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The Holy Spirit is not for sale

The Holy Spirit is not for sale: Rekindling the power of God in an age of compromise  – J. Lee Grady (Chosen Books)

A Journalist telling stories of fake Christianity in the US – nothing unusual about that. Except that the journalist has been editor of Charisma magazine for 16 years. So when he announces that the Charismatic Movement in the US is dead and needs replacing with by a purer more godly church, suddenly the journalist is the story.

According to Grady, also an ordained minister, the US Charismatic movement began in 1967 and lasted until the late 80s. He believes the ‘Toronto Blessing’ of 1994 and Pensacola Revival of 1995, were one offs and against the overall trend of a Movement that is not just treading water but bringing God and US believers into disrepute.

The books includes grim tales of moral failure, faulty theology, and lousy uses of money. There are some bizarre tales – a bishop advocating filthy language to spice up the marriage; women lying down making birthing noises with their legs apart as a sign of God’s work; an esteemed ‘prophet’ who seemed to have memorised details of charitable leaders at their meetings and passed them as ‘words of knowledge’.  We have the Shepherding Movement and Discipleship Movement that made intrusive demands on its followers. He devotes some space to the antics of Todd Bentley, the revivalist in Lakeland Florida in 2008. The ‘revival’ ended when Bentley confessed to an affair. He later separated from and then divorced his wife and married the woman who he has an affair with. He has since re-launched his ministry, ’Fresh Fire Ministries’ with the support of Charismatic leader, Rick Joyner. Grady is clearly disgusted by what he perceives as a lack of remorse.

This horrendous catalogue of despair is countered by the more positive stories that start each chapter: the revival among Methodists in Cuba, miracles in Northern India, many healings in China and Egypt, the children’s home that had begun in the slums of Mumbai, the many evangelists he had met who are on fire for God. He is incredulous that the US Charismatic church is still exporting its pseudo spirituality as if it has the answers when it really needs to learn from the genuine works of God in the rest of the world.

Each chapter includes reflections from Scripture on how the US church should change, with wise and candid advice for church leaders and congregations to shun excesses, manipulation and spurious stories and encourage, wise and godly accountability. Grady longs that the reader might meet God in a powerful way.

All seems well and good. As a book of cautionary tales and inspiring accounts it works well. My concern is that he has drawn too many sweeping conclusions from some admittedly awful examples. What about the significant Charismatic churches in the US who do tick all the boxes of the genuine work of God that he says he longs for? And what of the many Charismatic churches that we won’t have heard of, precisely because they are humble about what God is doing among them – the very qualities Grady would applaud?! And Grady never mentions that the countries he quotes that have revival also have some churches that ape the worst of the US scene. If the US church scene is close to facing the judgment of God, Old Testament style, as he fears, then God help us all!

Grady must surely know of that there is much ‘good’ in the US amongst the bad and the ugly. It seems this book is a classic case of ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’.

So be warned by the stories and watch out lest you be tempted. Heed his excellent advice, and imitate his passion to see a genuine work of God where you are. But remember it’s not just churches that stretch things – journalists do too.  No, ‘The Holy Spirit is not for sale’. But his book is!