This week J. Lee Grady knocked the ball out of the park with his weekly instalment of “Fire In My Bones”, his column over at Charisma Magazine. It was entitled 9 Bad Charismatic Habits We Need to Break. I shared this on social media to a small reaction by others who got a kick out of it.
I agreed whole heartedly with every point he made in the article, with some getting a more resounding ‘amen’ out of me than others. I think the thread between each thing that charismatics needed to stop doing was manipulating or trying to make stuff happen without the Holy Spirit’s help. That’s not to say God’s Spirit can’t knock someone off their feet and do a work in their hearts, but it IS to say that He doesn’t need our help by pushing them to the ground.
Some of this stuff is fresh on my mind as I’m writing a forthcoming e-book on Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues, and out of necessity, I’m sharing a lot of my own experiences throughout the chapters in this particular book. Many of the silly experiences I can point out to come from before and the year after I got baptized in the Holy Spirit (which happened on Sept 9th, 2001) with the evidence of speaking in tongues. If you’re going to get hung up on that point about tongues you’re really going to miss out on where I’m actually going with this post, so relax. Nobody needed to “prime the pump” and get me to repeat “come tie my bowtie” and “she came in a Honda” and stuff like this. The Holy Spirit totally instigated it and encouraged me in it.
To Fall or Not To Fall?
I’ve been in meetings where the ministry team I was a part of had lined up in altar areas and began praying for people who came forward. Back in 2008 I remember during my first trip here to Peru I noticed that when the main guest preacher I was accompanying prayed for people, they tended to fall down to the floor or shake, but then when I was praying for people, nothing outward happened. I saw a few of them then go over and line up to receive prayer from the other minister.
I knew what was happening. Those people felt that if the Holy Spirit didn’t knock them down, they didn’t really “receive” anything from Him so they were not going to settle for “second fiddle” prayer from me. They wanted the other guys to deliver the goods.
Or something like that. I’ve been there, so I can’t fault them.
During my second semester in Bible college, I went to the Brownsville Assembly of God on a Friday night to hear Tommy Tenney speak as he was one of my favorite authors and speakers in those days and I counted it a privilege to hear him in person. During the altar time, he was going around the sanctuary laying hands on those who wanted it. I noticed basically one by one people kept dropping to the floor like sacks of potatoes after receiving a touch from him. Since he was coming my way, and I was fond of him, I decided to stay put, close my eyes, reach out my hands in the air and pretend I was really spiritual so he’d notice me and think I was “hungry” for more of God, and lay hands on me and a lightning bolt from God would zap me to the ground.
I felt a hand touch my head, heard a voice faintly say something like “fill him Lord” and that was it. I opened my eyes (after a few seconds, so Tommy wouldn’t see that I had opened them yet and somehow revoke what he had just prayed over me), and to my disappointment, I was still standing, while there were bodies everywhere.
“What a ripoff!” I thought to myself, since it looked like everybody else was having a good time but me. So I turned around and started to find another way out of the aisle I was in. Then I noticed every person who came within a few feet of me all fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t touch anybody! I certainly didn’t push anybody to the ground. I didn’t even “feel” anything leave me like Jesus did when the woman touched his garment and was healed.
Insignificant Indicators of Nothing
The Lord used that night at Brownsville to show me a few things, one of which is that people can all receive from God in different ways, and in my case, I tend not to “feel” anything when I do. But yet I’ve prayed over people without any manipulation on my end and under the anointing of the Holy Spirit they started shaking. Others, no shaking but they just fall backward and a catcher thankfully helped them fall gently to the ground. By “help them” I mean make sure they don’t splatter their head like a watermelon on the concrete floor. It’s not about me or any other individual. If I walk by and lay hands on a row of individuals and none of them fall to the ground, or shake, I don’t use that as an indication God has not really touched them or imparted something to them through praying. I’ve seen people fall to the ground and be the biggest “manifesters” but yet have their lives a mess and seemingly live any differently when they get up off the floor and go back to their normal lives.
If the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are treated like they’re the measure to go by of what God is doing, then what is He doing? I’ve seen other reserved people who you’d never see raise their arms or clap get knocked down or shake uncontrollably as well, and in that case I know it’s God and not the person giving a courtesy drop.
During my second semester of FIRE School of Ministry in Pensacola, FL, I had the opportunity to go on a “mission” trip to Panama City during spring break for a weekend. It was only a few hours’ drive away, and I had little idea of what we were scheduled to be doing until we got there. About 4 car loads of us young twenty somethings and maybe a few older somethings drove over to do some kind of evangelism in the busy streets of Panama City with the college students who’d also flocked there.
“You Can Have a Drug Addict’s Prophecy Too”
When our convoy got there, there was a white rapper my age singing some tunes with some obvious degree of talent at a stage set up in the parking lot located at a very busy intersection. His backup dancers were in their forties and clearly had never even heard a rap song before. It turns out it was an older Pentecostal group who had organized it, and I’m willing to bet none of the church members were under the age of 40. I’m not against street preaching or open air preaching from a microphone, but it dawned on me that basically that was the entire plan of ministry — to preach through loud speakers at these cars while they were waiting in traffic. Fine. Whatever fills your tank.
So we preached and “bound” the “territorial spirits” over Panama City through the sound system. I’ve heard that binding and loosing works better if you can be loud. But anyway, there was not much drama the first night and then during the Saturday afternoon we went street preaching and my friend from Canada, who also went on the trip, led a Navy officer to the Lord and he wound up keeping in touch with him after that trip was over. So at least something good came of it.
