Why I as an Activist Love the Gifts of the Holy Spirit!

January 21, 2013Micael Grenholm

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The Pentecostal and charismatic movements have a bad reputation among Christian anarchists and activists. There are too many examples of healing evangelists who control the masses through manipulation and hysteria, with promises of supernatural encounters only to gain money and status for themselves. Furthermore, many Pentecostals and charismatics support nationalism, war, discrimination and inequalities. They bless the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, they preach a prosperity gospel where strong faith leads to great wealth, they deny climate change and don’t care about the environment.

Yet, I am totally convinced that every Christian activist should embrace the gifts of the Spirit and pursue signs and wonders. Why? Because the mess I just described is of course not genuine a fruit of the Spirit, it is a result of what I call the Corinth Syndrome, when charismatic Christians portray their own crazy ideas and practices as divinely inspired.

The church at Corinth was experiencing charismatic chaos; they loved spiritual manifestations and everyone spoke in tongues simultaneously, but they showed no care for the poor and some were living in sexual immorality. 1 Paul’s solution to the Corinthian problem is not commanding them to be less charismatic; on the contrary, he urges them to seek the gifts even more! 2 However, he emphasizes that this must be done in order and in love.

Inviting the Holy Spirit will not put us in a risk zone of becoming war-waging wealth-hungry republicans, because love and servanthood are at the essence of the spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 says: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Healing, prophecies, tongues, discernment and the other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 are thus not intended to elevate a human being or create a spectacular show, but to serve and help people.

This is why they are fantastic activist tools! There are numerous examples in the Scriptures of signs and wonders promoting peace and justice. The exodus from Egypt, which has inspired thousands of liberation theologians in their struggle against oppression and dominion, is filled with miracles. 3 There are four food miracles in the Bible when God gives food to the hungry, 4 plus a vegetarian miracle in Daniel 1:12-16. Both in the Old and the New Testament, famine is foreseen by prophets. 5 Many of the blind and lame people that were healed by Jesus and the apostles were beggars. 6 And in Acts 9, Jesus non-violently stops Paul from persecuting the church through a dramatic vision and a healing.

If we acknowledge that these events have a social and political message but ignore or even deny their miraculous essence, we are not only cherry-picking but we are also missing a beautiful chance to get more effective results in our activism. The Holy Spirit didn’t disappear after the time of the Bible but continues to promote peace and justice through signs and wonders in the church today. I know of so many examples of this, let me share three of them here.

In 2010, a 20-year-old woman named Teresa Jebiwot participated in a revival meeting in Kisumu, southern Kenya. She was born without a cornea, which made her totally blind, not knowing if it was day or night unless someone told her. But at the revival meeting, she got completely healed when the prophet David Owour prayed for her, and she started to see perfectly. This was verified by an eye specialist, Dr. Agnes Maiyo, at the Iten District Hospial. After her healing, she could leave the blind school she had attended and her living condition got highly improved. 7

Swedish musician and evangelist Simon Adahl, who is a friend of mine, was at the World Prayer Assembly last year in Jakarta, Indonesia, to sing the theme song of the event together with his brother. While he was backstage, a man walked by him, and suddenly Simon started to prophesy to him: “You are not going home! Those people who tried to silent you are not my servants says the Lord, you are my servant – don’t go home!”

The man started to cry, he explained that he was from the Netherlands and that he wanted to hold a seminar at the Assembly about the horrible gold trade between the Netherlands and Indonesia, that destroys the environment and exploit poor workers. However, some Indonesian pastors, that he knew benefited from the gold trade, took him aside in a room and forbade him to speak about this. When he went out of the room he felt so discouraged and thought to himself that he probably should go home then. But right then a Swedish guy jumped in front of him and started to prophesy…

Finally, Christian activist Shane Claiborne shares in his book The Irresistible Revolution how a good friend of his was working at a health clinic in Latin America. 8 Their medical supplies were scarce, and one day they had nothing left except a bottle of the stomach medicine Pepto-Bismol. So when people came with various types of diseases that was all they were offered. However, according to Shane’s friend, everyone got well. Even more astounding, the small bottle didn’t become empty although they kept handing out the medicine to all the sick who came.

All these events are wonderful; still, we all know that many times the sick aren’t healed, the hungry aren’t fed, the dead aren’t raised. And I don’t have the answer to that. I just know that we are still commanded to strive for an abundance of spiritual gifts. 9 If we allow the Holy Spirit to do the impossible through us, our struggle for a better world will obviously be more effective than if we are limited to what is possible. Let us become charismatic activists, promoting peace and justice through signs and wonders!


  1. 1 Corinthians 5:1, 10:21.
  2. 1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1.
  3. Exodus 7-14.
  4. Exodus 16, 1 Kings 17, Matthew 14:13ff. and 15:32ff.
  5. Genesis 41, Acts 11:27-30.
  6. Mark 10:46ff., Acts 3.
  7. This story was printed in the Repentance and Holiness Magazine, volume 8, ”The Coming Messiah”, pp. 19-21. It can be found here: http://share.snacktools.com/FAEE9D58B7A/fdac7ca95a2856c450976f1977q327103
  8. I only have the Swedish edition of the book so I can’t give you the exact page number, but it is in the end of chapter 3.
  9. 1 Corinthians 14:12
  • Chase Hill

    I agree, man. We must not hider the Spirit. It is who dwells in us and connects us to the triune God! The Spirit of God should lead us and the people around us closer to God!

