Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown by Lee Grady
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown
by Lee Grady
Fire in my bones
Three prominent charismatic ministries have suffered huge setbacks this month. What does this mean for our movement?
Foreclosure. Eviction. Bailouts. We’re hearing those terms a lot these days, and not just in the newspaper’s business section. In the last two weeks three charismatic churches that once enjoyed huge popularity have fallen on hard times.
In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church is facing foreclosure. The megachurch, which once attracted 23,000 worshipers and was heralded as one of the nation’s fastest-growing congregations, shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 that they were divorcing. On Nov. 4 their bank filed foreclosure proceedings and demanded immediate repayment of a $12 million loan on the property.
In Duluth, Georgia - northeast of Atlanta - sheriff’s deputies arrived at Global Destiny Ministries and ordered Bishop Thomas Weeks II to leave the property. According to documents filed in state court, Weeks - who divorced popular preacher Juanita Bynum in June - owed more than $511,000 in back rent to the building’s owners. He was escorted out of the building on Nov. 14 while a church service was in progress.
"The wrecking ball of heaven is swinging. It has come to demolish any work that has not been built on the integrity of His Word."
In another part of the Atlanta area, leaders of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill announced that their church is officially for sale. The massive Gothic building - which at one time housed one of the nation’s most celebrated charismatic churches, with a membership of 10,000 - has slipped into disrepair after lurid sex scandals triggered a mass exodus. The church’s founder, Bishop Earl Paulk, has turned the 6,000-seat church (valued at $24.5 million) over to his son, Donnie Earl, who in recent years has abandoned orthodox Christian doctrines and embraced universalism.
In addition, the bank that called the loan on Without Walls also began foreclosure proceedings on its satellite campus in Lakeland, Florida. That massive campus with its 10,000-seat sanctuary was once known as Carpenter’s Home Church. Under the leadership of Assemblies of God pastor Karl Strader it enjoyed huge success, but its membership dwindled in the 1990s, and it was sold to the Whites in 2005.
A crisis hit Without Walls two years later when the Whites announced from their pulpit that they were divorcing. They did not give specific reasons, but Randy said he took "100 percent responsibility" for the breakup. He later told Charisma: "This was a decision of last resort after years of prayer and counseling."
In the case of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, many parishioners walked out 16 years ago when it became known that Earl Paulk and other staff members were involved in wife-swapping. Paulk created a bizarre culture of secrecy to cover the immorality, which included his affair with a sister-in-law - and resulted in the birth of Donnie Earl (who thought he was Earl Paulk’s nephew until last year). The church has only had a few hundred members in recent years.
Today, Donnie Earl has embraced the inclusionist doctrines of Oklahoma pastor Carlton Pearson, who left the faith in 2003 and was labeled a heretic by a group of African-American bishops the following year. The younger Paulk now preaches that all people, not just Christians, are saved. He told Charisma last week that the Cathedral "has expanded to include all of God’s creation - Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, etc." And this distorted message is broadcast from a pulpit that hosted the premier leaders of the charismatic movement during the 1970s and 1980s.
Even before Weeks was charged with assaulting Bynum in a hotel parking lot in August 2007, the pastor of Global Destiny Ministries defiled his pulpit during a "Teach Me to Love You" marriage conference. He told married men they should use profanity during sex to heighten their experience, and he brought couples on stage to play a game in which men were asked to name their favorite female body parts.
Lord, help us.
Was it supposed to end like this? How did a movement that was at one time focused on winning people to Christ and introducing them to the power of the Holy Spirit end in such disgrace?
I hear the sound of bricks and steel beams crashing to the ground. The wrecking ball of heaven is swinging. It has come to demolish any work that has not been built on the integrity of God’s Word.
All of us should be trembling. God requires holiness in His house and truth in the mouths of His servants. He is loving and patient with our mistakes and weaknesses, but eventually, if there is no repentance after continual correction, His discipline is severe. He will not be mocked.
Romans 11:22 says: "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off" (NASB).
God is not married to our buildings. If He allowed foreign armies to burn Jerusalem and its glorious temple, He will also write "Ichabod" on the doors of churches where there is no repentance for compromise.
I pray the fear of God will grip our hearts until we cleanse our defiled pulpits. Let’s examine our hearts and our ministries. Let’s throw out the wood, hay and stubble and build on a sure and tested foundation. It is the only way to survive the meltdown.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.