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September 23, 2021

Charismania - Setting the Church and Sound Doctrine on Fire

By Anthony Wade

A detailed examination of the false signs and lying wonders within Charismania


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For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. - Matthew 24:24 (ESV)

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The bible speaks about a great end times apostasy, which many people including me, believe we are seeing unfold before our eyes today. Pinning down a definition is often an exercise in nailing Jell-O to a wall. This is because there are so many facets to the apostasy. Some look at the prosperity and word faith heresies of a Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer and believe that defines it. Or we look to the NAR dominionism of Charisma News and Michael Brown and define it that way. Still others look at Bethel Church, which embraces all forms of heresy, and rightly divine that the great falling away encompasses all popular deviancies from the word of God. It is not just one and the danger in only focusing on the NAR, prosperity gospel, or any one error is to miss the others that are constantly shipwrecking the faith of people across this world every single day. Narrow is the way to eternal life and few are those who find it! This is why! This is how come so many stand before Christ in Matthew 7 and bemoan, "Lord Lord" only to discover that He never even knew them! Sometimes we look at low hanging fruit like Kenneth Copeland or Creflo Dollar and give them a pass because they are so obviously false but millions of people follow them and will spend eternity in hell because of it. Attending a building that claims to be a church does not make you saved anymore than repeating a three-sentence prayer and then going to lunch as if nothing has happened. Modern day Pentecostalism is creating generations of churched people who are not saved.

Today we will be examining another facet of the apostate church known as false signs and lying wonders. Make no mistake about it beloved - the appearance of miraculous signs does not mean it must be of God. Read the key verse today and realize that false christs and prophets will be able to fool people with their signs. Bethel Church once pumped in a mist into their prayer service and claimed it was a "glory cloud." The people ate it up like candy. They also have claimed "miraculous" manifestations of gemstones, gold dust, and angel feathers. They employ a dead raising team and have slept on the crypts of dead heretics in order suck off some of their residual anointing. I kid you not. This is not germane solely to Bethel either as it is mainstream within Charismania, which pushes the boundaries of reality and biblical sense ever single day. It was Charismania that gave us holy laughter and people barking like dogs in church services. It gave us the Kundalini false spirit outpouring at Pensacola, which heretics like Michael Brown still swear was of God to this very day! Pastor John Burton is one of the fiercest proponents of Charismania and the excess it traffics in. The link above is to his latest article on Charisma News where he tries to provide the keys to the "wildfire" church he envisions. So, let us reason again beloved for while we should always believe in the gifts of the spirit, the Charismata, we should always reject those who would exceed the bible in expressing those gifts.

"Churches that don't fan the flames of intense Holy Spirit activity need to go. Like so many, I'm crying out for an earth-shocking move of God, an undeniable invasion of supernatural power that will drive us to our knees. The tears and the tremble that result will never leave us. Our very reason for existing will shift in an instant knowing we have just encountered Deity. The church has both the call and the authority to usher in such a holy visitation. Tragically, many have left the church with deep frustrations, giving up after holding out such high hope that revival would be the prime focus. Hosting the presence of God with the ultimate goal of igniting a regional outpouring is simply not the supreme motive of most churches today. Sure, many pastors and leaders would give a hearty head nod to the idea, but when it's time to contend, those who have refused to put down the weapons of warfare are few." - John Burton

Burton's premise reminds me of the wicked generation that was always seeking a sign. The mere presence of the Lord was not enough. We have His final revealed will within His word and that is not enough for the John Burton's of the world. Does the Holy Spirit really have to do some Irish Step Dancing in order to get our attention? What Burton is unmistakably referring to here is your typical Charismatic church service, which is usually utter chaos. Are there not enough people crying for God to move among His people? Those who leave the church are not leaving because of a lack of gibberish tongues or fake words of knowledge pumped out through Smart Phone technology. They are leaving because the false moves of the Holy Spirit never manifest in changed lives because they are devoid of the gospel.

