Tag Archives: spirit

What’s your ideal church service?

(I started this blog entry months ago and am just now finishing it, so if the first part sounds odd to those who know what I’ve been up to lately, that’s why…)

I had to drive back home from my parents house tonight, not really a long drive, but an hour and a half allows for a decent amount of reflection.  I spent most of the time musing about the differences between various church services, and what some people consider “proper”.  I grew up in church and gave my life to Christ when I was 8 — over the years I’ve attended services at more churches than I could even think to count, in a wide variety of denominations.

The past few years I’ve been gravitating more towards pentecostal churches (while searching for a new home church) and the overlaps between what people consider “pentecostal”, “holiness”, “full gospel”, and “charismatic” can sometimes make for some very unexpected experiences when one goes to check out a new church.  Many of the people from the churches I grew up in hear the word “pentecostal” and immediately freak out, recalling stories of poisonous snakes being passed around during services, people barking like dogs, or just mass chaos.

I recently went to visit a church with a good friend of mine, they considered themselves old-fashioned holiness pentecostal, and they’d just come out of a 2 month revival.  At one point during the worship service, amidst other things like crashing symbols, head-banging, isle-running, people dancing jigs, etc, I looked up to find the little 70-something year old pastor jumping 6 feet or more, from the very top of his lecturn down to the floor below the stage.  I found this quite astonishing, given his age, and felt the need to tell Mom & Dad about it.

Services are markedly different at their church, and I’m sure they would be completely uncomfortable witnessing one like that.  In any case, on the way home I was thinking about the differences and which of the various types of services makes the most sense to me, and why.

My thinking went like this…  Church services can be about a number of things, depending on the congregation and why they’re coming to church.

Some people see church as a social club, or a weekly obligation.  Services, then, are all about social gathering, ritual, visiting your fellow congregants, and putting in your obligatory time in prayer, communion, or whatever activities are seen as part of what you call “church”.  Much like a board meeting, there’s an expected set of activities and an order to follow.  The service goes best when everyone is calm, collected, and in their place, so that the event can run smoothly and people can get on with their lives.

Some people see church as a place to recharge after a long week.  They come wanting to be entertained, get their fill of fellowship, have their emotions revved up and their heart refreshed.  Services then should often get the kids out of the way (so that they get a break from parenting), and should knock their socks off.  The music has to be positive, upbeat, and energetic.  They want to get wound up, pumped up, and filled up so they have the energy to take on the coming week.  The worship leader has to know how to stoke a fire, and pastor’s job is that of a motivational speaker.  If people with this attitude are pentecostal or charismatic, they also want the Spirit to entertain them, so they want to hear tongues and see people dancing and running and get so worked up that they’re disheveled from the excitement by the time the service ends.

But are either of those things what church is supposed to be about? Is going to church supposed to be filling a social obligation?  Should it be all about you and your needs?  Or is it supposed to be about filling your obligation to God?

Yes, we often need recharged after a long week, church is a great place to meet people with similar interests, encouraging messages are great, and getting all worked up while singing can be a really great experience, but you can get all of that at a concert of your favorite band, or maybe at your local senior center, depending on your tastes.

God’s saving grace wasn’t offered as a club membership card. Christ’s radical sacrifice pulled us out of certain doom, and we should be excited about that.  We should want to shout it from the rooftops  (or twitter, perhaps, these days).  We should be excited for every chance to draw closer to him.  And yes, we can do it from home, it’s not necessary to wait til church time (and we shouldn’t wait) but we humans are so easily distracted by the everyday mundane and the slings and arrows of life, and sometimes that weekly meeting is necessary to refocus ourselves on what is important.

Part of a healthy church service then, I think, requires time to reflect on what He did for us, time to refocus and regain that gratitude that we had when we were first saved.  Some of that comes in worship.  Not just singing praise songs, but true worship — true focus on giving God the praise he deserves for his love and sacrifice — sometimes with song, sometimes with prayer, sometimes with testimonies and praise reports.  And when we’re in the worst places in life, sometimes hearing others give those testimonies or praise reports, hearing others truly praising God, is enough to help us find our own way back.

