Confessions of a Charismatic Fundamentalist

My conversion to Christ in April of 1976 was immediately followed by a crazy spiritual experience that was accompanied by a receiving of the gift of speaking in tongues. I remember, like it was yesterday, that night at a large church in Houston Texas. It was the day after I quietly surrendered my life to Jesus … no one had a clue what I had done in the quietness of my heart that Saturday night in a Houston hotel … but here I was in church on a Sunday night caught up in worship for the first time in my life. I remember we were singing a chorus from the Andre Crouch song "My Tribute". We were repeating the verse "To God be the glory" … I was in a state of surrender … singing my heart out … entering a most holy place of worship … then I came to the realization that I was not singing in English … I was totally freaked out. This was the beginning of the wildest ride of my life.

Three months later my wife and I moved to Kansas City and began attending a small evangelical church. I enjoyed the new friendships I was developing at church but missed the worship that I experienced in Houston. Then one Sunday night in the spring of 1977 I attended a large charismatic church in Kansas City Kansas. Oh my, what a service … once again I found myself lost in worship … waves of God's Spirit seemed to flow over and through me. After several months of Sunday nights my wife and I became convinced that the large church was right where God wanted us to be … in June we began attending there full time.

The following 18 years of my spiritual journey were immersed in the ministry of this large church. I taught Sunday school, led small home groups, was an overseer of small groups and established close relationships with many people … the church and the pastor’s teaching became a party of my spiritual identity. For most of those 18 years I was involved in the prophetic ministry of the church … several times a month the Holy Spirit would speak a message of encouragement through me to several thousand people … looking back on this it was quite surreal. I became know as a prophetic person … being prophetic also became part of my identity.

Life was good for most of these years … kids came along … joyous family times were the hallmark of this time in my life. My wife and I had a wonderful relationship. If you asked me I would have told you that the priorities of my life were, in this order, God, family, church and work. I was absolutely identified by the roles in my life. I loved being a Christian, a husband, a father, a church leader, a prophet of sorts, and a computer programmer. These roles gave me so much joy and made my life meaningful. Life was good.

In March of 1990 my life fell apart. My wife of 19 years had a heart attack and kidney failure. In the following four years my whole life’s focus was caring for her. Everything else I was doing, ministry-wise, was stopped … I slowly died on the inside. It was during this time that I began to be confronted by the legalism that surrounded me and lived deep within me. For years I had thought of myself, in a Christian sense, as a ‘Charismatic’ – both in theology and in practice. I considered myself to be this ‘free’ person. I distained legalism and specifically the word ‘religious’ because I identified myself as a ‘Spirit-filled’ person … someone who was led by the Holy Spirit certainly could not be legalistic.

It was like yesterday, I was entering the parking garage at work … I became aware of the fact that I had ‘parking garage rules’ … I had a logic scheme by which I chose a parking spot … I was crushed by the idea that ‘possibly’ … ‘maybe’ … I wasn’t led by the Spirit in this part of my life … in hindsight it is pretty amusing but it was just the beginning of my awakening. As I continually prayed for my wife she got weaker and weaker … and my frustration got stronger and stronger. My children began having problems in school … they too were dealing with a deepening grief about their mom’s health. All the while I was being forced to change – I hated it … all of the things in life I thought that I had figured out were unraveling before my eyes … everything that was important to me was falling apart. I was dying on the inside and in May of 1994 my dear wife of 23 years died.

The past years had taken a toll on our family … my 14 year old son, my 10 year old daughter … and me … we were all devastated at my wife’s death. We all expected her to get well … that is what we prayed for … I believed in healing and miracles … I even prayed for a resurrection when my wife breathed her last. The aftermath of her death found my son medicating with drugs, my daughter struggling with identity issues and me dealing with a broken theology. I increasingly became aware of how much I had been led by principles and precepts. Subconsciously I had developed a complex internal system of rules and logic concerning life. These of course were all based in scripture and encompassed words like ‘authority’ and ‘submission’. For years I lived the life of a ‘Charismatic’, ‘led by the Spirit’ Christian when in truth I was more like a Fundamentalist.

