November 26, 2013

So who exactly IS the mainstream of the charismatic movement?

by Lyndon Unger


The fall out from the StrangeFire conference shows a general truth about critiquing the craziness of the charismatic movement. It seems that whenever a pastor points out the flagrant error and false worship associated with the charismatic movement,  charismatics respond by saying that we always grab the “low hanging fruit” on the fringe of the movement and try to pass it off as some sort of accurate representation of the movement as a whole. We’re told that the level-headed, reformed charismatic folks are the obvious mainstream representatives of charismatics, and the entranced glossolalaholics and Fletch-clone healers are the outlandish fringe. Thus, since most charismatics are even-keeled, level headed, and have books in our book store, we should leave the charismatic craziness alone–after all, it is so isolated.


This argument has always made me puzzled since it’s so horribly obvious to me that the theologically absurd charismatic church of 20,000 obviously has far more influence in the movement and “on the street” than the theologically cautious charismatic church of 2,000 (and that’s being generous since the theologically absurd churches aren’t just bigger, but far more numerous).

So, I thought to myself, how can I give some sort of objective measure of influence? How can I suggest, in any objective way, who is mainstream and who is fringe? Then I had an idea. It’s not a great idea, but an idea none the less. I’m going to look at online influence in  the form of Twitter reach (as measured by followers) as a very rough indicator of the amount of influence and reach certain people have on the web.

Before I get to the raw numbers, I’d like to offer a few disclaimers:

1.  This does not a measure, in any way, of the truth claims of any person/organization or the biblical conformity of their doctrine.  When it comes to biblical conformity, I think that both sides fall short of a sufficiently biblical position.  The fact that there’s more folks listening to the people on one list or the other doesn’t have anything to do with who’s closer to the truth.

2. This is only an attempt to show the scope of various people’s influence.  I know I’ve already said this, but it’s so important that I thought it was worth mentioning twice.

3.  I know that this research is flawed, but not fatally flawed.  Measuring Twitter followers is not a comprehensive measure of reach or influence at all, and that’s the flaw here.  Numbers regarding book sales, radio listeners, website traffic, sermon downloads, Facebook likes & traffic, church attendance, etc. would all have to be incorporated into a proper and reliable study of the reach and influence of anyone.  I mean, Billy Graham only has around 34,000 followers on Twitter and The Gaithers have only has around 22,000 followers, but I know that there’s a whole lot more people than that who follow both and yet have never heard of Joel Osteen or Hillsong United.  Still, this is a down & dirty way of showing, via a global form of social media, just how many people (who still pay full price at Denny’s) are paying attention to the folks on either list.

4.  The lists are composed of only the people I know of or could find out about in a few dozen hours of research, so the lists are far from comprehensive.  People are missed in both categories, though the second category is missing far more than the first.  It’s far from perfect.

5.  I originally posted this on my personal blog and have edited it since then.  I have moved a few names, have added new ones, and have removed some others.  The changes come after doing further research on my part, as well as some helpful comments I’ve received from my readers.  Again, it’s far from perfect.

6.  I have purposefully stacked the deck wildly in favor of the “theologically cautious” crowd.

In the first list, I’ve included some people who are not know as charismatics at all, but have a trace of charismatic leaning (i.e. Ed Stetzer & Craig Groeschel).  In doing so, I’ve granted the “theologically cautious” crowd list some ringers (i.e. Chris Tomlin) in an effort to toss an olive branch to the brothers in the Lord who make up the first category. I want to preempt any complaints of unfairness from the “open but cautious” crowd if I can, but  I still predict they will come by the busload.

In the second list, I’ve purposefully only included people whose errors I could document where I thought it was necessary.  There were many international names that came up but were not added to the list simply because I lacked the ability to research in their language (and most of their stuff isn’t in English).  I did my best to make no assumptions, and tried to document the reasons for my choices.

7.  I have even included music pastors, but not general “worship” artists.  The reason I included music pastors was because of reasons two and six, and also because the larger music pastors are often far more popular than the pastors of their churches.  The popular music pastors are frequently a massive drawing card to their churches and though they are not necessarily the ones peddling the bad teaching, they’re the sirens that lure the people into the rocky coast of bad teaching.  Excellent musicians playing skillfully isn’t bad in and of itself, but a “theologically absurd” charismatic church without a cool worship band (i.e. a band composed of hair models or hipsters or cast extras from Duck Dynasty, with lighting akin to a Britney Spears show, and lyrics by Ann Voskamp) is like the movie Avatar without the special effects: remove the packaging and it’s not quite the same.

 Before and Avatar

So, with all that being said, let’s look at the theologically cautious vs. theologically absurd crowd and see who the folks on the streets are following, shall we? (be warned: this is a total link fest that will have you reading for a long time…)

A. The Theologically Cautious Crowd:

I’m going to list (as best I can) all the “remotely respectable” charismatics with over 100k followers (using that number to keep the list reflective of those with widespread influence), and the numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand (and accurate as of November 13, 2013):

1. Rick Warren – 1.223 million followers (He’s certainly not known for charismatic leanings, but he’s well know for his S.H.A.P.E. paradigm, which allows for the existence and activity of all spiritual gifts, including the miraculous and apostleship.  In other words, he’s no cessationist.)

2. Chris Tomlin – 574k followers (Chris is a worship pastor as Lou Giglio’s Passion City Church)

3. John Piper – 558k (Check out this or this or this.)

4. Mark Driscoll – 435k (Check out this or this, and definitely this and this – those last two is new to me and has Mark Driscoll saying a bunch of interesting stuff…)

5. Beth Moore – 415k  (If you haven’t seen this listening prayer debacle, you need to.  Cessationists don’t read the Bible and then ask God to “speak” to them outside of scripture.)

6. Louie Giglio – 407k (Charismatic issues aren’t a main course in his ministry at all, but he has said some interesting things related to charismatic issues like this.  Also, he has spoken at the 2012 Hillsong conference where he shared a pulpit with Joyce Meyer and  Joseph Prince, both of whom are definitely not on “theologically cautious” list, though sharing a stage does not mean sharing theology.  Finally, it’s worth listening closely to his message at Passion 2013 where he claims to hear the voice of God, among other things… He’s no Benny Hinn, but he’s definitely not a cessationist.)

7. Matt Chandler – 245k (Pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.  This and this should be enough to let you know he’s not a cessationist.)

8. David Platt – 226k (I wish all Charismatics were as level-headed and honest as Platt.  I disagree with him, but if you read his 63 page take on the Holy Spirit and his gifts, I’m sure you’ll agree that he’s in a way different league than people in the theologically absurd list below.)

9.  Marcos Vidal – 220k – (Pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Salem in Madrid, Spain, but this is not what he’s known for.  He’s known for being a Spanish Christian music star.  Still, he appears to be the only fairly level-headed charismatic with over 100k followers that I could find outside of North America.)

10. Desiring God – 213k

11. Craig Groeschel -182k (He’s admittedly really tame, but he’s a continuationist who invites some rather questionable charismatics to share his pulpit.  Here’s a transcript of a sermon he preached on the Holy Spirit.  All that to say that he’s no cessationist.)

12. Bill Hybels – 174k  (He’s not an aggressive charismatic by any stripe, but has handed out a handbook for understanding the issue in depth, with is basically a point/counterpoint written by Grant Osborne and Scott McKnight, with Willow Creek clearly leaning toward the position of McKnight.  Willow Creek also has some stuff on prophecy here (pages 6-9) and also instructions on lectio divina and contemplative prayer [pages 18 onward]).

