Charisma Magazine announced the passing of C Peter Wagner this week. He was 86.
I posted a response to the critics made by C Peter Wagner a few months ago which really put them in their place and showed the true heart of a man much loved in charismatic circles.
Wagner was a missionary, a professor, an historian, a theologian, a speaker, an author, and a man of God highly respected amongst his peers. He stood for the advancement of the kingdom of God in a changing world which has become more reachable through technological progress.
He identified a phenomenon he termed the New Apostolic Reformation, which was not so much a movement he oversaw as a recognition of a restoration of the ministry gifts of the apostle and prophet which has led, over the last thirty or forty years, to growth in many churches especially amongst young adults.
This, of course, drew criticism from many quarters of the ultra-conservative church, and, indeed, from those who have claimed that the charismatic move was a danger to traditional Christianity.
However, Wagner was never responsible for the growth of the charismatic movement. He was more of an observer, commentator, and, in some respects, in later years, a conductor of what is seen by most as a restoration of the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit after centuries of denial of the need for the gifts.
Cessationists, of course, reject the need for healing, deliverance, the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, prophecy, the offices of the apostle and prophet, and a number of other attributes gifted by God to the Church. They say the Word of God has replaced the need for the ministry gifts of the Spirit.
Self-appointed ‘discernment’ sites and ministries like chookwatcher, Pulpit&Pen, Pirate Christian Radio, John McArthur, Strange Fire Conference, and a pile of other similar self-feeding bloggers and critics have long been opponents of Wagner’s documentation of unfolding events that were set to continue regardless of whether a college professor from Fuller Seminary noticed enough to begin writing about them. He didn’t start this restoration. He brought it to our attention.
Documenting a phenomenon
Wagner’s books have set the tone for inquiry and investigation into the ministry gifts and presence of God in the churches. He has encouraged ministers and ministries to step out in faith and believe that God heals today, that deliverance still occurs, and that the apostolic and prophetic ministry gifts of the first century of the Church are still with us today.
These things the critics deny, of course, and not in a pleasant or constructive way. They have been maliciously scathing of Wagner’s observations for many years. It is not likely to end.
Chookwatcher, for instance, even before Wagner is buried, wrote a very nasty epitaph willing that Wagner’s gravestone be a millstone around his neck. These people are truly without heart or conscience.
But Wagner will be remembered long after the critics have spewed their last vindictive comment against the Church.
He will be seen as a pioneer observer of the post-war moves of God that ushered in a restoration of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, of the healing ministry of Christ, of deliverance for those who are demon possessed, of the ongoing ministry of the apostle and prophet, of the works of Christ continuing until he comes for the Church at the end of the age.
A gentle man
Wagner was a gentle man. Despite the often spiteful rhetoric aimed at him, he was not resentful of his critics. He was a kindly, self-effacing, humble man of God who documented many things he saw taking place in the Church in the post-WW2 era.
Wagner, with his wife Doris, who survives him, was, for 16 years, an evangelical missionary to Bolivia. He sowed his heart into those people in the name of Christ. He then returned to the US and was a professor in a leading seminary which encouraged believers to look deeper into the New Testament and apply the Word where it was no longer believed.
This lead him, after a number of years, to be considered by many as an authority on church growth and movement. Several churches have applied his findings to their own ministries and seen the growth in converts that followed.
As he always said, there was nothing new or original about this. It was just the application of what was already before us. His gift was arrangement. He ordered some things through his writings that clarified the church’s approach to evangelism and training.
He was not a Pentecostal, but even Pentecostal churches saw value in many things he wrote. He was more of an evangelical than a charismatic, even, but was warmly embraced by the charismatic church.
He, by his own admission, didn’t get everything right, but who does? He did, however, provide an encouraging perspective into the Word of God that helps us understand that none of us knows it all, and there is far more to the Word and Spirit for us to discover and enjoy if we will only take God at His Word and trust Him with all our hearts.
He opened us up to many of the possibilities revealed in the Word.
All I will say of the epitaph written by chookwatcher is that it will be his own millstone if he doesn’t repent of its heartless malice. For by the same judgment we judge others we will be judged. It is a shame to him.
Wagner’s work will long outlast the words of his critics.
He’s run his race. His legacy remains.
To live is Christ. To die is gain.