One encyclopedia defines a “fundamentalist Christian” as “a Christian who holds the Bible to be infallible, historically accurate, and decisive in all issues of controversy that the Bible is believed to directly address”. On the surface this really seems to be a good thing … and possibly for some people this is the correct way to express their faith … but for me it was not. Fundamentalist thinking brought out the worst in me. I took an exclusive and legalistic approach to the bible. This approach bred an arrogant attitude towards people who didn’t see the scripture the same way I did. When my wife was sick the arrogant attitude began to give way to glimpses of humility. I was humbled when meals came into my home from friends at church for 10 weeks. Coping with hospitalizations, doctor’s bills (from 40+ doctors), hemo-dialysis, and a boatload of medical problems brought me to a place of breaking … I didn’t want to let go of my legalistic ideas and practices but had no option … I could no longer maintain and feed the on stuff that once brought my ego such satisfaction.

The 10 years after my wife’s passing have brought many changes in my life. One major theme in these years has been one of control. You know that ‘control’ is a major battlefield for one trapped in legalistic thinking … it is all about ‘control’. That brings me to the end of 2002 … I had remarried and my new wife was going through an intense health crisis that involved paralysis … I was besides myself once again when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me. He spoke to me about life and living … about letting go and flowing in life instead of controlling … He said that life isn’t something to be managed like a project but something to be lived. I still find it difficult to let go and not control but I am making progress. I take job assignments these days that have clear boundaries. I honor the choices of my adult children even when I don’t agree with them.

The events of these years have convinced me that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. I have learned that there is a difference in being right and righteous … one can have absolute truth about an issue but be absolutely wrong in their application of that truth if they are not truly led by God’s Spirit. These past few years have also taught me that you take very few things with you when you die and one of them is relationships with fellow believers.

I try to love more these days but I am always confronted with how little I seem to care about people. Just when I think that I am really making progress I find myself withdrawing into a protectionist attitude. You know loving ... God-like loving ... always gets us out of our comfort zone ... always challenges us to the core. God-like loving is not natural and cannot be accomplished using a set of precepts or rules. God's kind of loving is so different than man's kind of loving. God's love is what it is all about ... and we can't love people when we are rules concious. I am convinced that Jesus was all about showing us love in a way that man had not seen before. Possibly when, like Jesus, we are moved by compassion for others we will step outside of our comfort zone ... and walk in His love rather than our rules. That is my prayer for you and my prayer for me. Amen.


  1. Hi. I found your blog because you posted over at He Lives. I was moved by this post. My dad is battling cancer right now. I attend an evangelical church. My mom is Charismatic. She believes that it is God's desire to heal 100% of the time, without exception. We have gotten into some really heated discussions over this in the last few weeks because she seems to want to blame my dad for not being healed. (Not enough faith, unconfessed sin, etc..)This really disturbs me because I don't find this to be scriptural, not to mention how horrible it must feel to the sick person to be blamed for your illness. Anyway, she cites scriptures like the 91 Psalm which indicates that God wants to satisfy us with a long life and others to bolster her theological premise that if God doesn't heal, its obviously our fault somehow. I don't know how to get her to see the error of this logic. From what I can gather (and I have never attended a Charismatic church on a regular basis)most of the so called "word of faith" churches do not believe God is in control on the earth today. There is no emphasis on praying to God for what we need. Instead, the emphasis is on speaking what he want and claiming it as our own. They say that God gave us dominion and authority in the earth and that he can't act unless we allow him to through prayer/positive confession.

    How have the things that you have gone through affected your theology in terms of healing and etc...

  2. I still very much believe in healing, miracles and spiritual gifts ... I still on occasion have visions and sometimes prophesy. My life experiences have caused me to be much more understanding and compassionate. I am also more at peace when God doesn't answer my prayers exactly the way I prayed them.

    According to the scripture love is greater than faith. Often when I pray for someone who is sick I will tell them to relax and let me do the believing. I think that people who are sick are many times under a great load of guilt for being sick and it puts a strain on them instead of encouraging them to believe. Theology that causes people to judge anothers faith is not only false but very unloving.

    It sounds like your mom is much like a good friend of mine ... her adult daughter died of cancer several years ago and she retreated into this legalistic theology of blaming hurting and sick people. One of the problems is that people escape into this world instead of dealing with the reality of their situation. Instead of bringing the joy of Jesus that bring the judgment of their theology.

    There are several good books that debunk this stuff ... "We Let Our Son Die" by Larry Parker is a sad but true story of parents caught up in this movement ... "From the Pinnacle of the Temple" by Charles Farah is another good resource.

