Tommy Tenney & the God Chasers (Part Two)
By Mike Taylor
2. GOD’S MANIFEST PRESENCE
Tenney rightly distinguishes between God’s “omnipresence” and His “manifest presence”.
God is everywhere; there is no place where God is not. But sometimes, for some special purpose, God makes His presence felt by Believers. Yet the way in which this is experienced may vary. Tenney does not go into the details of this and so the reader is left thinking that there are only two modes of God’s presence.
It is true that God sometimes makes His presence felt by an entire group of believers so that they can all say in total agreement that “God is present” or “God was present”. They do not mean that God is or was not present at other times, but only that God’s presence was manifested on that occasion in so obvious a way that noone could deny it.
The relationship between God’s sovereignty and the spiritual state of the people in the gathering is not easy to fathom. It seems to vary from time to time. Additionally, the vehicle for the presence of God can vary. It can be related to the desire of the people, or it can be the result of an anointed ministry. Or it can be entirely owing to the sovereignty of God: He wants to move in that way for some purpose known only to Himself and does so before anyone can even search his or her heart. There are, however, other modes of God’s presence. Individuals in meetings can testify as to how they felt God’s presence, when others do not.
The reasons for this also vary.
It can be to do with the spiritual discernment of individuals or it can be that God has something particular to indicate to certain people, if only to encourage them. Then there are times when an individual is targeted by God in a meeting which everyone else agrees clearly lacked a universal sense of God’s presence. As such variations can occur within the same fellowships from week to week, it seems to me unhelpful to reduce God’s presence to two modes, as Tenney does. Of course, we should observe how God is working and seek to get as right with Him as we can be so that we are not a personal hindrance to the work of God.
Of course, it is good for us to pray that God will be present in as obvious a way as possible. But none of these things can guarantee God’s obvious presence, although there is often a positive relationship between the two. This is not to suggest that Tenney himself is unaware of any of this. His teaching is clearly put in a simple way as possible to make a strong point. Unfortunately, it does convey a misleading impression by simply focusing on these two modes of God’s presence.
Tenney and “God’s manifest presence”
What does Tenney himself really mean by “God’s manifest presence”? Throughout The God Chasers, Tenney refers to God’s “manifest” or “manifested” presence. As this is such a key concept, it is worth asking what he actually means by it. To put it another way, what does Tenney think of as the evidences of “God’s manifest presence”?
Actually it is not entirely clear what Tenney means, partly because he is trying to put into words something which he has felt – whether spiritually, psychologically or physically. In his description of the pulpit-splitting incident, he uses a number of ways to describe his feelings at the time:
- "the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was “thick.” You could barely breathe." [TGC5]
- "Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn’t sing or play any longer." [TGC5]
- "this time in Houston, even after there was all of God that I thought was available in the building, more of His presence literally packed itself into the room. … . God was there; of that there was no doubt. But more of Him kept coming in the place until, as in Isaiah, it literally filled the building. At times the air was so rarefied that it became almost unbreathable. Oxygen came in short gasps, seemingly." [TGC6]
In general, Tenney’s view of God’s “manifest presence” is very phenomena-oriented. It is as though God is not present unless strange things are seen to be going on. Tenney himself is not unaware of dangers in that approach and even issued a warning:
"Many of the great saints in historic denominations and churches know that God doesn’t always have to manifest Himself in things seen by the eye of the flesh. They would solemnly warn all of us, “Don’t come in here looking for sensationalism. Come looking for God and you will find Him.”’ [TGC6]
At first, this sounds good, almost a relief in the context of Tenney’s writing. But when the small print, as it were is read, we notice that he says “God doesn’t always have to manifest Himself” in this way. In other words, although there are times when God does not do it that way, it is the exception. Therefore, according to Tenney, it is in fact usual for God to manifest Himself in terms of visible or tangible phenomena.Despite all Tenney’s disclaimers, when he speaks of God’s “manifest presence”, he is using that term to denote a power which almost always comes with the baggage of strange phenomena. This is made only too plain in a later statement:
"I must warn you that God’s glory, His manifest presence, can literally split local church bodies like the “split” body of Uzzah." [TGC93]
Then he recommends that “Many a godly pastor should approach his congregation with kindness and diplomacy” to warn them.[TGC93] What should such a pastor say? According to Tenney, he should say this:
“If you’re not serious about seeking God’s face, then you might want to find another place. If you’re uncomfortable about waiting on the presence of God and experiencing the weightiness of God’s glory; if you are uncomfortable with the strange and unusual manifestations that sometimes accompany His coming, then you need to find someplace less hungry to stay. We’ve had church our way long enough.” [TGC93]
Indeed, as most of Tenney’s descriptions of this “manifest presence” involve visible phenomena, the most extreme example being that of pulpit-splitting, it is impossible to escape from the impression that he is using the term “manifest presence” as a way of marketing what he thinks should be the norm for all of us most of the time. Clearly something is seriously wrong with Tenney’s approach. It may, therefore, be helpful to outline two of its distinctive features.
