My Response to: Is Charismatic Leadership Sustainable? The Rise and Fall of a Famous Thai Christian Leader

Great article by Sarah Ngu –well researched, and well done for a very significant part of my life and family’s and God’s calling upon me, and above all, a God ordained anointed moment for his gospel in Thailand, then Asia, and the world, albeit the sadness along the way, but we marched on for the fight God has given us. Glory to God. I have learnt much from reformed theology, and folks like Tim Keller, and my seminary RTS and giants like Augustine, Calvin etc. My debt is to Jesus. My Savior and Lord and our hope in this easter and forever!

Her article:

Here are my comments on the salient points part from a well researched, personal article:

If charisma was the key to Dr. Kriengsak’s success, it was also the reason for his controversial exit from the Hope movement and its splintering in the mid-2000s.—

Charisma here you termed it is a human charisma. But in biblical theology, what he had is the anointing from God, a God empowerment to carry out his calling. Not to be confused as a charismatic church which means, spiritual gifts church. And definitely not a worldly charisma type you allude to which is really speaking appealing, engaging, compelling personality, and that could all be done without God. Person may be worldly famous but without God personalities. That’s common grace.

Sociologists of religion have observed that charismatic leadership is inherently unstable because it “lacks both institutional restraints and institutional supports.” In particular, the lack of accountability is one of the defining traits of a charismatic leader. The deep cracks in Dr. Kriengsak’s leadership were clearly present in retrospect.—


Dr. Kriengsak’s behavior might reflect genuinely held syncretic beliefs. But it could also imply a renunciation of faith or “shrewd political calculation” given the majority Buddhist population, professor Joel Selway, an expert on identity in modern Thai politics, wrote to me in an email interview.

–That’s really a political move. Nothing of the spiritual sort. His heart remained loyal to God, and he explained it away, controversially, while his actions seemed to bow to idol.

In 2010, a Thai graduate student, Narumol Plodtong, published her dissertation, “A Case Study of Charismatic Leadership at Hope of Bangkok Church, Thailand.” Drawing upon Weber, she argued that the hardest challenge for a charismatic leader is succession. The leader must transition the organization to a bureaucratic or rational administration that is governed by rules. To ensure sustainable success, charismatic leaders must do the opposite of what they had been doing all along – they have to learn to follow the rules.

—I agree. That’s why the best church structure should be in an established denomination with structured accountability and oversight, caring and support.

Perhaps what really draws people to charismatic leaders is not just a grand vision of a changed world or a great nation. What also draws them is a subtler promise of self-transformation, that they too, with all their flaws and insecurities, could some day be great.

–That is partially true, just because even though he is truly an inspiration man who is truly after God’s heart, he fumbled and fell on the way eventually. The whole structure of charismatic movement independently run, is a vulnerable structure when it is run from a top down leadership with no one above him, as opposed to a denomination with different presbytery speaking into the lives of the leaders/pastors of another presbytery church, in the case of Presbyterian. But also for Baptist, Anglican etc as well.

I would argue that our flaws and insecurities will be transformed, not by self-transformation, but by coming from realizing and experiencing the grace of God in Christ, who was willing to pick us up from mud and mire, from total depravity, to transform us to be spotless because of his substitutional death on the cross, and his eventual resurrection. This will transform a Christian, not a charismatic figure.

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