Andy was involved with occult practices in Charismatic churches in England.
I was born and raised in the city of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I lived there for twenty six years.
My mother was a Christian who attended an Elim Pentecostal church on a regular basis. My father was baptised into the Church of England, but he wasn’t a practicing Christian. He didn’t attend church or read his Bible. My earliest memories with regards to church were attending our local Elim church with my mother and younger sister. And by the time that I was a young teenager, I was reading my Bible on a regular basis. The Bible, my mother and the Pentecostal church all shaped my spiritual life in my childhood.
The Elim Pentecostal church services were lively! The music was vibrant and loud. Most people sang the hymns and choruses in unison, but some really “got into it” – they became ecstatic in their singing, clapping, hand-waving and dancing. At the front of the church, leading the worship was a band called the worship team. The band had an electronic piano keyboard, a guitar and a trombone.
Although the services were loud, they were not “rock concert loud” like in the Charismatic churches that I attended later. And in the Charismatic churches, besides the worship band leading the service and the ordinary people who sang the songs and choruses and “got into the worship,” there was a group of singers who would dance along the centre aisle of the church waving huge flowing flags to the music.
One thing that sticks in my memory from the Elim Pentecostal church is that they followed their Bibles a lot more than the Charismatics. Elim church leaders preached and taught through whole Bible chapters and they had sermon-series though whole Bible books. Whereas in the Charismatic churches I attended, the preachers and mid-week Bible study teachers all followed topics that were chosen specifically by the pastor, and they gathered verses from different places in the Bible.
In the Elim church, so far as I can remember, they didn’t have the strange supernatural phenomena which I saw and personally experienced when I got involved with the Charismatic movement. (I have since discovered that Pentecostalism – in its early history and continuing in other Pentecostal churches since those days – had a lot to do with the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” But I think my first encounter with these things was in a Charismatic church.) It was in the Charismatic churches that I saw people speaking with “strange tongues.” That is, they had a rush of sounds and syllables out of their mouths, which they thought were foreign or angelic languages.
And they didn’t have the outward displays of people shacking and falling to the ground like I saw when I went to Charismatic churches in my teens and early twenties. In the Charismatic meetings people were often caused to fall to the floor in trances, which they called being “slain in the Spirit.” I saw people laying on the carpet, shaking and laughing uncontrollably.
In those days I was persuaded that all this was the work of God the Holy Spirit. I became convinced at the time that these people “moved in the gifts,” as they said – I believed that they had the same miraculous sign gifts and prophetic gifts as the New Testament Church did in the first century AD. I thought it was the Holy Spirit who was “slaying” these people, and shaking them, and making them laugh and speak in “tongues.”
Perhaps the most influential book I read in those days was The Final Quest, by a man named Rick Joyner. In his book Rick relates how, on a number of occasions, he had conversations with dead people who told him that they were in lower positions in heaven due to their not living a good Christian life while on earth. I didn’t realize at the time, but this was nothing more than necromancy, which is really communicating with evil spirits who are impersonating dead people.
I also experienced these Charismatic phenomena for myself.
One day when I went to the front of the church in a meeting so that I could receive prayer from the church leaders. They were asking people to come to the front of the church if they wanted to receive “the blessing” from the Holy Spirit. After I was prayed for and hands were laid on me, I felt an intense burning sensation throughout my body, beginning at the base of my spine. However, years later after researching these things, I now believe that this intense heat sensation coming from my lower back was essentially same thing as what is called “serpent power” in Kundalini Yoga.
After experiencing this heat, I discovered that I had received a “miraculous gift.” I never had the “gift of tongues,” but I started to have “pictures” appear in my mind, which I don’t think originated in my imagination. I would “see” certain things that I “felt” were going to occur in the future. I always kept a note of these “visions,” describing them in words so that I could try to understand their meaning, and so that I would be able to relate them to the congregation in the next church service.
Sometimes I was very receptive, so that these “pictures” came easily to my mind. But other times I had to “centre” myself. I relaxed and concentrated on being receptive for a while, until I could see in my mind’s eye what I thought God was revealing to me. And there were other times when these visions would come, after I had been watching someone “speaking in tongues” for a while.
Sometimes these predictions did happen the way I had “pictured.” But not always. For example, there was a time when I was having visions that led me to truly believe that I myself would be involved with uniting different church denominations. I believed that this is what God had called me to do. I “saw” myself organising and leading a large ecumenical event which included different denominations such as the Church of England, the Charismatics and the Pentecostals. I was so sure that I had received a “picture” from God of a massive meeting in which many different church denominations would come together in praise and worship of God, and over which I would be a leader. Needless to say, it didn’t happen!
Here’s a similar example of one of my visions of the future that didn’t happen: I was convinced for years that I had a “calling” from God upon my life, and that this calling involved me one day heading-up a Charismatic church as a pastor. I truly believed that God would use me to “shepherd” a church. I “pictured” myself giving talks, conducting sermons. I believed that I would become a prominent leader one day.