13. Scott Williams – 147k (Craig Groeschel’s worship pastor)

14.  Passion Conference – 120k  (See the video linked on #5 – Beth Moore.)

15. Priscilla Shirer – 117k  (As far as I know, she’s a relatively tame continuationist.  She’s written a book on hearing the voice of God, and the F.A.Q. on her website talks about listening/contemplative prayer as well as divine communication using signs and wonders; she’s no cessationist.)

16. Ed Stetzer – 106k (Ed Stetzer has told me personally that he’s not a cessationist nor a charismatic, which basically leaves some form of light weight continuationism.  He’s also told me that he’ll write something about his position on charismatic issues in the future, so I’ll wait for that to discover his exact position.)

17. Paul Washer – 106kUPDATE: The Cripplegate has received an encouraging comment from Paul Washer in which he has desired to make it clear that he is a cessationist, and would not like to be considered even as part of the “theologically cautious” camp of continuationists. He has made it a point to communicate his respect for brothers like Piper and Grudem, but also to clarify that he does not agree with their views on the gifts. Brother Paul has been personally impacted by the damage the modern Charismatic movement has wrought in the areas where his ministry is active, and is deeply concerned about the influence of the movement around the world. At the same time, he is very concerned, as we are, that in our zeal for the sufficiency of Scripture we do not swing the pendulum so as to eliminate the supernatural from our faith. Because of this concern, he uses language that emphasizes this supernatural component that may sometimes be misinterpreted as sympathetic to the Charismatic movement. But even the comments in the videos (this, and this) that were posted previously fit comfortably within a cessationist paradigm, with the clarifying note that he is speaking about the filling of the Holy Spirit, whereas others (indeed, even the person who made one of the videos) might understand him to be speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In any case, his inclusion on this list was most certainly not malicious or intentionally slanderous. I am happy to be proven wrong on this one, and to know that a brother whom I respect as greatly as I respect Paul Washer stands with us on this vital theological issue. We hope that our apologies will be communicated to Paul Washer and those who follow his ministry for any confusion we may have caused.

18. Perry Noble – 103k (Noble isn’t exactly known for having a tongues speaking church, but they definitely believe in it.)

If I’ve missed any  theological cautious charismatics with over 100k followers, please drop the names in the comment feed.

Notice how that list does not include some of the people with any modicum of continuationist sympathies that many think would be more influential: James McDonald (86k), Tim Keller (81k), Ann Voskamp (78k), Josh Harris (78k), Greg Laurie (75k), Christy Nockels (66k), Mars Hill Church (60k), JD Grear (38k), CJ Mahaney (38k), Steve Mays (37k), Jud Wilhite (33k), the Acts 29 network (31k), Leonard Sweet (30k), Justin Taylor (27k), Miles McPherson (26k), Scot McKnight (23k), N.T. Wright (21k), Frank Viola (20k), Adrian Warnock (16k), J.I. Packer (14k), James Robison (13k), Bob Coy (12k), Jim Cymbala (12k), Miroslav Volf (11k), Michael Youssef (10k),  D.A. Carson (9k), Francis Chan (8k), Bruxy Cavey (8k), Brian Brodersen (5k), Tope Koleoso (5k), Skip Heitzig (5k), Kevin Meyers (5k), Sam Storms (3k).

One thing worth noticing:

The whole “theologically cautious” crowd is essentially made up of white pastors from North America, with few exceptions.

Another thing worth noticing:

Craig Keener, Vern Poythress, Gordon Fee and Wayne Grudem aren’t on Twitter at all.  Good thing they’re the academic defenders of the movement; I’m sure everyone in Africa or South America is familiar with their theological defenses.

So, if we total all the “theologically cautious” charismatics with 100k+ followers we get 5.438 million followers.

For the record, that number is 2.092 million followers when it’s composed of only the people I’ve ever heard to be cited as charismatic defenders (John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Beth Moore, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Desiring God, Priscilla Shirer.)


Let’s be honest. Rick Warren has 1.2 million followers but he really doesn’t have time to talk about Charismatic issues. He’s too busy “keeping it real”…

Finally, as a point of methodological honesty, it’s worth noting that plenty of John Piper’s followers, as well as those of Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and David Platt, don’t necessarily hold to their positions on Spiritual gifts.  There are plenty of people who find plenty of great stuff coming from them and simply overlook some of their failings.  They all preach rightly about Christ and the gospel, and they’re all brothers in the Lord from whom we can learn.

B. The Theologically Absurd Crowd:

I’m going to list (as best I can) all the “out to lunch” charismatics (namely prosperity hacks, false prophets and pastors for whom the term “theology” seems to mean “the study of definite articles”) with the same numerical standards as before:

1.  The Pope – 3.243 million followers (Considering that 100+ million of all Charismatics are Catholic, the Pope is an unquestionable false prophet/false teacher, both Benedict XVI and John Paul II have officially endorsed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the current pope has officially endorsed the Catholic Charismatic Revival and he is already seen as a defender of it, I include him.  To learn more about the Catholic Charismatic movement, check out this [best official resource], and this, and this, and this and this).

2. Joyce Meyer – 2.465 M  (If you’re wondering why she’s on this list, I’m more interested in how you found this blog!)

3.  Joel Osteen – 2.198 M (Do I really need to justify his placement here?)

4.  Chris Oyakhilome – 1.308 M (“Pastor” of Christ Embassy International in Lagos, Nigeria and otherwise known as “the Benny Hinn of Africa”…his healing events sometimes end in death and look just like what Jesus did!  The ministry of Christ Oyakhilome has even had censorship trouble and faced media censorship due to it’s fraudulent claims regarding healing…)

5.  TD Jakes – 1.274 M (He’s a prosperity preacher who preaches total nonsense.  Is it any surprise that his major defenders were reformed charismatics?  Don’t some of those guys claim to have the gift of discernment, let alone earned doctorates?  That whole gong show calls for a meme.)

6.  Marcos Witt – 714k (previous Spanish ministries pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, moved on in 2012).

7.  Hillsong United – 687k  (The worship network based out of Hillsong Church in Australia)

8.  Silas Malafaia – 675k (Brazil’s version of Pat Robertson…except around 1,000x as popular… He makes jaw-dropping political statements that make Pat Robertson look like an example of self control.  He’s the founder of the denomination Assemblies of God: Victory in Christ and notorious prosperity preacher).

9.  Carlos “Cash” Luna – 441k (Guatemala’s version of Creflo Dollar; here’s a little video that shows just how insanely large this church is.  He’s a prosperity preacher in poverty-stricken Guatemala and has a private jet (Sabreliner 60) that is old but not cheap. Remember, that’s in a nation where 50% of the people who are employed only live off around $700 a year.)

10.  Hillsong Church – 423k (pastored by Brian Houston, a noted prosperity preacher.  Sadly, the church was started by Brian’s father Frank Houston, who late in life admitted to being a pedophile before he founded Hillsong church.  There’s a troubling blog, written by someone who worked at the church under the reign of Frank Houston, here.)

11.  Kari Jobe – 412K (music pastor at Gateway Church, which I discuss here.  She’s attended Oral Roberts University, which was started by Oral Roberts; the father of the prosperity gospel, as well as CFNI, which is an apostolic school teaching the 5-fold ministry that was started by a Pentecostal faith healer who was associated with the worst of the movement.  I don’t know a ton about Kari Jobe, but I know that she didn’t exactly get taught biblical theology at either ORU or CFNI, and Robert Morris is a prosperity preacher.  I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best.)

