Saturday, April 11, 2009

...And I Fit Into This Category

In my last post, I discussed inviting my brother to church last year, as I will be doing this year. However, in the winter, I stopped attending Christ Fellowship, a nondenominational evangelical church I had been a member of since 2004. I'm in a state of change now, as I have been several times in the past.

I was raised Oneness Pentecostal/Apostolic, which is a curious offshoot of traditional Pentocostalism. The church I attended growing up, Apostolic Outreach Assembly, was pastored by my grandparents, and was, and is, a part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. While I valued the instilling of Scriptures and value of prayer that I soaked up while belonging to the church, by the time I was 17, I was ready for a change. By then, my Papa had passed away, and my Grandma had become head pastor, while my father was assistant pastor. Sure, like most PK's (preacher's kids), I was sick of being forced to be a part of everything (I sang on the choir, played the drums, was an usher, and helped with the books in the office), but the driving force that was leading me away was the more unorthodox teachings of the denomination. While my parents were stringent in following the Oneness beliefs, they weren't militant. For seven years, my siblings and I attended a Trinitarian Pentecostal Christian school, so everyday during devotions/Bible Classes/ Chapel, I was taught the traditional view of the Godhead. So by the time I graduated from high school, I was ready for something different. Something more True...

... which led me to Mt. Zion Pentecostal. Ok, so it wasn't too different at all. But at 17, I was proud of making a "big step" on my own to another church. They were different from my previous church in that they didn't belong to PAW (although they had associations), and they weren't stuck on outward appearances so much. Or in other words, women could cut their hair, wear make-up, pants, earrings, and such without the fear of being labeled a "Jezebel." While there was a huge relief in ridding myself of all those regulations, I was still bothered by the preaching. We were taught in this church, like my former one, that the evidence of having received the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Or at least the "initial" evidence is speaking in tongues. But what about passages of Scriptures like I Corinthians 12:8-11 which states: "For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things."

While these ministers played Bible hopscotch and pushed Acts 2:38 as proof of their teachings, it seemed more like they were commiting eisigesus to make the Scripture fit their doctrines as opposed to rightly dividing the Word through exegesus (please don't mistake me for a theologian with these terms... I wish I was, but no, I just have a BA in English, which familiarized me with literary theories). So after graduating from college in 2004, I left Mt. Zion, and the familiar seas of Pentecostalism for nondenominational Charasmatic Evangelicalism. Which I found to be much more warmer, inviting waters. While they believe in the gifts of the Spirit like Pentecostals, they weren't so rigid with the rules. My sister Joscelyne and I viewed it as being somewhat, Pente-lite. Christ Fellowship was seeker-sensitive, Christianese for "Come on in! We've got great music/skits/ videoes and entertainment! Don't worry about dressing up, come as you are! Bring the kids, and stay for the coffee and donuts after!" We were elated. The traditional choir was swapped out for the Worship Team with professional backing by the keyboardist, drummer, guitars and even a saxophone. We sang Israel & The New Breed songs, then some Martha Munizzi, Hillsong and Kirk Franklin thrown in for a kick. Sunday school was replaced by Kids Church, and Jos would happily drop her son Justin off for some toddler free church!

But I soon felt disappointment when I learned there was no regular Bible study, just Fellowship Groups. They were nice yes, but were really more about hanging out with fellow believers than going into a real discussion about Scripture. And then there was the irregular communion, the lack of singing any traditional hymns or songs except on a special occasion. And I couldn't help but notice that in being so intune with "seekers", more seasoned believers were being left out in the cold. I missed... tradition! Also troubling were some of the leaders Prosperity Gospel-like views. Name and claim your healing. "Thus saith the Lord" prophecies. Uh oh... like some of the Pentecostals I ran from, some of these people were addicted to Holy Spirit highs and abberant teachings. While I can't say any of the pastors seemed to be pushing this, there were plenty of "layleaders" who were. Since "every believers is a leader" as goes their motto, it was very easy for this to happen. Some members were supplementing their Spiritual nourishment with the teachings of Benny Hinn, Paula White, Joel Osteen and other Faith Teachers. So they were able to disseminate these very questionable teachings to others (like myself) without many checks and balances. Obviously, not good. If you're curious about WHY this isn't good, check out "Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century".

So what now? I'm church shopping, which is apparently, pretty common. I don't know if I like the term, because really, my husband and I are praying to be led by the Holy Spirit to where God wants us. We visited a nice church last week, and we'll be headed back there tomorrow (hopefully, with the aforemementioned "heathen" Joe). But being that it's another evangelical, nondenominational church, I'm still definitely in visitor mode. As I wait for God's leading, I can't help but ponder, that perhaps I'm now post-Pentocostal, post-nondenominational...??? But what now? I eagerly await for Heavenly Father to reveal it.


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