CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 1, 2023 – Lots of Christians have been questioning whether the current popular “Jesus movement” is from God or not.
They’re right to question it. All mass movements that seem to have come out of the blue and yet still appear to be orchestrated should be questioned.
My response to “is it from God?” would be that whoever or whatever is behind the latest Jesus fad, God is permitting it. If God weren’t permitting it, it wouldn’t be happening. Nothing happens without God’s permission.
But just because God permits something doesn’t mean he supports it. It means he’s letting it happen as a means to an end. And anything God permits, he ultimately intends for the benefit of his Kingdom, even if in the short-term it looks like the opposite is happening.
When I was first born-again from atheism nearly 24 years ago, the first church service I went to was a “Marian apparition” pilgrimage, where Mary was supposed to have appeared in the shape of a water stain on the wall. Of course, in hindsight, it was all nonsense, but I ended up going to the service because someone recommended it to me. I was in Australia at the time, and the pastor at the church was a Canadian, so the person referring me thought it would be nice if I, as a Canadian, had another Canadian to talk to about my rebirth experience. All I remember about the service was that I cried all the way through it, and then afterward had a brief but very insightful conversation with the Canadian pastor. His kind and cautionary words remain with me to this day. When I returned to Canada a few months after my rebirth, I started going to Roman Catholic masses, because I thought that’s where I belonged, having been baptised a Roman Catholic as an infant. I attended Roman Catholic masses all across Canada for the next three and a half years. I went nearly every day until God knew I was strong enough to be on my own, and sprung me.
My point in mentioning my experiences with the Marian apparition church and the Roman Catholic church, is that while neither of them (I believe) are genuine houses of God led by genuinely reborn ministers, they still serve a purpose. They gave me a place where I felt I belonged and offered me structured pastoral instruction at a time when I needed it, as I was a very spiritually young believer. Remember that Jesus approves the teachings of those who “sit on the seat of Moses”, though he cautions his followers to do as they say, not as they do. He also tells us that anyone who speaks in his name or performs miracles in his name, cannot easily “speak evil” of him, so we should let those people be, even if we doubt their spiritual pedigree.
I believe the same words of caution that Jesus gave to his disciples should be applied to this most recent outbreak of Jesus-mania.
In other words, we should be less concerned about whether or not God’s Holy Spirit is enlivening the latest batch of Jesus freaks and more concerned about helping those few (likely very few, but still some) genuine converts who are hungry and thirsty for the Word. That should be our concern – being there for the genuine converts. The movement itself, I believe, serves as an incubator for those few who have newly joined us in the Kingdom. The Marian apparition church and Roman Catholic church were my incubators, and I’m grateful to God that he provided them to me.
Still, I would recommend steering clear of these populist movements. Condemn them, no (again, God is using them for the Kingdom’s benefit), but join them, definitely not. Any genuine converts that may come out of the movement will eventually make their way to us, and we should be waiting for them and welcoming them. The rest, as Jesus would say, already have their reward. When they get bored of being Jesus freaks, they’ll just move on to the next mass fad, the same way that most of Jesus’ nominal followers left him when they got bored or when the demands got too great for them. He let them go, and we should let them go, too.
But those who genuinely want what God wants for them will never get bored of following Jesus and will only crave more and more demands put on them. The harder it gets, the more (they know) to lean on God; the more they lean on God, the closer they grow to him and to Jesus, and the closer they get to Home.