Saturday, 22 November 2014

How I Was Shaped By The Pentecostal Church

Catch the Fire Church logo

     Church has always been a part of my life and a consistent influence for my faith. Church has challenged and altered my fundamental beliefs and has altered the way that I follow Christ. It's safe to say, as cliche as it is, that I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the Church and I wouldn't be who I am now without it. As an institution, I owe much to it.
     For most of my upbringing, I have attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches (the title only mentions Pentecostal, but in reality I am discussing the Charismatic denomination as well). There, in these churches, my younger and more untouched Christianity was forged. My inception as a believer was in the Pentecostal assembly.
     As I grow older and learn more and more to critically examine my beliefs, faith and those who profess it, I realize that, in retrospect, the churches in which I was raised were not what I thought they were. In retrospect, there was as much to question about this denomination as there was to respect. In reality, there is as much falsehood as there is truth, if not at times more. As a youth, I saw firsthand the positive, glistening side of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches (from now on referred to collectively as the PaC's) as well as its stranger face where we do not always know what's going on, but something is.
     I realize, at this point, that the PaC's have earned somewhat of a reputation for some of its ritualistic behavior and seeming sensationalism. Not that the PaC's have become apostates, but that they have become the weirdos of the Church--the D&D club of the University, in other words. There is such a heightened attention towards the movemental activities of the Holy Spirit that the congregation feels drawn to intently study its mobility. Here, in this context, situations are set where the people in the pews are made to physically wait upon the Lord, or rather his Spirit, as if the day of Pentecost were a regular occasion.
     Some of the stranger things I've seen include repetitive, formulaic prayers and songs, often meant to prelude faith healings and/or exorcisms, where the whole congregation, whoever they may be, participates. Strange things include humans teaching humans, usually involving children, to speak in tongues. Strange things including declaring God's promises and expecting God to respond by fulfilling them, exactly the way the congregation intends--"By His stripes, I am healed". These are abbreviated versions, believe me.
     On the other hand, I have seen the positive dimension of the Pentecostal church. In some settings, there is actually a greater focus on Christ than on the Holy Spirit, which very often isn't the case. In some PaC's, the name of Jesus isn't just an insertion in a chant or a code-word for mystic empowerment. In some PaC's, the gospel is the centerpiece of their ministry. In some of these churches, there is more emphasis on Biblical study than there is on emotional experience, or at least an equal emphasis. In my personal experience with some PaC's, I was regularly taught about the reality of Christ, the devil, sin and spiritual warfare which has enabled me better discern where God desires me to go and what He desires me to do.    
     These things have shaped the way that I walk with Christ as my Lord. The strange events I've participated in and the greatly respectable service I've received from the PaC's have challenged what I believe, my theology, my behavior and my balance between solitary God-searching and interaction with others who share the same burden. The purpose of this brief article is not to condemn or exalt the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, but to simply show that some of its actions need questioning, like most denominations, and perhaps even some reform needs to take place.