The first is the idea that God, in manifesting His presence, normally focuses His presence on one particular spot in a meeting. Concerning the pulpit-splitting incident, he wrote:
- I so sensed something was about to happen. [TGC6]
- I knew God was going to do something; I just didn’t know where. [TGC6]
- It could happen behind me or to the side of me. I was so desperate to catch Him that I got up and publicly walked back to the sound booth as the pastor walked up to the pulpit to speak, so I could see whatever happened. I wasn’t even sure it was going to happen on the platform, but I knew something was going to happen. “God, I want to be able to see whatever it is You are about to do. [TGC6-7]
The second is that God’s manifest presence is usually accompanied by particular and predictable phenomena:
- Never take God’s holy presence for granted, and never assume that if no one is crying, shaking, manifesting odd movements, or prophesying away, then God isn’t at work. [TGC96]
Although this statement appears balanced in that people should not rule out God’s operation just because these manifestations are absent, nevertheless these manifestations are considered normative accompaniments of God’s “manifest presence”.
Another statement is this: "We have long enjoyed the omnipresence of God, but now we are experiencing brief moments of visitation by His manifest presence. It causes every hair to stand up on end, and it makes demonic forces flee and run".[TGC47]
Does God’s manifest presence really cause hair to stand up on end? It is interesting to compare this with the manifestation of a counterfeiting spirit to Eliphaz, one of Job’s counsellors:
Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. (Job 4:12-15)
It is also strange that Tenney speaks of our enjoyment of God’s “omnipresence”. Elsewhere he described God’s “omnipresence” as referring to “the fact that He is present all the time.” [TGC36]
He illustrated this as follows:
He is that “particle” in the atomic nucleus that nuclear physicists cannot see and can only track. … . God is everywhere in everything. He is the composite of everything, both the glue that holds the pieces of the universe together and the pieces themselves! [TGC36]
Leaving aside the pantheistic tendency of the suggestion that God is Himself “the pieces” of the universe, it is difficult to see how anyone can enjoy God’s presence in the nucleus of an atom. If Tenney is to be believed, the problem with Christians is that they have long enjoyed the “omnipresence” of God, but not His “manifest presence”. This simply does not make sense.
Generation of ‘presence’ by worshipAnother tendency in Tenney’s ministry is the suggestion that God’s ‘manifest presence’ can be generated in some way by a particular intensity of worship. It is interesting that just before the pulpit-splitting incident, the initial build-up of the ‘presence’ in the auditorium was associated with worship:
As I walked to sit down in the front row that morning, the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was “thick.” You could barely breathe. The musicians were clearly struggling to continue their ministry; their tears got in the way. Music became more difficult to play. Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn’t sing or play any longer. The worship leader crumpled in sobs behind the keyboard.
If there was one good decision I made in life, it was made that day. I had never been this close to “catching” God, and I was not going to stop. So I spoke to my wife Jeannie. “You should go continue to lead us to Him.” Jeannie has an anointing to lead people into the presence of God as a worshiper and intercessor. She quietly moved to the front and continued to facilitate the worship and ministry to the Lord. [TGC5]
This was taking place immediately before Richard Heard asked Tenney if he was ready to take the service.
Worship of a particular type obviously plays an important part in generating the kinds of spiritual experiences advocated by Tenney:
God is calling you to a new level of intimacy. If you dare to answer His call, the Lord will reveal a fresh part of His character. He will pull you so close that you will be breathing the very rarefied air of Heaven. The only way to the place David called “the secret place” is through the door of focused worship, when you lay aside every distraction and focus your body, soul, and spirit upon God. When His presence becomes so strong that you are oblivious to everyone and everything else around you, then healing can come in an encounter with God from which you will never “recover.” Your heart will be as permanently disabled with love as Jacob’s leg was with a limp! [TGC125]
It is difficult to imagine that a person could engage in such activity for long without finding him or herself in some state of altered consciousness.31 Naturally such states open a person wide to invasion by deceiving spirits which generate religious experiences. Would it be fair to dub them ‘religious spirits’?
