It has been a few years since Tommy Tenney became famous overnight from the
story of a zap that split a Plexiglas pulpit (it is presumed it was a bolt of
lightning). This occurred during the revival meetings that were being held at
3,000-member charismatic church, Christian Tabernacle in Houston.
It has been a few years since Tommy Tenney became famous overnight from the story of a zap that split a Plexiglas pulpit (it is presumed it was a bolt of lightning). This occurred during the revival meetings that were being held at 3,000-member charismatic church, Christian Tabernacle in Houston.
Tenney relates this story in his now best-selling book, The God Chasers, that he got up to read 2 Chronicles 7:14. Then he closed his Bible, gripped the edges of the pulpit with trembling hands, and said, The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him. We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face. In that instant, I heard what sounded like a thunderclap echo through the building, and the pastor was literally picked up and thrown backward about ten feet, effectively separating him from the pulpit. When he went backward, the pulpit fell forward. The beautiful flower arrangement positioned in front of it fell to the ground, but by the time the pulpit hit the ground, it was already in two pieces. It had split into two pieces almost as if lightning had hit it! At that instant the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room. (p. 7). The story goes that a pastor was thrown back eight feet when the loud clap of noise hit and the pulpit split. He stayed slain reportedly for 2-1/2 hours with only his hand twitching. The internet stories spread quickly through revivalist camps as they interpreted this as a powerful visitation. Once again a man became famous for a miracle incident and was sought after. Tenney, who was already holding revival meetings, expanded his audience rapidly. Tenney has become a sought after speaker in charismatic circles.
The splitting of the pulpit was interpreted to mean that there was too much human control of the church across America, that God wants us to go in a new direction. This display of power became His approval,not His anger. Some people never think that they do something wrong, so whatever happens is considered Gods approval. Personally, I dont think it matters if the building was split in two, it still does not prove it was God or His approval. We need to ponder that most times a thing like this occurred in the Bible it was related to a judgment, not a blessing.
Tenney describes that Weve talked, preached, and taught about revival until the church is sick of hearing about it. Thats what I did for a living, I preached revivals, or so I thought. Then God broke out of His box and ruined everything when He showed up. This is an echo of Rodney Brownes explanation of God showing up and he thought everything was ruined. Where he said, God you're ruining my meetings, and the response was, The way your meetings are going they are already ruined.
The meetings are described as having long periods of silence--induced by what one observer called the overbearing weight of God's glory.
I watched people walk through the doors of repentance, and one after another experienced the glory and the presence of God as He came near. Then they wanted baptized ... people walked up to me and stated, Ive got to be baptized. Somebody tell me what to do. They joined with the parade of the unsaved, who were now saved, provoked purely by encountering the presence of God. There was no sermon and no real song-just His Spirit that day (God Chasers, p. 8). Why would people who have not first heard about Jesus want to be baptized without any instructions? Remember Tenney states there was little preaching. Do people get saved by encountering His presence only? If so, then all the apostles were wrong to preach and tell others to do so. The fact is the message of the cross is the power for salvation (1 Cor. 1:17-18). From this event a series of revival meetings resulted. People who were unsaved became saved, by encountering the presence of God. This took place with no communication of words or gospel but what is described as a spirit encounter. As I said, there wasnt any preaching (God Chasers p.10). This too is an echo of Rodney Brownes teaching that soon a preacher will not have to say a word but only lift their hands or look at you and people will be saved and delivered. And when you arrived, theyd all get saved, just by taking one look at you (Rodney Howard- Browne, The Reality of the Person of the Holy Spirit). This goes beyond word faith where one is required to speak in faith. Now it happens by just being there. With Tenney it is to happen without a gospel preached, but from Gods presence.
Tenney says, If you want to go where youve never been, youve got to do something youve never done. Get passionate for His presence! (coined from a portion of Mike Murdocks phrase when you want something you never had, God will tell you to do something youve never done in your whole life).
