Emotional Vibes in Spiritual Movements

This is more of one of those funny observations than anything else.

Coming from a primarily Calvary Chapel background and hearing about the history of the moment, I would have to characterize the vibe of things as gentle. After all, it was mostly a hippie generation. Peace, love, groovy, far out, right on. Just listening to Chuck Smith and his slow paced baritone voice mellowed you right out. The music reflected this. The people reflected this. The churches reflected this.

For the past year or so I’ve been listening to stuff from Acts 29. Now, this isn’t intended to be a slam of any kind on these guys or those involved, but I have to be honest about this. Everyone sounds angry.

While they are totally in love with the gospel and the grace of God, everything is turned up to 11. The hate for sin, the desire for intensity in prayer. They attract mostly type-A, go go go, whatever is now is the thing so get on it. These aren’t negatives, just preferences. Along with the intensity comes things like a fondness of drink, cigars, UFC, and loud, aggressive preaching. It’s just a very different vibe in a different movement.

One wonders, though, how much the theology, in either case, has to do with the vibe engendered in the movement. The Calvary movement focuses(ed) on God’s compassion, love, grace, forgiveness, and the cross of Christ. A29 focuses on God’s compassion, love, grace, forgiveness, and the cross of Christ. Hm. Same basic focus, yet completely different personalities. Not sure where to go with that one. Any ideas?


  1. I’ll go with Jim on that one…

    And then expand it.

    I can’t find in the Pauline doctrine for the ‘making of good leaders in the body’ where it says that Pastors should be reactionary, behave rashly, excel in crudity, lead the people in defiance of legalistical puritanism, be hot headed, be oozing with pride and confidence, speak before they think, leap before they think, be given to the appearance of super-spirituality or rouse a congregation like a demagogue or be feverish multi-taskers chasing down every idea they can possibly think of to, in their mind, ‘further the gospel’. This is utilitarian ministry, where the perceived end justifies all manner of problematic means. You know, I can’t even find a single place where the Word says that these ministers should be excellent communicators, gifted in public presentation and with attractive personalities. I’ll bet Simon Peter smelled of fish quite a lot of the time.

    I can find where character traits like maturity, sobriety, stability, thoughtfulness, gentleness, humility, honesty, wisdom, and a reluctance to climb up to the pedestal of public high profile ministry are the commended traits.

    Now, you could say ‘but God can and will use both types.’

    And it would be true.

    But God can use mule in the absence of an obedient servant, just like he can use a rapid-fire, gutteral, dynamo wanting to be seen in ministry in the absence of men who fulfil the Biblical criteria for ministry.

    And so we’re back at the issue… With many of these churches is it a case of a church springing up organically in an area with a lot of believers, none of whom have a formal ‘church home’, and the natural leader is chosen from amongst them because he’s already fulfilling the Biblical criteria? Or is this a ‘movement’, a ‘church’ in the midst of an area with a whole lot of other movements and churches which has decided to ‘sell’ a new Christianity, to ‘market’ Jesus in a different way, under the leadership of guiding lights who claim to be ‘raised up’, but cannot actually demonstrate that they didn’t raise themselves up and in turn raised up a church for them to pilot.

    Herein lies the issue which is central to attempts at new modernism, or revisionism… does God outdate his own methods, obsolete his already established vehicles and mechanisms in such a way that a punctuated revolution and a statement of intent and direction becomes the necessary means of branching? Or do men do what they wilt, and vainly apply the Lord’s name to all that they do, certainly the true definition of the commandment ‘do not use the Lord’s name in vain’ – that is to take it with you as a banner of attribution on that which is not of the Lord.

    I once saw a group of rebellious ministers utterly explode a church with their resentment for Calvary Chapel, and their disagreement with theology, and their clashes with personalities, and particularly with their greed for power and authority in their own right, and they became experts in appealing to equally dissatisfied people who wanted also to be in a church in which their whims and passions led the ministry completely in every which direction of impulsiveness they chose, and when they had done what they did to attempt to lead a revolt in their church, they said ‘its all OK, because the Lord led us in this in order to move us out and into another place so that he can do something fresh with us.’

