Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Are They Still Pentecostal?

I found this AP story fascinating:
At Three Crosses Church, Pastor Ken Walters urges his parishioners to join him in song and scripture. The charismatic 58-year-old extends his arms skyward and belts out melodies praising God.

While the small Assemblies of God congregation goes through all the traditional trappings of a Pentecostal service, there is one notable absence: speaking in tongues, a defining trait of the faith.

The 40-member church is among many nationwide that are reducing or cutting out speaking in tongues as they become more popular and move to the mainstream. It's a shift that has unsettled some more traditional Pentecostals who say the practice is at the heart of a movement that evolved out of an interracial revival and remains a spontaneous way for the poor and dispossessed to have a direct line to God.
Regular readers here know I am no fan of Pentecostalism. I won;t go into that. Rather, I'd like to look a the phenomena - as a church grows in attendance it give up its uniqueness, it homogenizes and compromises. You can see this happening in other branches of the faith as well.

One must constantly ask, "Where is the line?" At what point do we cease to be that which we are? I would say that these churches are ceasing to be Pentecostal. My church, the Presbyterian church, is becoming increasing staff driven as commitment levels in the pews to the church lower. That strikes right at the heart of what it means to be Presbyterian.

But more important than "Where is the line?" is "What is the response?" As I age I grow increasingly convinced that the schism that has traditionally marked such changes in American Protestantism is not the way to go. The question should be "When do I fight?" What changes are such that they drive you to force the discussion? What changes are you willing to put your personal comfort and energy into?

Maybe, just maybe, such a question can change what is happening in churches for the better. Maybe it is not such a bad thing to become something different.


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