Tenney teaches, We need to learn how to entertain and welcome the manifest presence of God to such a degree that just the residue of what has gone on among us brings sinners to the point of conviction and conversion instantaneously. I am hungry for that kind of expression of revival ... (ibid., p. 46). A residue of His presence is all that is needed to bring sinners to conversion instantaneously! No Word, no witnessing, no explaining. Is this where we are supposed to be headed?
Gods goal is to have us know and live by His Word. Satans goal has always been to stop the proclamation of Gods Word from the pulpit. What began in the laughing revival continues to be done in various ways today. Mark 4:14-15 says, The sower sows the Word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the Word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts. Luke 8:11 states that the seed is the Word of God. If the preaching of the Word is stopped in this modern revival movement, or distorted no matter how one explains it, its not God. Take Rodney Browne and people being stupefied and mute or frozen, saying its a miracle of God to shut a preachers mouth. Or Toronto, which admitted this is not a Word revival. Or Pensacola, where they twitch and people are fascinated by the exhibitions of strange movements (or no movements). This becomes the proof God is in the assembly. The strange activities and experience become the focus of the meetings. So with Tenney saying this, it is nothing new. Some have been found surviving on skim milk for so long that when a new flavor is added to the contents it tastes oh sooo goood!
One has only to look at the people he is endorsed by and the crowd he speaks to discover that this is a new slant on the old thing that has been going on for years now. Tenneys association and supporters are not surprising. He is one of the more popular speakers in the revivalist camp (3rd wave-word- faith, etc.) Tenney spoke at the pastors conference 2000 at Toronto Airport Vineyard, and he has ministered at Pensacola. Global Harvest Ministries International Coalition of Apostles has Tenney listed as just one of its numerous members.
Who is Tommy Tenney? He is a third generation Oneness Pentecostal pastor (Jesus only). This brings him back almost to the time of the break that originally occurred in the AoG in 1916 over Jesus- only baptism and the denial of the trinity. Raised in the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), a denomination that often has been criticized for its strict standards of dress and conduct and for its requirements that converts be baptized in Jesus name rather than in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, he left the group, he says, when he realized that he couldnt enforce some of the views of the UPC- including rules that to this day forbid pastors in the group from owning televisions. Because Tenney honors his spiritual heritage, and because his parents are prominent leaders in the UPC in Louisiana, some people become suspicious of his theology when they learn about his background (Charisma, Mar., 2000, p. 55). Tenney does admit he left because he had a problem with some of the practices that would be considered legalism. One of the reasons is that his eyes were opened to how big the body of Christ really is. But he does not define the nature of God, as it becomes a block to the unity he is trying to bring to the body.
Before we go further, we need to know: what does the United Pentecostal Church believe? Salvation is specifically through baptism, that one must be baptized by immersion in Jesus name only, and speak in other tongues to be saved. They of course would not interpret this as works, but if it is not by faith alone, then what is it? They must also keep the commandments, and one can lose their salvation if they do not have this obedience. The majority believe that trinitarians are unsaved and that the trinity is a pagan concept. (Tenney has neither condemned nor condoned this, being strangely silent.) What he has said is this: Theologians struggle vainly to draw a line between Sonship and Fatherhood. We are unable to describe the oneness of Father and Son or the unity of the Trinity because these things are beyond our comprehension. Jesus Christ so wrapped Himself up in the providence and Person of His Father that He bluntly said, You can't separate us. I and My Father are one( Gods Dream Team, p.31). Sonship and Fatherhood is the Oneness way of saying offices and not persons. To Oneness the trinity is not three persons but three modes of being or offices, all of whom are Jesus, the one person of God. The Oneness may have broken off the AoG in 1916 to form their own churches but they are finding their way back into the Pentecostal churches (such as AoG; but certainly not all) today through many other teachers like Tenney. Tenney has never publicly renounced his Oneness background so he seems to hold this position still. Recently I heard that the AoG has disallowed his books to be sold in their bookstores.
As far as the salvation issue, Tenney, to his credit, has said, Salvation is a work of grace alone through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (God Chasers, p. 33). If he does believe this, it may be best used by going back and sharing it with his roots, instead of teaching others to chase after the presence.