12.  Darlene Zschech – 383k (Worship leader at Hillsong)

13. Marco Barrientos – 382k (prosperity pastor of Centro Internacional AlientoThis article should give you an understanding of what kind of doctrine gets peddled there, and how badly Barrientos mishandles the scripture.)

14.  Danilo Montero – 367k (Current Spanish ministries pastor at Lakewood)

15.  Jesus Culture – 328k (Worship band at Bethel church in Redding, California.)

16.  Brian Houston – 308k (Pastor of Hillsong Church)

17.  Creflo Dollar – 298k (Quite honestly, his name actually does say it all…but this and this and this and this give you a shaving off the tip of the iceberg.)

18.  Enlace TV – 297k (The Spanish Chanel of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  It’s slightly more popular than TBN North America…by over 1,000%…)

19. Judah Smith – 271k (I include Smith because of the explicit doctrine of the church he pastors, and because of the ministry relationships he publicly pursues.  Judah Smith hosts a conference at his own church called “Prosperity with a Purpose” that  had Oral Roberts as a speaker in 2009, and in 2010 had Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong church who wrote “You Need More Money“.  Beyond that, Judah Smith has been a speaker at Hillsongs conferences since 2008, Jentezen Franklin’s “Forward” youth conference since 2009C3 church which is a prosperity-gospel church in Australia pastored by Phil and Chris Pringle [I think that video contains almost everything that is wrong with the “theologically absurd” crowd], and  Ray McAuley’s prosperity gospel church in South Africa.

20. Matthew Barnett – 269k  (pastor of the Dream Center in Los Angeles.  Their doctrinal statement is pretty telling…)

21. Benny Hinn – 256k  (I believe everyone knows that Benny Hinn is doctrinally at the level of Papa Smurf, but did you know that these comments were directed at John MacArthur?  Who’s being divisive again?  Oh, and in case you missed it, he used to be “friends” with Paula White…with the kind of friendship that Benny called “dating” and involved sneaking off to a hotel in Rome together and results in Benny Hinn’s wife divorcing him…but Benny said it was because he was busy and she was on drugs.  Oh wait.  Benny never repented for anything, and now his wife and him are back together…with the ceremony performed by Jack Hayford and Reinhard Bonnke?!?  It’s all good!  Nothing to see here folks!  In unrelated news, as a Canadian I take no responsibility for Benny Hinn, my fellow Canadian.)

22. Victoria Osteen – 247k  (Wife of Joel Osteen.)

23. Paula White – 243k  (Prosperity preacher, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, and “ex-friend” of Benny Hinn…Just watch this or this or this and try to not smash something.)

24. Hillsong Live – 200k

25.  Edir Macedo – 196k (Brazilian prosperity preacher worth $1.1 Billion dollars who is no stranger to controversy)

26. Steven Furtick – 185k (Steven Furtick is SBC, but he speaks with prosperity preacher as much as Judah Smith…which is all the time.  This one video is shows Steven Furtick absolutely fawning over a prosperity preacher.  Beyond that, he has invited Hillsong’s word faith/prosperity gospel prophetess Christine Caine to that same conference.  He has also spoken regularly at Hillsong and C3 church.  He might not be a prosperity preacher, sure…but he appears to lack such basic biblical discernment that one must wonder if he’s theologically lost his marbles.)


27.  Deitrick Haddon – 183k (From the prosperity-gospel gong-show: the “Real” Pastors of LA)

28.  Joseph Prince – 182k (Check this out, and this, and this, and this.  Any questions?)

29.  Israel Houghton – 179k (He’s a worship leader at Lakewood in Houston.)

30. Hillsongs Spanish – 178k

31. Brooke Fraser – 176k (She’s a worship leader at Hillsong)

32.  Bishop Noel Jones – 169k (Also from the prosperity-gospel gong-show: the “Real” Pastors of LA)

33. Christine Caine – 153k  (See comments under Steven Furtick…)

34.  Joel Timothy Houston – 153k (Son of Hillsong pastor Brian Houston, and co-pastor of Hillsong NYC).

35.  Estevam Hernandes – 152k (Brazilian prosperity preacher who started the “March for Jesus” craze and pastors the Igreja Apostólica Renascer em Cristo, which apparently has a network of 500 churches with around 2 million members. He got arrested in 2007 when he tried to illegally sneak $56,467 into the U.S., partly by shoving $9,000 in his Bible…and he served 5 months in a U.S. prison)

36.  Claudio Freidzon – 151k (Faith healer and pastor of Church King of Kings, a church of 20,000+ in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Here’s a short bio from when he’s spoken at Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  That also gives you a hint for who his ministry friends are…)

37.  Kim Walker-Smith – 149k (From Jesus Culture, the worship band at Bethel Church in Redding.)

38.  Mike Murdock – 149k (Mike Murdock was a con man for Jim Baker, but has now moved on to Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar.  He’s such a prosperity-gospel snake that even Fred Phelps is embarrassed of his conduct.  I haven’t documented anything about him because the web is full of stuff on this clown and I cannot stomach reading about him.  Okay, here’s one link, and here’s one more.)

39.  Sidney Mohede – 149k (worship pastor at Jakarta Praise Community Church)

40. Jentezen Franklin – 142k (His church has a school of discipleship that teaches classes on generational curses, offensive prayer and positive confession [pg. 10-11 of the pdf], Jentzen Franklin has written a new book called “The Spirit of Python”, which is based on a sermon of the same name; here is the first chapter of the book.  He speaks at conferences alongside rather notorious prosperity preachers and I’ve written about a rather damning association here.)

41. John Bevere – 138k  (Here is Chris Rosborough from Fighting for the Faith taking apart a prosperity gospel message John Bevere preached.  He’s known for other nutty stuff like his book/sermon “Bait of Satan” and here’s him teaching on prophesy.)

42.  John P. Kee – 136k (Gospel singer who pastors New Life City of Praise in Charlotte, NC.  Their church has something like a statement of core beliefs, except that it only talks about money.  You do the math.  Not only that, but John P. Kee has such a lack of discernment that Mick Bickle has publicly called him out…you read that right.  Mike Bickle.  Read this to find out just how undiscerning you need to be to have your discernment publicly challenged by someone in the New Apostolic Reformation…)

43.  Jaeson Ma – 133k (Asian New Apostolic Reformation star who was mentored under no less a shining example than M.C. Hammer…seriously)

44.  Redeemed Christian Church of God – 129k – (Church of Enoch Adeboye)

45. Steve Munsey – 114k  (Watch this. ‘Nuff said.)

46. Hillsong London – 112k

47.  John Hagee – 112k  (Watch this and this and this.  ‘Nuff said.)

48. Reinhard Bonnke – 106k (He used to run CFaN, but now he’s retired.  He’s still around a lot, and when he was in active ministry, he apparently was the world’s most successful faith healer and evangelist…based on counting decision cards?  He claims there that he averages 2 million converts a month?  Yup.  I’ll believe that.  He peddles miracle promises to the poor and the ill, he travels almost exclusively in prosperity gospel circles [though he apparently only preaches the “health” part of “health and wealth”], and although he claims to have raised hundreds from the dead, when sixteen people actually died at one his his crusades, he was powerless to do anything [like Paul in Acts 20:7-10…no wait…].  He’s not exactly respected by the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany.  More than that, he was one of the “pastors” who officiated Benny Hinn’s remarriage to his wife; you know the one who divorced him for his affair with Paula White?  His message there is rather interesting, given the context.)

