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.
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.)
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.)
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 – 106k – UPDATE: 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.
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.)
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 Aliento. This 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)
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 2009, C3 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.
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.)
24. Hillsong Live – 200k
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.)
29. Israel Houghton – 179k (He’s a worship leader at Lakewood in Houston.)
30. Hillsongs Spanish – 178k
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.)
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…)
44. Redeemed Christian Church of God – 129k – (Church of Enoch Adeboye)
46. Hillsong London – 112k
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.)
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:
Chuck and team are in Regina, Canada! Chuck will minister all day today at The R.O.C. Church. Decree that Canada will spring new revival!
— Chuck Pierce (@chuckdpierce) November 15, 2013
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:
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…”
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.
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.