A down-to-earth comment by A.W. Tozer is pertinent here:
Some who can get all worked up over a song imagine that this is the Spirit, but this does not necessarily follow. 32
A Letter from South Africa
Although not concerning Tenney’s ministry as such, the full text of a letter written by Yvette Hoffman from South Africa illustrates most clearly the issues involved with alternative understandings of God’s ‘manifest presence’:
I write to you, as a concerned child of God and ex-member of ____________ Christian Church. Since leaving this church, God has revealed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ our Saviour to me. Among other things, He has exposed the true source of the so-called “anointing” or “outpouring of the ‘holy spirit’” which is being experienced in many Charismatic churches. Although it seems to have its origins in the spiritual realm, I can assure you that is most definitely not the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
If, at this stage you are tempted to simply shred this letter, I implore you to at least read it through, before doing so. If however, thereafter you still feel inclined to do so, then be my guest. After all, it is not for me to convince or convict you in any way. That is the work of the Spirit of God. It is however, up to you to decide what you are going to do about that conviction. You can either choose to act upon it, or you can choose to simply ignore it.
In July 1995, after re-committing my life to the Lord, I experienced God’s Miraculous Healing Power twice within a single week. In the first instance, God totally delivered me from a sexually immoral lifestyle and six days later He supernaturally healed me from smoking. As you could well imagine, these experiences had a dramatic influence on my life.
Within a period of six days, God turned my whole life upside down. I had heard that God touched the lives of people in similar ways in ____ Christian Church. But, I must admit at the time I wasn’t really convinced that these ‘manifestations’ were from God. I just couldn’t believe that God would heal people in such strange ways.
Then, to my utter amazement, I experienced not one, but two supernatural healings in the privacy of my home. I must admit, I began to think that which was being experienced in the ________ Christian Church must be from God. I began attending the Church’s services on a regular basis, but to my dismay, I didn’t experience the ‘anointing’ of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, I became extremely agitated when these ‘manifestations of the spirit’ were displayed during the services. Needless to say, I became somewhat concerned. When I spoke to my fellow members about this problem, I was told that is was an attack from the devil to prevent me from experiencing the presence of the Lord and that I should seriously pray about the situation. Thus began a period of serious spiritual warfare against this attack from Satan, but alas, still no manifestations.
I could not understand it. Why was God withholding His Spirit from me? What was I doing wrong? I prayed and prayed to God to Fill me with His Spirit - but in vain. I continually pressed in, but nothing happened. At one stage I actually began to doubt my salvation due to the fact that I wasn’t experiencing any manifestations. I became so totally obsessed with the manifestations that I found myself concentrating solely on trying to induce a manifestation whenever I prayed or worshipped. It was only then that I finally managed to successfully induce a manifestation.
To my utter disgust, this so-called ‘anointing’ was a far cry from the wonderful life-changing experience which I had previously experienced when God had delivered me from an immoral lifestyle and smoking. I noticed that for some strange reason praying and reading my Bible suddenly became virtually impossible.
Furthermore, I became aware of the fact that I often felt tempted to fall back into sin in the areas where God had delivered me. I asked myself, “why is this happening?” I was confused. Then I blamed Satan for the fact that I was unable to effectively pray and read the Bible. As for falling back into past sins, I promptly found Scriptures with which to justify why God was supposedly allowing these things to happen, but in fact I used these merely to lull my own conscience. In the eyes of my Charismatic friend, I had made it! God was actively working in my life.
I most definitely couldn’t allow anyone to know that which I had experienced as the “manifest presence of the Lord” wasn’t everything it was made out to be. I couldn’t risk being heard speaking out against the Holy Spirit - after all according to Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29, 30 - this is an unforgivable sin.
I certainly wasn’t prepared to be guilty of that. And so, the masquerade began. I pretended to enjoy these experiences when in actual fact, every single time I allowed myself to experience the ‘anointing’, something deep inside my inner being would be pleading with me to put an end to the charade. I was bewildered by this predicament that I found myself in: . .Was I the only person who felt this way?. . Were there others who had the same problems? . . or. . Was Satan yet again attempting to stop me from receiving God’s blessing? Yes, that had to be it. Satan had to be responsible for these doubts, as well as for the discomfort I was experiencing.
