Signs and Wonders

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Signs and wonders refers to experiences that are perceived to be miraculous as being normative in the modern Christian experience, and is a phrase associated with groups that are a part of modern charismatic movements and Pentecostalism. This phrase is seen multiple times throughout the Christian Bible to describe the activities of the early church, and is historically recorded as continuing, at least in practice, since the time of Christ.[1]

The phrase is primarily derived from Old and New Testament references, and is now used in the Christian and mainstream press, and in scholarly religious discourse to communicate a strong emphasis on recognizing perceived manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the contemporary lives of Christian believers; as well, it communicates a focus on the expectation that divine action would be experienced in the individual and corporate life of the modern Christian church, and a further insistence that followers actively seek the "gifts of the Spirit".[2]

A further major emphasis of belief in signs and wonders is that the message of the Christian "good news" is communicated more effectively to those who do not believe it if accompanied by such supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit, including such signs and wonders as miraculous healings and modern prophetic proclamations. This is the message of John Wimber's book, Power Evangelism.[3]

Biblical origins[edit]

The origin of the phrase in the Old Testament is in Exodus 7:3, which describes God's actions to free the Israelites from being enslaved in Ancient Egypt. This phrase is used a total of 31 times in the Bible and it became popular again in modern history around the time of the Azusa Street Revival, when attendees claimed miraculous and supernatural events had happened.[4]

Critical responses[edit]

Critical responses were made by various writers including: J. Woodhouse,[5] K. L. Sarles,[6] K. M. Bond,[7] and D. H. Shepherd,[8] Later in the 1990s, the discussion was taken up by R. E. Jackson (addressing skeptics),[9] and D. Williams.[10]

Defense and reflection[edit]

The ongoing theological reflection accompanying the signs and wonders movement was evidenced by Fuller Theological Seminary's 1988 Symposium on Power Evangelism[11] and C. Peter Wagner's book titled The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit.[12] The study of the missiological implications of signs and wonders would continue on into the turn of the century[13][14] Cessationists object to the existence of charismatic gifts, leading to a cessationism versus continuationism debate. The broader debate specifically over the signs and wonders movement and the present-day function of the manifestation gifts would continue on into the 1990s.[15][16][17][18]

Power Evangelism[edit]

The term power evangelism originally comes from Lonnie Frisbee's ministry but some of his harshest critics for heavy use of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit came from the churches he helped found.[19]

Power evangelism is a form of evangelism which relies on the supernatural power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, that is, on signs and wonders, to reach new converts and work through born again Christians.[citation needed] It is not the way most churches practice evangelism currently, which relies on an intellectual argument with the hope of salvation through logic and structured rituals. Proponents believe power evangelism is the way Jesus operated,[citation needed] although it is known he also was a great student of the Torah.[citation needed]

Although most Christians would believe that a person is brought to faith primarily through the action of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, in this form of evangelism supernatural events such as faith healings, prophetic revelation, words of knowledge and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) are a demonstration of the power, and therefore the reality, of God.[citation needed]

Power Evangelism is illustrated in the lives of the disciples in the Book of Acts.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hyatt, Eddie. 2000 Years Of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st century look at church history from a pentecostal/charismatic prospective. Charisma House, 2002
  2. ^ CT Editorial Board (February 9, 1998). "Editorial: Wimber's Wonders". Christianity Today. Carol Stream, IL: 42 (2). Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  3. ^ Wimber, John (May 2009). Power evangelism (Chosen booksition ed.). Chosen Books. ISBN 978-0800797607.
  4. ^ Welchel, Tommy. True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street and Beyond: Re-live One of The Greastest Outpourings in History that is Breaking Loose Once Again. Destiny Image, 2013
  5. ^ * J. Woodhouse, P. Barnett, et al., Signs & Wonders and Evangelicals: a Response to the Teaching of John Wimber (Homebush West, NSW, Australia: Lancer Books, 1987).[page needed]
  6. ^ * K. L. Sarles, An Appraisal of the Signs & Wonders Movement (Dallas, Texas: Bibliotheca Sacra, 1988).[page needed]
  7. ^ * K. M. Bond, Signs and Wonders: Perspectives on John Wimber's Vineyard (Langley, British Columbia: Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, 1990).[page needed]
  8. ^ * D. H. Shepherd, A Critical Analysis of Power Evangelism as an Evangelistic Methodology of the Signs and Wonders Movement (Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1991).[page needed]
  9. ^ R. E. Jackson, An Evaluation of the Evangelistic Emphasis of the North American Power Evangelism Movement, 1977–1997 (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999).[page needed]
  10. ^ D. Williams, Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Guide for the Reluctant Skeptic (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Vine Books, 1989).[page needed]
  11. ^ *Papers Presented at the Symposium on Power Evangelism (Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1988).[full citation needed]
  12. ^ *C. Peter Wagner, The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications Vine Books, 1988).
  13. ^ T. O. Kettenring, The Impact on Confidence for Personal Witnessing through Exposure to Power Evangelism (Denver, Colorado: Denver Seminary, 2000).
  14. ^ J. Lee, Power Evangelism in the Third Wave Movement and Its Implications for Contemporary Church Growth (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2000).
  15. ^ D. T. Tharp, Signs and Wonders in the Twentieth Century Evangelical Church: Corinth Revisited (Ashland, OH: Ashland Theological Seminary, 1992).
  16. ^ J. A. Algera, Signs and Wonders of God's Kingdom (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1993).
  17. ^ Jon M. Ruthven, On the Cessation of Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).
  18. ^ J. I. Packer, G. S. Greig, et al., The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today?: a Biblical Look at How to Bring the Gospel to the World with Power (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1993).
  19. ^ John Crowder, Miracle workers, reformers and the new mystics, Destiny Image Publishers, 2006, ISBN 0-7684-2350-3, ISBN 978-0-7684-2350-1, pages 103-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Stanley M. Burgess, ed., The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), pages 702 and 1200.
  • Christian Life Magazine and C. P. Wagner, Signs and Wonders Today (Wheaton, Illinois: Christian Life Magazine, 1983).
  • G. R. Geyer, Empowerment of the Laity with the Charismata for Renewal in a Traditional Congregation (Rochester, New York: Crozer Theological Seminary, 1983).
  • John Wimber, A Brief Sketch of Signs and Wonders through the Church Age (Placentia, California: Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 1984).
  • John Wimber, Signs and Wonders and Church Growth (Placentia, California: Vineyard Ministries International, 1984).
  • Trevor Martin, Kingdom Healing (London: Marshalls, 1981).
  • S. S. Schatzmann, The Pauline Concept of Charismata in the Light of Recent Critical Literature (Fort Worth, Texas: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1981). This work would later be released as A Pauline Theology of Charismata (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987).
  • Society for Pentecostal Studies, Gifts of the Spirit: Papers Presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, November 18–20, 1982 (Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1982).
  • Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1993).
  • Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996).

External links[edit]