    You know we are commanded to speak the truth in love ... a theology that ALWAYS blames a sick person for their sickness is simply not loving and in my opinion (generally speaking) is not led by Spirit.

    Lastly, on a much lighter note, I have found it interesting that many of those espousing this theology are in need of healing themselves because they wear glasses or contact lenses :)

  3. My father passed away Tuesday.

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  6. Hey, Bob...
    Your transparency is humbling! What a walk you've had.Thanks for leading me back to this post...I appreciate your words on healing as well.

  7. I just wanted to tell you how much I love you. I knew something happened to me when Mom died, but I never knew what it was. I think after all these years, I am finally thankful for her death. A little part of me feels bad for saying that. Mom was alive longer than any doctor imagined, she suffered long enough to see her children grow up. That's just God and Mom working together for everyone else. Just as she was, giving. If Mom didn't die, you wouldn't be married to Ann and I know she makes you happy. That's all I ask for. I want you to be happy and I'm at peace with that. Mom is done suffering and you have a beautiful and (mostly) healthy wife. I love you two and I want the best for the both of you. When I compare love, your marriages are the first that I compare and I know what love is supposed to be. I love you.

  8. i agree with susie...ann is a wonderfull woman and i couldnt have asked for someone better. mom was great and i loved her, but god had better plans for her once she was done instilling in me and susie what was right from wrong. you should feel so lucky because ann is WAY COOL! god could not have provided a better woman to come into your life and you know im right on that!

    so glad in what god has given you! you are very lucky! and god has given ann what she has sought for so long...a punk new york city kid! hahahaha just kidding

  9. Bob, I am going to link to your post. My background is similar to yours. I attended Morningstar Fellowship in Charlotte for a while a few years ago where the "Kansas City prophets" were very influential. I am on a journey with some friends outside of tradition right now....a journey led only by the Lamb.

    Your comments on Simon's blog Adullam's Cave led me here.

    I can relate to you my brother. Stop by my "Tableserver" blog sometime. It is linked from Simon.

    Steve West

  10. Hi Bob.

    Hope you get this post. I am reading your story after you linked to it at julieunplugged. I identify with much of your journey in the charismatic circles. We also were drawn in by the Kansas City Prophets. Listened to Mike Bickle et al ad nauseum while missionaries on the field via cassette.

    I like where you are ending up - with a looser grip but a more gentle open hand.

    Thanks for sharing your story.


  11. Though I am from a different denomination than you are, I can't help but be struck by the simularities in the stages of spiritual growth we both share. It was illness and other calamities that came into our lives that also pulled my husband and I out of the clutches of legalism and religion. Religion is such a convincing counterfeit for a true walk with God. I am becoming convinced that this decent from salvation back to the law is a stage that most every child of God passes through. It amazes me and convinces me more and more that it matters not what we know but Who we know. It is all Jesus and all the doctrines and the different ways we believe what the Bible says are personalized lessons that guide each of us toward Christlikeness as we grow from a babe in Christ to full maturity.

  12. God bless you for sharing all this. It will minister to so many--it certain ministers to me tonight. It's taken me years to come to the end of my 'theology' and let God be God, if that makes any sense. Just give me Jesus.


  13. " can have absolute truth about an issue but be absolutely wrong in their application of that truth if they are not truly led by God’s Spirit....."

    Thanks Bob. That was a good observation and an important reminder to me.

  14. I love the internet and how you can just stumble across a blog that resonates so deeply. I have just come out of a very legalistic charasmatic time into an area of Grace in the Father that I never knew existed. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    There is a book out there that you would love. The Shack by William P. Young. Please read it if you have not already.