When you go to a concert you may scream praise for the musicians, clap, yell and sing along at the top of your lungs.  Why?  Because you love their talent?  Because the words they wrote mean so much to you?  Because they’ve provided you with entertainment for a fee?  When you go to church, do you sit on your hands and try not to fall asleep?  Is God’s sacrifice such a small thing that you can’t even give him a shout or clap your hands?  If you do shout and clap, is it to praise the worship leaders, instead?  As if they’re really there to entertain you, to get you worked up, instead of trying to lead you to a closer walk with God?  Is there something wrong with this picture?

Our commission wasn’t to come be entertained once a week for the rest of our lives, it was to go and make disciples. Just as we can’t train people to follow Christ if we’re not following Him ourselves; we can’t teach people about Him if we don’t know about Him, so part of our job as Christians is to be good students.  And if we’re going to be getting together once a week to refocus on praising Him, perhaps we should learn more about Him while we’re there.  That’s the whole point of having teachers and preachers, I think.  Not to tickle your ears, tell you how great you are, inspire you, send you home with warm fuzzies; but to teach you, to correct you, to help you grow in your walk with God so that you can do a better job of going out into the world and spreading the good news.

“But what about the Spirit!?” you say. And to that I say: the Spirit doesn’t come to entertain us, either.  The Spirit doesn’t show up just to give you a warm fuzzy, or a message in tongues, or knock you on the floor, or make you run around screaming.  He’s not there just to serve you.  If He shows up, and if you don’t drive Him away, He’s there about the Father’s business.  Sure, depending on your personality type and how you react to Him sometimes that means you’ll get that warm fuzzy, or a message in tongues, or you’ll be knocked to the floor from the intensity, or perhaps you’ll get so emotional about it that you’ll run around screaming.  But that is not the point of His visit, and if you focus on that — if you focus on your own emotional response — you’re missing a lot.  Now, yes, the Spirit is a comforter, and part of His job is to comfort God’s people, but He is also meant as a helper, not for each individual but for the kingdom of God as a whole.  (1 Corinthians 14 has a good discussion of all of this).

Sometimes it serves God’s purpose to comfort a person in their time of sorrow, sometimes the Spirit’s job is to chastise, sometimes to edify, sometimes to teach, and sometimes to fill a person with power and give them the right words to speak.  What the spirit does with you in one service is not what the Spirit will do in every service.  God’s voice may be in the fire one day and in the still small voice the next.  If you come wanting to get riled up and excited with every service, God will not be able to have His way when He needs you quiet and reflective.  If you come wanting to sit on your hands and have a nice relaxing time, God will not be able to have His way if He needs you to shout a message of encouragement.

God knows what He’s doing, and we need to let Him have His way in ‘our’ services.


Filed under Bible Study, Tips & Advice

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy father’s day to a couple of great dads! :)

I know it’s been a really long time since I posted… I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks here.

In any case, I wanted to post something for Father’s Day, so I thought I’d share one of the first songs I ever wrote.

My earthly father’s pretty darn cool, too, here’s a couple of pics for ya:

Dad in his hippy days

My Dad

<-- he's glaring at me for uploading that pic










My dad is probably the hardest working person I’ve ever met.  He worked an average of 80-90 hours per week through my entire childhood (at one point he held 2 full-time jobs and a part-time all at the same time), but still tucked me into bed every night when he got home.

The few hours he had left he spent working on stuff around the house for us, and somehow still found time to complete an associates degree (and most of a bachelors) in electrical engineering from home.  I remember sitting on a chair next to him at the kitchen table at night watching in awe as he built circuits and fixed things with his soldering iron.