"A pastor friend of mine recently mentioned the reason why so many in his charismatic/Pentecostal denomination shy away from pursuing revival. They are "afraid of weird." I've said often that as a leader, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. I fully embrace the weird. We need pastors who no longer care very much about how many mortals they have in the pews and start crying out for our immortal, fearful and omnipotent God to come! Oh yes, it will get wonderfully, supernaturally weird! Revival is messy, otherworldly, hard to understand and impossible to contain. This is actually the problem. Many of today's pastors and leaders prefer a controlled flame to a wildfire. God is yearning to blow the winds of the Spirit over fast spreading fire that threatens everything in its path. He wants to consume homes, businesses and all his fiery love can overcome. He doesn't want containment. This fire must be wild." - John Burton

Make sure you follow this logic because these beliefs are consistent across Pentecostalism and Charismania today. They are constantly chasing a revival that God never promised during these end times. That revival however by their own definition must be "weird." Why? What verse are you using to declare that Christian revival must be weird? How does it help the cause of the gospel for Christians to be seen as weird? To be seen rolling around on the floor and laughing uncontrollably? How does it help Christ for His followers to allow a man like Todd Bentley to kick people in the face in order to receive "healing?" Here is the deep theology of today that always escapes John Burton - that spirit you are following is not the Holy Spirit. You see the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion. God does not need people to spasm without any self-control when they give testimonies like we saw at Pensacola. One of the very gifts of the spirit is self-control! What Burton has lost sight of is the true supernatural move of God is always in saving the sin sick soul. He is not chasing the supernatural but rather things that make his flesh go "ooh and ahh." His definition of revival is not biblically supported. It stems from the history of Charismania, which remains widely celebrated, such as Azusa Street. I guess Paul did not want a wildfire because the church he outlined sure seems under control. Wild, out of control fire is not a sign from God. Burton would know this if he slowed down long enough to actually pursue God.

"Many have been campaigning for an end of church as usual. We need to take it a step further. It's easy for the Spirit-filled crowd to presume they have it. They are open to the moving of the Spirit of God and, as a result, have somehow arrived. This couldn't be further from the truth. If a church genuinely wants the fire, they can no longer shut up the tongues. Tongues of fire must be unleashed in our churches again! How rare is it to find supposed Spirit-filled churches that are roaring from groans that can't be uttered? The explosive, guttural cries of supernatural fire erupting out of the mouths of desperate people is a rare experience today. After all, that's weird and many of today's Charismatic pastors avoid it like the plague. We are all familiar with a typical Spirit-filled church service. You'll get some extended, nicely polished worship along with some lifted hands, dancing and shouts. Sometimes people will fall over when prayed for which is a sure sign you are in a Charismatic church. A long, enthusiastic sermon comes next followed by quality time at the altars. You are with me, right? We've all been there, done that. Of course, all of what I described, if authentic, is very good. Very, very good. However, it's not nearly what is needed if we want God's supernatural presence to absolutely overwhelm us. Revival doesn't launch from such a predictable, controllable church strategy." - John Burton

No John. This mixed up bastardized understanding of tongues has to go. It feeds the showy, look at me spirit that infects our churches every week. If you have been to a Charismatic church, you know of what I speak. Tongues each week from the same sources, translations vague and providing little sense, others never translated, which violates scripture. That is why even Paul said that he wished you to prophesy rather than speak in tongues. Realize that the church in this world existed for thousands of years without this false gibberish tongues we see today. The verses about groans is dealing with our prayer life, not our church services. Realize also that John Burton is speaking directly against scripture. Read how Paul describes at length the process of church services. God does not require nor traffic in crazy, wild and the uncontrolled. Did you know the definition of guttural is "being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable?" Who the heck wants explosive guttural cries of fire when we are supposed to be in fellowship with God?