Of course, the only way I knew how to counter Satan’s attacks was to engage in Spiritual Warfare. Once again I launched a serious battle against Satan. I earnestly prayed to God to: Remove anything and everything in my life that wasn’t from Him, as far away from me, as the North is from the South and the East is from the West. If it wasn’t from Him, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I thought He would take away the doubts and the discomfort. Instead, when I prayed to God in this way, the most horrific thing happened.
God took this strange ‘spirit’ away from me. Yet, amazingly for the first time in many months, I was able to read my Bible without having to force myself to concentrate on what I was reading. Suddenly God’s Word once again became a reality to me, as it had done when I gave my life to the Lord; I could once again actually understand what I was reading.
What’s more, I noticed that my prayer life dramatically improved and that the temptations which hounded me before had disappeared. But, alas as far as the Charismatics are concerned, it is only when we experience what they define as the “presence” of the Lord (or the anointing or the outpouring of the ‘spirit’ as they call it) in our lives that we truly grow spiritually. In fact, according to their teachings, a so-called ‘personal touch from God’ is considered to be far more important than the Word preached from the pulpit.
What was I to do? I sincerely desired to become spiritually mature. So, I yet again sought the so-called anointing and before long I found myself caught up in an action reply of the previously described scenario, but with one small difference. As I had had previous experiences, I was now able to achieve the manifestations much easier than I had the first time round, but as I did, the battles against Satan re-commenced.
Surely something was wrong - But I was reassured by my friends that these incessant attacks were a sign that I was doing something right because Satan only attacks those who are making progress in God’s kingdom. At first I fell for this explanation, I even thanked God for the attacks, but after a while I began to doubt whether it was true. I simply could not believe that what I was experiencing was God’s will for His children.
I simply had to find the answers. Thus with much difficulty at first, I endeavored to seek answers to these and other questions I had in God’s Word. (The Bible). The first subject I tackled was that of the Scriptures used to justify these so-called manifestations of the Spirit. It wasn’t too long before I realized how totally misquoted, twisted and misinterpreted these were. Should you doubt this fact, read the following Scriptures - in context: Acts 2:15, 16 and Eph 5:18 (being drunk in the "spirit"); Amos 3:8 (prophets - roaring like lions); 1 Pet. 1:8 (uncontrollable laughter) and Acts 9:6 (shaking in the Spirit).
Don’t just skim over them because you believe you know them. Read them carefully. Sincerely pray that God will reveal the content through His Holy Spirit. Should you still believe that they do justify the so-called manifestations, and that these are of God, then read the following Scriptures carefully: I Cor. 12:7-11 (Manifestations of the Spirit); Gal. 5:22-24 (Fruit of the Spirit); Romans 12:6-8 (Gifts of the Spirit). In fact, perhaps you should also study Luke 4:33 and Luke 9:42 (Demon spirits).
I also had believed that what I was taught was Biblical and it took some time for my to fully comprehend the truth. The reason for this is described clearly in Isaiah 5:9 and Matthew 13:13. Christians hear these Scriptures quoted so often, they actually no longer hear their true contents. They only hear what they are taught to hear.
Even when reading these Scriptures they do not see what they are reading. God has shown me that what is happening in many churches is that the truth is being traded for a Lie. The danger lies in the fact that when a lie is believed for long enough it becomes the truth to those being exposed to it. God helped me to see that what I perceived as being the Holy Spirit was actually a Deceiving Spirit. And what I perceived as being a Deceiving Spirit was in actual fact the Holy Spirit.
Your friend in Christ,
Yvette Hoffman (Pretoria, South Africa)33
All of this highlights the fact that God’s true presence, when authentically manifested in Christian meetings, always corresponds to what truly born-again Christians already know of His presence in their personal walk with Him. It is not some alien atmosphere or experience which seems out of character for God and which takes Christians wholly by surprise.
3. CHASING GOD?Tenney’s concept of “chasing God” is dependent on his concept of “God’s manifest presence”. It is evident that “chasing God” cannot have any serious meaning for us if we already experience a sense of God’s presence with us as we do His will and are seeking to serve people by word and deed wherever we go. The back cover of The God Chasers says of Tenney, "The magnificent obsession of his life is the pursuit of the manifest presence of God."
