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An Open Letter to John MacArthur from Darren Wilson

Dear John MacArthur,

As the guy who created the supernatural-centric films Finger of God, Furious Love, and Father of Lights, I realize that I may very well be near the top of your list of “least saved” people, as my movies have reached millions of people around the world with the message that God is active and alive today and is doing all sorts of amazing, outrageous and (gulp) strange miracles, and that it is the primary mission of the worldwide church to love radically while utilizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit both freely and abundantly. I’m also making a new movie called Holy Ghost which I’m pretty sure you won’t like at all. So I think it’s safe to say that you and I could probably not be further apart regarding the gifts of the Spirit and our dedication to advancing what we think is right throughout the world. We’re both trying to change the temperature of the worldwide church, but the problem is, we’re pushing the dial in opposite directions. That being said, I wanted to write you to let you know that I agree with you…sort of.

I have to admit, when I first read about and then followed along with your conference, it both frustrated and angered me. Not so much because you were calling people like me a liar or a charlatan or even Satan’s puppet. No, I was frustrated because I know, wholeheartedly, that you are wrong on this issue. You are leading the charge in a cause that, I assure you, is doomed to fail. You are essentially fighting against God on this one, and it saddens me that you want to take the hands of others and lead them down this road. You have decided to turn your back on a large portion of your family because you don’t think they are your family.

You have led a crusade against a vast tribe of Christianity that I used to think were completely insane. I used to be very much like you regarding these things. The charismatic movement made me uncomfortable because they seemed so free, so bold, and so weird. I, like you, wasn’t sure this was entirely from God, but that observation came from someone sitting on the sidelines watching these strange family members acting like weirdos. I hid behind the idea that their behavior defined their theology, therefore they could never really be taken seriously. I heard the outrageous claims some of them made and rolled my eyes. I saw many of them focus on the gifts more than the giver of the gifts.

But then God called me (through a supernatural event, no less) to make movies about Him, and to write books about Him, and my whole world got turned upside down. I began to realize that the God of the Bible was far bigger, more gracious, patient, and powerful than I ever thought. I was thrown into the very Charismatic world which you now demonize. I was no longer on the sidelines, but smack dab in the thick of it. And along the way, I saw a lot of good and a lot of bad.

Over the last 7 years I’ve traveled the world searching for the “more” of God. I have seen some of the best that charismatic Christianity has to offer, as well as some of the worst. Much has already been written about your over-generalizations and straw man arguments against the Charismatic movement, but I wanted to say something to this regard that might shock you.

You’re right. There are many people, many Charismatics and Pentecostals who are about as whacky and goofy as you have described them. People who “toke the Holy Ghost”? Friends of mine. People who “shake and laugh uncontrollably”? Family members. People who “speak in tongues”? Nearly everyone I know. I have sat with leaders of enormous Charismatic ministries as they’ve sniped at their spouses. I have seen meetings turn into train wrecks because a speaker or a portion of the audience went overboard in their fleshly exuberance. I have watched leaders stretch the truth from the stage to the point where I was certain it would snap. I’ve seen it all, Mr. MacArthur, the whole messy, ugly, unbiblical underbelly of the Charismatic movement.

And guess what? I’m still here.

Because that isn’t all I have seen. I have seen those same ministers caring for orphans and widows. I have seen them kiss the hands of lepers. I have sat with them in the backs of vans and trains and planes as they’ve poured out their heart to me, explained why they do what they do–how Jesus touched them in such a radical way that they can never go back; they can never be the same again. I have looked into their eyes and have seen the love of Christ pouring out. I have heard them talk about their passion for Christ, heard them preach about the importance of His death and resurrection; the importance of the Bible and the Word, and seen them model every fruit of the Spirit.

I have three young children and each one is unique, but they all have one thing in common. One minute they can be beautiful and loving and tender to one another, and the next they can be perfect little monsters. As their father, I see the best and the worst they have to offer, yet still I love them. And everyday I go to work trying to move their love needle a little closer to heaven. Their journey towards perfect love, as with all of us, will take a lifetime, and sometimes even that isn’t long enough. But I will never disown them because of their stupidity or their ignorance.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while you have discounted an entire move of God because you have seen some of the worst it has to offer, there is so much more that you haven’t seen that completely overshadows and outshines even the craziest Charismaniac out there. We are members of one family, Mr. MacArthur, and I don’t know about yours, but my family is messy and complicated and beautiful and strange all at the same time.

I’m not angry at you for your conference or your book. In fact, if you’ll let me, I’d love to sit next to you at the banqueting table in heaven and we can make a toast to the King together. I know you don’t think I’ll actually GET to heaven, but that’s fine. I’ll see you there anyway. Because after all, families have to stick together no matter what.