Tenney is known today as the author of a best-selling book The God Chasers. It has become a phenomenon, mostly among those who have a predilection of looking for the anointing, signs, and wonders. He defines a God chaser as someone who considers themselves hungry for the manifested presence of God. Tenney has several other books with the same theme-God Catchers and Extreme God Chasers. Which now puts those who merely chase God onto a sublevel, compared to the extreme chasers. The books are published by Destiny Image Publishers. The founder of Destiny Image is Don Non, who publishes books which promote the current revivalism of laughter, Toronto, Pensacola, etc.
Tenney has been a pastor since he was 16 years old; he has spent another 17 years as a revivalist. Tenney raises issues that church has struggled with for years and while he may notice them, his solution is no better than any of the third wave experientialists.
His appeal is to Christians who want to know God intimately or are going through dry times. His answer is the presence. However, we are never told in the New Testament to seek this presence in the way he teaches. It seems all the main revivalists of what is now dubbed as the third wave were dissatisfied with their spiritual lives, they were dry and gasping for more. Tenney is no different: I must be honest with you: I was sick of church(God Chasers, p. 2). The gnawing vacuum of emptiness in the midst of my accomplishments just got worse. I was in a frustrating funk, a divine depression of destiny (ibid.). Tenney's dissatisfaction should not be ours. He appears to have issues to work through.
There are only a few times in the Old Testament that we find such statements, as Psalm 42:1-2: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? However, Tenneys solution was not like Davids, who often said, My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word. My eyes fail from searching Your word, Saying, When will You comfort me?( Ps. 119:81-82). Or Psalm 119:134-136, which says, Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Your precepts. Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes. Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law.
Nowhere do we find anyone chasing after Gods presence, much less His manifested presence. This term presence is often used for God being among His people. Sometimes it is evident, sometimes it is not. A good example of this is Moses in Exodus 33:13-16 saying, Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people. And He said,My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Then he said to Him, If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth. Notice that Gods presence was with them. Sometimes it was known by miracles, other times it was not known, but God was still there. But even with this evidence of miracles the people still sinned. So having His presence is not a cure-all to our spiritual anxieties.
These statements are indicative of Tenneys ministry direction and modus operandi: The difference between the truth of God and revelation is very simple. Truth is where God has been. Revelation is where God is. Truth is Gods tracks. It is His trail, His path, but it leads to what? It leads to Him. Perhaps the masses of people are happy to know where God's been, but true God chasers are not content to study Gods trail, His truths, they want to know Him. They want to know where He is and what He is doing right now ... There is a vast difference between present truth and past truth. I am afraid that most of what the church has studied is past truth, and very little of what we know is present truth. ( introduction, The God Chasers). Certainly we can agree that we want to be used by God today and not just read the Bible as past history. But Tenney takes one beyond this concept to make a dichotomy of past and present truth, when there is no such thing.
A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth; he must have present truth. God chasers dont want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; theyre anxious to see what God is doing.
I dont care how much you know about the Bible, or what you know about Him Im afraid we have satiated our hunger for Him by reading old love letters from Him to the churches in the epistles of the New Testament. These are good, holy and necessary, but we never have intimacy with Him (p. 15).
Im glad he holds the Scriptures as good, holy and necessary, but it appears Tenney is questioning the very thing Jesus and the apostles gave us to have deep intimate relationship with Him. How does one get present truth, when the Word that is now our Bible is the truth directly through the apostles for all time! As Peter states of his writing, For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth (2 Pt. 1:12). The word which is eternal continues to be the truth to all generations. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Now what is being recommended is no studying, and one need not be ashamed of this.