"To take the church from tired, predictable services into the mission of revival requires a significant shift in strategy. Carefully crafting a smooth, vibrant, mildly supernatural Sunday church experience will never suffice. Churches that refuse to go into the depths in these end-times should go. They are standing in the way of legitimate revival in their city and are robbing God's people of the opportunity to experience an outpouring. While churches may be exceptionally good at any number of things, including growth, outreach, teaching, encouraging and discipleship, if they aren't doing it in the fire, they have become a liability in the Kingdom. Pastors may be brilliant leaders with thousands of people showing up to hear what they have to say each week, but without the knee-bending wind of the Spirit of God howling through the church, what's the point? Here are some of the key steps for promoting a wildfire revival." - John Burton

I am sorry but this just sounds demented and Satanic now. So, churches that are really good at growth, outreach, teaching and encouraging are just not enough unless there is some vague sense of a wind howling through the sanctuary?? Seriously? If there is not this nonsensical version of fire then it is a liability to the kingdom? Of course, what Burton seeks can be found at Bethel Church every week! It can be found at IHOP every week! These are spiritual cesspools! Burton sounds like the seven sons of Sceva, playing with a fire they cannot contain and do not respect. I agree that predictable church services can be boring and unproductive if the gospel is missing but setting the church on fire is not the cure! I watched an itinerant prophetess once make people chase her around the Charismatic sanctuary to obtain their blessing from her, which resulted in bodies strewn across the church "slain in the spirit." It was purely demonic. That prophetess would leave Christianity to become a Rabbi. True story.

"In order for revival to become job one in the church today, the seeker mindset of old must go. We have to be ready and willing to allow the majority to exit our churches never to return if that is, in fact, the required cost of revival. Pastors find your remnant and burn hot with them. Until we realize the church is more about ministering to God than it is ministering to people we'll never even take the first step toward an outpouring. Pastors need an army of locked-in people who aren't showing up for themselves, but rather as sacrificial warriors who are ready to pierce the darkness as a single unit." - John Burton

Whoa. I am the first to agree that seeker friendly church theories are not biblical and a huge part of the problem. That said, the notion that you would welcome and encourage people to leave your church is just as Satanic as the day that Rick Warren first suggested the same idea in his Purpose Driven Church heresy. Realize that what Burton essentially is saying here is to get rid of any dissent to his insane vision of what church should be. So, anyone who would insist on biblical church? Yeah, they have to go so we can set fire to the place and all moan gutturally and uncontrollably. While we are on the subject of insane theology - God does not need us to minister to Him! How arrogant! Church is about the growth of the saints into the likeness of Christ, to be prepared for al the good works God has for us. Darkness cannot pierce darkness.

"From my article, The Tone of the Groan: Throughout scripture we see groans preceding a great deliveranceand this deep groan of the Spirit must erupt in our churches and in our cities now. The days of quiet, sedate church services built upon human order must come to an endSunday mornings must resound with a prophetic shock and a new sound of trembling people exploding in groans of the Spirit. We need Azusa-level reports to shoot around the planet as we explode in supernatural cries! In a skeptical front-page story titled "Weird Babel of Tongues." a Los Angeles Times reporter attempted to describe what would soon be known as the Azusa Street Revival. "Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand", the story began, "the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles". Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings with the following words: ... disgraceful intermingling of the races...they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, 'Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing... They repeatedly sing the same song, 'The Comforter Has Come.' This is the most important and most effective step, by far, in promoting a wildfire atmosphere. Instead of nice, catchy worship and other typical church elements, introduce the raging glory and power of groans and tongues. Literally, when stepping into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, the atmosphere will radiate with supernatural power as everybody is engaging in aggressive, expressive and booming groans and tongues! When pastors lead the way by engaging everybody in 30-60 minutes (or more) of continual, intense intercession at this level, literally everything in the church will change. It will shift from a low-level, mildly spiritual atmosphere that is mostly dependent on coercing people to tithe more, serve more and attend more to one that has people lined up outside the doors for hours waiting to get in." - John Burton

I was not at Azusa Street and neither was John Burton. It is amazing however how we worship our history when it fits our narrative. I was taught about Azusa by the Assemblies of God. I do not recall my textbook describing it as "they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit." That doesn't sound Christian to me. That does not sound like the God of order was present. The bible warns us to redeem the time with unbelievers - not act as if we are deranged. What is getting "revived" in Burton's vision? It certainly will not be the lost who will correctly look upon the "on fire" church as crazy or under a spell. It will not be those who believed in orderly church service because you kicked them out. So, revival will only come then to those few people who buy into this nonsense over the sound doctrine found in scripture? Good luck with that.