19 Comments

  • Jose Callaghan-Lake

    Ha! Fabulous!

  • cileford

    This guy is so "out there". If he has a problem with Dr. MacArthur, something is VERY WRONG.

  • cileford

    Oh & BTW, Todd looked a bit "tore-up" in his interview in Rome......really?? Spam time!

  • Susanne

    Well said.......We must live the fruits of the spirit in action not just in doctrine and theology. All the degrees and diplomas of the world do not add up to a life in motion and love unless we become Jesus and His church outside the four walls of church structure. Let us model Jesus in word and deed without condemnation and judgement because it doesn't fit the mold of theology.......We must become radical lovers of Him and not head knowledge but heart knowledge.

  • Sean (Generation Church, FL)

    I have to believe that if we are not against each other… than we should be for each other. We ultimately fight a battle against spiritual principalities. Not flesh and blood. Although the spiritual "unhealth" manifests itself in the flesh, we seek not to condemn the people, but test every spirit whether it is from God. I respect Dr. MacArthur as I do Mr. Darren, but we are men, and God is God. I think the failure is in not testing the spirit behind a manifestation to do our best to create the right, healthy culture in our churches. However, I also know that one day Jesus will come back and separate the goats from the sheep, the wheat from the chaff, etc. etc. Let's love and serve Jesus in the meantime. And let's love and serve each other as well. I guess what I stick with is the reality that I don't believe God would give us the gifts of the Holy Spirit only for "those days" and note for these days as well. These last days… although we SEEK GOD and do not SEEK THE SIGN, God still moves around the world in signs and wonders. The heart and image of Christ is what brings revival though, not signs and wonders. The heart and image of Christ is what brings revival, not theology, religion, or being a Bible scholar.

  • Jeremy Whittle

    Balance.... I actually came out of the Charismatic Movement 6 years ago and discovered reformed / systematic theology which has grounded me so securely in my faith through sound doctrine, spoken of frequently in the NT. Hebrews 6 speaks of leaving the elementary doctrine of Christ and going on to maturity. I'm afraid there wasn't a lot of that where I was. That said, the extremes of the reformed movement (paralysis) are no better than the extremes of charismania (emotionalism). But, as one charismatic commentator recently wrote in response to John McArthur's Strange Fire, 'we should have 'called out' these fruitcakes within the movement ourselves rather than leave it to John'. At the heart of the issue is: Without sound doctrine we are in danger of loosing the true message of the gospel. Without the true message, we generally only get false converts. False converts en mass begets wacky, unsafe so-called christianity which cannot glorify our Lord. Is it not time to get back on message? Repent and Believe - Risk Persecution - Lay your lives down as Christ did.... :)

    • Nick B.

      Jeremy- Interesting perspective and journey. I am the exact opposite of you. I came out of a formal and traditional background that touted John MacArthur as its hero and poster child and into a magnificent move of God through the charimatic experience, and I couldn't be happier! I am doing and seeing things done genuinely that I have only read about in the Bible. God has supernaturally spoken to me many times in ways that positioned me to touch people for His sake. Had I not listened and acted, those lives would not have been touched. I'm talking about God telling me "pink shirt; right hip". I immediately sought out the pink shirt and found a woman wearing a fuscia shirt. When I approached her and began talking to her, I discovered her husband had a tormented right hip that was in need of healing. He allowed me to pray for his hip to be fully healed right now, and IT WAS! God supernaturally healed that man! That's just one example. I think the proof really is in the so-called pudding. The reality is that you have to examine the state or the fruit of what's happening around you in the midst of those in the Church and ask yourself which one looks more like Jesus and his ministry and his early followers and which one looks more like pharisaism. I think the answer is obvious. I love you, Brother.

      • Jeremy Whittle

        Hi Nick - Great to hear from you! You sound like you may have been fully armed with some solid biblical teach and a firm theological foundation before you arrived at the supernatural? Am I right? I was hunting down the supernatural without any firm biblical foundation and as a consequence, no real way to discern between spirits - and there where plenty of 'spirits'!! I'm not a cecessionist per say, but I also don't subscribe to every spiritual event necessarily being the Holy Spirit. So I now move with caution and a 'test the spirit' mentality. I'm mindful of Satan's capacity to masquerade as an angel of light. It never occurred to me that demons might be behind some of what I saw manifesting!! To find that all your heros are Word Faith, doctrinally suspect and proven teachers of false doctrines / another gospel, was a real kick in the teeth. Try googling ' Charismatic Survivors' and you'll find some of the support groups that are out there now, ministering to some of our brothers and sisters who have been quite damaged from the excesses. But Christ didn't promise that it would be easy did he? Bless you my friend.... J

        • Nick B.