Lets summarize what Tenney has said about the Bible old love letters, Gods tracks, past truth, moldy pages, where God's been. Can you see Jesus or the apostles speaking this kind of language of the Old Testament? From these statements alone ones Geiger counter should be registering off the scale. Why would anyone who reverences Gods Word want to say such things? I understand people taking liberty to make a point by comparisons, but this is not done in a healthy way at all by Tenney. Because he is going somewhere with all this. He is using something else to compete in its place--revelation! One does not need to put down one facet of the Christian life to elucidate another, especially the main one. Truth is then suffocated by what is claimed as His presence, which we know as His Holy Spirit. We are told by Jesus Himself that the Holy Spirit is to uphold and interpret the truth that was given, His WORD. It is not an either or issue. If you do not know what God has done, you certainly will not know what He is doing, either.
What does God have to say? What He has always said. Isaiah 66:2: But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:5: Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word. Ezra 10:3: tremble at the commandment of our God. People did tremble at His presence in Jeremiah 5:22; Isaiah 64:2, but it was foremost always His word. Solomon, who had the greatest wisdom in the world, after chasing after everything in life, from women to worldly philosophy, had this to say: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is mans all (Eccl. 12:13). To fear God is to respect His Word above all else. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To fear God is to fear what He spoke. I do not see Tenney promoting this kind of relationship, and I believe what the Church needs is to return to the fear of the Lord, not chase His presence. Acts 9:31: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.
Tenney asks all who have had God encounters to join the company of God Chasers (Introduction, God Chasers, xvii). The apostle Paul said to follow me as I follow Christ, and he wrote how it is to be done. It is nothing like Tenney or any of the third wave proponents describe. He writes, God chasers have a lot in common. Primarily, they are not interested in camping out on some dusty truth known to everyone. They are after the fresh presence of the Almighty...If youre a God chaser, you wont be happy to simply follow Gods tracks. You will follow them until you apprehend His presence. (introduction).
Tenney proposes that joy cannot be found from the Word alone but with the addition of chasing His presence. This is a flawed premise, as Gods Spirit now lives in the believer--there is nothing to chase. Want to see God move? Know His Word, become a bold witness, and minister to people. Let God use you to touch others lives. Tenneys concept of chasing God is like having people chase to the end of a rainbow to find what they think is a pot of gold waiting there for them. It is to these kind of people he is making a clarion call to follow him in the pursuit of something Scripture never tells us to pursue. It is this angle that has made Tenney unique in the third wave camp. He has been able to repackage what has already been said and practiced in a more clever way, the goal to chase God. Come, Holy Spirit. If not now, when? If not us, who? And if not here, where? Just tell us, Lord, and well go; we will pursue Your presence because we want You, Lord. Your presence is what we are after and nothing else will do (p. 102). Did the apostles ask for the Holy Spirit to come like this? Tenney, instead of promoting the usual come Holy Spirit or let the spirit (or fire) fall, promotes chasing down His presence, where He is dwelling temporarily. He has breathed new life into a movement that had become stationary and solidified the spirit movement into yet another step away from their source of life, the Word.
Scripture tells us to know the truth to be set free, to stay in the truth, to live in it. We are to love the Lord and His Word. Not love the Lord without His Word. What The God Chasers concept promotes is experiences that are divorced from Scripture rather than on the basis of Scripture. The Spirit points to Christ and His word, never Himself.
Jesus said, My word is eternal truth, never changing. But that is part of the old dusty (logos) truth, replaced by the rhema revelation that Tenney enthusiastically wants to pursue. Gods Word is still just as valid, just as powerful, and just as revelatory today as when it was written. Jesus said, My words are spirit and life. Dare we trade in His Word for a new word? Has God spoken something equally or more important than Jesus and the apostles? The fact is we cant know Him without his dusty old word. To seek a present experience outside the Word is leading people into the danger zone; we are mocking and do not even know it. For every revival begins with Gods Word as Ps. 119:25-28 illustrates, My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word(also Ps. 119:107, 133, 154).
