Dear brother and sisters, I need your help

Posted by John E. Ruffle in Facebook's Pentecostal Theology Group View the Original Post

Dear brother and sisters, I need your help.

Yesterday, we attended a neo-Penticostal church service firvthe first time in 11 months. It wasn’t culture shock because although we are both Roman Catholic, my wife (a cradle Catholic) is familiar with charismatic praise gatherings and I had been deeply involved in Penticostalism for 30 years.

So – the worship band starts on the button (God time keeping here, that’s a plus for sure) and a love song starts up and its a good thing I already know thjscus Christian worship, because no mention of Jesus in the first few selections.

What I am observing is a highly experience -orientated hour and 45 minutes. I’m trying to discern the underlying base-line theology supporting the performance.

The message is titled: What would Jesus say to Alan Sugar? (Sugar is a British rags to riches billionaire.) The congregation calls out “Alan, I love you!”

Actually, the message although not even touching Theology 101 is quite good and we are reminded not to trust in uncertain riches. But there is also the possibility that we too can be materially wealthy if we trust God enough.

Interestingly, at the end of the worship, I fully expected the congregation to follow through with singing in the Spirit. After all, right before the worship count-down (yes, really!) a pre-recorded message invited people to exercise spiritual gifts during the proceedingsm (None did.) However the guy with the announcements jumped-up and anything that might have happened came to a screeching halt. I’ve seen this so very often in Pentecostalist meetings of all types. To me, that may be the greatest failing of the Penticostal experience.

It was a great and uplifting gathering. The people were generally friendly, if a bit distant. But to me I wasn’t worship, wasn’t Bible – it was a showcase for putting a spin on Christian faith so that visitors might get the message that (a) God isn’t angry (b) ‘church going’ is not boring and (c) what Christians are concerned with is relevant to daily struggles and living.

What kind of next-generation Christians are we forming? Where is the message of repentance? Where is prayer and Bible study? It probably takes place during the week in home gatherings. And if so, I like that. But are they run as yet another ‘disciple making program’? Is there room individual g iftings and talent? Or is it mostly about promoting the ‘vision of the church’ (local or denomination.)

I’m genuinely curious about these questions. We will probably go back. I like to fellowship with non-Catholic brothers and sisters. And they have a of if young people participating of their own free will. That is excellent!

But do we or should we REALLY make our one weekly act of gathered worship of God a “seeker-sensitive” experience? I’m not sure That we should. But on the ithr hand, what might be the alternative?

23 Comments

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    He’s said all Pentecostal Churches are like that. Ummm Sorry to interrupt your supper but not all Pentecostal Churches are like that God Bless Amen

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    I’m sorry but the bible says if you have ought against your brother, then you are to go to your brother and fix it not carry grudges, not to slander a man of God

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    What does that have to do with my comment

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    Whose idea when scripture says they that worship me must worship me in spirit and in truth,

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    Your anger against the men of God and the churches will not get you anywhere either

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    How can you believe and carry a grudge and slander the church the way that you do and matter of fact the acts that the apostles did didn’t die out. Their still at work and actually it wasn’t the apostles that did anything it was the Holy Spirit through them

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Joseph Mcmahan

    And be careful cause your going down the road of blaspheming the Holy Ghost

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    My goodness … I’ve had to check and double check that these comments are actually posted on the thread I started. Maybe I missed something here – I see zero relevance to the observations I posted about participating in a Sunday worship gathering. I was asking genuine questions (or so I thought) and was hoping to get some theological reflection and I insight back. I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone’s sensibilities, but be assured that that was never my intention.

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Corey Forsyth

    Joseph Mcmahan, I am not sure what thread you originally read but there is absolutely NO hatred or anything of the sort written in this thread. If you will, please re read this and reconsider your scathing rebukes. Bro. Ruffle did nothing but describe his experience and ask for a theological review from us (his brothers and sisters).
    As for the original post, I am not a theologian by any stretch but I have observed a shift among many churches. Growing up, moat churches were more focused on salvation and bringing people closer to the Lord through the Church. Now, it seems as though many have become performance based in an effort to attract people. While I do not believe their to be anything scripturally wrong with using creative methods to attract newcomers, I do think that the danger is focusing on creativity and losing substance. Once they get in the door, there has to be an atmosphere that is conducive to a genuine encounter with God rather than a mere emotional roller coaster.

