John E. Ruffle | PentecostalTheology.com
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?