[Editor’s note: The original version of this blog post was published on Patheos.com. Click here to read it.]
“This is why I’m a Baptist now,” I whispered to my husband. Mother’s Day Sunday at my parents’ charismatic Pentecostal church. There I was standing awkwardly in the middle of the blacked-out sanctuary, begrudgingly competing in a game for perennials and a Starbucks gift card against other expectant mothers. One of the stylistic reasons this reserved introvert switched. Sort of.
Two drum sets seemed unnecessary. And was it just me, or were there more people crowded on stage as part of the worship team than the number of worshipers in the congregation?
Oh, I don’t mean to grumble. There are certainly little cultural aspects of my parents’ charismatic church that I appreciate. Friendly church members greeted us while we waited for service to start. Too bad I couldn’t hear a word they said over the worship band’s practice set. Truly I couldn’t hear a word. Was that a “Happy Mother’s Day” or a “So glad you’re here today”? I smiled and nodded.
Although I’ve no idea why I’d need them once already arrived, the church’s ladies bathroom offered a basket of hairspray, gels, blow-dryers, and curling irons. A sweet, albeit puzzling gesture.
Needless to say, it’s been a while since I visited the charismatic roots of my youth.
The temptation to judge harshly got the best of me at the start of service. Thankfully, as I sat through the message and observed the congregants, the many reasons why I love and appreciate my charismatic roots coasted back.
The Holy Spirit convicted me as I watched young men and women unashamedly use their spiritual gifts. The altar call was filled with 20 and 30-somethings praying over the struggles of total strangers or seeking prayer themselves. These young (and seasoned) Christians didn’t care that the service had already lasted an hour and a half. Nor did they care how many eyes watched them cry out to the Almighty for help in their brokenness and ask for the power of the Spirit to move in a supernatural way in seemingly impossible situations.
Yes, emotional manipulation happens within the charismatic movement. Yes, theological depth and education needs improvement along with avoidance of the Prosperity Gospel and mysticism. Charismatic churches are imperfect. Perhaps a young “former charismatic” could even build an influential platform off of criticizing the shallowness and insincerity of some charismatics they once knew. But what church is perfect?
Pastor Keith Welton answered this question this morning over at the Desiring God. Welton reminds us:
No one should be surprised that the church is made up of sinners — it’s one of the admissions that opens the membership door in the first place: we are not perfect and never will be in this life. At its best, the church in this age consists of sinners who are sincerely but imperfectly following Christ. And inevitably, the church also has people who are not truly following Christ.
Despite charismatics’ imperfections, the congregants at my parents’ church are followers of Christ doing their best to love their neighbors and share the Gospel. And while blemished, the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism continue their fast-paced growth worldwide.
Who am I to judge a charismatic church service? My personality might not resonate with all the stylistic aspects of a charismatic church, but my soul stirs at the sight and sound of Christians seeking the uninhibited power of the Spirit.
After all, it was a charismatic Pentecostal preacher who shared of the goodness and mercy of Christ with my family in our most dark hour. Thank God for Pastor Rose. Thank God for conviction. Thank God for charismatics.