    Taking the Lord’s name in vain. God didn’t lead men to pride, he didn’t inspire in them hatefulness and power lust, he didn’t point them in the direction of doctrinal error, so that he could start something new with them down the road. Where a ‘new movement’ takes people away from sound and stable ministries which are Biblical and meeting the Pauline criteria for ministry, and in turn places those people under ministries which might well have apparent conformity in ‘essentials of doctrine’ but manage to frame that doctrine in a morally dubious, murky, uncomfortable kind of environment, I don’t wonder too hard about whether ‘God did it.’ Experience tells me that men are more inclined to do that than God. And pride prompts them to do it.

  2. And I just want to clarify that I’m not being critical of A29 guys so much as just observing a general difference between the movements as objectively as I can. I’m not saying being mellow is God’s way and intense isn’t the CC way. This emotional vibe difference is just generally true. I will point out that we do have some guys in CC who qualify as equally intense. I’d but Britt Merrick and Tim Chaddick in that category, and I very much respect those guys.

  3. leadership personality is part of it. geography plays role… PAC nw guys are just tougher dudes than so cal folks 😉

    but also experiance. in the book harvest, the only guy I can think of that didn’t get saved at costa Mesa or within a year of coming to it was Jon courson. and those guys were saved out of some of the worst of the world.

    by contrast. I’ve never met anyone who got saved at mars hill. like people from delaware I know they exist, I’ve just never met one… and I do see a difference between myself and someone recently saved in what can work for me and what can work for them

  4. Case in point. I have no problem with what Matt Chandler is talking about here, I agree with him. It’s just an intensity that is foreign is all.

  5. I was there in the tent (saved in 1972). The “vibe” was gentle because IMHO it was the work of the Holy Spirit and not the work of any one personality. The Love of the Spirit was so thick you could cut it with a knife, even when driving into the parking lot.

    Again, IMHO, any true work of the Spirit will be gentle, characterized by love…

  6. Okie – I would tend to agree. But at the same time, one could argue that confrontational works of the Spirit that lead to repentance aren’t always, if not usually gentle, and yet are motivated by love, even though they don’t feel like love. That’s how I’m kind of seeing A29. A prophet calling people to repentance because the alternative is judgment. Not hell, fire, and brimstone so much as the reality of our nature in contrast to God’s. Yet it’s all the same Spirit.

  7. Corby: Were on the same page. Truly the Spirit confronts; yet, it is always motivated by His love.

  8. Agreed – and this is kinda my point. The variety, and almost apparent contradictoriness of how He works, but always motivated by love. My personal preference isn’t with the angry vibe, but I can’t judge it because anger has it’s place. It’s where I’m weak, in terms of righteous indignation. Something to learn from.

  9. Good thread Corby. As to your June 18 7:46, my understanding is neither Chaddick or Merrick are CC , yet having never heard either one, I didn’t know they were screamers. Perhaps they are influenced by their peers.

    I grew up in church, I was screamed at every Sunday. Never could understand why the pastor was always so pissed off. I wasn’t hard of hearing, neither is God. The new screamers remind me of the old wineskins of yesteryear. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Steve Aspenall,
    Great points. If a person knows how to move and motivate people through whatever means available, much can be accomplished. We can attach God’s name to it and say God did when in reality it is a work of the flesh. What I have observed many times over is that momentum begats momentum. Once something is begun and there is enough mass, inertia takes over.

  10. Hey Mike. Chaddick and Merrick aren’t officially CC at this point, though they were originally and are very interwoven. In Fact, Chaddick is speaking at this years NW Pastors Conference. They may or may not come back into the fold, I’m not sure. But they do get pretty worked up! I don’t know that I’d call them “screamers” on the level with Driscol, but they are passionate and I admire it, and I like I said, a bit jealous because I feel I could afford to get a bit more worked up than I do over stuff.

  11. well, Corby, I wonder if some of these guys who scream would feel comfortable ordering their meal at a restaurant the same way they preach a message? Just a thought. In other words, I think it is contrived and not normalcy. In the olden days, they needed to preach like that to be heard, today we have sound systems.

