Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dutch Sheet's Rebuke Regarding Lakeland

Mega-church pastor and Charismatic leader Dutch Sheets has written a sharply reproving letter in which he repents on behalf of the charismatic community.

While I think his letter is correct in many cases, please don't include all charismatic groups, associations or ministries with all Pentecostal denominations. A Pentecostal is a person from a traditional denomination known by that distinction, such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of the Foursquare Gospel, etc. Those churches, among others, are known as Pentecostal churches. "Pentecostal" does not refer to a denomination. This is similar to saying someone is a Baptist. There are lots of stripes of Baptist denominations.

A "charismatic" may refer to those fellowships or denominations, or someone within those fellowships, but there are also many independent organizations, associations and ministries that are called "charismatic." The term also includes many independent congregations. Thus, "charismatic" is an umbrella term that can include classical Pentecostals but also many others.

VERY loosely defined, "charismatic" means a group or a person who affirms and emphasizes the "charisms" or the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit and believes that these gifts did not die out in the first century but are still available to us today. Within that very broad definition are a lot of different views, both doctrinal and practical.

Have Pentecostals embraced some of the abuses and errors that Sheets (pastor of an independent charismatic congregation) refers to? Some have, and some have not. As I mentioned in the previous post, our Assenblies of God leadership issued a statement on revival that was well thought out, wise and balanced. Does that mean everyone heeded it.  Sadly, no.

As for Dutch Sheets, some have included him in statements about those in "leadership" over Todd Bentley, but it should be noted that Sheets was asked to be part of the sponsorship of the so called "Lakeland Outpouring" but declined. I disagree with Dutch Sheets (not that it matters much) on several issues, but I applaud his boldness in issuing a strong rebuke, a correction, and an apology.

A few quotes:

“We assume a person’s credibility based on gifts, charisma, the size of their ministry or church, whether they can prophesy or work a miracle....When a spiritual leader we’re connected with violates trust, is exposed for immorality, or falls below other accepted standards of behavior, it does not exonerate us simply to say we don't condone such behavior. Those we lead trust us to let them know whom to trust. We have failed them miserably in this regard...For this lack of discernment, and for employing and passing on inappropriate standards of judgment, I repent to the Lord and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ...For not accepting and acknowledging our responsibility, for caring more about our own reputation than Christ’s, I repent to God and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.”

Sheets also blasted the charismatic church’s “incredibly inadequate” accountability, as well as its leadership that has “built on hype, sensation, innovation, programs, personality and charisma.”

He spoke of “shallowness...novice leaders, gifted but immature and untested...a deficient understanding of God’s word...self-centered Christians who don’t understand sacrifice and commitment...superstar leaders,” and “prayerless and anemic Christians.”

He closed the open letter by saying he thanks God for all those who were touched by the Holy Spirit through the Lakeland Outpouring.

The full text of "A Statement and Appeal Regarding Lakeland "can be found here.


Cody said...

Something just struck me. My friend's father is a Pentecostal minister (I don't remember their exact association, but they are pretty charismatic) and he said that his father only has a bachelor's degree, not an M.Div. I've heard that from several other Pentecostal folks, as well. Is that so across the Pentecostal board?

The quote from Pastor Sheet's involving "novice leaders" reminded me of the college thing. If a pastor doesn't have the Masters Degree in Divinity, is she/he ready to serve a congregation fully?

I'm not saying yes or no, just musing. Interesting. I wonder how many other Pentecostal "Bishops" (as he seems to be taking the role of overseer) will step up to the plate and offer their opinions?

I also think it was important for him to thank God for all who were touched by the Holy Spirit at the Lakeland events. Simply because the minister might not be as pure as he should be, doesn't mean the Holy Spirit can go in and do her thing. I think it's important to affirm the works of the Holy Spirit on those people. I can't imagine how hard it is to hear that the person whose event you were touched by is being called to repent. Tough stuff, indeed.

Blessings to all!

Theresa Coleman said...

Dearest Owl,

Thanks for these two postings. You have helped make clear a few things for me -- I am a fan of the Steve and Kathy Show and have been following the Smithton Revival quite a bit.

I've attended some Church of God services (among others) -- and the one thing that always strikes me at a Charismatic service is the sincerity of so many of the people. My Aunt Gladys was a revival preacher of some renown in the 40's and 50's -- her faith buoyed her and inspired me but I never could follow her path when it came to the gifts of the spirit. There are times I believe it was my intellect that interfered -- that my faith is so "head-based" and not "heart-based" -- and times I believe it's because my need for it (at the time) was not great enough. (There's a lot there that I should unpack, but that's for later.)

I am now in a denomination where I find I am the ONLY clergy person I know that is comfortable praying for the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit -- perhaps my earlier experiences have brought me here for a purpose. I don't know.

I just want to say Thanks -- keep writing!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I'll respond to both of you, though maybe not on the blog, soon. Thanks for your gracious and honest comments.

much2ponder said...

Pastor, thank you for taking the time to write abut this very HOT topic. I was kind of excited when I began to read because I have been studying these very things. Thank you for your gracious notice of the good that may come of it. Love you,

Iris said...

There are also some Church of God folks who aren't "Pentecostal." I grew up in the Church of God (Anderson, IN.)

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Yep, more than one "Church of God." I'm thinking of Church of God, Clevland, TN.

seethroughfaith said...

It's good that Dutch Sheets has spoken out. Thank you for reminding me. I read it a few days ago but had left it hanging somewhere :(

I have been appalled by the lack of willingness to admit that mistakes have been made by very senior, very influencial leaders in endorsing what was happening in Lakeland, Fl. And I echo Sheet's sentiment that we need to learn from these mistakes (not sweep them under the carpet) ...

We ought to learn a lot from the mistakes that have been made in this revival - and some of that will be painful. But with God with us, we can do it, and partner with Jesus to build His church a fellowship of believers around the world.

Rev-to-be-Cody, Owl will answer you herself - but I want to add something. There is an awful lot that getting a MDiv will give you, but unless we walk WITH GOD in personal renewal it's head knowlege alone. God does work in mysterious ways and one of the problems with seminary is that it often teaches you to think IN the Box, but we get maturity by walking with God's spirit day after day after day.

I'm not knocking education (far from it, I love it) but alone it's not enough.

My prayer now is that we - the body of Christ- all of us (whatever label we are put under) - would start to seek His face, His hands His heart His ways - for then we will start to heal. Meanwhile we carry on, imperfect, broken - but together making up the whole.

blessings xx