Southern Baptist Charismatic Network Gaining Acceptance
By Ken Walker
Southern Baptist affiliates of a charismatic network of churches known as Fresh
Oil represent just 1 percent of the denomination's 43,000 congregations. But Fresh
Oil's leader says there is a grudging acceptance developing within the Southern
Baptist Convention (SBC).
Ron Phillips acknowledges that many Baptists frown on spiritual gifts, and some
state conventions remain hostile to charismatics. However, because the denomination
supports local church autonomy, many think if a congregation supports mission
work that it should be left alone, he explained.
Regardless of where fellow Baptists stand, Fresh Oil members are no longer concerned
with debating the issue. "In Tennessee, there is openness and acceptance,
not disagreement," said Phillips, pastor of Central Baptist Church in suburban
Chattanooga, Tenn. "But we're past rubbing each other's wounds. We're moving
on to missions."
Now five years old, the network has cooperated with both the SBC and independent
agencies to help build five churches overseas. Attendees at March's annual conference
donated $30,000 to overseas missions.
With his services aired weekly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Phillips'
outspoken nature rankles cessationists within the nation's largest Protestant
denomination. Yet they can't get upset with his church's annual gifts of nearly
$200,000 to regional and national SBC causes.
Central Baptist supports the convention because it agrees with its evangelistic
spirit. And despite disapproval of charismatic gifts by the convention's domestic
mission agency, the scene is different overseas. "At least half the international
mission force operates in the power of the Spirit," Phillips said. "They
can't work without it. I've been on the field and seen evidence of it."
Some of the 450 Baptist pastors - an overwhelming majority of the group's 500
affiliated ministries -- who identify with Fresh Oil report mixed reactions to
Dwain Miller of Second Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark., said no state or regional
official has ever complained about his emphasis on the fullness of the Spirit.
Nor is his embrace of the movement as controversial as it was five years ago.
"I preach in a lot of fundamental churches, and we agree to disagree,"
Miller said. "Fresh Oil is a fellowship of hungry and thirsty people who
are tired of the same old thing." The annual conference gives laypersons
a chance to see what a church looks like where the glory of God is present, he
At this year's meeting, a member of his church - who previously had a vision of
God's glory flowing into Second Baptist - interceded for Miller. In addition to
having a similar vision, he sensed that April 27 represented a key turning point.
The evening of April 27, a traditional Sunday evening service ran for three hours
as numerous people confessed and repented of wrong doing, the pastor said. "It's
an old-fashioned spiritual awakening and revival," said Miller, who has seen
record numbers accept Christ this year. "I see God pouring out His glory."
Regardless of opposition within the SBC, John Kilpatrick senses a mighty move
of the Spirit in Fresh Oil. The pastor of Brownsville Assembly of God, home of
the world-renowned Pensacola Revival, Kilpatrick was one of several charismatic
speakers at the March meetings.
When he spoke, many people hit the floor, crying and asking God for forgiveness.
Kilpatrick said whenever he talks about God's presence, the Holy Spirit invariably
comes. "I don't know enough about the background of Southern Baptists to
gauge the hunger," Kilpatrick said. "I only know when I was there, it
felt a lot like Brownsville."