Tenney states, A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth he must have present truth. God chasers dont want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; theyre anxious to see what God is doing. Where does he get this present truth from? How does Tenney know what he is leading people to seek is true? We should all implore people to pursue their calling in God but it should be Word centered. I would think the apostle Paul would be one of the best examples of seeing Gods power, yet he admonished the Corinthians not to go beyond what is written. Tenneys spiritual pursuit is to lead others to know more of God, beyond the limits of the Bible. Tenney teaches that the Bible is Gods tracks, where God has been in the past, and we are to separate from its guideline for the purpose of leading us to where He is today. If we do this then we alienate ourselves from any absolute way to know whether we are actually following Christ. There is no longer a way to test ones experience, even when they hold the full revelation of God to man in their hands (The Bible), because they are not going to use it.
If one cannot repeat Psalm 119:161-162, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure, they need to question what they are chasing.
Proverbs13:13-14: He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.
Psalm 25:4-5: Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Lest we question what this truth was, David said in Psalm 119, Direct my steps by Your word,(v.133) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path ( v. 119:105). Jesus said, Thy word is truth.
Tenney says, Theyre hungry to hear from something thats beyond themselves, something they are not hearing in the church of today. The bottom line is that people are sick of the church because the church has been somewhat less than the book has advertised (God Chasers, p. 3). If this is so it is only because the church has not taught the Book correctly or the people are not living by the Book. Tenneys solution is but a band-aid on the ever--increasing problem, telling us to look away from the book for answers! Besides, it is not the book that advertises the church but the church is to promote the Book. So now through his way we have neither!
While many in this new revival say the only way we can come to know the Lord is through time spent in His presence, Jesus says you will confirm youre a learner of Him if you continue in HIS WORD. He commissioned the apostles to make learners of Him, how? By teaching His Word. It is by being in His Word and His Word in us that we are in the vine so we can bring forth fruit. Let the word of God dwell in you richly, Paul said. Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice. That voice is found first and foremost through the Scriptures. What Tenney has offered is for us to hear Gods voice outside the Scripture. This should not be a problem to anyone who knows Christ, for God still speaks. But we need to make a distinction between what is personal and what is doctrine. What He does not do is give new doctrine to the church outside of the Scripture.
He wants to guide us with His eye. That means we have to be close enough to Him to see His face (p. 47). What a line, ever read such a thing in the New Testament? We are told to continue in Jesus words and the apostles teachings. In case you may not have heard this recently or at all here it is from those moldy pages. Jesus said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4). When Jesus said this He was quoting the book of Deuteronomy (8:3), the written Scripture.
Tenney has overlooked some important qualifications for His presence (Spirit). John 16:13 states, However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. The apostles wrote all that the Church needs by having it penned on pages for time immemorial. This is something often repeated to Catholics, but to go back to the milk for those who are claiming to be Spirit filled is disheartening.
Deuteronomy 13:4 says, You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice. Whatever God told Moses as instructions was written down. Obeying Gods voice is equal to hearing it from Scripture. The Old Testament model of revelation continually given to man, the word being developed through segments of time is no longer applicable. Today we have the completed Word delivered to the Church. We dont go backwards to an Old Testament model. As the Bible states within itself, the revelation is completed. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work(2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we want to be complete, mature, thoroughly equipped for what Christ has called us to as individuals and as the Church, we must know the Scripture. This again Tenney puts down by saying. We have churches filled with people who can win Bible trivia contests but who don't know Him (p.3) Our churches are filled with people who could win Bible trivia contests because they are diligent fact collectors where God is concerned. Unfortunately, too few of them know the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. (p.48). Really! We find Bible illiteracy is at an all- time high. Because of this condition, men like Tenney can come in and say such things without even a blink of an eye and get away with it. Is Jesus speaking only facts when he said in John 17:17, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. Jeremiah (8:9) said it well, The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?
Tenney claims, We make a great deal out of reading the Word and that is important. But we need to remember that the early Church didnt have access to what we call the New Testament for many years. They didnt even have the Old Testament Scriptures because those expensive scrolls were locked up in synagogues. The only Scriptures that they had were the verses from the law, the Psalms, and the prophets that had been passed down orally from grandfathers and grandmothers-and that only if they were Jewish believers. So what did they have? They walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasnt necessary for them to pour (sic) over dusty love lettersthat were written long ago. They had Gods love notes freshly written on their hearts(p.74).