Some of my fondest memories are of all the times my sister and I cajoled him into playing guitar for us (not that he didn’t love playing, he was just tired!).  Now that I think about it, it had to be amusing for him to have his little daughter begging to hear “House of the Rising Sun”.  I could have listened to him play for days on end.

He still plays for me every once in a while… now that his shoulder injury is healed and he’s cut back to halfway normal working hours I’m hoping I’ll get to hear a lot more.  He played backup for me once at his church (I sang flat the whole time, it was awful lol), and we’re hoping to do more songs that way.  Perhaps I can get him to let me record a video at some point…

In any case, that’s my dad, and I love him to pieces.  Isn’t he great!?  :)


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Fatherly love and a little blue ribbon…

Yikes, I’ve gotten really bad at this posting regularly thing. I’ve gotten kinda bad about reading too, I’m still reading more than I used to but I’m very far from every day. Once again I’m going to try to start doing it again, mostly selfishly because I was doing better and getting more done when I was keeping up, but also because I felt like I was getting closer to getting to a place where God can actually use me for something.

Anywho, I’m in Numbers now. I’ve discovered I have to read the old testament in my old trusty KJV bible because it has pronunciation guides on all of the names, and without those I find myself just skimming past everything I can’t pronounce, how silly is that?

Most people seem to think Numbers is boring. I have to vehemently disagree. I’ve always loved Numbers… it might be my love of math and numbers tricking me, but I don’t think so.

Numbers is full of mundane lists where it first describes in detail a commandment and how it’s supposed to be handled for each tribe, then describes in detail how the commandment is carried out for each of the 12 tribes then gives a summation besides. Those can get annoying, especially when you’re tired. I think most people read the first one then skip to the end. I can’t bring myself to do that for fear there will be a small difference in one account that I’ll miss. I think it’s better that way, because after you’ve read through a few of those long accounts, you notice the other things more.

And there are a lot of other things in the book of Numbers, that’s why it’s so interesting.

Here are a couple that caught my attention last night.

  • In chapter 12 Aaron and Miriam (Aaron’s sister) “spake against” Moses because he had taken an Ethiopian wife. Now, it doesn’t say what they said about that really, it doesn’t even say if they said it in the presence of anyone else or if they were just talking between themselves. It strikes me that perhaps it could have been some kind of racial issue, but I don’t know that for sure. It does say that in the process they said “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath He not spoken also by us?”

    Now, Moses had been using Aaron as his ‘mouth’ to the people ever since he went back to Egypt. God would tell him something, he would tell Aaron, and Aaron would talk to the people. Aaron had since been consecrated as high priest, and no doubt had communion with God. Miriam was known as a prophetess. (And for that matter, the previous chapter explains how God had just poured out His Spirit on the elders and over 70 of them had begun prophesying). So what Aaron said was true, God had spoken also by them.

    However, God was so aggravated by Aaron and Miriam that he felt the need to personally call them out. He called the three of them into the tabernacle, came down in the cloud, and spoke to them. He explained that for everyone except Moses if he wanted to talk to them He came in a dream or a vision, but with Moses he spoke face to face. He then asked them why they weren’t afraid to speak against Moses and left (at that time, the cloud only departed from the tabernacle when the Israelites were supposed to travel, but this time He just left in anger. Miriam was struck with leprosy and had to be put out of the camp for seven days (after which the Lord healed her). They didn’t begin traveling until after this time.

    I’ve gone on for a while about this one, but I think it’s a rather important glimpse of God’s character. When Moses beseeched the Lord on Miriam’s behalf, His reply was “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days”.

    Wow… God was comparing inflicting Miriam with leprosy with ‘spitting in his daughter’s face’ to shame her for her actions. This is both repulsive, and comforting at the same time. I’m not sure I like the idea of spitting in someone’s face as a form of discipline, but it is universal for “you disgust me”. God was disgusted by their attitude (and it’s worth noting that I imagine Aaron would have suffered a similar fate, except that he was High Priest, and all of Gods people would have suffered if the High Priest had been defiled with leprosy), but in his disgust he was still calling them children, and this is comforting to me.