That night, one of the middle-aged women who were a part of this ministry took to the microphone and shared her testimony. In the eleven years since I don’t remember much of it, but I do recall that within the last year, her backslidden husband had died of a drug overdose. Someone special or another had prophesied something over him (that I can’t remember), but he went further into drugs and died. It was truly sad to hear and I really sympathized with this woman’s loss. However, she then proclaimed that the Word of God accomplishes what it is purposed to do, meaning, what was prophesied over her husband she was now going to be “released” over all us young people there that night.
Right, because that’s how prophetic words work.
“Come Forward if You Want Prayer from The Apostle Man”
Then shortly after that I remember the “apostle” of the city came out while some of us were standing around waiting either for someone to talk to and minister to, or to be given something to do. Who on earth appointed this man as the apostle of Panama City is anybody’s guess. Probably the same lady who released her dead husband’s prophecy over us for all I know.
Anyway, I was talking to an Italian friend, when I heard him — the apostle dude — grab the microphone and announce that if anybody wanted prayer, to come up front near the stage and receive it now because a “strong anointing was on him” to pray for people. I wasn’t interested, so I kept talking. I continued to remain oblivious to anything other than my immediate surroundings until I realized he was coming up to us and he got in the way of me and my friend — who I also don’t recall asking for any prayer — and he pushed her to the ground while speaking in tongues. Then he put his hands on my forehead and I could feel at least one catcher (the people who “catch you” when you fall over in Pentecostal and charismatic meetings) put their hands on my shoulders while he pushed and pushed and pushed with his hand on my forehead.
I was visibly irked and was refusing to let him knock me down, especially since I was in the middle of a conversation in the middle of this parking lot and neither one of us had given any indication that we wanted prayer from this guy, so his laying hands on us was an interruption and an intrusion. Apostle-man looked frustrated like a vein was going to pop in his neck and gave up and stopped trying to push me. I felt the catcher’s hands come off my shoulders, and I just stared incredulously at him and his little entourage for a moment while I watched him go up to a few other people who seemed to not be bothered by his quest to find people to push to the pavement.
On this trip I had a little cut or abscess or something on my lip and decided that was a good moment to sneak away to the bathroom to apply some ointment on it since I had already been teased mercilessly by other teammates for having a small blob on my lower lip. Only, I decided to sit in a bathroom stall for about, I don’t know, half an hour, and just talk to God.
I’m not sure which of the two I was doing. I was trying to gather my thoughts and determine whether God might actually be doing something out there in the parking lot that I was missing out on, or if this was actually just “charismatic nonsense”, because so far, I had not been persuaded very well that it was the former.
I finally composed myself, and went back out to the parking lot where immediately one of the teammates noticed I was coming out and apparently noticed I had not been around for a little bit. I immediately admitted to him I had a big problem with what was going on.
Not that people were falling.
Not that people were shaking.
Not that anything “charismatic” was happening.
But that I have a hard time understanding when people become a-holes “under the anointing”. He admitted to me he had some misgivings too, but that he changed his mind after receiving prayer from the man and that it really blessed him. This friend encouraged me to go get prayer from the apostle so-called but otherwise left me feeling like he wouldn’t condemn me if I didn’t.
So, I followed after him as he appeared to still be slapping people to the ground under the power of God.
He ignored me.
I tried following and indicating through my body language somehow that I wanted prayer now. I couldn’t get his attention. He was clearly ignoring me. Maybe he knew I wouldn’t fall down and it wouldn’t look spectacular if he bothered to pray for me. Finally there was nobody else around and he had no choice but to either clearly ignore me and walk away or just cave in and pray for me.That’s when he asked me to put my hands up. I did, and he put both hands on my cheeks and after about twenty seconds of praying something, told me to turn around and lay my hands on the guy behind me.
I turned around and saw one of the catchers. I put my hands on him and started praying for him. After a minute, he pushed my hands off his shoulders.
“You’re with the group from Pensacola, right?” he asked.
“Well you sure don’t shake much.” he said and walked off disappointed and as if his words weren’t rude.
Now, I walked back into the bookstore, found the bathroom again, got into a stall and sat down and hid once more. I was done with that silliness. I’m sure the bookstore owner wondered what was wrong with my kidneys and bowel as I was going in again.
I’m not a coward, but I just didn’t want to sit and wait somewhere visible where anybody could come along and “pray for me” against my will again like the apostle man did earlier, in case I’m giving you the idea I just run away from things all the time. After maybe 15 minutes I heard some guys come in who were clearly from my group and sounded like they were saying we were all about to get into our cars and head back to the place we were sleeping.
The Reason I Suspect People Give “Courtesy Drops”
It wasn’t until in the following weeks I learned a lot of other people on the trip also had a bad time and that I wasn’t alone. This was good to know. I consider myself a spirit-filled lover of God and I’m not usually uncomfortable in meetings where things get “wild”, but that’s because I’d rather let the Holy Spirit be the one to knock me or another to ground, instead of the minister.
I’ve prayed for people and saw nothing outward happen.
I’ve prayed for people who started bobbing up and down seemingly uncontrollably.
I’ve prayed for people who shook and fell to the ground, and a month later were no longer in fellowship with other Christians and went back to doing drugs.
The outward manifestation isn’t a tell all indicator that God has truly done something inside of someone! So if it is an indicator of absolutely nothing to begin with, then why do so many insecure and in some cases self-appointed apostolic leaders feel the need to force it to happen?
The second time I waited in that bathroom stall, I remember thinking to myself “Steve, you could have avoided all this frustration if you just gave him a courtesy fall”, but I don’t like doing things for show or to pretend God did something if He didn’t. I wonder how often people fall down just to avoid this kind of awkward moment like this where they don’t want to fight with the pushy preacher?
What do you think? Have you ever given a pushy Pentecostal preacher or minister a ‘courtesy drop’?