  15. I have sat reading this 3 year old blog and am crying as I read and thanking the Lord that I have stumbled across a precious group of 'sheep' who feel the same way I do. I have also been 'up to my neck' in the charismatic/prophetic movement for 10 years, attending Morningstar conferences (many!), Brownsville revival (several times), and Kansas City (only once). I attend a church that heavily leans upon Mike Bickle's teachings from Kansas City. My pastor now heavily endorses the Lakeland Revival but every time I watch it on TV (he has been there and now several church members also) I am cautioned in my spirit and feel a sense of repulsion and caution. I have described my years in the charismatic/prophetic movement as like a person with Santa Claus' big sack gradually being filled with all kinds of goodies. Then came the trial by fire! My huge sack of 'goodies' I had accumulated over the years caught fire and burned up! All that was left in the sack was this little, tiny lump of gold way down in the corner of the bottom of the sack. Most of that stuff that I had collected was useless. It only served to 'puff me up' spiritually and set me above the others in the Body of Christ that didn't have what I did or didn't want it badly enough. Everything in my life was great at that time. Many years of marriage and hard work had produced some wealth for my husband and me. We had two beautiful sons, a beautiful home and farm, and a successful business. I homeschooled my sons and poured the Word into them. We were all protected from the ugliness of the world.........or so we thought. Until the year 2000. We lost everything in the stock market when the tech stocks tanked. Our business and in fact the whole industry we're involved with tanked. The church we were attending and it's pastor tanked (adultery). My health tanked. My husband was a nervous wreck and filled with sadness and regret over past financial decisions that led to losses for us. I had to remain sain for the sake of my two sons that I was at home with and teaching them reading, writing, and math. We began to seriously search for REAL members of the Body of Christ that would stand with us during this time, love us, and encourage us. We started a home church because we wanted that closeness and openness between believers that you couldn't get in church. Unfortuanately, we became the victims of someone that took this as an opportunity to launch their very own church and soon we had to leave. We've been in a small charismatic church since then but it continually seeks the excitement and more spiritual hoops to jump through until we get to "the next level" or the 'end-time harvest". I'm worn out from this. I just want to serve the Lord in simple everyday life while I enjoy the life He's given me NOW.....not something I should be constantly preparing for in the future. The hurting and lost are here with us NOW and the charismatic church is 'holing up' in our prayer meetings and conferences convincing each other that we are doing something for the Lord by constantly 'equipping' ourselves. I have compassion in abundance now for the lost and hurting out there. I've been a Christian now for 40 years and I have discovered that I am just as poor, wretched, and blind as the next person except for the fact that I have accepted the blood of my Jesus and depend upon Him for all my holiness, worthiness, and righteousness. I have had a terrible 'crisis of faith' over the last 5 years and so had my husband. I think that it has been required of us so that all the superficiality of our former thinking would be forever lost to us and we would finally be of use to the hurting.

    Sorry for the length of my post. I could say soooooo much more about my journey but I'll save it for another time. I'm just thankful to have run across others who have so beautifully bared their heart and their journey to us. I'm sorry for you loss. I have a son that was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at 2 years old and has been insulin depended for the last 14 years. I can't tell you how many folks, both famous and local, have prayed for his healing, yet it hasn't come. Like you, I totally believe in the miracles of God and that He is able to heal my son. Now I'm feeling the pressure from some to believe that this Lakeland revival will 'spread' to my town and he can now be healed if I would only believe. I believe in my God and that He knows my son's need and has known it for some time now and that He can heal my son anytime He wants to here in my hometown.

    Ok, I'm really going to stop now!

    May God bless you and increase your love and compassion to touch the world,

    A Worshipper

  16. Thank you Worshipper for stopping by.

    A friend, whose daughter was recently diagnosed with MS, was being pestered by some about going to Lakeland.. I was impressed when she gave them this reply:

    "If God tells us to go then we will go".

    Isn't that a great reply? It set her heart free to follow God as He reveals Himself to her.

    Thanking God for His presence in your journey! Have a great weekend.

    Blessings, Bob

  17. always find something here that inspires me, that challenges me, that blesses me....thanks for writing so openly about your journey.

  18. Thanks Becky! I appreciate the encouragement!

  19. Bob,

    I read this a couple of weeks ago. It was late at night and I was already in bed. I fell asleep thinking about your words that you wrote over 4 years ago. I just read over it again and so many of your words spoke to me. Especially right now about control and letting go. And really and truly being led by the Spirit.

    Thank you Bob.

  20. Thanks for sharing your journey so honestly. I believe it will resonate with every single person who reads it. Jesus came to bring us freedom and most of the time we don't even know we are bound. It's wonderful that you are sharing your freedom with us. Blessings :)

  21. nice post,i too believe in god and its prayer

  22. I am so glad you commented on my blog so that I could come read this... your testimony, and this confession post are truly awesome. I want to give a big AMEN to this. It lines up with what I've been trying to express and accomplish in my life - walking in God's love.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your testamony. When I read it I was thinking of the words from the church father Irenaeus: Man Fully Alive is the Glory of God

  24. Thanks Sven! Love that quote - one of my favorites!


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