49.  Enoch Adeboye – 104k (“pastor” of Redeemed Christian Church of God in Lagos, Nigeria)

50.  Marcelo Rossi – 103k (Brazilian Catholic Charismatic)

51.  Bill Johnson – 103k (Bill Johnson says, without any confusion, that God never brings sickness and it’s always his will to physically heal believers, as well as Jesus died for the physical healing of all believers and to “save” believers from poverty.  He’s a prosperity preacher who speaks about it here and here and here.)

52.  Kenneth Copeland – 100k (This one should need no explanation, but it’s possible that one person somewhere is unaware of just how nutty he is.  Check out this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or listen to this famous clip that his wife has said.  Also, here’s Copeland exporting theological cancer in Africa via the church of “Bishop” David o. Oyedepo. Any Christian who claims to have the “gift of discernment” and doesn’t see Kenneth Copeland as a clear and obvious false teacher reveals that have a knowledge of biblical theology around what one would learn in a pop-up bible.)


I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe that’s exactly what Noah’s ark looked like…

53.  Lisa Bevere – 100k  (Wife and ministry partner of John Bevere.)

You’ll also see that the previous list is very restrained regarding who’s included among the “theologically absurd” charismatics: I’ve only basically included the ones that I’m aware of, and a few in South America that I’ve learned about while writing this.  If I had around 600 hours to do research, that list would be a lot larger.

Notice how the list doesn’t include some of the lesser lights (who still have over 50k followers) like Sam Adeyemi (99k), Otoniel Font (96k), Bishop Charles Blake (94k), Bishop Paul Morton (92k), Kong Hee (92k), Bishop IV Hilliard (92k), Carlos Ortiz (91k), Bobbi Houston (89k), Lakewood Church (84k),  Taffi Dollar (84k), Carl Lentz (82k), PlanetShakers (80k),  R.R. Soares (75k), Jesse Duplantis (73k), Rudy Garcia (68k), Tim Hughes (67k), Rod Parsley (66k), Chris Quilala (64k), Misty Edwards (55k), Cindy Jacobs (54k), Kimberly Jones (54k), Bishop Eddie Long (54k), Robert Morris (53k), Tommy Tenney (53k), Benny Perez (53k),or Bishop Dale Bronner (51k).

Of honorable mention here are a few people whose influence is clearly not indicated by their twitter presence:

1.  César Castellanos – 49k and pastor of one of the largest churches in South America: Misión Carismática Internacional, which is a church in Bogota, Columbia.  It has over a quarter million members…you read that right…

2.  Valdemiro Santiago – 30k and pastor of what is likely the largest church in South America: The World Church of the Power of God, which is a church in Sao Paulo, Brazil that has well over a million members that runs a network of 4,000+ churches and has recently completed a building that seats 150,000.

There are a whole lot more people who deserve honorable mention, but I am cutting things short because I want to actually put this post online sometime today…

I also didn’t even include “small fries” with less than 50k followers like IHOP (47k) or Mike Bickle (39k) or Lou Engle (34k) or  Banning Liebscher (33k) or even relative “nobodies” like Steve Murrell (19k followers and pastors the largest church in the Philippines with over 60,000+ attenders) or TL Osborne (17k followers and is a globally-traveled faith healer who, well, really looks like a vampire) or At Boshoff (15k followers and pastors a multi-site church of 48,000 in South Africa) or Todd Bentley (12k followers, even after he basically yelled “I am a false teacher!” for several years straight).

I also didn’t include the “even smaller fries” that you’ve never heard of like Chuck Pierce (10k) Chuck is a professional false teacher (explore this) and was recently making sheep stew in my old stomping grounds:

Nor did I include other “even smaller fries” that you’ve never heard of like Sunday Adelaja (10k)…even though he’s more widely followed than D.A. Carson and pastors one of the largest charismatic churches in Europe, let alone the Ukraine; The Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations.  If you’re wondering exactly where he’s at theologically, watch this video and explore the rest of their church website.  That skoubalon is being peddled in the Ukraine under the guise of “Christianity”.  Here’s a picture of a typical church service there:

Sunday Adelaja Church

These guys would have no influence in the Ukraine, being a church of only 25,000+ and having planted 700+ churches, right?

If I included all the “small fries” like Phil Pringle (38k followers and he’s behind the global C3 church movement, started by the gigantic C3 Church in Australia and branching out into over 300 churches worldwide), or “relatively unheard of crowd” (at least according to Twitter) like Dr Michael Brown (6k followers and an outspoken critic of the Strange Fire conference) or Francis Frangipane (5k followers and referred to by some as a great intellectual defender of the charismatic movement), the list would be thousands long.

So, if we total all the “theologically absurd” charismatics with 100k+ followers we get 21.825 million followers.

For the record, that number is 15.816 million followers when it’s minus the musicians and the two Catholics (and I do that because all the pastors on the list are known for their charismatic activities and doctrine; it’s a main part of who they are and what they’re known for.)

Being irrationally generous, there are 4.013x more people influenced by absurd charismatics than cautious ( 21.825 /5.438= 4.013).

At ridiculously generous, there are 7.560x more people influenced by absurd charismatics than cautious (15.816 / 2.092 = 7.560).

– Again, as a point of methodologically honest, not everyone who follows those in the “theologically absurd” crowd share their beliefs on spiritual gifts…but I’d dare suggest that far less of the people who follow Piper follow Joyce Meyer.  Also, there’s a number of people who follow online personalities like Joyce Meyer because they stalk or troll her Twitter account, but that number hardly makes up a significant percentage of his followers (if everyone who follows John Piper also stalks or trolls Joyce Meyer, that would only make up about 23% of her followers…).

On the basis of the numbers, I’d suggest, that the “level headed” continuationists are the obvious fringe.  They are quite outnumbered by the mainstream theological circus acts where church services end with the church looking like there was a chemical weapon attack:


Before I close off, I have 2 more things I’d like to point out:

1. I didn’t include several “Christian” celebrities who are openly associated with the charismatic movement and give wide recognition and credibility to the questionable, if not horrible, pastors that they follow.

But, if I would have included a few celebrities from just one church, it would have sent the second list way over the top.  If I had included some of the people that attended HillsongNYC, I would have had to include their pastor Carl Lentz (82k), the rapper JaRule (116k – recently made a profession of faith at Hillsong NYC and is already starring in a “Christian” film), NY Knicks center Tyson Chandler (608k), High School Musical start Vanessa Hudgens (2.839M), wardrobe stylist June Ambrose (562k),  and some kid named Justin Bieber (47.283 M) who apparently goes there too (poor old Judah Smith is now replaced). Remember, HillsongNYC is a plant from an overt prosperity gospel church, and with only 6 people that one church has a Twitter influence of 51.49 million people.  If I would have included them it would have stacked the deck a little, right?  Well, I didn’t include them since nobody ever listens to  celebrities nor is influenced by them in any way, right?

And for those who complain, it can get a whole lot worse.  I could easily include a few celebrities who are openly charismatic and let the numbers rise more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more…but I’m a nice guy and didn’t do that.

Oh, and here’s something to consider:

Being wildly generous and including HillsongNYC (see below) and the Catholics (51.49 + .103 + 3.243 + 15.816 = 70.652) there are 33.772x more people influenced by absurd charismatics than cautious (70.652/2.092 = 33.772).

Now if 30, 60, or 100x the people are influenced by the absurd side of the charismatic spectrum, what does the general populace see as the mainstream representation of the charismatic movement, or even Christianity in general?

