine of sanctification and the doctrine of the Trinity. Sanctification was thought of as a second distinct work of grace subsequent to conversion. Conversion brought justification, but sanctification completed the salvation process by ridding a person of the old sin nature. Pentecostals added the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Later, William H. Durham, argued that Christ's atoning work on the cross had done everything necessary for salvation. Sanctification was now a progressive work, in which "a believer learned to express outwardly what was already an inward reality ."
The doctrine of the Trinity brought up another issue regarding baptism. Initially it was understood that baptism was in the "name" of the Father, Son and Spirit. But during a conference to bring unity to the Pentecostal movement, it was noted that the apostles baptized in "Jesus' name" only .
Several legalistic distinctives that may or may not still identify Pentecostal's are the banning of chewing gum, neckties, soft drinks, short- sleeved dresses, tobacco, alcohol and movies.
The Second Wave: The Charismatic Movement
Pentecostalism spread into the mainline denominations, and became known as the Charismatic renewal (or movement) It's benchmark organization was the formation of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship, International, in 1951. The president of FGBMFI was Demos Shakarian who was the catalyst for integrating the Pentecostal experience into both mainline Protestant as well as Catholic churches. He and Oral Roberts brought together mainline clergy and laity to interact in a non-threatening setting with white-collar Pentecostal . Initially , the stereotype of Pentecostal's was that they were poor and uneducated. This changed with the integration of the two groups, and the introduction of the Pentecostal experience to Protestant denominations.
What might be understood as the beginning of the charismatic movement was the baptism in the Spirit of Dennis Bennett, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California. Under the influence of a local group of charismatic laypeople, Bennett led 100 others towards receiving baptism and speaking in tongues. Though he was forced to resign his parish, his case brought national attention surfaced other Protestant Charismatics who had predated him in their experience .
Among Protestant Charismatics, the primary doctrinal views of mainline churches are normally maintained. Change more often occurs among non- denominationally-aligned ministries. Arminianism is strongly held in many groups, and the study of the return of Christ is a foundational principle. There is the classical belief in the Trinity, and worship services are focused on praise and blessing. Since their doctrinal centerpiece is still baptism in the Spirit, contemporary Charismatics often encourage individuals to "move up higher" spiritually and are often not satisfied until a person has spoken in tongues .
The Third Wave: The Signs and Wonders Movement
What is understood in today's time as the new movement of the Holy Spirit, can be said to be appropriately titled the "Third Wave" or the "Signs and Wonders" movement. Many evangelicals who do not wish to be labeled as charismatic or Pentecostal, yet seek to claim the Holy Spirit's power within, gladly accept this name. Major institutions and figures identified with the expansion of the Third Wave would be Peter Wagner, the Vineyard Church, and it's founder John Wimber.
C. Peter Wagner, recognized as a church growth scholar, was originally extremely skeptical of any type of Pentecostal style teaching. While in India doing research, he was miraculously healed of a runny sore on his neck during a healing service. From this point on his opinion changed and he began to research more the Charismatic practices .
After taking over his mentor, Donald McGavran's, chair at the Fuller Seminary School of World Missions, he wrote a book entitled Look out! The Pentecostal's are Coming . In it he documented the rise of the Pentecostalism as a major force in missions and his own growing interest in the style and theology of the movement.
Wagner met John Wimber during a time in Wimber's life when he was dissatisfied and confused. He joined Wagner as a church growth consultant with the Fuller Evangelistic Association and the two of them traveled for the next three years consulting with churches throughout the United States. Initially, none of the churches they visited were Pentecostal or charismatic .
In continuous prayer, Wimber was still seeking some sort of answer from God. His thoughts were focused on why healing and other miracles were happening in third world countries, but not in North America. He continued to grow disillusioned with the church, especially in the area of the work of the Holy Spirit. Wimber claimed, "There was a lot of action that was called the work of the Holy Spirit, but it was nothing more than human effort in which the Holy Spirit was asked to tag along. I felt that it turned the stomach of God. It certainly did mine and it wore me out ."
