Charismatic Shift?: Evangelist Greg Laurie Joins the Southern Baptists

During this break from the Veracity series on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I could not passover a recent news item. Greg Laurie, the dynamic evangelist and California megachurch pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, announced earlier in June, 2017, that his church would join the Southern Baptist Convention. Why is this significant? Let me explain.

Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship is the eighth largest church in America. Greg Laurie, and his church, came out of the Calvary Chapel movement, that began in the early 1970s in Southern California. What is notable for those interested in the teaching of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is that historically, the Calvary Chapel movement has been associated with the charismatic revival, that hit mainstream evangelicalism, starting in the 1960s. Calvary Chapel-type churches, like Laurie’s, are therefore not cessationist in their doctrinal teaching, Cessationism is the teaching that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased to operate after the end of the apostolic age, in the early church. Instead, Greg Laurie would most likely affirm a continuationist view, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue to operate today within the worldwide church.

What makes this quite interesting is that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, has historically been cessationist, when it comes to these types of issues. Southern Baptists do not have an official teaching position about “speaking in tongues.” But it appears that the long-time, historical resistance to the charismatic movement could be changing in Baptist circles, as the Southern Baptist International Mission Board rescinded its policy of banning charismatics from becoming overseas missionaries, just a few years ago.

It would be careful to note that Greg Laurie’s position, while surely not banning charismatic gifts, is much more low-key than what you find in classic Pentecostal churches. You might hear “speaking in tongues” in small group meetings, but rarely, if ever, in a corporate worship setting.

I would call it “charismatic-lite.”

So, what does this mean for the Southern Baptists and for Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship? With respect to the charismatic movement, it is difficult to say. Is the charismatic movement declining among the Calvary Chapel-type churches, such as Harvest? Or are the Southern Baptists warming up even more to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit? Is this part of a general, shifting trend throughout the evangelical church at large? If so, what is this shift?

What do you think? Below is the announcement from pastor Greg Laurie.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

9 responses to “Charismatic Shift?: Evangelist Greg Laurie Joins the Southern Baptists

  • John Paine

    With all due respect, I disagree with pastor Laurie on his statement about the greatest need in America. The greatest need is not “to preach the Gospel.” There is no shortage of preachers in America today. The Evangelical church needs to get over the talking head in the pulpit. The greatest need is to TEACH the Gospel. Apologetics, textual criticism, orthodox doctrine, philosophy, theology, church and secular history, biblical archaeology, logic, ethics, comparative religion, and personal discipleship. Yes, preach the Gospel and do what it says. But God deserves much more effort than a Sunday sermon and worship service approach to Christianity.


  • David the Older

    Brother Clarke, I find it equally interesting the Calvin College hired a professor of philosophy who is Pentecostal. James K. A. Smith is a Canadian philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview, This individual is a heavy weight; check out his several books on Amazon or elsewhere.


  • jerry miller

    The ways of God are far above our own understanding and if a joining together with another believing denomination furthers the work of God then who are we to judge. Wisdom is justified of its children. I trust and have faith in Greg as a man who loves God and desires only one thing, that none should perish. Maranatha!


    • Clarke Morledge

      Hi, Jerry. Thank you for dropping by and commenting on Veracity.

      I have not visited Greg Laurie’s church in California, as I rarely make it to California, but I know of a few folks who have been involved with his church, and they tell me that they have been blessed there. I just think it remarkable to think that even twenty years ago, a church that leaned charismatic would never have openly identified with a Southern Baptist church, or vice-versa (at least in my neck of the woods).


  • jerry miller

    Hello Clarke, Greg and most of the early leaders of the Calvary Movement were very charismatic under Lonnie Frisbee. Chuck was also a firm believer in the daily operational gifts within the church although he required them to be used in a very strict and private setting. In keeping with the open minded example of Jesus who always did the unexpected concerning the religious traditions of Judaism, Greg is also following in those steps of stirring the cup………..


  • Kathleen

    I pray that this all means that SBC is moving closer to accepting the full power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is truly God at work in those that truly believe in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the Cross. For the Holy Spirit will bring the truth to the light.


  • Carol Webb

    Greg Laurie’s been a heretic for a very long time so this doesn’t surprise me I’ll be praying for him and his family that he truly get saved


    • Clarke Morledge

      Carol: The point of the blog post was to show how the traditional animosity between charismatic and traditional Baptist circles has been lessening over the past few decades. I am not familiar enough with Greg Laurie, to be knowledgeable with all of his teachings. Do you mind describing why you conclude that Pastor Laurie is a “heretic?” That is a pretty strong claim to make. It might help those unfamiliar with your claim if you would present some evidence.


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