2.  I didn’t include a third list with cessationists on it since…well…there aren’t any cessationists with more than 100k twitter followers.

John MacArthur has 83k, and the rest fall below him: Albert Mohler (71k), Grace To You (54k), Ligonier Ministries (45k), Kevin DeYoung (36k), Ligon Duncan (24k),  Burk Parsons (20K),  RC Sproul (16k), Thabiti Anyabwile (16k), Phil Johnson (14k), James White (10k), Steve Lawson (8k), Rick Holland (5k), Frank Turk and Dan Phillips (3k), and Conrad Mbewe (2k).

Even if we comically inflate the numbers by including those who are “technically cessationists” due to atheism, like Bill Maher (2.392 M) or Richard Dawkins (857k) or Stephen Hawking (207k), the cessationists aren’t exactly taking over.

So when people cry “foul” when people like Creflo Dollar or Benny Hinn are used as an example of something reflective of the charismatic norm, simply respond and say “Well, they’re the norm because they’re what a majority of the world sees when the world looks at Christianity.  Your little church has no influence and your open-but-cautious books aren’t being sold at Costco.  Last time I went to Costco, I saw them selling books by Joyce Meyer, Todd Burpo and Joel Osteen, but nothing by John Piper or Mark Driscoll or D.A. Carson.”  (Change the relevant names as needs be…)

I think the real problem lies in the fact that the level-headed continuationists know that they’re on the outer fringe and hate it, but they can’t really critique their movement because of one of two reasons:

a. The last time they tried to reason from the scripture with an absurd charismatic, the person simply didn’t really care what the Bible said and responded with something along the lines of “The unloving tone of your voice displeases me…”

That Sounds Unloving

b.  When they pull out the sword of scripture and start hacking away at the frauds in their movement, there’s no way to trump the “God told me so” card without an consistent hermeneutic applied to scripture, but an ounce of consistency will result in the sword of scripture being turned against them. In the end there will be no survivors.

 Sword Fight

Neither side has theology that is able or willing to stand up to serious biblical evaluation, so there’s a general ceasefire until a major leader has a public moral failure, and even then the ceasefire is lifted to talk about sin in the most general terms possible…at least until the person is (almost inevitably) restored to ministry.

This one has been eye-opening enough for me regarding  just how insane the charismatic mainstream gets in South America.

I hope this work has helped you understand the sheer scope of this issue as much as it has helped me.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him didn’t.
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  • The research here was thorough and exceptional. Great job. I was a little surprised by some of these names (such as Paul Washer) but with many of these names, not as surprised.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the kind words Johnny!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Johnny, you may also want to note that upon some further information, an edit has been made to the entry of Paul Washer. After some new and clarifying facts have come to light, I’ve removed him from the list and hopefully clarified that particular issue.

      Paul Washer is not among the charismatics or continuationists; he is a cessationist.

      You may want to refer to the post for further elucidation. I apologize for the error on my part.

  • Andrew

    This blog further clarified two things for me: attempting to divide the Christian world into cessationist-continuationist camps works just as well as insisting that everyone in the world is either fat or skinny (though ~80% are really neither), and is as theologically meaningful in many cases as claiming that the Christian world is best divided into those who think they know the author of Hebrews and those who say they don’t.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your thoughts Andrew. You may have noticed that I attempted to admit the flaws in the post several times, so I agree that it’s nowhere near perfect. It does serve its highly limited purpose though…

      So, if prophecy doesn’t cease and it doesn’t continue, what exactly is that third option I’m missing? Does prophecy *kinda* continue? I believe that “Grudem-derived” third option is where all the debate lies.

      • Andrew

        Thanks for responding, Lyndon. To your question: I guess I’m suggesting that the “third option” is actually a non-option…it’s the situation of (I suspect) a very large % of churches, where this whole cess-cont discussion is simply not a live issue in the church’s life. Instead of isolating this issue and trying to make it do much more work than it is actually doing in people’s ministries, would it not make more sense to identify a cluster of issues (of which cess-cont is perhaps a minor one)? Otherwise we end up with a taxonomy that lumps Paul Washer with Creflo Dollar…

        • Lyndon Unger

          Andrew, if I hear you correctly, you’re saying that a lot of churches simply don’t have this on the radar, right?

          I would agree in a sense; that sense being that arguments about tongues and healing aren’t necessarily on the table because that’s simply outside the circle of what’s “comfortable” in many American churches…

          …But that’s not really where the issue meets reality.

          I’ve done some writing on the concept of “listening prayer”, aka “hearing the voice of God”, and that’s something that has infected every charismatically-disinterested church I’ve ever had contact with. Churches may not talk about “prophecy”, but when a quarter the church has the idea that they need to seek “God’s voice” in order to do anything, think they’re following God’s singular path for their lives when they make that decision, and then have a crisis of faith when things don’t work out (I mean, God TOLD me to!), then prophecy is very much a live issue in the church’s life.

          • You mean the quote where he says nothing about God speaking to him audibly, and where he calls singularly powerful impulses and irresistibly suggestive providences, “singularly powerful impulses, and irresistibly suggestive providences,” and doesn’t, with no biblical basis, redefine them as revelatory-but-not-infallible-and-authoritative prophecy?

            May his tribe increase. (And also: see here.)

          • Andrew

            MR: Spurgeon is quite clearly speaking about “impulses” and ‘suggestions’ from the Spirit and instances of ‘assuredly feeling the unseen hand of God’ in regards to one’s life circumstances. I would suggest that Spurgeon and others did not find themselves in infallible-prophetic bind that you have constructed because they understood such experiences along the lines of wisdom (cf. james 1:5-8)…not prophecy (Spurgeon only references the prophets as an analogy in the Storms quote). // LU: Logically, the prosperity gospel is not necessarily entailed in Spurgeon’s view of divine leading. After all, it would be possible for a cessationist to think that understanding the bible will make them successful and prosperous (dave ramsey alert!). So we need to be careful and honest with how we parse these issues. This is why I suggested that you explicitly state the *cluster* of issues that you are concerned with and then tease out who holds to which ones. I’m confident that if you did this, it would become clear that the real continental divide is around issues of prosperity theology and bible teaching…not so much with an openness to ongoing subjective divine leading.

          • Andrew, I agree with everything up to your “//.” The point of my comment was to say that such experiences of divine guidance are entirely legitimate within a cessationist paradigm precisely because we believe in the supernatural working of God’s meticulous providence. But what we don’t believe, and what Storms and Warnock advocate, is that such experiences amount to what the Bible calls “prophecy,” and that we should refrain from using biblical terminology to describe unbiblical phenomena.

            Regarding the prosperity gospel and Spurgeon’s theology of leading, I don’t think anyone — even Lyndon! 🙂 — would suggest that what Spurgeon wrote entails the prosperity gospel. But when you take Spurgeon’s experiences of providential, ordinary-means-of-grace guidance and call them “prophecy,” you make provision for deceivers like the prosperity charlatans by introducing the category of impressions and revelations that are “from the Spirit,” and thus authoritative, but might be “fallible,” thus destroying any accountability for false prophecy.

            Let’s all vigorously maintain an unashamed supernaturalism, as Warfield said. Let’s affirm God’s providential guidance through the ordinary means of grace, and let’s affirm the Spirit’s illumination of Scripture. But let’s also stop calling those things “the gift of prophecy” and “revelation.”

