Charismatic Renewal

The Charismatic Renewal released a cohort of believers to go on into a much deeper Christian life. Being baptised in the Spirit was one of the best things that happened to me. It is up there with getting married and going to university. It was life-transforming. Most of the still-serious Christians that I meet from my generation were touched by the Spirit in that same season. One of my friends who was in Christchurch throughout this time talks about people coming to the Lord or being delivered from evil spirits on most Friday nights when they gathered together.

In my view, the Charismatic Renewal was the best thing that God did in New Zealand since the 1840s/1850s revival amongst Maori, because both were locally-driven and spontaneous. The Ratana movement in the 1920s/1930s was also important, but its scope was not as broad. The Pentecostal movement had an influence during the 1940s and 1950s, but it was mostly driven by visiting evangelists and revivalists, so it remained within a few churches on the fringe and did not reach into the wider church.

There are several reasons why the move was so effective in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the move of the Spirit stopped, but that does not mean that there is no hope. If it happened once, it can happen again. And it is what we need now more urgently than ever.

Move Stopped

At a recent discussion between people who participated in the Charismatic Renewal in New Zealand (I was not there, so this is hearsay), they agreed that at some time during the 1980s, the move of the Spirit stopped quite suddenly. It felt like the tide of the Spirit had gone out. One person said that when he prayed for someone to baptised in the Spirit and nothing happened. That was new. The people present concluded that this shut down of life happened at the same time all over New Zealand.

One church had repented of everything that they could think of, but nothing changed. However, I am not sure if they consulted with the prophets and asked what they believed God was saying about absence of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the drying up of his gifts.

No Seasons

There is a serious problem with the idea that the Holy Spirit stopped moving. He is not spasmodic or erratic. The Holy Spirit does not go through seasons. He does not have a season where he cannot be bothered doing anything, and another when he is keen to be active. The Holy Spirit is always active, seeking to advance the Kingdom of God.

So, if the Holy Spirit stopped being active in New Zealand during the 1980s, there must have been something blocking him. There are two possibilities.

If we want to recover what was lost, we need to understand what went wrong.

House Movement

Something that is often forgotten is that the initial moves of the charismatic renewal took place in the lounges and living rooms of people's homes.

What was the charismatic renewal all about? As an example, my father slogged away in a traditional church for nearly fifty years, keeping going because he was loyal. When he was baptised in the Spirit, his life was dramatically changed.

What made a difference was the gifts and the power of the Spirit. He experienced a great healing from a back problem that had troubled him for years. The Holy Spirit regularly manifested in his life through different gifts. He was given the courage to share the gospel boldly.

The worship in the church became more sophisticated, and modern musical instruments were adopted, and the heating/air conditioning was better, but otherwise, services did not change much different. My father was not transformed by modernised worship. The thing that made such a difference to his life was the Holy Spirit and his gifts. And he is what is often missing from many modern churches.

Move into the Building

When the charismatic renewal began to become respectable, the leaders attempted to move it from the living rooms of people on the fringes of society into the front of the Sunday church service.

Moving charismatic activity into the church changed the dynamic. We think that some big will have more impact, but the Holy Spirit loves working through twos and threes gathered together by love for Jesus. The shift from homes to church buildings was not effective.

Prophetic Message

At the time when the tide of the Spirit went out in the 1980s, God was speaking to his people and asked them to go back to where they had discovered the Holy Spirit.

God was calling the church to go back to where it first discovered the Holy Spirit, and asking it to focus its activities there. Several prophets declared this message. Some of the prophets were immature, so it was not always clear, but the word did go out.

Not Heard

Unfortunately, the church did not heed this call. People listened, but did not hear.

A word that is not heard,
cannot be fulfilled.
God shared his strategy,
and people listened,
but they did not hear
Amen, Amen! they said,
but no one got ready.
So God could do nothing,
he could not fulfil his word.
A word that is not heard,
cannot be fulfilled.
The church did not take up God's call, so the tide of the Spirit that had brought so much blessing and refreshing stayed out.

Leaders quickly took up church growth techniques from the United States as a substitute. We replaced the Holy Spirit with technique and well-managed programs. The church stopped trusting the spontaneity power of the Holy Spirit and started to rely on technique and good organisation. This became a reinforcing cycle. It brought order out of the chaos, but dulled the moving of the Spirit.

Most Charismatic Renewal churches have become church growth churches just like all the other Pentecostal-type churches that now predominate the landscape. The gifts and power of the Spirit are not present in the way they once were.

However, the problem is always with us, never with God. We must not blame God for our failings.

Shut Down

Recently, the New Zealand government shug down all church services for two monthes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This was an opportunity to move back to homes, but it was not taken. Instead, church leaders substituted to zoom and internet preaching. However, the Holy Spirit was not able to move through them in the way that he had previously moved in homes and living rooms.