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Rick Wadholm Jr

    John Ruffle, your experience is sadly not far off from a number of similar experiences I have had, but thankfully is not indicative of all of my experiences by any means. If this was indeed how all our churches functioned than we are to be pitied greatly and rebuked sharply.

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Charles Page

    John Ruffle, good post and not to far from the typical Charismatic/Pentecostal worship experience.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    Sad. Only one poster really gave me any real feedback on my experience. I wonder why?

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    Jon Sellers

    John, I had thought of a rather long response but did not type it. I think the bottom line is that churches want to be attractive. So they do things that appeal to people from popular culture. The worship service becomes like a rock concert. The message is full of feel good and humorous commentary. The sharp edges of biblical revelation are smoothed over with the things that most likely would appeal to people.
    All of this is to attract and retain people to support institution of the church but also in the hopes that by being there they will get the gospel message and will have a relationship with Christ. Is it working? I think we are seeing very mixed results.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    Thank you Jon. I agree with you, and what concerns me is that it appears that spiritual formation is focussed upon becoming active in ‘friendship evangelism’ to the almost total exclusion of developing a robust inner spiritual life dependant upon Jesus and the written Word of God. Indeed, this was a massive factor -a thirst- that led me back to very litergically-based worship. In traditional (catholic) liturgy there are bible readings for every single day of the year. – the preaching follows the scripture where as in just about every non-liturgical fellowship I’ve ever seen (including when I was pastoring one!) the scripture supported the sermon topic. Surely this has to be the wrong way around if we truely claim to be Bible-based?

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    Jon Sellers

    The liturgy can be great if you are hungry for God, but soporific if you are not.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    So then the baseline question may be to discover how hungry for we are? And how we are elicit hunger in those attending

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    “The sleep of death..” Jon – if your prognosis is accurate (and I believe it is) then we all within the Christian community of churches have one MASSIVE problem / challenge.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    We MUST separate somehow the world’s values from the base-line thinking of those we disciple. Someone said, we don’t need more faith, we need less world.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    Hiw about a “seeker meeting” open to the public while AT THE SAME TIME the initiates (i.e. baptised disciples) have a believers’ meeting. After all, we are getting to the stage where we cannot publicly express our views and remain free citizens of our respective nations.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    Corey Forsyth

    I think we have a very serious and unique problem in the American church in that social changes over the last 100 years, respectively, have changed Americans’ attitudes towards pride and complacency in our sin. Because of this we have seen a roller coaster in ministry styles. Music has evolved with the cultural styles, preaching changed from hellfire and brimstone to the miracle based preaching to more intellectual style and now more love only type preaching. I heard a pastor say recently that “The Message never changes but the method has to.” I tend to agree with that granted the core message stays true and accurate. Because of our rapid cultural change, the old time tent revivals won’t be as effective as they once were. On the flip side, people with the Joel Osteen approach that are too “sweet” to risk offending anyone are creating a false sense of salvation. I have encountered many who think they are saved because they are a good person. Now for the plot twist… The reason, I believe, we have this problem is from a lack of spiritual hunger as has been said. So the question then becomes “How do we spark true hunger in a society that has been flooded with the idea that we (The Church) is nothing more than a joke?” I believe this basic question is the reason churches have slowly turned towards using the contemporary methods to attract people. Problem is, in the process, they’ve lost the heart of the Gospel.

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    John E. Ruffle

    Well said! And I regret to say – and I believe I have Church history on my side here – that the answer is, in a single word: “persecution”.

  • Reply January 12, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    Great question John E. Ruffle

  • Reply March 19, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    love to help you bro John E. Ruffle

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