"I'm not talking about worldly vision or an entrepreneur spirit. I mean pastors and leaders must be living their lives saturated in prayer and the Word to such a degree that God exploded supernatural vision into their spirits. Dreams, visions and encounters will rock and shock them to such a degree that little else matters than running toward the fulfillment of what God has revealed to them. Happy sing-a-longs, tepid prayer times, powerless sermons and a nice little family environment will give way to a vibrant, anointed, fearful and weighty atmosphere. Joshuas, Gideons and other bold, relentless biblically-modeled men and women of God will lead the charge into the great unknown. They know that only a remnant can get them where they need to go. Most will need to be released into the deserts of their own makings as they identify the few who have the courage to advance into the land of promise." - John Burton

Where does God intimate that church is about forging ahead into the great unknown? Are not all things known and revealed through His word? I share Burton's apparent displeasure with churchianity, but his solution is unbiblical and mentally unhinged. Is the gospel not bold enough for John Burton that he must have a side show with it? The bible is the supernatural vision from God! Do not add to it!

"If authentic prophecy isn't predominant in each and every gathering, the advance toward a glorious revival will be stunted. While low-level, carnal, fake and invented "prophecy" must be rejected wholesale, true prophetic revelation must be embraced. Decrees and declarations based on the timely insight that God has revealed to that local body will shock the atmosphere with authority. The people, the remnant soldiers, should be trained and empowered to prophesy, and the entire body must be ready to shift and redirect as the winds of the Spirit move them. Fire and brimstone preaching will have to make an appearance in such a revival-focused environment. Unapologetic calls to radical consecration are absolutely mandatory. Holiness and repentance must be a common thread through everything in the ministry. While an atmosphere of grace is key, allowing people to authentically reveal their struggles in a loving atmosphere, the severity of the fear of the Lord must also be felt." - John Burton

There is nothing for us to declare and decree except what God has already said! Beloved, there has been no fear of the Lord displayed throughout this entire article. What there has been, is a display of sheer, unbridled Charismania and how they view the takeover of the church they wish to undertake. People rolling around on the ground, glory clouds and uncontrolled winds, guttural groans throughout the church service intermingled with random gibberish, people declaring and decreeing false prophecies and all in the name of a revival never promised in scripture. John Burton needs to repent and stop chasing carnal signs and lying wonders. He needs to stop leading people down the broad path.

"The Word of God must be read and fully believed, proclaimed and boldly decreed if revival is to be had. The mission must be based on extreme adherence to the challenging truths of Scripture. Those who know God will be strong and do great exploits, and the revelation of the Word along with an atmosphere of fervent prayer will result in a people who know their God. Simply, Sunday School style Bible teaching won't cut it. We need faith-filled, vision-driven and fearless proclamations of Scripture that rips apart strongholds and shatters the teeth of the enemy. We need biblical revelation that strikes us, marks us and wrecks us. We need the Word of God to pierce our hearts, captivate our minds and overwhelm our intellect." - John Burton

Yeah, no. This is just another extension of the me-centric spirit of Charismania. We will be strong and do great exploits? Regular teaching will not cut it? Instead of scripture it needs to be "proclamations" of scripture? That sounds an awful lot like what Bill Johnson does at Bethel where he references scripture but does not actually read it all in context. The scripture must be vision driven? Whose vision? From where? Is there anything wrong with the vision God has already given us in His word? Why are all of John Burton's "solutions" found outside of the word? He should probably try understanding scripture before seeking to be "wrecked" by it.