First let me say the apostles never had split pulpits, nor did they call the oldest Scriptures old love letters. Tenney is completely wrong on the Old Testament being unavailable to the people. It was the center of their lives and they memorized huge portions of the Scripture from a very young age, which was their practice since Moses. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:6-9). The love letters (as Tenney puts it) that were written on their heart were the words written. Jesus began his ministry by READING from the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4). It was absolutely necessary, as Jesus and the apostles continually quoted Scripture, saying, it is written. If what Tenney is saying was true, Jesus could never have said It is written, have you not read? (see Matt. 12:3; 12:5; 19:4; 21:16; 42; Mark 12:10), search the Scriptures (John 5:39), You err, not knowing the Scriptures (Matt.22:29-32). It was a lack of understanding, not unavailability. The same lack of understanding we have today! Jesus quoted the Scriptures as the final source of authority (Mark 7:9- 13).
The New Testament was available to all the early Church as it was being developed. They did not immediately need the New Testament written, the church was centered in Jerusalem with the apostles personally teaching it (Acts 2:42-43). But as it was written, it was commanded to be passed on. Without the doctrine of the apostles in written form we would have no connection in knowing the apostles' teaching! The Book of Acts shows that the early Church put into operation the apostles doctrine and it was doctrine first before fellowship and prayer.
Tenney does add one disclaimer, which in no way helps reverse the damage of his numerous consistent statements that say the opposite.My statements here are not meant to imply that I feel the Bible is unnecessary or irrelevant, or anything less than the anointed, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. My purpose here is to caution Christians against the practice of reading the Bible in a permanent state of past tense perspective. Look what God did back then with those people. Too bad He doesnt do that today with us (p.81).
While he says this, we have already seen what he actually means. Heres a reminder: true God chasers are not content to study Gods trail, His truths, they want to know Him. Gods Word is still the same, having the power to change lives and accomplish what is needed. While it is true we should not have only a historic view of Scripture, we should not abandon it for running after something that is not mentioned in the Scripture either. The Bible teaches that signs follow the preaching of the Word, not that signs happen without it. We are not to be chasing but abiding. When we have Christ, it is He who will bring contentment. It seems necessary to say that those who are chasing down for an experience of the Spirit are not content in Christ. If you are walking with Him you will experience fulfilling His will for your life, which will let you experience His power.
Tenneys solution is, But a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with only an argument...If we can lead people into the manifest presence of God, all false theological houses of cards will tumble down (p. 20). In other words, your experience will change your belief system of doctrine. Not doctrine laying a foundation for your experience; in other words, its backwards. How about a man with an experience and an argument! Take for example the apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. What does he have to say? Does he agree with Tenney?
Paul called the Bereans more noble than the others for seeking His presence. Right? Or was it for searching and finding those old moldy truths in their hands? Tenney attempts to convince people into thinking that they just dont have enough if they are not on the same page of his program. He implies that they are stuck in the past searching for something they can never find without this new revelation. Tenney puts down what the apostles gave us, making what he has to offer more beneficial--chasing Gods presence. When Paul said that he might know Christ and His resurrection power, he did not mean divorced from the teachings they penned. So I think anyone who proposes such an idea is sadly mistaken. To chase after His presence is to seek the Holy Spirit in a way the Bible does not allow us to. We are not to practice any such thing! The main purpose of the Holy Spirit is to explain and teach us about Christ, not Himself. This may have something to do with Tenney's Oneness background which thinks all three, father son and the Comforter are Jesus.
Tenney states, In all my reading and study of the Bible, I have never found any person mentioned in the Scriptures who really had a God encounter and then backslid and rebelled against God. Once you experience God in His glory, you cant turn away from Him or forget His touch. Its not just an argument or a doctrine; its an experience (p. 35).
