This is Part Three of a four-part series on Holy Spirit baptism. Please read Parts One and Two before jumping into the middle of the story here! Forgive the autobiographical bent to this series, but it is meant to portray the profound damage that the Charismatic movement can do to people, especially the very young:
Part Two ended where the great experiment – “the Church in Fort Lauderdale” – began. A link at the end of Part Two describes the experiment and it’s tragic results which linger even today. The principle founders of the movement have expressed regret for the damage, at least as far as to say, “we did a right thing a wrong way.” I am here to bear witness that they did a wrong thing, period. They failed to clearly distinguish spiritual authority from other forms of authority; most notably domestic authority, the authority of conscience, and the priestly authority that belongs to every believer in “a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6).” It was wrongly assumed that disciples were under obligation to their master until released by him. That was never so, even in bible times. Jesus’ disciples were free to walk away at any time, and in fact, many did. In this tyrannical experiment, the “penalty” for departure was condemnation – equivalent to excommunication, “let him be to you as a tax collector (Matthew 18:17).” Entire churches that saw this scheme for what it was were labeled as being “in deception,” and members of those churches who followed the movement were called upon to renounce their churches and be assigned to a new “shepherd.”
My church was soon to become one of them. My old middle school crush didn’t even know that I existed, and her dad’s preaching didn’t make sense to me anyway. So when some of the other kids from the Monday night teaching time who sat on the floor with me, literally at Bob Mumford’s feet, invited me to their church, I was anxious to go. It was a Southern Baptist church, traditional, with a piano, organ, and choir just like a “real” church was supposed to have. And it had a supercharged youth group that was oh-so-Spirit-filled, just like the few kids from my first church! It would be almost like going back to my first church, except with no danger of being kicked out for speaking in tongues! Andy, the youth pastor, was dynamic and “wise in the things of the Spirit,” and the youth group under his leadership grew large and dynamic as well. One of the church buildings was designated “The Cup,” and Friday night meetings there took the form of youth-led rock ‘n’ roll Charismatic bliss where “the gifts of the Spirit” flowed freely. Manifestations of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and knowledge ran almost amok. It was so very different from the Sunday services, which were more traditional, but peppered with more modest “manifestations” during the song and prayer times before the sermon. The Cup was dark, crowded, and exuberant with runaway Charismatic indulgence that reminded me of my first visit to a Pentecostal church, but less put-on and artificial. I had met Andy and some of the other kids before at the Monday night “Mumford meetings,” but Friday nights at The Cup were wild and wonderfully “anointed.” I didn’t find out until later that Andy was among those being trained as a “shepherd” for the new Church in Fort Lauderdale, nor did I have any hint of the heartbreak that was soon to follow.
Before I get to that part of the story I want to convey what we kids meant when we talked about “the anointing,” or about so-and-so being “a really anointed teacher,” or “that song is really anointed.” For us, a person or event that was “anointed” was one that had a special spiritual power. “Wow couldn’t you just feel the anointing Friday night!” Anointing imparted a kind of righteous ecstasy that was palpable. The thrill of a teaching with implications we hadn’t considered before, or a song that made us feel especially intimate with God, or a teacher whose presentations prompted intense feelings of unqualified weal and delight – this was “the anointing.” It was a sure indication to us that God had empowered and approved the person or thing that was taking place. If one could feel the anointing, one accepted it as having been God-sent and God-empowered.
The Scriptures, however, hold no such definition of the term. Most often the words anoint and anointing in the both Testaments refer to the physical application of medicine, balm, water, or oil to an injured part or a sick person. Sometimes it means “mingled” or “mixed,” as in unleavened cakes “anointed” with oil in Exodus 29:2. In a more spiritual sense, anointing was done to designate people or things as set apart, or holy to the Lord, as in the ordination of Levitical priests (Exodus 29:29) or Samuel anointing Saul and David as kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1 and 16:12-13 – and note in the account of Saul’s anointing that he prophesied!). In the New Testament, other than its primary meaning of applying or mixing, it is similarly used to represent ordination or setting apart for God (Luke 4:18, Acts 4:27, 2 Corinthians 1:21). We find it applied generally to all who are in Christ, representative of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, applying God’s word to our hearts, bringing it to remembrance in time of need. As oil is applied to outward things, so the word of God is applied to the inner man by the Holy Spirit. Through the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit writes,
These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him (1st John 2:27, NASB).
The way we know whether a thing is approved by God is not from the giddy feeling we get from having our ears tickled with seductive words. We know God’s approval because of the application of the written and infallible word of God by the Holy Spirit! The anointing, as it applies in believers, is upon their ears and feet, so to say:
…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:3-5, NASB).
So how is it that so many of the Lord’s sheep follow false teachers? One would have to ignore and suppress the anointing that John described above in order to do so! But tickle their ears a bit, and many will do just that:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2nd Timothy 4:3-4, NASB).
The genuine anointing of God in every believer is what keeps calling them back to the truth, enabling them to walk away from myths and fables to dine in the fields of lush grass that our true Shepherd leads us to. To many Charismatics, “anointing” only means having their ears tickled! But they would rarely admit it.
When all of the “shepherds” in “the Church at Fort Lauderdale” were trained and established in little flocks of their own, all accountable to the three “Apostles” of the church, the call went out from the “Apostles of the Church at Fort Lauderdale” that any church that was not “in submission” to the larger Church at Fort Lauderdale was “in deception,” and those who were truly following the will of God would come out from those churches and take their place under an approved “undershepherd.” My church did not play along. Andy left West Lauderdale Baptist Church, and took most of the Friday night “Cup kids” with him and formed a commune under “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.” While I must confess that I immensely enjoyed having my ears tickled, even at age 14 I knew the voice of my true Shepherd and refused to follow Andy – and almost all of my friends with him – any further. Besides, there was plenty of ear tickling to be enjoyed right where I was. I stayed put, but was lonelier than ever. I watched from a distance as old friends from the Cup were exploited, abused, and abandoned when they broke. The great guitar player I always tried to emulate had gone with Andy. And in less than a year’s time, had entered into a homosexual relationship with another member of “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.”
The youth group at West Lauderdale Baptist had to rebuild, almost from scratch. Very few of the youth had remained, not wanting to miss out on the Grand Anointed Plan that was unfolding. Of those who stayed behind, I was the youngest. The loss of those friendships left me in profound danger of further exploitation, yet God had spared me from the fate of those who had left, which was far worse.
In Part Four I will finally get to a scriptural analysis of the doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism, and the role of the spiritual gifts according to scripture. Stay tuned!