"The pursuit of revival is a regional and national pursuit, not a local one. What I mean is, the end goal is not local church growth. It's beyond time to forever surrender the annual goals of more people, more small groups, more offerings, new buildings and any focus on local. If God starts moving powerfully in another local church in the city, pastor, you must shut your thing down for a season and support what God is doing on the other side of town. The goal is regional outpouring. The vision is much greater than four walls. The moment the goal is the development of a single local church is the moment that church has been disqualified from the pursuit of regional revival." - John Burton

Just more and more unbiblical notions from John Burton. This little nugget is his pursuit of what Charismania refers to as the "Apostolic." This is where apostles control regions and pastors are relegated to subservient roles. By the way, Burton fancies himself an apostle too. What a coincidence! Just look at what he is advocating for! If you want to grow a local church, as they did throughout the New Testament, you are disqualified from regional revival? As is typical with self-aggrandizing Charismatics, they are looking in the wrong direction. God does not look for this grander vision beyond the four walls of your church. He is looking smaller. He looks at the individual heart. All of heaven rejoices when ONE sinner repents, not when man organizes a region to run around like their hair is on fire sputtering verse fragments and chasing revival.

"I covered this mostly in the section about tongues and groans, but felt it necessary to doubly impress upon you the need for constant, fervent and powerful intercession. This is not a separate, side ministry that takes place before a service or on an off night. It's not to be relegated to a side room or to be led by anybody other than the senior leader. It's the most important, most powerful and most neglected ministry of the church. The church isn't a house of preaching, a house of relationships, a house of evangelism or a house of anything other than a house of prayer. That's it. Sunday services should be mostly vibrant prayer meetings. The cookie-cutter model we've become so used to must go. The worship, announcements, preaching, altar time paradigm must cease. The new wine skin is bathed in intercession, and every member of the remnant church must deliberately give themselves to it night and day." - John Burton

The parable of the wineskins is literally contrasting the teachings of Christ and the Old Testament teachings of law. It has nothing to do with how we conduct church service. Let me explain where Burton gets this over-obsession with intercession from. He has worked extensively with Mike Bickle and IHOP. It was at IHOP where they dedicated themselves to 24-hour prayer, upheld by their students. This went on for years and still IHOP was one of the most heretical Christian institutions on the planet. Making people scream and moan guttural chants does not make anything better or more holy. Dragging it into the church service certainly will not benefit anyone nor please God. By the way, I am not defending the cookie cutter fraud that is passed off as church either, but the answer is not to be more brazen in your poor theology and heresy.

"We are far from revival. I hear prophets and preachers talking about how near we are, and I just have to shake my head and wonder what exactly they are discerning. In terms of timing, can revival break out sooner than later? Sure. But in terms of distance, in terms of where we are now and were we must be as a church to see revival hit, we are far. The church must experience a reformation that will shock it to its core. It's this shock and awe of God's supernatural invasion that will never let us do church as usual again, Spirit-filled or otherwise. Every goal will change. Board and staff meetings will never be the same. Strategies and how money is spent will morph overnight. When God visits, nothing else matters. The result will be a church on fire that prays night and day with ferocity." - John Burton

I want to make sure we all understand what is going on here. Burton correctly discerns that the modern church is not what God intended. This seeker-friendly, purpose driven, pastoral cult of personality mess is the apostate church in action. What he cannot see is where he fits in the current apostasy. It is a wicked generation that constantly seeks after a sign. False signs and lying wonders are just as much a part of the apostasy he is railing against but he cannot see it. His solutions are not new and are currently in place in several prominent churches. His 24 hour prayer paradigm was tried for decades at IHOP and it did not result in a doctrinally correct church. His out of control moaning church service has occurred in the Toronto Outpouring, the Pensacola debacle, and Lakeland with Todd Bentley. Those are just the prominent ones. The result is indeed a church on fire but the fire did not come from God. Charismania remains one of the leading forces in the great falling away with people like John Burton leading the way. Mark and avoid. Mark and avoid.

Reverend Anthony Wade - September 23, 2021

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.