Over fifty years ago the fire of the Spirit exploded, something mainstream Christianity had not experienced for a long time. Called the Charismatic Movement, it brought a spiritual awakening to millions of people around the world.
According to historian Eddie L. Hyatt, by the mid-1990s this movement claimed 450 million adherents worldwide and was adding over 23 million every year. It encompassed 8,000 different ethnic groups speaking 7,000 different languages. (“2,000 Years of Charismatic Christianity”)
These people all shared a basic single event that crystallized for them the reality of a living, personal God and the power of the charismata (spiritual gifts) — a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit. But this dynamic form of Christianity occurred on the heels of a great upheaval in Western culture.
Crisis of Western culture
In the years following WWII, we entered into a time of crisis as our social structures began to collapse. The demise of the family, with its attendant support system and values, produced a moral and spiritual void, resulting in an incredible growth of social disorders―suicides, child abuse, violent assaults, homicides, substance abuse, and alcoholism.
Unable to help the alcoholic and the drug addict, religious institutions no longer met the real needs of people. By the 1960s, the church had become institutionalized, rigid, and hierarchical. Using merely formulas and techniques, it was devoid of redemptive power and authority.
Few leaders claimed vital personal experience or a transformative religious encounter. Bible teachers schooled only in the sitz-im-leben (life situation) of the gospel stories could not help students encounter something that would affect their souls in the here and now (Wallace B. Clift, “Jung and Christianity”).
Stuck in these structures, people failed to grow, remaining immature and dependent upon the leaders. Thunderous voices of great preachers from earlier in the twentieth century were largely unheard. An eerie silence settled upon the land―a land that had lost its God.
The demise of God
As a result, something incredible happened in the consciousness of modern Americans: God died. Not really, but in effect God had no meaning or relevance for many people. They could no longer detect anything of the Divine in their experience.
In 1966 a landmark Time magazine cover proclaimed the demise of God — dead in the way we had once known Him. This was a cultural event where we recognized and admitted our poverty of spirit and soul. No longer could we sing the songs of God with faith. Old symbols and creeds no longer had power to touch us.
A light appears
Abruptly a flickering flame of hope emerged in the spiritual darkness. Time magazine carried the story: An Episcopal priest announced he’d been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues. In the midst of our great spiritual vacuum, a lonely voice boldly proclaimed that modern man could still experience God and the fire of His Spirit.
This event marked the beginning of a spiritual awakening. Like a wildfire before a mighty wind, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit quickly spread to most of the historic Protestant denominations.
Then in 1967 Duquesne University professors and students gathered for a retreat. Their pre-retreat assignment: read the book of Acts and David Wilkerson’s “The Cross and the Switchblade.” As they gathered in the chapel, they too experienced a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, sparking the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Prayer gatherings sprang up across the country. People rejoiced and sang praises to a living God, witnessed to His power, and ministered to one another in the gifts of the Spirit.
They were doing the things Jesus said: heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the kingdom of God—miracles, healings, deliverances were common place for a while.
Then the age-old conflicts over authority and doctrine rose up. Control was re-established and the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit in churches slowly ceased—except in the lives of individuals who were touched by the fire of the Spirit.
Individuals changed by the power of God
Today a host of ordinary people bear witness to the reality of the power of God working in their families and their personal lives. They speak with the voice of vital personal experience, I know because I know because I know. This is the one voice people still listen to today.
“On the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me,’ as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.” (John 7:37-39).
To learn more about the Holy Spirit, download my free notes: https://judithdoctor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Holy-Spirit-Will-Lead-You1.pdf
Judith Doctor, RN, MSW, is an Arcadian author, speaker, and spiritual life mentor. President of Kairos Ministries, Inc. her live broadcasts can be heard monthly on Radio Horeb in Europe. Her books on dreams and forgiveness are available on Amazon and other online booksellers. firstname.lastname@example.org.