What is a “God chaser”? The clearest conception of this is brought out in one of Tenney’s illustrations:
It’s like playing chase with my daughter. Often as she arrives home from a day of school, we play this little game that countless fathers and children play around the world. When she comes and tries to catch me, even with my hulking frame, I really don’t have to run. I just artfully dodge this way and then that, and she can’t even touch me, because a six-year old can’t catch an adult. But that’s not really the purpose of the game, because a few minutes into it, she laughingly says, “Oh daddy,” and it’s at that moment that she captures my heart, if not my presence or body. And I turn and she’s no longer chasing me, but I’m chasing her, and I catch her and we tumble in the grass with hugs ands kisses. The pursuer becomes the pursued. [TGC4-5]
He then tries to compare this to our relationship with God: So can we catch Him? Not really, but we can catch His heart. David did. And if we catch His heart, then He turns and chases us. That’s the beauty of being a God chaser. You’re chasing the impossible, knowing it’s possible. [TGC5]
It is as though God is always outside, shadowing us, and then teasing us by running away so that we just catch a glimpse of Him. Elsewhere he has said that when he plays hide-and-seek with his daughter, he always leaves enough of himself showing so that she can find him more easily. This, too, he compares with God.
There is an emphasis in Tenney’s teaching on God’s supposed elusiveness, whereas there is a lack of emphasis on God’s permanent indwelling presence in the believer. God is not trying to tease us into trailing Him through endless conferences and meetings into encountering His “manifest presence”, as defined by Tenney.
On the contrary, if a person is a true Believer, he or she is already indwelt by the Holy Spirit. One of His works is to manifest the spiritual presence of Jesus to us on a continual basis. He does not plead with us to go this and that way, chasing God. Rather He encourages us to commune with God who indwells our spirits and to cultivate our relationship with Himself. Rather our constant prayer should be that we be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
“Chasing God” and consumerism
Inasmuch as people are encouraged to “chase God, in the hopes of encountering His “manifest presence”, they are being encouraged to go where they think they can find Him:
He also recommended that people pray what he terms a “prayer of the clay”,[TGC101] which includes the following words: “Come, Holy Spirit. If not now, when? If not us, who? And if not here, where? Just tell us, Lord, and we’ll go; we will pursue Your presence because we want You, Lord. Your presence is what we are after and nothing else will do.”[TGC102]
That is where we must stand, calling for God to show us where He’s going to break open the heavens over our cities. That is what I’m looking for. I just want to find out where He’s going so I can position myself at the place where He is going to break open. There is an element of sovereignty in God’s choice of places. … . Our part consists of wandering through the wilderness until we find that spot …[TGC55]
Later in the book, Tenney stated: God has uncapped abundant standing pools of His presence that have brought life to millions of thirsty believers and unsaved people over the last few years. But they must travel to the well. There is forgotten power in pilgrimage.[TGC108]
This, combined with the Western consumerism, which has now gripped the church in a big way, is tantamount to an exhortation for people to neglect their local churches to attend meetings where they thing they might encounter God’s “manifest presence”.
So although Tenney’s talk on one level sounds very spiritual, on another level it is actually very human-centred because it encourages people to seek God in the form which appeals to them: “I want this; I want that”. This is reminiscent of Paul’s warning to Timothy:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Self-centred pursuit of spiritual experiences
There is a valid sense in which we should seek the Giver rather than the gifts He is so willing to give us. There is no doubt that when Tenney stresses this, his teaching has the air of great spirituality:
- It is not enough to receive His gifts and walk in His anointing. I don’t want more blessings; I want the Blesser. I don’t want any more gifts; I want the Giver.[TGC54]
- God chasers want God! Not even the “things of God” will satisfy someone who is a “man after God’s own heart”.[TGC54]
- Most of the time when we get a visitation from God, our eyes are on the wrong thing. We want His spiritual “toys.”[TGC54]
However, pursuit of spiritual experiences can be just another form of self-gratification.
Most Christians like dramatic spiritual experiences and this is natural because God made us with a spiritual appetite. The problem is that, like the rest of us, our spirits are fallen. It is, therefore, essential that our spiritual desires be renewed, like anything else in our lives. We need to ensure that what we are pursuing is truly from God and also a part of God’s agenda for our lives. The possibility of spiritual derailment is ever present and we often lack discernment where we need it most.
