I have read Charisma magazine for many, many years, and over those years my enthusiasm for this publication has waned, perhaps coinciding with my spiritual journey away from the more excessive fringes of the charismatic movement. Of course, what I consider the "fringes" (Word-faith theology especially) now unfortunately seems to be the charismatic mainstream. Charisma takes a far too uncritical stance when it comes to aberrant theology like Word-faith, and in some instances seems to have "sold out" to that particular interest. Sometimes the magazine does dare to take an unpopular stand, which is to its credit (like an article a few years ago criticizing multi-level marketing techniques). Most troubling to me is the perception of pandering to the Christian "star system" that makes celebrities out of people in an arena where there should ideally be no celebrities. The magazine also accepts dubious advertising, publicizing conferences featuring self-proclaimed "apostles" and "prophets". As much as I criticize Charisma, it is not a totally useless publication. The news section is informative concerning trends in popular Christianity, bringing attention to grass-roots movements that sometimes flies under the radar of other publications like Christianity Today. But while Christianity Today can be likened to a full and hearty meal, Charisma can be likened to a Twinkie: tasty but ultimately non-filling and non-nutritious.
Mouthpiece for the modern charismatic renewal
Charisma is a good source for news of the latest goings-on in the world of the contemporary charismatic movement. If you want to know what the televangelists are up to, where the latest revival is breaking out, or in what exciting and exotic ways the Holy Spirit is being manifested in this place or that, Charisma magazine is the place to look. Its usefulness pretty much ends there.
The glossy advertisements for hotshot healing evangelists, success gurus and big-name ministries are simply nauseating to most outside the world of card-carrying Pentecostals and charismatics, and next to them, anything useful or sensible the editors might occasionally have to say looks rather hollow and disingenuous. Most of the content will seem alien and bizarre to all but health and wealth, devil-bashing conservative fundamentalists. And "fundamentalist" -- despite the sometimes relatively moderate stance of the editors -- does describe very accurately Charisma's readership, I think, as a glance at the letters page will usually show.
One caveat: It is a few months since I have been a regular reader, so there is a slim chance things may have changed.
It is what it is
As others have said, the best thing about "Charisma" is its news section and its reportage of religious persecution and political issues. They do a decent job there. However, it typically takes a pop "People" magazine approach and tone with the rest of its material. The Bible teaching, what little there is of it, is generally shallow and designed to sell magazines, stroke readers, or stir controversy.
There is a definite bias towards the Word-Faith, Pentecostal, Arminian, feminist, faddish, "Prophetic Stream," prosperity, name-it-claim it crowd. Once upon a time, these emphases were not all that defined the larger Charismatic movement, but perhaps they do now. This niche certainly defines "Charisma" Magazine.
Another thing that bothers me is their advertising policy, and I use the term "policy" loosely. Is there one? Seems like there has been an overabundance of snake-oil salesmen hawking their wares in "Charisma" over the years. Plus, the ads are so numerous that it seems like the editorial content is being squeezed out. Although, given the declining quality editorial content, maybe that's not a bad thing.
The most baffling advertising case was with the famous "prophet" who was offering "words" and blessings for sale in ads in "Charisma," even as the editorial section of the magazine criticized that man's "ministry." Excuse me, Mr. Strang, but do your editorial and advertising departments ever talk together?
Seems like "Charisma" has always trafficked in stirring up controversies on the one hand while stroking church celebrities on the other and then promoting fads on the other and then sanctimoniously belittling theological conservatives on the other. Hey, what's up with all the hands over there?
Another reviewer said that "Charisma" is one of the best national charismatic publications because it's one of the only ones. That about sums it up.
And, by-the-by, I am a Holy Spirit-filled, tongue-speaking, Jesus following, dancing, shouting, healing, prophetic charismatic Christian and have been for more than 30 years. I hate to be critical of one of "our own" publications, but there it is.
Basically publishes press releases, never investigates
No need for a subscription anymore--just read it online, often for the really far-out articles and horrific theology (or lack there of.)