Really! This shows how Tenney is not using the Word for the basis of his experience. For if we go to the Word we see there Moses who had a God encounter, yet disobeyed. How about King Saul, or King David, or Samson, or Peter, who did this more than once (seeing the glory at the Transfiguration is greater than anyone today can claim except Moses). Im sure we could find many more if we took the time to read those old dusty, moldy love letters.
In Chapter 7 of his book, Tenney states that in our present state we are in no position to affect anything (p. 101). There are many churches thriving without the presence experience Tenney offers. Did China need this to have their millions come to the Lord? I agree that many Churches are not doing what they are supposed to, and struggle, but is what Tenney offers the solution? Hardly!
Tenney: We call them revivals or awakenings. Again, I have a strong conviction that another wave of Gods manifested presence is about to hit the shore of the human race. It has happened before in measure, but Im convinced that this new wave of glory has the potential to be different. God wants to break outside of our centuries-old religious box. That means our hunger has to get bigger than the box. We literally must have an uncontainable hunger for Him if we ever hope to accommodate and entertain His presence (pp.45- 46). Tenney has us calling for God to show us where Hes going to break open the heavens over our cities. That is what Im looking for. I just want to find out where Hes going so I can position myself at the place where He is going to break open. There is an element of sovereignty in Gods choice of places. . Our part consists of wandering through the wilderness until we find that spot (p. 55). Im uncomfortable with this kind of description, as it sounds to similar to the power points of the New Age. Tenney in his explanation seems to imply that God has to be present in a certain amount to be effective. The Bible describes God as undivided and His power is not concentrated in an area that we are to pursue to find. It is readily available to every Christian as He lives inside us.
Tenney states For too long the Church has trumpeted to the nations, Hes here! Hes here! when there wasnt enough of Him there to make the Church discernibly different from the world. Our claims were true in the sense that the omnipresent God was present in our churches, but that is no claim to fame. His omnipresence is everywhere, even in bars and nightclubs. Its His manifest presence that we must become hungry for, those undeniable moments when you know Hes here! God wants to pour out the concentrated essence of His manifested presence on us, but He is looking for a place of collected emptiness to fill. That is why the God-ordained vacuum of hunger in your soul helps determine how much of Him can come. (11/29/00 P.51-52 )
Tenney seems to make the church no better off than the world. Scripture says we are the temple, He is in us and that we are to be continually filled (controlled). The question is, how? Tenneys pursuit is not the New Testament model, but more like the Old Testament model where God did not dwell in people permanently. Tenney introduces a knowing Hes here, rather than accepting it by faith as the Scripture teaches us to do. Are we taught anywhere in the New Testament to chase God? Gods spirit indwells believers; we are to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). In other words, under His control. Tenney (as do many others) has a completely different view of the Spirit's ability to be present, making a dichotomy of His presence and manifest presence. God's ability to fill us does not depend on how much emptiness we have it depends on how we yield to Him, to do His will in our everyday walk. We receive power by dying to self and having a willingness to do the will of God.
Tenney proposes: purified worship creates a resting place for the Lord. I call this in-between area a landing zone for Gods glory. The Scripture already tells us God inhabits the praises of His people, but this does not mean a special manifestation or visitation. We need to remember worship is not limited to our gathering together and singing, it is a lifestyle unto our God.
If you can visualize two worshipers facing one another with their arms extended upward and slightly angled toward one another, then you have visualized the position of the two cherubim on top of the ark. The area or space between them was called the mercy seat. When Gods manifested presence comes down to us in response to our worship, He doesnt come to you on one side or to me on the other side of the mercy seat. He comes right in the middle of us. Didnt Jesus say, where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (p. 21)? He always comes in the middle, and the size of that middle space, the collected and collective sum total of our corporate emptiness, determines how much of Him comes. Wherever you gather with one or more fellow worshipers in His name, He will come in the middle of your collective emptiness (11/29/00 p. 52 ).
That in-between zone is created by unified emptiness. When unity can say, We dont have enough of Him, it creates the zone for His appearing. Again, the size of that landing zone determines the amount of Him that can come. We have had visitations of God in this generation and in generations past. We have said, God is in the place! Yes, He was, but how much of Him was there? (11/29/00 p. 53).
