I've been in countless Christian meetings over the years, but last week, I witnessed one of the most remarkable spiritual moments of my lifetime.
I was attending a gathering of Pentecostals held at a convention center in Orlando, Florida. When the speaker concluded the sermon, people began to stream to the altar. Many of them—including pastors—lay prostrate on the floor. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. Some people wept and prayed for an hour after the meeting was dismissed.
You may ask, "What's so remarkable about that?" This meeting, held on July 26, was unique because the speaker was a Southern Baptist—and a woman. Yet her message was so convicting and so saturated in the Holy Spirit that people ran to the stage even though she didn't even invite people to the altar.
The woman was author and popular women's speaker Beth Moore, and the occasion was the 28th General Conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Leaders from the Assemblies of God, the Church of God and Nigeria's Redeemed Christian Church of God were in attendance, along with thousands of Pentecostals from all over the world.
Moore based her message on Jeremiah 12:5: "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?" Without a tinge of self-righteousness or condemnation, Moore lamented the powerless state of the modern church and called us back to the raw authenticity of New Testament faith.
"We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us," said Moore. "I read my New Testament over and over. I'm not seeing what He promised. I'm unsettled and unsatisfied."
She added: "I want holy fire!"
I don't know what is more fascinating—that a Baptist challenged Pentecostals to embrace Pentecostal fire or that a woman who is not supposed to preach to men in her own denomination brought male pastors to their knees in repentance.
"We've lost our tolerance for pain and given ourselves to whining," Moore declared. "We have settled for the spiked Kool-Aid of cool, cultural Christianity. What will make us relevant is not our cool factor. It's time for leadership to repent."
I've heard a lot of excellent preaching over the years. But listening to Beth Moore was uncanny because her sermon was not about her, and it didn't draw attention to her. There was no swagger. There was no pretense. The sweet dew of heaven rested on this woman.
I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking loud and clear through a broken vessel.
That's why people responded so dramatically, even though Moore simply closed her Bible and sat down when she finished her message. Everyone in the room knew they had heard God speak. They hit their knees because the anointing of the Holy Spirit wooed them to surrender pride, complacency and man-made religion.
What is baffling about this whole experience is that there are large numbers of Christians today who don't believe Beth Moore should be preaching to audiences like the one in Orlando. In fact, some fundamentalists have launched attacks on her because she preaches authoritatively from pulpits. One online blogger says Moore "puts the 'her' in heresy" simply because men listen to her teaching. It grieves me that this anointed sister in Christ has been subjected to such disrespect.
The old argument employed by some conservative fundamentalists is that Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:12, forbid women to preach. They seem to ignore the fact that 1) Paul empowered many women in other locations to speak and that women such as Phoebe, Priscilla, Chloe, Euodia and Syntyche were on his ministry team; 2) that the Bible offers other examples of godly women leaders and prophets; and 3) that Paul's unique concern in 1 Timothy 2:12 was about women in Ephesus who were "usurping" authority and teaching twisted doctrines.
The New Testament is clear that God has called all Christians to be His witnesses, and that both "your sons and your daughters" will prophesy in the last days (Acts 2:17). Our passion should be to see everyone empowered—regardless of race, class, age or gender. If we truly want Pentecost, we should want to see the flame of the Spirit resting on the heads of every person—not just white males over 50.
We really shouldn't be too worried if God wants to use a woman today to call people to repentance. If He used Catherine Booth to shake England in the 1800s, or missionary Mary Slessor to plant the gospel in Nigeria, or Sojourner Truth to challenge slavery through her powerful preaching, or Kathryn Kuhlman to spark a healing revival in the United States in the 1970s, why are we still arguing about this?
We need an army of women like Beth Moore, and my prayer is that more women will seek the Lord and dig into His Word with the same passion that Moore has. I believe she is a forerunner for a new generation of both men and women who will carry a holy Pentecostal fire that cannot be restricted by gender.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.