Saturday, February 21, 2009
Pentecost at Baseview
Being pastor at Baseview was quite different from all other places I served as pastor. This church was a melting pot. Air Force personal and their families moved there from all parts of the country. New York, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, California, and other states were represented. So was their brand of Pentecostal religion. Many felt they were on the back side of the dessert. In reality, the back side of the dessert may have been more pleasant for many of them. This was the first experience some had with the harsh reality of winter. One couple didn't even know that North Dakota was a state, and had no idea where North Dakota was before they were assigned to GFAB.
Being the only Pentecostal church in the area we attracted people who attended the Four Square, Church of God, Pentecostal Church of God, and the Charismatics. We also attracted some non-pentecostals such as Baptists and Nazarenes, etc. With these people came their doctrines and types of worship that defined who they were. And because we had open arms for all of them, the church quickly grew to about triple it's size. But it wasn't easy to please all with such a mix. As I look back on some of the things that took place in our service, I have to shake my head. Much of it had a solid Scriptural foundation. Other stuff was just excesses. The excesses often coincided with a genuine move of God, but they were usually counter productive.
One guy's name was Aubrey. Aubrey attended alone, had no family with him. During the worship time he would really get into it. He was the type that during the songs enthusiastically sang, clapped his hands, raised his arms, and..... and..... jumped up and down. I bet if we had church every day, he would not have been over weight. One night during the altar service he came forward and was in front of the church below the podium shouting and acting like Muhamed Ali. He was like Paul said, "boxing at the air." I asked him what he was doing and he said, "fighting with the devil." I told him that the devil wasn't in the church, but outside. That proved to be a mistake because he promptly went outside and boxed with the devil. A little free unwanted advertising for whoever was driving by.
That same night there was a another man kneeling at the altar at the far right side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary wasn't that big, so it wasn't that far. Now, I don't know if you have ever seen any one swim the butterfly. Well, that's what he was doing. He would slowly reach forward with both arms, slowly sweep them back so he formed a T, then with a sudden jerk and a moan bring them back to his side, then do it all over again, and again, and again. I don't know what the significance of the was, but our visitors weren't too impressed.
Others were also at the altar noisily worshipping and praising God. Some were kneeling, some were standing. Some were speaking in tongues. And some were "slain in the Spirit." And I have no doubt that in the midst of this there was a genuine move of God where lives were being touched. As a pastor you pray for revival fires, but this night I felt more like a fire extinguisher.
The singing and the prayers in this church we always enthusiastic. Evangelists came to our church to bring revival, but many of them got revived instead. Many visitors came and stayed, but many also couldn't handle the enthusiasm and excesses and never returned. That was my biggest heartache and challenge. The church could have grown much more had there been better balance.
We had plenty of people who would testify that they were "glad that I'm saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost." It was always my prayer that we would reach the Air Force people who were troubled and needed a Savior. But they were quite often frightened away by the excesses in the church.
My purpose here is not to belittle anybody's relationship and experience with God. But I do want to make it clear that how we handle ourselves does influence others. Our churches must have a balance of true, enthusiastic, spiritual worship and evangelism. The Scriptures offer guidelines for both.
In the next blog I want to address "speaking in tongues." Then after that I will address "slain in the Spirit"