Im convinced that we havent seen anything yet. God is shopping for the place of the next outbreak, a place where He can pour out His presence in such volume and power that it will impact people far beyond the four walls our church buildings.
Is God limited by us? Does He need to fit into a box? Tenney seems to be waxing eloquent on something that has to do with nothing. Tenney seems to chastise the church for not having enough of God among us. Obviously it is not enough, at least for Tenneys standards. And who decides how much of God can come, we do! As if such a thing is possible. We can be thankful that God is not limited to our shortcomings, weaknesses and especially our ridiculous understandings of what He can and cannot do.
Tenney uses the ark, which is hardly a good example, as only one high priest was able to experience this. These concepts of sizeable landing zones, measuring the amount of Spirit that manifests as equal to what he can squeeze in are all unbiblical concepts. The New Testament has no such teachings. An outbreak would be a accurate description of what happens.
Tenneys latter rain leanings become crystal clear as he states, Most of the churches in America today dwell in an outer-court experience ... The Scripture says we become the temple of God. That is exactly where the Church is at this crucial moment in time: We have reached the point in this move of God where we are trying to transport the glory back to where it belongs (pp. 153, 93).
The Bible states that we already go from glory to glory-faith to faith.
Tenney also seems to think the thousand-- year reign has started already. God literally moves His throne from heaven. When this happens the church is building a chair, a seat, a place for God to come. When is the church going to arise and build a mercy seat according to the pattern of heaven? And He will literally set up His throne, and you will have a throne zone in the midst of the church and some group somewhere is going to build a seat for the glory of God, and the water that flows from that place will eventually cover the earth. The next wave of revival is not going to be like anything that you have ever seen. There will be nothing of man on it or God wont come to sit. He is tired of breaking chairs that we have built for Him. He is demanding now that we build a mercy seat (Rivermail Archives: Mar.-Apr. 1999, The Glory of God, Tommy Tenney).
We do not build anything, He has built us into a new creation and we are already the dwelling place of God, individually and collectively. It is Christ who comes to earth to set up his kingdom and puts all things in order.
Here is a quote from the promo of Tenneys video: We are fascinated with the anointing and fearful of the glory. The anointing empowers flesh, but the glory disables flesh. The difference between the two is like the difference between static electricity and grabbing an electric wire with your bare hand. Ask Uzzah! This powerful video is our best seller, and now you can watch it online! Where have we heard this before? God is continually reduced to different types of electric power. Contrary to this, when Jesus said that when they received power from on high they were enabled, they SPOKE and witnessed boldly. Was this not glory? Despite all this spiritual talk there is a merchandising going on. While he may preach this glory coming to the church, on the other hand he has commercialized it. There are God Chaser t-shirts (not a problem since many wear t-- shirts) baseball caps, key chain, license plates, shoe necklaces, lapel pins, ball chain necklaces etc. This new cliché seems to be a well marketable-- item, for something God is supposed to be doing! Tenney has created an entire industry out of products with the stamped cliché God Chaser. Is this the way to lead the Church out of her blasé attitude? Doesnt this strike you as somewhat off key?
Every revival throughout history has begun and been sustained from a rediscovery of the Word and a new obedience to God. It must have certain elements for this to occur. One can see this in Peter's first sermon where he proclaimed repentance, obedience, and a public declaration of faith by baptism in front of the brethren who rejected Christ. Many today seem to be leading people away from the written Word into a revival with new words. The Bible is complete. David, who constantly needed revival, said this in Psalm 119:37-38, Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. Establish Your word to Your servant, Who is devoted to fearing You.
If we fear God, we had best learn His ways correctly so we can discern which way the wrong wind is blowing us (Eph. 4:14). Then the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation(1 Sam. 3:1). We have the finality of revelation in our hands today. So many Bibles and too few readers! And even less who understand.
How biblical is this man's presentation? As we look at Part Two, a review of his book Gods Dream Team, it reveals to us where this is all headed.