Eventually, Wimber left Fuller to begin pastoring a church of 50 which had begun as a prayer group led by his wife. This was the genesis of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship
John Wimber was a keyboard musician who played jazz and rock and roll until he came to Christ at the age of 29. When he left the music industry to attend Bible College, he was already recognized as a successful promoter and businessman. His first ministry position saw considerable growth, but after a time, Wimber decided to move on and began working with Wagner at the Fuller Evangelistic Association.
The turning point for Wimber came in 1977 when his wife Carol was dramatically healed of what she called a "personality meltdown." While asleep she dreamed that she was filled with the Holy Spirit and then woke up speaking in tongues. This produced a change in Wimber's attitude from skepticism to openness concerning divine healing .
It was 10 months before Wimber saw his first physical healing. He believed that it is possible to heal and exorcise demons just a Jesus did. After repeated alter calls and a minor exodus of some of his congregation, Wimber witnessed and rejoiced when a woman was healed of a fever.
The continued friendship and association with Wagner lead to the opportunity for Wimber to teach a class on "Signs and Wonders" at Fuller Seminary. It dealt with divine healing and became the most popular course at Fuller until it was canceled in 1985 due to some theological and academic questions raised by faculty members.
Wimber wrote a book known as "Power Evangelism" which defines the concept of Kingdom power and it's relationship to evangelism. Power Evangelism is a presentation of the gospel that is rational but that also transcends the rational. The Gospel is related to a person accompanied by a demonstration of God's power through signs and wonders. Power Evangelism is a spontaneous, Spirit-inspired and empowered presentation of the gospel. Power evangelism is evangelism that is preceded and undergirded by supernatural demonstrations of God's presence .
In this book, Wimber relates an evangelistic opportunity where God gave him the name of a woman and the word "adultery" printed on the name of a man he met on an airplane. When he confronted the man, the truth of an affair came out and the man accepted Christ on the spot .
Within each of the three "waves" there has been a similar desire to draw on a deeper and more person relationship with the Holy Spirit through the spiritual gifts or manifestations. And in the history of each of the waves, conflict or disagreement has caused some type of split or separation. Recently the Vineyard has experienced just this type of separation.
Within the Vineyard movement, several phenomena, which have been called, "manifestations of the spirit," have raised questions not only in the evangelical world, but within the body of the third wave as well. Three of these phenomena are known as: hilarious laughter, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit which causes uncontrollable outburst of laughter during a service; roaring in the Spirit, a "prophetic roar" which is viewed as an announcement of God's intention to take back territory; and animal noises (other than roaring) which at this time has no clear definition, but has been accepted by some churches. Recently, the issue of roaring has been addressed by Wimber, who has requested that it no longer be accepted within the Vineyard Fellowship Churches.
An influential church with regard to the manifestations is the Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto Canada. It is here, through the influence of evangelist Rodney Howard Brown, that hilarious laughter, roaring, and other manifestations of the Spirit were introduced into the Vineyard movement. Wimber and his board, adamant that there be biblical mandate for these types of occurrences, have separated themselves from the Airport Vineyard.
Each of the three "waves" have been characterized by sincere seeking for God's power, rapid growth, and also doctrinal and/or ecclesiastical differences which have led to splintering of the movements. What can we conclude from an observation of these three waves of the Twentieth Century? Are these evidence of an outpouring of God's Spirit? Or are they evidence of human sinfulness and immaturity. Perhaps they are evidence of both.
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John Wimber, Power Evangelism. (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986) 35.
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_______. Dictionary of Christianity in America . Downers Grov, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990. S.v. "Charismatic," by H.D. Hunter
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Schoenleber, Martin Phillip Jr., John Wimber and the Signs and Wonders Movement: Is Doctrine Prescriptive or Descriptive?, Class Paper, International School of Theology.
Stafford, Tim. "Testing the Wine from John Wimber's Vineyard," Christianity Today. (August 8, 1986): 17-22.
Wagner, C. Peter. The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. Ann Arbor:Vine Books, 1988.
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