Tuesday, March 12, 2013

David Wilkerson and "Holy Laughter"



Many classical Pentecostals, Calvinists, Wesleyan-Holiness, and Evangelicals of all stripes have appreciated the powerful ministry of David Wilkerson, founding pastor of Times Square Church and founder of Teen Challenge. If you do not know the fellow, he was a classical Pentecostal in his theology, though he was very ecumenical and desired to see unity in the Bride of Christ. He was truly a man soaked in the presence of God and was constantly in prayer. On April 27, 2011, he was killed in a car crash. I am glad he now gets to enjoy the fullness without any barriers.

One thing that has always bothered me is how people often quote Wilkerson on “weird manifestations” (which you can listen to on YouTube) to prove that holy laughter is solely carnal and not truly “holy” at all. I have heard many over-spiritualize the experience of laughing out of an overflow of joy in the Spirit, but I definitely believe it can be a legitimate Spirit-induced experience. I suppose I was confused on how Wilkerson could be against something that has occurred throughout the centuries in almost every revival, including in the Azusa Revival. Then I came across a sermon by David Wilkerson called “The Gift of Righteousness”, which I did not necessarily agree with on all levels, but I did enjoy. In the beginning, he talked about how he has experienced uncontrollable “laughing in the Spirit” for hours! Yes, Wilkerson experienced uncontrollable laughter and said it was OF the Holy Spirit.

Now, what was David Wilkerson exactly against?

David Wilkerson was speaking on the weird manifestations during the time when the influence of the Toronto Blessing was spreading throughout the Church. I personally do see the Toronto Blessing as a mixed bag, for the enemy always goes wild when the Holy Spirit falls and man’s flesh seems to get in the way quite a lot. It was a great time of refreshing and also created great atmospheres of faith and expectancy in many churches. I know many who came to know Jesus and the power of the Spirit in a whole new way and had their ministries transformed because of it, including an old pastor of mine. Nevertheless, there were some goofy aspects of the Toronto Blessing, such as some felt prompted to make animal noises and others felt like every meeting in the Church should be a laughing-fest. This, of course, is unedifying and even hurt people. I have two friends that were personally scarred by meetings completely focused on what was considered “holy laughter”. David Wilkerson was speaking out against people who simply focus on physical/emotional manifestations on the Holy Spirit and all the “weirdness”. He spoke out against those who tried to make this manifestation the focus of the Body assembling. Like Wilkerson, I do not see this as proper.

So was David Wilkerson against holy laughter? No. In his sermon “The Gift of Righteousness”, he even says he is not against such experiences. What he is against, though, is manifestations being idolized.

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