          Jeremy, Thanks for your reply, brother. My theological learning experience has by no means been quelched upon entering into personal experiences with biblical signs and wonders. It has, in fact, enhanced my biblical and theological understanding and really made the Bible come to life. After I received my prayer language, I re-read Acts, and it came to life in a new way. There really isn't the time or space in this venue, but I could really share with you compelling truth about what I learned...from Acts alone! The "nice and neat" theology from my upbringing really leaves a lot to be desired. For example: the notion that there were 12 disciples and ONLY 12 apostles. The typical theological definition of an apostle is one who SAW the risen Jesus. What about Matthias and Paul and Barnabas? Paul never "saw" the risen Jesus? Did you know that the NT refers to Jesus as an "apostle" in no fewer than two places? There is such a strangle hold on the Bible from western theology, which finds its roots in the pagan philosophers of old. When you begin to read the Bible for what it is, and read it to become what it says about you, your eyes begin to open. I agree that there is plenty of "emotionalism" going on, but is there any less pharasaism going on in the non-charismatic side of the church? How many people have been pushed out of such churches (whether by choice or not) because of their lack of love and compassion? I was not allowed into a church "sanctuary" once because I had a beverage in my hand (which I didn't want to toss because it cost my $5). Are churches really so stale and sour that they would turn someone away on account of a drink? We don't want to stain the carpets! What if I had been suicidal and reaching out to God one last time and was being turned away? My point is that if we're focusing on "what's wrong", then we should simply abandon the church altogether because the modern church today, at least in the West, looks nothing like the NT church(es). What we have are corporations that are tax-sheltered. The majority of a typical church's budget pays for salaries and property. That is NOT what Jesus set up...at all. He and the apostles set up a gathering, not an "organization", which cared for the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the down-and-out. Most churches don't have a prison ministry, and if they do, it's typically kept at arms length from the rest of the church. What we have are corporations. Unless the church starts saying "to hell with property and comfort", the same is exactly what we'll start losing. Churches refusing to perform gay marriages will lose their property to these supposed "victims" under court order. Other churches will see this and start performing gay marriages for fear of losing their livelihood and perceived posterity. In the end, the true church will once again emerge underground, where needs will finally begin to be met again.

  • Richard Ferguson

    Can a person who persecutes those who are operating in the Supernatural of God end up in Heaven without repenting? I know you were trying to be nice by including him in the banqueting table. However, if there is an empty seat - because John MacArthur didn't make it - -I would love to take that seat next to you. I hope this doesn't offend anyone just sharing my views.

  • maria topczij

    Well spoken, Darren! You have a great way with words.

  • Sandy Parent Greer

    Love has a name, JESUS!! Thanks for representing Him well Darren. Sandy & Murray Greer, Canada

  • Anny Ruch

    Oh Darren, so well written... Firm, loving.... You took the time to speak to him rather than gossip about him and what you said is a beautiful, real assessment of God's family.

  • sandy graham

    I say bless you Brother as well! Thank you for saying like it is. Thank you for persevering! Thank you for laying it out so clearly. . we are, indeed, family!

  • Jon

    Be nice and careful Daren. Jesus didn't have to turn any stones to bread.

  • Simon van Greunen

    I know this is not part of the discussion, but I would just like to thank you Daren for the videos that you make.

  • Todd McClung

    Amen! All the enemy has wanted to do is show us with no unity, some brothers and sisters have stumbled over that stumbling block and have fallen hard. By your comments you have shown that you have unity with the body and so proving to all who see this the Jesus is the Son of God. I love you my brother and I would be honored to sit next to you and the wedding feast. :-)

  • Peter Mason

    Darren, I heard your interview this morning on Faith Radio and had to look you up on the internet. I had never heard of your movies, you or your production company. Congratulations. I am looking forward to viewing the movies and seeing your calling of God in action. Your letter to John MacArthur is very good. Thank you for taking the time to write him. I did also, by the leading of the Lord, without response. I believe the damage he is doing is abominable. And to profit from it by the sale of his book? God will have something to say to this man. I was at Jack Hayford's conference in 1986 where his theme was "The Gospel Has Not Been Fully Preached Without Signs and Wonders Following". And Jack Hayford would not put on conference without serious prayer and listening to God. Your current film on the Holy Spirit sounds like a great challenge. May God bless you and it greatly.

  • Beth Nugent

    Unity body...unity. This is a beautiful and loving response to an unnecessary judgment. And we wonder why people want nothing to do with church? Time to get OUT of the buildings and work the streets, neighbors, co-workers, etc. together. Time is running out! I imagine if God could hit reply here it would read: SMH

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