…and Pentecostal

While I’m equivocating (establishing an argument through subtly allowing the definitions of words to ‘morph’ in the midst of the argument) I’d like to add to yesterday’s post (in which I longed to be reformed, charismatic, and catholic all at the same time) the footnote that in my presbyterian church, I have a ton of pentecostals.

Of course, anyone walking into our service looking for pentecostal fire would confront cultural shock of epic proportions. But in another sense, we are very pentecostal.

A while back, I was meeting with a group of key leaders and asked them to tell me what their ideal worship service would look like. Their answers varied, of course. But to a man they were all expressing their desires for worship in a way that was rooted in an experience of past worship and in their own emotional response to God. Many longed for worship that was akin to what they had grown up with, worship which, no doubt, evoked pleasant feelings and memories.

I inwardly chuckled at this. For all our talk of objective and biblical liturgy, when we peal away the surface, we tend to most respond to and long for worship that makes us feel good.

The critique those in our tradition often level at pentecostals is that they are all about emotional response. I think we are not too far removed from that, if at all. And I’m not sure that is really such a bad thing.

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6 thoughts on “…and Pentecostal

  1. Rebekah

    Agreed–there’s nothing more disheartening than going to worship and seeing a congregation full of people who are so dead, so it would be heartening for people to return to excitement in worship. On the flip side, there are too many people that are too fixated on needing that same type of worship environment that they grew up in to get that same emotional enthusiasm. And that’s what often prevents us from worshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ across denominations and across races. Worship is a choice, and we can choose to worship God in any setting. There is nothing that is more encouraging to me than one of my college professors who made that choice to be joyful in worship at (what was to him) a raucous worship service in a (PCA) church, even though he would have been most happy in a stodgy OPC-style service like the one he grew up in, because it was important to him to have his family be a part of a community where the relationships they were building were more important than the comfort of the worship. That’s stuck with me and if you can change a stodgy Dutchman and make him happy for the sake of the Kingdom, I think you can change anyone!

  2. Randy Greenwald

    Rebekah, I know your heart. But I must say that the tendency to desire worship that ‘feels good’ is not the exclusive provence of the Dutchman (I’ve never seen one change…) or the Scot or the white man. Just as we do not see many white evangelicals sacrificing to worship across racial lines, nor do we see many black evangelicals making a similar sacrifice to worship in white churches. My only point is that try as we might to speak objectively about worship, we are still always drawn to what is comfortable, and we need to take that into account when we debate worship. But that is true of every person, not just the white presbyterian. Don’t you agree?

  3. Rebekah

    I do agree. But you don’t have any Black readers (that I know of)–Reformed and Dutch are the ones more likely to grace your pages. I speak of people that are in your and my scope of relationships because it’s so close to home. (As is the concept of multiracial church because there are a lot of African Americans in my scope of relationships.) We see our Reformed churches splintering into tinier and tinier sects because of this comfort factor, but having not been to any other churches lately, this is what comes to mind.God hasn’t called us to be comfortable, He calls us to do what’s right, and like you (sort of) said in your response to my comment, we ought to take that into account in deciding who we should worship with.

  4. MagistraCarminae

    n a different direction, I once listened to an interview with Bob Kauflin about worship (he is not only an amazing musician, but director of musical stuff at Sovereign Grace Ministries: a reformed and charismatic group.) I was taken by one particular comment of his when he stated something to the effect that Jesus is worthy of all our emotion. That seems so true to me. Yet, culturally, we display that emotion in a variety of ways, do we not? And while Christ is, indeed, worthy of all our emotions, it is a severe temptation, as you say, to replace Him with the emotions themselves.What a sticky wicket…

  5. Randy Greenwald

    R, you are certainly right. I don’t imagine many reading this are African American. I don’t even think my kids read this! And, honestly, I’ve been a bit cast out of the traditional Dutch community, and my honorary wooden shoes were long ago revoked. So, I’m not sure how many of a Dutch persuasion read. But, I don’t know that, really. Regardless, I have been successful when we realize that the arguments we make about aesthetics or order or music or whatever in worship are going to be heavily tinged with the cultural bias we bring to the table. That’s all. And, Fiona, to some that sounds like I’m speaking a foreign tongue! And MagistraCarminae (aka Chris, no doubt a fugitive from the law seeking to hide her real identity…) says what I think is an important thing to note, though I’m not sure it can completely be avoided… that we find more thrill in the emotions than we do in Christ. So, we plod along, and Jesus still accepts our praises. That is a wonder! Thanks for all the comments – keep them coming. I love the interaction.

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