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A Call To Charismatic Leaders
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A Call To Charismatic Leaders

Statement from the Bawtry Hall Charismatic Leaders Consultation

This article was published by The Centre for Contemporary Ministry, in association with Intercessors for Britain. It was first published in Prophecy Today.

The is article is reprinted here as part of our "Sugar and Vinegar" section. While you might not agree with everything it says, I'm sure you'll find it promotes the balance many Christians within the renewal and revival movements are seeking.

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Preface

Whenever there is a fresh move of God or new things happening in the church there is a need for leaders to discern the direction and value of any new spiritual insights, teachings or practices. Inevitably there will be different perceptions of anything new, but for evangelicals, who all regard the Bible as the unchanging word of God, this provides us with a standard with which to measure any changes in doctrine or practice.

It is out of a concern for unity within the context of the pursuit of truth that the Centre for Contemporary Ministry has sponsored several consultations for evangelical leaders who are also active within the charismatic sector of the church. Two one-day consultations were held in London and three residential three-day consultations were held at Bawtry Hall, South Yorkshire. They were held in the period 1994 to 1996, and were attended by well over one hundred leaders from a wide variety of denominations and traditions. They also represented different perceptions of the new phenomena which was being embraced in many churches. Thus, part of the process of biblically-based weighing was to listen to the testimony of leaders from different traditions.

The result was the preparation of a draft statement which was circulated among those who attended the residential consultations. The final statement was discussed with the directors of the Evangelical Alliance and then sent for comment before publication to a large number of charismatic leaders who had not attended the consultations. The Statement coming out of the Bawtry Hall meetings is a call to all evangelicals, and especially those within charismatic churches, to reassert the centrality of Scripture as the basis of truth and the yardstick for assessing all our teaching and practice.

Clifford Hill
Director of the Centre for Contemporary Ministry

A Call to Charismatic Leaders

The purpose of the meetings at Bawtry Hall was to examine present trends in the Charismatic Movement. By the term 'Charismatic Movement' we refer to the increased work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers which commenced in the 1960s. This has been evidenced by a 'rediscovery' of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the recognition of the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit as referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. We see this as being fully in line with the biblical revelation of God's activity in the world and the outworking of his post-calvary plan of salvation. We see the need for a fresh examination of the beliefs and practices which have been adopted by many within the Charismatic Movement, giving concern regarding the direction in which the movement is heading. We see it as essential that the Charismatic Movement recognises the prime authority of scripture in all matters of faith and practice, so that the whole counsel of God be faithfully presented to this present generation.

Perilous Times Ahead!

We believe that all the nations of the world are facing perilous times and it is vitally important that God's people are prepared for the coming days. It is essential that we defend and declare 'the faith once and for all delivered to the saints'. It is vital that we proclaim a clear unadulterated gospel to the world and present to the Church teaching which is uncontaminated by deception and error. Only by doing this shall we fulfil our essential calling.

Dangerous Deceptions

Any work of God will be challenged by the enemy, therefore, it is all the more important that we safeguard the work from enemy attack. It is our belief that a number of errors have crept into the Charismatic Movement. Replacement Theology has not only robbed us of our Hebrew roots, but has denied a place for Israel in the end-time purposes of God.

Closely linked with Replacement Theology is Dominion Theology and the false eschatological hope of the Church ruling the nations before the return of Christ. The result is that God's people are unprepared to cope with the threat from the New Age Movement, One World Government and the spirit of the Antichrist. The Charismatic Movement has been influenced by the Latter Rain Movement and the Manifest Sons of God with their emphasis on a super breed of Christians being produced to prepare the way for the return of Christ. The Kansas City Prophets were clearly part of this thinking, but many Charismatic leaders failed to discern them as false prophets. This in turn paved the way for the Toronto Experience and its unbiblical phenomena.

There are other areas of false teaching such as the Prosperity Doctrine and some aspects of spiritual warfare, in particular certain practices concerning 'territorial spirits' and 'taking cities for God'. Power Evangelism has overemphasised the importance of 'signs and wonders' to the detriment of the clear preaching of the gospel. We have often brought the preaching of the gospel into the area of entertainment rather than seeking the conviction of sin and calling for repentance. The emphasis on signs and wonders has also brought about a naivety among God's people causing them to believe that anything supernatural or unusual must be of God. This again prepared the way for the uncritical acceptance of Toronto Experience.

Part of the decline began with the so-called Heavy Shepherding emphasis where leaders appeared to be above contradiction and sought total authority over their members. This brought about a situation whereby believers no longer tested the spirits, or judged by biblical standards the teaching they were given. Consequently the Church has fallen prey to the wiles of Satan with various dangerous deceptions being introduced.