And in one Charismatic church I was “prophesied over” by a leading Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) pastor, who said God had revealed to him that I would be a great leader in the Charismatic movement. It was after this that other Charismatics started to take me more seriously, because they believed this prophecy. After this so-called “prophecy” I was approached by several individuals with regards to several projects in the church. But I never did become a leader in the Charismatic movement.
As time went on I started to notice that there were quite a few things that weren’t right in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.
One of these being the deliberate disobedience of Charismatic Christians failing to heed the apostle John’s words with regards to “testing the spirits” (see 1 John 4:1). And the apostle Paul clearly laid-out in scripture the need for both “prophecies” and “tongues” to be tested by other believers. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 14:27-33 that no more than two or three people should be allowed speak in tongues in a church service, and that only one person at a time should speak. But often, this is not what we see happening in Charismatic churches. What we see instead is several people “speaking in tongues” simultaneously – sometimes the whole congregation all at once. But even if the “speaking in tongues” phenomena of today was the same thing as happened in the book of the Acts (I no longer believe that it is) – the “Pentecostal/Charismatic style” church service where hundreds of people speak in different “strange tongues” all at the same time is outlawed by the apostle Paul!
Another thing that Paul admonished the church about is female leaders (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:12). Paul was quite clear about this: in the church women should not teach or have authority over men. But this is not what happens in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. There are many female leaders in these movements. Many Charismatic churches have husband and wife pastor-teams. And there are internationally famous Pentecostal and Charismatic women preachers such as Paula White, Joyce Meyer, and Heidi Baker.
With these and other things which I became concerned about in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, the basic problem that I saw was that these people all claimed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to be doing things through the gift or power of the Holy Spirit –but in all these things they do not do what the Holy Spirit commanded though the apostle Paul, and their “gifts” and “strange phenomena” were not the same as the Holy Spirit gave the early Christians in the New Testament.
It was the accumulation of things like this that I came to notice, which led me to leave the Charismatic movement.
Being raised as a Christian, I knew the basics of Christianity from my childhood. And I regularly prayed and built a relationship with God through His word, the Bible. But my personal realisation that the Word of God really was the truth came later, when I had stopped going to Charismatic churches and started attending an “old fashioned” Calvinistic Baptist chapel. In that chapel I was given some tracts and a small book about the Baptist Confession of Faith. It was from this literature, and from the pastor’s preaching in the chapel, and from the Christian fellowship and conversation that I had there, that I gained a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of the Bible. They gave me real answers to questions that I had held for years. They filled in many of the gaps and corrected errors in my thinking.
Since I have left the Charismatic movement my views and beliefs have changed greatly. I have come to understand that worshiping and serving God should be done with reverence, humility, fear, and respect. Even the way in which I read and study my bible has changed. I now read and study my Bible to a greater depth. I do studies in the original Greek of the New Testament, and I widen my reading in the Bible in order to understand the context of what I am reading. As the Reformers used to say, I endeavour to let Scripture interpret Scripture. This is far different from the Bible studies and books I had when I was a Charismatic. These were mainly focussed on the various passages that they used to “prove” Pentecostal/Charismatic phenomena and doctrines.
I now know – through solid Scriptural study – that the miraculous sign gifts and revelatory gifts ended along with the completion of the New Testament Scriptures in the first century AD. Pentecostalism/Charismaticism is not based on the Bible. It is based on an assortment of occultic, emotion-manipulating, mood-enhancing, trance-inducing, personality-changing techniques. I am now convinced that the weird phenomena, which I witnessed and experienced for myself when I was a Charismatic, has a lot in common with the techniques of the entertainment media, psychotheraputic counselling, hypnosis, human-potential / personal development programmes, and pagan mysticism.
These things are not from God.
I used to believe that God would use the Charismatic movement to usher in his Kingdom and hasten the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth. I believed this because we were taught that Charismatics (according to a constant stream of “prophecies”) were on the cusp of a great “revival” – which would restore today’s Christian church to a “powerful,” “Spirit-filled” state similar to that of the Church in first century. And we thought that we Charismatics (including myself in those days) would be the people who would bring in this New Christian Age. We thought that our “signs and wonders” supernatural gifts were evidences of God’s favour resting upon us, and equipping us for this great mission. But I have now come to the realisation that man can not usher in the Kingdom of God, as this is something that is within the jurisdiction of God the Father only.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has changed too, since I left it. Many of their churches are including even more practices from eastern mysticism into their worship. Here’s a recent example that I have been made aware of (but I have not encountered this practice myself): there is now a practice in Charismatic churches called “the soaking.” The soaking is an ancient form of meditation where the participant adopts a worship position in honour to a Hindu deity! People who have “soaked,” whether it be in a Christian or Hindu environment, have manifested shaking, shrieking, and intense burning sensations.
These things are not from the Holy Spirit.