    Not attending Warm Beach this year…. too cold!!!!! 😉

  12. The difference between Driscoll and Smith is this… I listen to Chuck and am always impressed with the man, but what he does is not out of reach. I actually belive that I can teach the bible the way that Chuck teaches the bible, I can love people and pastor them via his model. Driscoll is out of reach because (IMHO) it’s more about him. Not to be overly critical, I like him, I just think his model is quite different. Same with the Matt Chandler video clip… he’s not teaching the bible, he is screaming at people. Of no interest to me at all, right or not.
    Steve ‘ol chap nails it: “I can’t even find a single place where the Word says that these ministers should be excellent communicators, gifted in public presentation and with attractive personalities. I’ll bet Simon Peter smelled of fish quite a lot of the time.”

  13. and I have to wonder whether Peter who needed a bath or Paul who needed a doctor would be able to draw a crowd based on much of today’s criteria.

  14. This is an interesting question? I am wondering if any of you are watching just clips or the all of the teaching by Pastor Mark and Pastor Matt.

    was a child who went to the tent meetings they were wonderful, they were very ,very intense. People were passionate…

    There are many different styles in CC Pastors, I personally know of some, my dad being one.

    The below quote by Driscoll to me explains the attraction to many to the Acts 29 movement… I love this quote….

    “There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.”

    —Mark Driscoll, Relevant Magazine[10]

    I attend a CC… the people love Jesus and proclaim the whole Gospel… I don’t care if it is a CC,or an Acts 29 or something else, it just so happens that it is a CC.

    The Lord has Blessed CC and is still Blessing CC.

    Now additionally something wonderful is occurring in Acts 29… it is a movement that is also Blessed….let all of CC be happy, another movement…its is wonderful. We are part of Gods Church…he is building his church. …I Thank the Lord for these brothers who are passionate about Jesus, may all of us who call Jesus Lord be bold to proclaim him…and may we be authentic…

    I don’t believe our Lord wants us to be a monolith…I believe he wants us to express him in our uniqueness.

  15. Hey Missy, thanks for posting. For me, I have heard/seen the snippets, and I have heard/seen entire studies. I subscribe to an A29 podcast (among others of course) and listen some something interesting comes down the pipe. And I hope it’s clear that I’m not trying to pit one against the other as superior and inferior. I’m just kind of fascinated, from a sociology-of-church-movements perspective, as to the different personalities of the movements. Not the personalities of those who lead them, but the overall personality of the movements themselves. Their flavor if you will/

    Great comments Missy. Good stuff to chew on. Keep it coming!

  16. Hi Corby,

    I subscribe also…but some who have posted here… I don’t believe have heard a whole message or have actually gone to an Acts 29 church or Mars Hill. That is why I asked the question.

    I loved your blog….you were just asking a question. You were not taking up sides…how refreshing.

    I have asked myself the same question…

    One differential that should be pointed out is that Acts 29 is reformed in their Theology…They attract people who also see theology in this way…They are not hyper Calvinist…

    Some who have grown up in Calvary have experienced a left theological leaning in the youth…additional these groups are trying to be so relevant that they are not much different from a social club at High School…they play Death Cab for Cute and Rage to the Machine at youth(I actually like some of this music, but as one high school student told me he can listen to this any time)…the leaders believe it make the youth feel comfortable…then after a dose of secular music there is some “worship music” then a quick message about doing good works…and by the way no need to bring your Bible….Then some of these people find Acts 29 and they are thirsty…I am not saying all CC are like this but this is something that I have experienced and others as well…I love what Greg Laurie said in his biography that he was attracted to his Christian High School group because they were different…I wish every youth pastor would read his biography.

    I think Acts 29 and Mars Hill can serve as a reminder to be relevant while proclaiming the whole Gospel… I am thankful for this influence. If you have gone to an Acts 29 you will find that they are packed with young people loving Jesus…loving a long services…worship music that has more then 7 words that expresses the Deeps of Gods love…and young people carrying their large ESV Bibles… additionally they have the Lords Table every week..This should encourage youth ministries at Calvary….and other churches…be relevant but teach…don’t be scared the young people will leave if you are not authentic they will leave anyway..be bold… and LOVE JESUS

    Corby thank you for asking the question….Missy

  17. Another thought occured to me as I was thinking about this for you Corbs…

    It’s a phrase we have here in the UK, I’m not sure whether you have it or not…

    “The empty can rattles the loudest.”

