If you want to avoid becoming
an old wineskin, make sure to keep these five hindrances out of your life.
I got some funny looks 11 years ago when
I told people that I planned to be ordained in a mainline Pentecostal
denomination. Most of my friends were supportive when I explained that I made
this decision because I was looking for accountability and spiritual mentors.
But critics told me I was aligning myself with “an old wineskin.” In their
opinion, any church group that is more than 30 years old has outlived its
usefulness and become a religious fossil.
I chose to reject the fossil
argument—mainly because (1) I know God has the power to renew His people no
matter how old their group is, and (2) even young organizations can become
religious and ineffective, regardless of how trendy and culturally relevant
they pretend to be.
pray you will stir up the Holy Ghost’s flame and purge yourself of anything
that hinders His miraculous work in you. And I pray that every church and
denomination in this country will invite the One who baptizes in fire to burn
up our dross.”
This week the group that ordained me, the
International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), celebrated the 100th anniversary
of their formation in the tiny town of Falcon, NC. Leaders from around the
world gathered there to honor the past and envision the future—and to solemnly
commit to remain faithful to God by signing a covenant declaration.
That might sound hokey to people who
weren’t there, but I wept through most of Monday’s service, especially when we
sang an old hymn from the early Pentecostal era (“Old Time Power”) and
reflected on the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who preached holy
fire down from heaven on the United States in the early years of the 20th
century. I feel honored to carry on their legacy—and challenged to match their
On Tuesday I called contemporary leaders
of the IPHC to carry the fire of the Spirit into the 21st century.
There is always the danger that we could become old wineskins. But I believe
the same Holy Spirit who ignited the fires of Azusa Street and other early
Pentecostal revivals can certainly stir up those flames again and make them
white hot. Our job is to heed the words of Paul to the Thessalonians: “Do not
quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19).
I warned my brothers and sisters of these
five specific forces that are quenching the Holy Spirit today in the American
church. I offer this same warning to everyone, regardless of what denomination
(or non-denominational church) you are aligned with:
and religiosity. Every generation of Christians is prone to persecuting the
next move of God. We do this by requiring people to abide by certain
regulations (dress codes, music styles, etc.) that have no scriptural basis but
are enforced with all the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. No church—and no
individual Christian—can survive when encumbered by a religious spirit. It
kills all life!
Racism. God’s ultimate call on our lives is to
take His gospel to every person everywhere—regardless of whether they are
black, brown or white; whether they have dreadlocks or tattoos; whether they
are legal or illegal; whether they are veiled in burqas or wearing biker helmets; or whether they speak Spanish,
Arabic, Chinese or Hindi. When we close our hearts to
people because of racial, cultural or language differences, we constrict the
flow of His love and become rusty pipes full of poisonous water.
Denominationalism. A movement that loses momentum becomes a
monument. There is nothing wrong with denominations as long as their leaders
stay in step with the Spirit’s direction. But as soon as we replace the genuine
apostolic anointing with programs and religious busy-work, we become like those
derelicts Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3:5: “Holding to a form of godliness,
although they have denied its power (NASB).”
and division. In a
recent survey of people who left the Christian faith, the large majority said
they gave up on church not because of doctrine but because of a lack of real
community in the congregation. Nothing diffuses the power of the Holy Spirit
quicker than the absence of love. When love vanishes, spiritual gifts become
noisy gongs and mountain-moving faith becomes meaningless chaff. We must not
only keep our hearts free from bitterness; we must announce from the pulpit
that the One who gave His life for us demands that we walk in forgiveness. We
must live love and preach love.
Egotism. God has called us to build people of character, not celebrities.
Just as He opposed the Tower of Babel and scattered its builders, He resists
big egos. No wonder He is scattering the charismatic movement today! Somewhere
along the way we forgot that the Holy Spirit empowered us so we would take the
gospel to the world. We traded genuine revival for a cheap substitute and
figured out how to sell it to gullible people with itching ears. We elevated
people in true Babylonian style, forgetting that the only way up in God’s kingdom
is down the path of true humility.
I pray you will stir up the Holy Ghost’s
flame and purge yourself of anything that hinders His miraculous work in you.
And I pray that every church and denomination in this country will invite the
One who baptizes in fire to burn up our dross.
J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book, 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House),
releases this month.