          • Andrew

            Thanks for replying, Mike. I will give this discussion some more prayer and thought. I don’t think I quite fit in your categories: I am not a cessationist and yet consider instances where I subjectively sensed that God spoke to me to be Him providing wisdom as he promised, especially in times of persecution (like in james 1:5-8) or in relation to major ministry decisions. // One final question, so I understand where you are coming from: is your position that the word “prophecy” is reserved in the scriptures to those communications from God associated with the writing of the scriptures? in other words, do you think the bible teaches that “prophecy” is by definition inscripturated? Thanks again.

          • …I am not a cessationist and yet consider instances where I subjectively sensed that God spoke to me to be Him providing wisdom as he promised…

            So, I would just say that your subjective sense of God’s direction isn’t Him speaking to you in any way that really respects the definition of God speaking to people. The provision of wisdom is a precious gift, but it is not revelation. I would also say that your subjective sense of God’s guidance isn’t something that, at the time, you could be authoritative about. In the moment, there was no way to tell whether your subjective sense was in fact God’s direction or just your own impressions. That’s another reason why it shouldn’t be called “God speaking” to you, because when God speaks, you have an inherently authoritative message.

            So rather than saying, “I subjectively sensed that God spoke to me,” we should just say, “After praying for wisdom on a related matter, I was inclined to….” If the result was good, sure, we would want to give God the credit for that, and, in retrospect, we could conclude that God was leading us through His providential working and the ordinary means of grace. If the result was bad, then we’re able to accept the blame as owing to our lack of wisdom (“I was inclined to” vs. “God spoke to me”).

            do you think the bible teaches that “prophecy” is by definition inscripturated?

            No, of course not. I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone to hold that position. We don’t have the books of Elijah and Elisha. Philip’s daughters don’t have a book of the Bible. It’s likely Agabus prophesied more than that one time in Acts 21.

            But, the Bible does teach that prophecy is by definition infallible, authoritative, and binding revelation from God. Not every prophecy was deemed necessary to be inscripturated throughout the ages for the Church, but that in no way makes non-inscripturated prophecy of any less quality or character than the prophecies which were inscripturated.

            As you think and pray over the issue further, you might appreciate perusing what we’ve written on the subject, and may be especially helped by this post.

            Thanks Andrew.

          • Lyndon Unger

            You do realize that, from my perspective, it looks like you put a burrito in a microwave, pulled it out cooked, and pronounced yourself a magician, right?

            Spurgeon was a recipient of divine guidance, like every believer.


            Now he’s now a tongues speaking prophet who receives divine and propositional revelation for other people, or what?

  • Frank

    Not sure if you took this into consideration: Some people are following both or all of the people you’ve listed. So you could be counting some numbers (people) twice.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Agreed. But far more people follow John Piper (for serious) and Creflo Dollar (for not serious) than vice versa. Many of the people who follow Dollar don’t know who Piper is, or know him as an attacker of Dollar and dislike him.

  • george canady

    Thanks Lyndon for the list. Very educational and helpful as I look for a church. I left two great teaching churches that are tied to the best of the cessationist you mention here. Unfortunately, as an unbeliever, I already gravitated to the harsh words they use to discribe those in disagreement with them.

    • Lyndon Unger

      George, cessationism may be a biblical understanding of the continuation of sign gifts, but I wouldn’t recommend choosing a church on the basis of cessationism…May the Lord grant you to find a church of mature believers, cessationist or otherwise.

      • george canady

        Thank you Lyndon for your kind words. I prefer Reformed, but the only ones close to me have two catagories for enemy. Enemies that fall under the biblical mandate of treatment and super enemies that call for precatory prayer. I hated my enemies before I was a Christian.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Titus 3:3, right?

          I’m so thankful that is what I used to be as well. I know what you mean about some in the Reformed (or “reformed”) circles of having relationships in multiple circles of “enemy”. There’s far too much myopic “us vs. the world” in conservative churches. Those of us who apparently have such “good theology” often have doctrinal statements that FAR outshine our actual practice (which begs the question of how many doctrinal statements are the accurate reflection of what a church/church leadership actually believe). It’s often frustrating to me how we forget things like Ephesians 1:15 – the bottom line of whether people are believers is whether they are faithful to Christ (in whatever level of doctrine they understand) and have changed hearts marked by love for fellow believers.

          I often wonder how many conservatives thing that “faithfulness to Christ” is completely disconnected to “love for fellow believers”…and give themselves a pass as long as they can define the term “believers” as narrowly as possible (i.e. those who can sign OUR doctrinal statement, including our position on end times…).

          Luke 6:32-33 anyone?

          I feel a post coming on!

          • george canady

            Lyndon, this is not at all the response I expected from you. I reread my comments later and see that I might be like the very people I complain about in my comment. I am a huge follower of John MacArthur, John Piper, and R. C. Sproul. I am so grateful to God for opening my eyes to this, what I believe to be the truest truth. I have watch with amazement as these men are able to disagree on very important matters and still leave us with an impression of the deep respect they have for each others love for the truth. I will tell you that I am a simple fisherman….I mean welder, and not schooled in the art of whimsical conversation. I maybe have a little touch of false humility here, but I cause a lot of my own difficulty with my approach. It still seems to me that the new testament gives no room for a “super enemy” that is beyond salvation, not Joel Osteen, Not President Obama, not Rush Limbaugh, Not the pope not…. It would make sense to me to put people in a New Testament biblical category like enemy, neighbor, believer and treat them as commanded. The actual reformed settings I have been in attract many who seem to delight in hate filled tones. It seems there is a lot of false unity to me. And when the doors to the Sunday school close or small group or Bible study, well, the tone can become very rank. I am not clean in this but I want to be. God help us learn to love better than this. I think it clear that the church will ,in the near future, be persecuted for hate speech just for giving the truth. Please let us be found innocent in God,s court of an attitude of hate in the way we tell it.

          • Jim Swindle

            George, I’ve been thinking of you lately, missing you. Then I came across your comments on this post. You’re absolutely correct that we need to love our enemies (including our theological or political enemies). Yet we must also be sure that we love the church, imperfect as it is. Loving the church is a challenge at times! We see the sins of the leaders, the sins of the ordinary members–and, if we’re blessed, we see our own sins. Yet the Lord uses his churches. A true church works to connect people with the true Jesus of the Bible. It knows that treasures in heaven are more important than those on earth. True pastors work to guard the flock from whatever will disturb them from safely feeding on the true Jesus–whether disturbance is false teachings or is the sheep nipping each other, or is whatever else.
            I pray that the Lord will grow you in knowing him, and give you and your wife fruitfulness as a part of a local church. I don’t know whether you’re firmly planted in one at the moment.
            Feel free to phone me. My number is in the local phone books.
            PS–Your comment reminded me that I’ve prayed in the past for the President and for Osteen, but never for Limbaugh. I’m praying for him as I type this.
            –Jim Swindle

          • george canady

            Thank you Jim for your kind words. And I thank you for your prayers for growth. I would like us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have created a list of “super enemies” that do not warrant public church prayer.

          • Jim Swindle

            George, I can’t quite imagine any real church having such a list (even unwritten), though I’m sure that many individual members of churches have such a list. I suspect that I’m on such a list for a few people.

