Signs, Wonders, and the Supernatural

English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney
English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the supernatural realm is where the real action is in these days. As a race, especially those of us in the West, we have become so sophisticated that we discount the supernatural without adequate investigation and, by doing so, fall into the enemy’s trap. We must pay closer attention to the supernatural realm because we are involved in a supernatural battle, whether or not we understand it or accept it.

It is interesting to note that the fastest growing churches in the world are those of the Charismatic/Pentecostal traditions. This is especially true in Asia and Africa, but really, it is a phenomenon that can be seen all over the world. By the same token, it is those denominations that adhere most closely with the use of reason, logic, science, and the legacy of the Enlightenment that are withering on the vine. This is not how I would have predicted things to have worked out and it surely is not how I would have wished it would have worked out. Quite frankly, some of the craziness and downright foolishness seen in the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches is an abomination in my sight. And I suspect that much of the really fringe elements of these movements will disappear as time progresses.

However, I think the core elements of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement will continue to prosper because God says he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. And certainly, now more than ever, the supernatural side of things must be taken into account. I am uncertain as to exactly how this will manifest itself here in the West, however. One thing is certain, the church in the West will need more manifestations of God’s power in these rapidly changing times. Yet this revealing of God’s strength must be presented in a manner that is less chaotic and “sensational” than in the past. The days of flopping about, running around the sanctuary, barking like dogs and “holy drooling” have passed. It is a time for the world to see God’s power and presence in all its glory, not in patently bizarre human translations that greatly miss the mark.

As the future unfolds, one of the most needed of the spiritual gifts will be that of discernment. Pastors, teachers, elders, and others in positions of spiritual authority will need to be deeply educated in the criteria of discernment, or at least in recognizing those who have this gift, even in its embryonic forms. Anytime there is a period of increased Holy Spirit activity, and this is without a doubt one of those times, the potential for the Great Deceiver to lead many astray is great. We live in an age that is ripe for deception. Trained, gifted discerners are in critical need. James Goll speaks directly to this issue:

Lack of discernment and an unscriptural emphasis on experience beyond the confines of Scripture are major stumbling blocks for the majority of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who are open to the supernatural and revelatory realms of God…..When it comes to gifts of miraculous powers and prophecy, we need mature elders in every church who are equipped with the gift of discernment to watch over the flock. We also need apostolic voices who will release guidelines for discernment in the years to come, as the sense of God’s Presence and power increases throughout the world – growing alongside the “tares” of this world, evidenced in soulishly and demonically induced counterfeit expressions of power. Right now, we are sadly equipped with too few apostolic leaders who are respected enough to speak the truth in love about these issues of discernment and correction. And we have too few humble church leaders who are open to correction from apostolic leaders, regardless of their denominational preferences, networks, or alliances.

Many within the Mainline denominations and Evangelical churches have such a historically “negative charge” with the Charismatic movement that they suspect anything of Spirit-filled nature as being either doctrinally lacking or worse, a product of Satan. This mind-set is not entirely their fault as there has been such excess and, yes, plain wanton foolishness in more than a few Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Yet at the same time, it is not wise to completely slam the door shut.

At one end of the spectrum you have those sincere followers of the Master who are so turned off by what they see as bizarre extremism that they close their minds to all Charismatic experience. In a sense, these folks use too much discernment in the sense that anything even remotely resembling “Spirit-filled” experience is discounted out of hand. At the other end of the spectrum you have the fringe elements of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity that fall into all sorts of error, both doctrinal and experiential, and wind up engaging in practices that seem too strange to be true. At this extreme, too little discernment is practiced and, in some cases, none at all.

The contemporary church has a critical need for a more balanced approach to and criteria for accurate discernment of supernatural phenomena, grounded in Scripture but not so tightly bound as to handcuff the Spirit. The real challenge for the church at this point is the development of this much-needed criteria and, after that, widespread training in its fundamental applications. Understandably, this development remains a work in progress.

© L.D. Turner 2012/ All Rights Reserved

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