At the Empowered 21 Conference last week in Tulsa,
thousands of people celebrated the renewal of a movement.
a time when many Christian conferences are suffering from sluggish attendance,
at least 10,000 people jammed into the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts
University (ORU) campus last week to honor the pioneers of the Pentecostal
movement and to pass the torch of Holy Spirit renewal on to the younger
Empowered 21 event, nicknamed E21, was a bold attempt to bring every stream of
the charismatic and Pentecostal movements together under one huge roof. When I
arrived on Wednesday night for a welcome dinner, I met leaders from the Assemblies
of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness,
Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and even the United
Pentecostal Church International—plus directors of such varied ministries as
Teen Mania, Every Home for Christ, International House of Prayer and Convoy of
Hope. We even had Matteo Calisi, an Italian man who gives leadership to
thousands of charismatic Catholics.
| “If God
can quicken the dead womb of
Elizabeth and bring forth one of the greatest preachers in biblical
surely he can visit the dead wombs of Pentecostalism and bring forth an
young spiritual warriors.”
real purpose of E21, aside from this obvious show of unity, was to bridge the
generation gap and call younger Christians to take responsibility for the
future of the charismatic renewal. The question on everyone’s mind during those
three days was a serious one: Is this movement going to survive? Or will it die
off in a few more years because of religiosity and irrelevance?
came away from E21 with so much hope for the future—mostly because at least
half of the crowd in Tulsa was young. Many of the kids were from ORU. But I
kept bumping into young people who traveled a long way to grab the Holy
Spirit’s torch from the older generation. On Friday I had dinner with a young
guy from Ecuador who is starting a publishing company to distribute Christian
materials in Spanish. On Saturday I ran into a group of 20-somethings from
Wisconsin who had driven down to Oklahoma with their pastor. That same day I
met a young Nigerian who has just started pastoring a church in Seattle.
I went on the ORU campus I kept bumping into younger Christians who are stoked
and on fire for God. Many of them stayed late into the night each evening for
extended times of worship with musicians including Kari Jobe and Desperation
what blessed me most during the three day conference was a message by Georgia
pastor Jentezen Franklin. He reminded us on Friday night that when God brought
His Son into the world, He did a two-fold miracle. Not only did He overshadow a
virgin and cause her to conceive the Messiah, but He also visited an older,
barren woman named Elizabeth and caused her to conceive John the Baptist. God
was working with two generations at one time to bring about His redemptive
reminded us that in the next move of the Holy Spirit, God will not only release
fresh new anointing upon young people, but He will also bring vitality and
growth to older movements that have stayed faithful to His Word. God loves the
Marys as well as the Elizabeths.
are naysayers who insist that heaven has no intention of renewing older
denominations. They insist that groups like the Assemblies of God or the Church
of God in Christ have become too rigid; that such “old wineskins” can’t be
revived. They even teach that people should leave these groups if they want to
be on the cutting edge of God’s work.
listening to Franklin’s message, and after seeing thousands of young people
from these groups streaming to the altars at E21 for a fresh impartation of the
Holy Spirit, I have no doubt that God has some surprises up His sleeve. We are
headed toward a massive movement of renewal—and we will be surprised by the way
some older groups are reborn in the coming season. If God can quicken the dead
womb of Elizabeth and bring forth one of the greatest preachers in biblical
history, surely He can visit the dead wombs of Pentecostalism and bring forth
an army of young spiritual warriors.
are helpless to break the power of spiritual barrenness on our own. If this
task depends on us, we are doomed—because so many of our churches and
denominations are currently paralyzed by tradition, lukewarmness and political
division. But in Elizabeth’s case, all it took was a visitation from God. Only
nine months later she was holding a baby who would eventually prepare the way
for the Lord.
can do the same amazing miracle for us. I encourage you to embrace the call of
the E21 conference—and expect a new generation to arise.
J. Lee Grady served as editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now
contributing editor. His new book, The
Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, is now in stores.