Over the past several days I’ve been reading a number of articles regarding the Azusa Now 2016 conference in southern California, which an acquaintance of mine happened to attend. This acquaintance came back with a glowing report; however, I would sadly have to regard this person as one that is spiritually naive and wholly ignorant of the delusion embraced. One of the things that this person was excited to tell me about that happened was the merger of Catholics along with Charismatics; as this person put it, “They called all faiths to come together in unity in common prayer for revival.” Nearly 100,000 people of “all faiths” filled this stadium to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the famous “Azusa Street Outpouring” that is largely recognized as the event the lit the fires of Pentecostalism in the United States. Whatever opinions people may have about what happened at the original Azusa phenomenon, it is certainly clear that a select number of well-known religious leaders (such as Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, Lou Engle, Heidi Baker, and so many others) have taken the opportunity to capitalize on this moment in history and now to push their agenda of a united movement of sign and wonder-seeking Christians who care less about biblical truth than they do the hype of religious experiences and a New Age kind of gospel mysticism that operates under a banner of love and tolerance for people of all doctrinal persuasions.
A multitude of well-known Christian leaders were present at the event. As one attender put it, “The response from the level of leaders, I looked around the room (leadership meeting Friday night), and thought, oh my gosh, this is a who’s who [of Christian leaders]”. The same person remarked that all these people were “sacrificially buying into the vision of unity, not just sort of lip service, but they are actually here and they’re actually willing to sacrifice their name, their ministry…” Curious that this “sacrifice” is not said to be for the cause of Christ, but for the sake of unity. The Bethel Church (Redding, CA) website indicated plainly that they were gathering to seek “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” Apparently the existing outpouring of the Holy Spirit that God has been doing for the last 2,000 years is not good enough.
At the conference, Charismatic Christian leader Lou Engle bowed down and kissed the feet of Roman Catholic leader Matteo Calisi. Other prominent Catholic leaders gathered around to pray as Lou prostrated himself before this Roman Catholic appointee of the Pope. For those of you unaware, this Catholic leader, Matteo, has been fully recognized by the Vatican as a “minister of reconciliation”. To reconcile what you might ask? It bears noting that he is also fully supported by a sect known as the Community of Jesus (which is described by the order itself as an “ecumenical Christian community”; believing that all denominations are united in a common commitment of love and service to God – not to be divided by doctrinal differences). Matteo’s appointment by the Pope is also significant, noting that the Pope is himself hails from the Jesuit order of Catholicism. One of the sole purposes of the Jesuit order is to infiltrate non-Catholic groups by any means and reconcile them back to Rome “for the glory of God”. Matteo is also widely recognized around the world by many other organizations that describe themselves as having an ecumenical purpose (i.e. uniting variant denominations together regardless of doctrinal differences). At the Azusa now event, Matteo publicly stated that the division between Christians and Catholics is a “diabolical sin,” and that Jesus “doesn’t care” that Christians and Catholics disagree on biblical doctrine. So, as you can see, this was a major statement indeed – whether or not most of those attending full understood why.
Many church folks today, like this person I know who attended the event, do not understand that Roman Catholicism is not the friend of genuine, biblical Christianity. It may, however, be the friend of denominational groups of the Protestant persuasion, which includes Charismatic and virtually all other denominations that are not typically identified as “Catholic” affiliated. For years I also used the term “Protestant” to identify what kind of Christian I was to people that didn’t know me and that wanted to know what kind of “Christian” group I affiliated with. What I simply intended by that label was to inform the other person (especially if they were Catholic or some other non-Christian religious persuasion) that I was absolutely NOT Catholic or Mormon or any other non-Christian cult… but I have come to understand over the years that this label is wholly insufficient. The term “Protestant” simply means “protest”. It originally represented those, like Martin Luther, who protested against mainstream Roman Catholicism and divided from it to form their own church and practice their own persuasion of religion apart from the strict dictates of the Pope.
The problem is that Luther, despite his revelations, did not actually separate from Rome entirely. In fact, Luther continued to regard himself a Catholic (still embracing the majority of Catholic doctrine and practice), his followers also maintained the label, and he continued to embrace Roman Catholicism… although in reformed fashion. His 95 thesis that he nailed on the Wittenberg door in 1517 were indeed a blow against the Pope’s supreme authority and exposed many of the Church’s errors and legalism… but rather than separate completely and come out from among them, Luther only revamped Catholicism and gave us a “new” offshoot of it called Protestantism. This “Protestantism” is the blueprint for virtually all institutional churches that exist today and it arrogantly imposes itself any and everywhere possible. Pulpits, Sunday Sermons, Communion rituals, religious liturgy, sacraments, the Clergy system of hierarchical leadership, maintenance of temples and institutional programs and mindsets all come straight out of Roman Catholicism and pagan religions – NOT SCRIPTURE. To put it another way, Protestantism is the very offspring of the Roman Catholic Church! They are of the same bloodline (if you will). They are already united together. The phrase “lipstick on a pig” comes to mind… No matter how you try to dress it up, it’s still a pig. The only good thing about a pig (in my opinion) is bacon… but keep in mind that you still have to kill it first to enjoy it! 😉
Luther’s so-called “reformation” only re-formed Roman Catholicism and gave it a new image with a different name. He did not utterly reject the teachings of Rome. He made minor tweaks to it. He adapted it for “Christian” consumption. Yes, he got a few things right… but he got a lot wrong and that wrong continues to plague Christians today. As author Kevin Kleint so eloquently explained it:
- “Luther took a stand against the AUTHORITY of the Catholic Church, while still embracing much of the DOCTRINE of the Catholic Church – and his future writings would reflect that view.
After Luther’s ‘dramatic stand,’ minor adjustments would be made to the Catholic doctrine, but the newly “reformed” christian church would never lose its affinity for it’s Mother. The only thing they disliked was the control that Mother exerted.
So when it comes down to it, all Luther was saying to the Catholic Church was ‘We’ll serve your paganized ‘messiah’ WITHOUT YOU looking over our shoulder, thank you very much!'”
Friends, this is essentially what’s going on with the Azusa Now phenomenon (which encompasses far more than just this one conference, but includes all the churches and leadership involved as well). They are embracing this “paganized Jesus” the prior author referred to. It is not the same Lord, Savior and King we know.
I’m gonna continue a bit more on this in my next post, but I’ll leave it there for now.