In making these comments, we are not saying that everything has been wrong. Indeed many of the new emphases came about as a correction to the inadequacies of the past, but an overemphasis in many matters has brought about its own problems and paved the way for error. This was true in the matter of the work and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Such a wrong emphasis led to elevating spiritual experience above the word of God.

Testing or Judgement?

Scripture makes it plain that God does test His people. When God sent the manna, He tested their hearts to see whether they would keep His instructions regarding its collection and use. We have been like the children of Israel grabbing the blessing, but often ignoring the instruction of God's word. In many ways, we have failed the test! Equally, neglect and disobedience will eventually lead to the judgement of God. Psalm 106 records that God granted the request of the Israelites, but He sent a wasting disease. We believe that because we have sought every experience and form of excitement, without taking heed of God's word, His anger has fallen upon us. We are now experiencing a 'wasting disease' in terms of false experiences and pseudo-Christian theology and practice.

Call for a Biblically-Based Movement

Some have stated that as now we have contemporary revelations and increasing experience of the Spirit, we can rely less upon the written word. We believe this to be a totally false position. In issuing the following call, we would ask all our brothers and sisters in the Charismatic Movement to join with us in seeking the Lord afresh in humility and repentance. We need to recognise the pride and arrogance which has given entrance to the enemy and our neglect of scripture which has left us prey to deception and error. We, therefore, call our brethren to:

1. Restore the Primacy of God's Word

We believe the Scriptures alone are the supreme source of authority on matters of faith and practice. We need to recognise that the failure of many leaders both to teach and to encourage the study of scripture has caused the neglect of many important aspects of biblical teaching resulting in ignorance of biblical truth and leaving its members prone to deception.

2. Restore a Biblical Doctrine of Salvation

The preaching of the gospel must include a clear call to repentance and justification by faith alone, with a recognition that such salvation delivers us from eternal judgement. We are in danger of using a superficial message and methods which rob people of a true knowledge of salvation.

3. Restore Objectivity to our Faith

So much of what is encouraged today is subjective experience and practice which is not tested at the bar of Scripture.

4. Restore Truth Instead of Error

Some of the teaching in Charismatic Churches has been based on so-called revelational teaching (extra-biblical) or even on false prophecies. There needs to be a fresh emphasis on the truth contained within God's word.

5. Restore True Unity.

There has been an overemphasis on unity to the detriment of truth. True unity can only be based on the truth. Prior to Jesus praying that they might be one, He prayed 'Sanctify them in the truth, Thy word is truth'. This is the right order, for truth leads to true unity! In order to seek this true unity we recognise the need for greater openness between those holding different viewpoints. We need to seek every opportunity to express our differences and evaluate them in the light of scriptural truth.

6. Restore a Sense of the Holiness of God

Within the Charismatic Movement we have become far too casual with God. Although He is our Father, He is a Holy God. Jesus often addressed God as 'Holy Father'. Without a sense of the awesomeness of God, there is little development of true and mature Christian character.

7. Restore a Biblical Understanding of the Mission and     Purpose of the Church.

We believe that the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ has often been distorted or neglected by today's Church thus leaving her ill-prepared and equipped for the last days. The Church needs to engage fully in her mission to give a clear proclamation of her eternal hope, and prepare herself to be the Bride of Christ.

This call therefore is not a call to return to dead formalism, but to live and teach the word of God in the power and understanding of the Holy Spirit. This call is not to censure God's people, but to encourage us all to a full-hearted love of the Lord in obedience to His commands and purposes. This call is not to inward introspection, but to a vital outward expression and witness of the love and mercy of God. This call is not to invalidate any past move of God in the Charismatic Movement, but is a fresh call to all believers (in which we include ourselves) to be the 'Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth' (1 Timothy 3:15).

The Lord Jesus sent a strong warning to the Church in Sardis which we believe is a message to us today:

"Wake up and strengthen what remains, and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" - Revelation 3:2.

 

This statement was prepared by:
Ray Borlase, Andrew Edwards, Peter Fenwick, David Forbes, Philip Foster, Clifford Hill, Russell Howell, Roy Lycett, David Noakes, in conjunction with all those who attended the Bawtry Hall consultations.

Published by The Centre for Contemporary Ministry, in association with Intercessors for Britain.

Registered Charity Number 1022698

Note: The Centre for Contemporary Ministry provides training for ordained and lay ministers, leadership consultations on current issues in the church, and a variety of other resources.

Prophecy Today's mission is:

  • Providing a Christian perspective on current world events
  • Showing the relevance for today of the biblical prophets
  • Building up the body and moving the church into mission
  • Defending the faith in an age of multi-faith confusion
  • Bringing the unchanging word of god to a changing world

Subscription information and online back-issues can be found at the magazine's home page.

© Copyright 1996 Centre for Contemporary Ministry/Prophecy Today. Published in the Apologetics Index by permission.


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