          • george canady

            Hey Jim, thanks for your response. If you can imagine a list must exist if only in some people’s minds. It would explain why some leaders would only expose and warn, publicly, but never or seldom pray publicly for political opponents and false teachers. Surely that means the “condemned” have been placed in a “super enemy” category. During the “Strange Fire” conference I did not hear prayer for salvation of any false teacher by name. I am encouraged that you are praying. Perhaps our leaders are praying for them in private as you are. It would be nice to have heard that from just one. Right after the exposure and warning, is that not a prime moment to request us to petition God on behalf of all the lost? I have heard the authorities of our country, state and city prayed for publicly, but only in the churches I have visited lately. I would say I have heard many a public rant over a certain few false teachers, but perhaps we are not to pray for their salvation in the open. If I am wrong about the conference I ask for forgiveness, as I only watched most of it. But I am not wrong about the last two reformed churches I have been a member of. I thank you for this conversation Jim and I miss your gentle kind ways. I wish to learn from your example. All is well here.

          • Jim Swindle

            George, thanks for the pointed reminders. I’ll make a special point to think of as many “enemies” as I can in the next few days and pray for them…though I think we should pray even more for the Lord to raise up people who will proclaim the true message of Jesus…whether or not those proclaimers are continuationists.

          • george canady

            Thank you Jim for taking and making my point that it is more important to pray for messengers than the lost.

      • elainebitt

        Can I disagree with your “I wouldn’t recommend choosing a church on the basis of cessationism”?

        I am more likely to send anyone to a Reformed Presbyterian church (cessationist) than any “reformed charismatic”. That does not necessarily mean that I am choosing on the basis of cessationism, but on the basis of which one is more faithful to Scripture.

        Having beenin pentecostal churches before, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to endure any level of “da gifts” at all. Neither I wanted my kids near that teaching.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Sure Elaine. You’re free to disagree with me. Is it okay if I agree with you?

          I would actually agree that one would choose a church on the basis of their faithfulness to scripture.

          I would just say that there are churches out there who have practice that is actually better than their doctrine, so I don’t really look that much at a doctrinal statement (beyond an initial idea of alignment).

          I know of some “reformed charismatic” churches that are non-practicing with regards to the gifts (i.e. only 3 people in the church pray in tongues, and that’s only at home) and are also really aggressive at pushing people towards the scriptures and away from seeking gifts…I look at what a church does rather than what it says.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Small edit alert. “Charismatic” has some wrong spellings in this very interesting article.

    • Thanks! I don’t know how that happened!?! It’s been remedied!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks! I don’t know how that happened, but it’s fixed!

  • Brad

    Great article…very interesting!

    It made me realize that many people follow many of the leaders in the “theologically absurd” and “theologically cautious” at the same time. And many follow the leaders of the “theologically cautious” and “cessationists” at the same time.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Certainly true, but very few follow the “absurd” and “cessationists” at the same time.

      What’s interesting, if you are bored, is looking at who the leaders themselves follow. Some of the “cautious” crowd follow the “absurd” crowd but next to none of the “absurd” crowd follows anyone in the “cautious” crowd with the exception of maybe Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll (probably because they’re somewhat famous).

      The “absurd” leaders basically all follow each other and ignore everyone else.

      Quite telling.

      • Brad

        Great point about the “absurd” leaders!

  • Harry

    Lyndon you admit your research flaws and it shows.

    Some of the ministries/people you have listed I know them personally. I also know what their critics have said, what the media have repeatedly accused them of, how the media distorts their stories of them, and I also know which bits of the critics complaints are false, misinterpreted and which complaints are true.

    When I saw this particular ministry listed by yourself, I knew immediately where you obtained your information.

    This is certainly not the spirit of Acts 18:24-28 where we read that Apollos, who, while “competent in the scriptures,” knew that he had more to learn about the “way of the Lord”. With Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos became an even greater help to “those who through grace had believed.

    • Fred Butler

      Care to provide the examples you have in mind? I doubt seriously he “obtained” his information in a gossipy sort of way, if that is what you mean.

      When Lyndon “accused” any of the ministries he listed above, he did a pretty good job of directing us to real, first hand documents from the actual ministries themselves. So while the media may have blown out of proportion, say Benny Hinn’s alleged affair with Paula White, that still does not mean he isn’t a wacko Charismatic of the absurd variety. The video documentation is just to vast to deny.

      • Harry

        Yes, the information listed came from two sources: the media and a vocal critic who loves the attention. Both sources have been very brutal in twisting information. It is almost a sport with the media.

        I have no desire to reveal the ministry, it serves no purpose. You see, false doctrine and true doctrine held in an unloving attitude of pride does cause divisions in the body of Christ.

        By all means love the unity of the church but be concerned to discuss doctrinal differences and achieve unity of understanding.

        Both doctrine and love unite and work together.

        True unity is grounded in commitment to the Bible, and is expressed when we actively and accurately dicuss our differences while maintaining an attitude of love.

        • Fred Butler

          I’m sorry, but your objection is a bit bogus then if you refuse to provide some sort of reference for comparison sake. If you come here leaving a comment essentially saying this post is wrong, the purpose of telling us which ministry you have in mind allows us to objectively evaluate if your claim is legit.

          I am aware of a number of ministries that expose the fraudulent nature these charismatic groups, but again, you notice that Lyndon is interacting with info from the very charismatic groups he is analyzing. He is not using second hand sources. So deal with what he states here.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Well, unless you can point me to the error so that I can correct it (or provide better information), I’ll simply suggest that you’re making things up.

          I simply don’t believe you, not because I think you’re a liar, but because you haven’t given me any reason to actually believe you.

          If I’m wrong, I do sincerely desire to be straightened out and corrected. I’m not above admitting error on my part and fixing mistakes or repenting as necessary.

    • Lyndon Unger

      What ministry are you talking about?

      I won’t say anything more until I know which example we’re talking about.

  • Davy

    I’d like to start off by clarifying that I did not watch the Strange Fire Conference so I may be completely off base on this, but from what I understand John MacArthur was warning against/condemning the theological positions of the charismatic movement. This seems strange to me because I feel like many of the “theologically absurd” crowd members probably aren’t believers, frankly. Thus, when John MacArthur warns believers to stay away from Joel Olsteen and the Pope he may as well also warn believers to stay away from Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. As for the positions of legitimate believers in the “theologically cautious” crowd such as John Piper or David Platt, they are exactly that- legitimate believers. They are well-educated men who have genuine theological arguments behind their charismatic leanings.

    I guess I just don’t understand why the theologically absurd’s position even warrants a conference. Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are just as influential on twitter but they don’t warrant a conference; Joel Olsteen and the Pope don’t warrant a conference either because they can’t be expected to have correct theology if they aren’t even believers.

    Again, I may be misunderstanding the conference so if my presuppositions are incorrect please tell me.

    • Lyndon Unger

      That’s a fair point Davy. I don’t speak for Pastor John, but I’d suggest that the difference between Miley Cyrus and Joyce Meyer is that nobody sees Miley Cyrus as a Christian pastor or spiritual authority; even though Miley Cyrus claims to be a Christian, nobody thinks that Miley Cyrus is an model example of a Christian or someone that they look to for answers to biblical/theological questions.

      The absurd list is full of people who are peddling error and abject heresy in the name of Christianity and they all claim to be Christian pastors or spiritual authorities. A whole LOT of people look to them for answers. In the secular world, who knows who’s the real deal and who’s a fraud?

      Not only that, but the people on the absurd list are the ones that even people like Miley Cyrus (or Justin Bieber) tend to follow. For example, Sherri Shepherd from ‘The View’ (who is basically vocally against every single position of Christian theology) attends the West LA Church of God in Christ (prosperity gospel church led by “Bishop” Charles Blake) along with (apparently) Denzel Washington and Angela Basset. Those three are the salespeople of Blake’s horrible theology, so if you want to address the issue, you need to address the source.