    When the message lacks depth, when it lacks genuine wisdom, when it lacks true authority, when it lacks real direction, when it lacks authentic experience and when it lacks the humility of discovery, the politico, the opinionate and the demagogue have one final resort… bluster.

    When we get riled up and rattled, and shout buzzwords, and scream for an ‘amen’, we’re simply leading people into being impressed by fervency, by the false impression of authority, by the appearance of hyper-spirituality. But its just an illusion. I’m not commenting on specific individuals or occurrances in specific denominations either way but instead asserting a generalism: that I’ve not yet come across a single case where I was convinced that this approach which seems to carry so much virtue to the new-generationalists these days, is anything but pyrotechnics masking limited talent or a dire lack of content and material in the ‘performance’, the ‘showmanship’ that is – supposedly – ‘anointed’ ministry.

    This bluster lacks the reason, it lacks the rationale, it lacks the self control, it lacks the maturity, it lacks the educated leading, it lacks the care and consideration of genuine expounded authority gleaned from years of humble experience and the hands-on learning process where the ‘message’ makes the leap from being ‘bulletpoints of principle’ to being a roadmap to a deep, quality-filled experience of an exciting journey.

    This isn’t a ‘law without love’ issue, or a ‘fire and brimstone without grace’ issue… This is simply, in a vast majority of cases, a ‘right man vs wrong man’ issue… a ‘hirelings vs shepherd’ issue… a ‘master vs amateur enthusiast’ issue… a ‘look at me vs learn from me’ issue. Perhaps its a contrast between rhetoric and revelation.

    The ‘church’ is no different to the world of politics. We can run round all day trying to ‘sanctify’ our efforts generalistically based on the perception of ‘good intentions’ but at the end of the day maturity dictates that through learning, experience and understanding we step beyond the ‘I’m still trying naively and haplessly to do the right thing’ and into the ‘I know what the right thing is and I’ve actually grown up a lot from where I first began.’ ‘He means well’ doesn’t really have a place as a mitigation amongst those who profess to be doing the work of leadership ministry and taking account for feeding the souls of men and women. The ‘good intentions’ argument covers a multitude of sins, as it were, when it comes to the difference between excusing our self-ishness and indulgence in our ministries, and actually functioning with the maturity, sobriety, self-control, wisdom, reasonableness, humility and seriousness with which Paul charges us as ministers, to function in the work of the Gospel.

    I don’t even see it merely as a difference in ‘style’, I see it almost entirely as a difference in maturity, and in a contrast of degrees of self-confidence, self-assertion, and in some cases pride. It’s easier to preach ‘at’ than to preach ‘amongst.’ Its easier to rapid-fire instructional bulletpoints than it is to open yourself up to being made a fool of, as you attempt to expound something deep and meaningful from the word which requires you to put yourself on the line and say, on behalf of your congregation, ‘I’m going to unlock deep treasures that might be hidden in this, to enrich your diet for you on your behalf, because you might not be so inclined and so capable, and I want to see you really grow.’

    I know Christians that follow these type of ministers, and they’re full of catchphrases and mantras and methodologies and metaphors… but open the Bible up around them and start to look for something of substance, and they’re totally lost.

  18. Steve – I appreciate that you made that general, and didn’t try to assign it, especially in light of the context used in this discussion. And I do understand and agree with you in a general sense. At the same time, I don’t think that that view should hinder us from seeing the potential genuine in place that operate similarly to this model.

    For example, it happens that just this week I downloaded some material from Jim Cymbala teaching Sunday’s at The Brooklyn Tabernacle. I’m big fan of his. Our family visited the church one Easter. What I noticed in listening to this studies is that, as a natural consequence of his personality and that of the people in the church, they do clap for good points in the sermon, he does prompt (whether he needs to or not) for “Amens”. But it is all very genuine. It isn’t forced, it isn’t manipulative. He does get fired up and excited, but that’s because he’s a New Yorker and the child of European immigrants.

    So, I see what your saying, but let’s be careful in our generalization not to expect people to be not genuine at first blush. If they aren’t, it will show with time. All that to say, I get ya.

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