    • http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/ Micael Grenholm


  • Tosin Ojumu

    Interested by your equation of Pentecostal/Charismatic with Republican… If you were to consider the ethnic ratios of the American Pentecostal/Charismatic church, and typical voting patterns within the Pentecostal/Charismatic church, would you still consider this a valid equation?

    If the name of this blog is “Jesus Radicals”, does that mean that you focus more on the teachings of Jesus than on other parts of the Bible? Because there are parts of the Bible and the teachings of the New Testament that correspond with more right-leaning thinking; there are some “issues-behind-inequalities” that are denounced by the Bible; that is there are some things that the Bible categorically calls “sins”. Admittedly though, many people – and Christians – will tend to put a weight on these sins that becomes judgemental in a way that the Bible is not, leading to inequalities which are not Biblical. So yes the Bible will recognise the issue as a sin, but Christians will tend to go beyond the Bible and create unbiblical inequalities . Admittedly too, the teachings of Jesus essentially focus on other things, rather than these issues – although He did say “Go and sin no more”.

    That said, the basic point of this article is very true and important, that signs and wonders accompany justice, because the God of justice is also a God of supernatural power ;)

    • http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/ Micael Grenholm

      Hi brother! Thanks for you comment, of course my intention is not to argue that Pentecostals are automatically republican but rather that war, wealth and wickedness are contrary to the gifts of the Spirit, and I think many agro-american and Latino Pentecostals are examples of people filled with the Spirit with a heart for peace and justice.

      God bless you!

  • Jessica

    I was very glad to read this. It often times seems, in finding faith communities, that one must choose between Spirit-focused and radical. In my experience with charismatic communities, “submitting to authority,” supporting Israel, praying your way into health and “success,” etc. are the norm. However, often in radical circles, the focus seems to be on theory, theology, and not as much on the miraculous or spiritual gifts. I would like to see Spirit and a radical critique of culture come together!

    • http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/ Micael Grenholm

      I’m so glad you share my vision, Jessica, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to use us in bringing it alive.

    • http://waysofresistance.com Jason Winton

      Interesting that you mention the lack of faith communities where this divide can be healed. I just returned from a visit to Tierra Nueva in Burlington, WA. They are an unique ministry and faith community because of their work in liberation theology, legal advocacy, farming, and spirit-empowered faith and prayer. It was an uplifting and challenging experience. Bob Ekblad, the director of Tierra Nueva, was interviewed on the Iconocast a year or so back.

  • KJ Smiley

    I’ve wanted to write a post about this very topic, but you probably have written it better than I ever could have. I identify both as a Christian Anarchist and as a wacko charismatic. I wish more Jesus following peace and social activists actively pursued the gifts of holy spirit–at the very least they will find new intimacy and spirit reserves to protect them from burnout and bitterness, and at the most they will find that the power that comes can do crazy things for their ministry. Thank you comrade.

    • http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/ Micael Grenholm

      Great, write it anyway and I’ll post it as a guest post at holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com :)

  • Frank

    I ask seriously how does one know an authentic revelation of the spirit, from a demonic deception?

    Recently, a new church moved into my town, it is part of a 14-church group called “Touch Heaven Ministries,” run by a man named Frank Amedia who claims to be an “end-times prophet.” His website claims:

    “His ministry is anointed with an apostolic/prophetic mantle that evidences the supernatural manifestation of miracles, healing, amazing prophecies, intercessory prayer, spiritual dominion, and revelation for “the NOW” !

    To me, this seems total nonsense, and that church is a place I would avoid. It is not that I do not believe in manifestations, but that especially in this decadent era of history I think deceptions abound. I am weary too, as the OP mentioned, of people who say their own crazy ideas are divinely inspired; and I think some charasmatics may associate mere emotional arousal, brought about my things like the music at their events, with inspiration. For example, I have listened to Mahler or Beethoven at times, and “lost myself” in the music, but I would not say this was the work of the spirit (especially as Mahler and Beethoven were, honestly, disordered souls.)

    Of course, some things, like healings, are hard to deny, though even here, the Devil could do good deeds many times to lull a person and those around them into security about said healer.

    I am personally more concerned with what would be called “enlightenment,” (though I have only read works of the enlightened to this point) and I will admit that my view of charismatics is what was mentioned at the beginning of the article, i.e., that they are kind of loonies, and often very capitalistic, American-style conservatives.

    • KingdomReign

      So if it is place you would avoid, how can you judge it if you have not been there? or have you been there and are now passing a judgment? Discernment is a gift and is to be used accurately as to protect oneself and others. What is so wrong with this ministry? As far as I can tell, Frank is a sincere loving Man of God serving from a pure heart. Have you sat with him? I challenge you to do so. I will personally introduce you and give you his email or phone number.

  • jas

    Great. This reminds me of William Stringfellow, who had a high view of the gifts of the Spirit as well as being quite radical in his theological critique of nationalism, racism, etc. You might find some of his works inspiring: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ethic-Christians-Other-Aliens-Strange/dp/1592448747/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359639352&sr=8-2

  • Robert Ashe

    Nice post, but the contemporary miracles that you list are a bit of a stretch for everyday people like me. Instead of looking for ‘unbelievable’ miracles, why not focus on the everyday miraculous, like the person who gives a stranger a lift, the environmental activist that commits their life to saving a local forest, the nation that is moved to elect a humane government? These are true miracles of spirit.

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