A ‘pied-piper’ mission
Tenney’s ‘pied-piper’ call is encapsulated in these words:
All I can say is, I’m a God chaser. And so are a lot of those who have had God encounters. Why don’t you come join the company of God chasers? [TGCxvii]
Tenney obviously greatly appreciates the writings of A.W. Tozer. It is such a shame that he did not take the following words more to heart before he set out on his ‘pied-piper’ mission:
We cannot help ourselves by going somewhere else or joining something new. Brother, you don’t get help by going out somewhere and “joining” something. God is not looking for tags nor titles nor names! He is looking for people. He is looking for loving, humble, clean people, and if He can find such people, He is prepared to move in at once with great power. 34
The contrast could hardly be greater!
4. CRITICISMS OF CHURCHES
Tenney’s approach tends to create a split between an elite group, known as “God chasers”, and other professing Christians. He makes no attempt to clarify whether he regards nonGodchasers as merely nominal Christians or a kind of ‘carnal Christian’ category. In a review of his threefold audiotape album, he commented: Most of the churches in American today dwell in an outer-court experience. [TGC153]
In this way, Christians are divided as to whether they ‘dwell in the outer court’ or in ‘the sanctuary’. In fact those familiar with Endtime Sonship rhetoric will find this all-too-familiar, except that in Sonship teaching a threefold distinction is made between the ‘outer court experience’ of the Fundamentalists, the ‘holy place’ experience of the Pentecostals, and the ‘Holy of holies’ experience of the Endtime Sonship company.
Tenney makes many criticisms of churches and it is possible that a number of these criticisms are valid in the context of the highly-organized churches in the USA. It is arguable that UK churches never achieve God’s purposes because they actually lack organization. Whereas many UK Christians seem to think that church-work will automatically produce results and muddle through accordingly, most US churches seem to suffer from over-organization.
It is true of many churches that the thinking of the members is often stuck in the past and, apart from a few pioneers, they seem ill-equipped to make an impact on the present generation. There is also the problem that youth culture is still becoming increasingly divorced from that of even quite young adults. It is to this constituency that Tenney is especially keen to appeal.
Tenney’s criticism of existing churches are many and come from all directions. However, it is interesting to compare Tenney’s criticism with the kind of criticisms made by A.W. Tozer, whom Tenney clearly admires and regards as one of his mentors. Whereas Tozer’s criticisms are accurate and carefully measured, being based on an astute observation of human behaviour with all its strange foibles. By contrast, Tenney makes many sweeping statements which do not necessarily apply to all churches. But the way his criticisms are phrased gives the impression that all of them apply to all churches – except those whose leaders can be designated “God chasers”.
But what is Tenney trying to set up as a positive alternative to existing churches? When we examine this, it is difficult to see what would in fact please him. He testified to being sick of church, and it seems he still is. The thought crosses the mind as to whether Tenney is actually out to sabotage local churches rather than to reform or renew them.
He seems to require that meetings be as chaotic as possible to allow God to take over the meetings. He implies that preaching generally gets in the way of God’s ministry to the congregation rather than as an important method which God actually uses to convey His presence to people. But God does not need a totally unstructured meeting in order to break in, as can be seen from the meetings described in 1 Corinthians 14.
There is also a danger in the type of meetings conducted by Tenney, in which the preacher or leader says very little, but merely gives way to a spiritual power. It opens the possibility of the hearers surrendering to a power without actually ever hearing the true Gospel message or knowing the true identity of the power to which they are surrendering.
Obviously this is particularly dangerous when the spiritual power is alien. Indeed the preaching of the Gospel is a means of ensuring that people do come into contact with their Creator rather than with some deceiving spirit. Those who were present at the pulpit-splitting incidence seemed to demand baptism, but we are not told what the spiritual state of these people actually was. Had they been baptized before, as is often the case in American churches? Or were they complete unbelievers (unlikely in that part of the USA)? Unfortunately, Tenney does not give us enough information for us to know what was really going on. Perhaps a little more light is furnished by James Rutz’ report:
Church leaders’ commitment to giving the Holy Spirit full control over those meetings has produced as many as 30 to 40 salvations during a few services.35
At first glance, this does sound encouraging. However, as most American Pentecostal churches have a very low standard as to what conversion is and believe that born-again believers can lose their salvation anyway, this statistic is almost meaningless.
Continue to Part THREE
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© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.