  • Franklin Peaker

    Thanks a bunch for your research on this matter. You are putting a “numerical face,” to this issue. This strange fire is burning in places that are not typically acknowledged by the media or church leaders. Nevertheless, big or small they should be considered part of the Body of Christ. It seems that some pastors are more concerned about their theological position rather than the “little people.” “If it is not happening in my corner of the world it is inconsequential, or not real.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Good thoughts Franklin. I hope that the StrangeFire conference is a benefit to people outside of North America, where the “absurd” charismatics vastly make up the numerical norm.

  • Even if we all accepted the validity of your research, the argument is a spurious as if we were to include all “true” Christians in the first group, conclude that the “heretical” Christians were more influential and therefore Christianity as a whole is false!

    The presence of distorted forms of something does not invalidate the genuine, whatever the precise balance is between the genuine and the false.

    Im not sure that you can infer that everyone who follows someone on Twitter agrees with them anyway, I mean, I follow MacArthur, does that make me a cessationist? I don’t think so!

    • Young Calvinist

      Following Dr John MacArthur on Twitter may make you a cessationist. Beware Adrian!!! 🙂

    • The problem, Adrian, is that the aim of Lyndon’s post isn’t to say that one system of doctrine is true or false, or that everyone who follows a certain person agrees with every portion of their theology. It’s very specific, and very specified, aim is to informally measure influence, and from there to extrapolate who is to be considered “the mainstream” and who is to be considered “the minority” within the Charismatic movement. And, given that very specified aim, I think it accomplishes its goal.

      While you want to continue to claim the “half a billion” number for the Charismatic movement, it’s unfortunate that you can’t admit that the majority of that number is made up of at-best unfaithful and at-worst unbelieving professing Christians. You seem to want to ignore all manner of data — whether formally (as in the Pew Forum research and others cited in the Strange Fire book) or informally (as here) — and appeal to your own experience of many good Charismatic churches. My friend, your personal experience of good brothers and sisters within the movement is entirely inconsequential in defining the mainstream and the minority within the movement, without your personal knowledge of five hundred million people who self-identify as Charismatic. So the choice is: we can go with your personal experience, or with the data of detailed research studies like those presented in the book (see Myth Two, here, for more).

      Instead, it would be exponentially better form for you to admit the widespread abuses, unfaithfulness, and even unbelief and heresy that has flown under the banner of the Charismatic movement (and in many cases being given specific cover by the conservative minority within the movement), and resolve to better police the movement from within. Then we’d be getting somewhere without the rhetorical posturing and hand-wringing that you seem so fond of.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Adrian Warnock! Welcome!

      Thanks for the thoughts, and I agree with you when you say “the presence of distorted forms of something does not invalidate the genuine”.

      I don’t know why you’re saying that though. It’s not really addressing the issue I was aiming at (as Mike points out as well).

      From my perspective, here’s what I’ve been seeing from the sidelines:

      1. Strange Fire happens. A whole lot is said, and (in my opinion) there’s not enough repetition regarding the categories of who exactly is being addressed. There’s clarity, but the categorical distinctions aren’t made frequently enough (i.e. every single message).

      2. Charismatics, like yourself, cry foul because the cessationists point to Bill Johnson, or Benny Hinn, or Creflo Dollar, or every false teacher from Africa that Conrad Mbewe mentioned, and refer to them as examples of the problems within the charismatic movement (as a global movement).

      3. You, and many of the others in the reformed charismatic crowd, take offense and say something along the lines of “those guys are the lunatic fringe! How dare you claim that they represent the charismatic movement!”

      The cessationists point out that those “lunatic fringe” folks are on television and you’re not, and it quickly becomes a case of both sides saying “THESE guys are the fringe” and pointing in opposite directions.

      4. Lyndon tries to think of some way of giving objective evidence to remove the “he said she said” element, and amazingly discovers that Creflo Dollar has 298 thousand followers on Twitter and Adrian Warnock has 16 thousand, and has a sneaking suspicion that Adrian Warnock has a whole lot less influence in his own (global) movement than some may think.

      5. Lyndon then discovers Chris Oyakhilome, and Cash Luna, and a bunch of others and starts to suspect that Adrian Warnock is, in reality, on the “conservative fringe” of the global face of the charismatic movement, and the lunatics are actually the mainstream! Lyndon then does a bunch of more research and discovers that there are singular prosperity gospel churches in South America with more people than the entire global New Frontiers movement (of which you’re a part, right?).

      Lyndon, in shock, then publishes his findings.

      6. Adrian Warnock then shows up and says “Well, my group is outnumbered, sure…but it doesn’t mean the lunatics are right!”

      I agree with you. They’re not right. They’re not even close. They’re Cash Lunatics.

      Sadly, all those guys that we BOTH agree are wrong are what a majority of people see when they see the charismatic movement.

      Problem is, I don’t see you rebuking and rebutting them (and passages like Titus 1:9-11 command you to).

      Now in fairness, I don’t expect you to police your whole movement. I don’t expect you to devote your writing to taking on every goofball who flies a charismatic flag. We would both agree that such a requirement would be simply ignorant. I do think it is reasonable to expect you to address the things that are issues in your church, or happen in your locale.

      Problem is, I don’t see that either.

      And for the record, TBN broadcasts just south of Los Angeles. That means that all the heresies on there are being peddled in MacArthur’s backyard and it’s a local issue for him. That’s the garbage that is everywhere in his area code, and that’s the public face of Christianity, let alone the charismatic movement, in his neck of the woods.

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  • Caleb

    Lyndon, I am a continuationist by belief and although I do not agree with you on this point, I just wanted to say thank you for the humility and grace with which you approached this. Many times, this becomes a heated muck-throwing contest with both sides simply getting angry and resorting to name-calling or insulting. Although we see differently on this, it is men like you who I am proud to call brother in Christ. I do understand that people like me are on the fringe of this, and I am attending Bible college right now that I may have a part in beginning to speak out against the incredible amount of excess that comes along with this line of belief. So thank you for your strong but loving research and commenting. I pray that more of us can have the same approach as you in coming to this important issue in the Church. Blessings.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Caleb, thanks for your gracious words.

      I’m maybe a little different that some of the cessationists out there in that I actually got saved in a charismatic church and spent around 10 years in the Canadian denomination known as the Apostolic Churches of Pentecost (…and they definitely were NOT reformed charismatics. I still have probably a hundred or more friends that are in that denomination (or other similar denominations), and I try hard to not call names or slander people because it hurts people that I care about who have, in the past, known me as “pastor”. I care deeply about the people that I know/have known who are enslaved by bad teaching that stunts their spiritual growth.

      May the Lord bless your study and grant you the tools to rightly divide the scriptures. Take all the Biblical Studies classes you can; take hermeneutics, exegesis, and every bible book study available. If you have the option to learn your Hebrew and Greek, take every class available and then beg for private tutoring or directed study. Get yourself immersed into the text of scripture with everything at your disposal; make it the focus of every elective you can.

      Here’s a thought for you in Bible College too:

      Every single fact that you learn leads to worship: You either worship God for teaching you or you worship yourself for being taught.

      Men who worship themselves are useless to God.

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  • Rob Wilkerson

    Thanks for the research. Good to have some solid data about charismaniacs who are misrepresenting a biblical understanding of the charismatic. I blogged about this post in my own a few moments ago.

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