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to the charismatic movement could be changing in Baptist circles, as the Southern Baptist International Mission Board rescinded its policy of banning charismatics from becoming overseas missionaries, just a few years ago.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.