  • Later (chapter 16 starting at vs 37), after someone had been found working on the sabbath, God set a tradition I don’t even remember hearing about before. God asked Moses to setup a tradition (that was to be long-standing throughout the generations) of putting a hem of blue ribbon at the bottom of all of their garments. This was to serve as a reminder to remember the statutes of God.

    I know that there are a number of reminders that God setup throughout the Old Testament, holidays and festivals, and various other things, but this one is incredibly simple, and yet very obvious.

    If everyone in the entire camp was to wear a blue ribbon on their garments they would have been immediately recognizable as a group. Like a person today can immediately recognize an Amish person by their dress, anyone would have been able to recognize an Israelite (yes, it’s possible that other people had blue hems on their garments, but seeing just a few together would make it obvious that they were Israelites).

    Why don’t Israelites wear blue anymore? When did they stop? I’m curious about this because I don’t even remember reading about it in the first place before.

    Imagine if all Christians did this today? Something as simple as a ribbon on the bottom of their garments would have really been a big deal in daily life. There’s the sense that people are always watching Christians to see if they do something sinful, but only people who know you hold the faith will know to watch. But if we all had to wear blue ribbon on our clothes, and were immediately recognizable, everyone around us would know who we were. How much more careful would you be? There would also be an immediate recognition of fellow Christians. After a while you might get used to wearing it though, and if you were in a Christian community you would probably get to the place where you eventually didn’t notice very much.

    Here’s the kicker though. True Christians DO have a marker, but it’s not visible. Ever had someone hate you for no reason, and find out later that it was because they resented you for being a Christian even though you never told them you were? Ever had some stranger come up to you in public and say “hey, you’re a Christian aren’t you?”.

    The marker we have is the Spirit, and most people seem to recognize it instinctively, even though they may not realize what it is they’re recognizing. I think we can get numb to it over time. I believe that people with a different spirit recognize it immediately. When a Christian does something not-so-Christian, even when he’s in a place where he doesn’t know anyone, there’s a pretty good chance that people are going to know, and their opinion of God is going to be influenced.

    Think about that… “that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye used to go a-whoring: That ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God.”

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Do not quench…

I was brought up in churches where the Spirit of God, and the workings of the Spirit were held in high intellectual regard. Passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:18-22: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” were read with a kind of wonder and awe, while thinking “if He ever chooses to use me, I definitely won’t quench it!”.

However, rarely, if ever, were the fruits manifest. Once in a while, at revivals or summer camps, He might show up and be allowed to move, but those cases were few and far between. Services were always pre-scripted and setup in such a way that God rarely had the opportunity to move, and if He tried, someone would usually interrupted with “Oh, look at the time!”, or something with an equivalent effect.

I’ve had a problem with this for quite a while, and scriptures like this mean a lot more to me now than they once did. It occurs to me that Paul did not write this to a congregation who would be looking at their watches to make sure the letter didn’t take more than the allotted 15 minutes to read. He didn’t write it to a group of people who thought the Spirit sounded pretty cool, but who weren’t quite sure if the Spirit still bothered to move anymore. He was writing to a group of people who had all spoken in tongues. He was writing to people who saw the Spirit move in mighty ways on a daily basis. He was writing to a group of people who were under constant persecution.

If he needed to remind THESE people not to quench the Spirit, how much more do we need to hear that message today? If you have been sitting on the fence, thinking that it would be great to be used but not really giving the Lord opportunity to move, I would like to challenge you…

Take some time to read through 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 14, but read them with the intention of seeing what Paul was taking for granted… and after you’ve read those, seek after the gifts — Paul encouraged the Corinthians to seek after the greater gifts, but perhaps we need to start by seeking after the lesser…

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