Attending services in the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement.
What to expect.
Build your belief in God.
Build Christian faith quickly too.
As far as I am concerned, members of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement on average seem to enjoy their services more than most other churchgoers. And for the newcomer, the disillusioned or those with an enquiring mind, it is a bit of a change from the somewhat restrained atmosphere of formal services, such as those normally held in say traditional/ mainline Protestant or Catholic churches.
People in the movement are also inspired in their church services by what they (as do I) totally believe to be ‘palpable’ interaction with the Holy Spirit. That is we can actually feel it, genuinely experience it or, at the least, watch it really happen to somebody we know.
Most of these churches, provide a warm and uplifting service. And most of the congregation there will be clearly committed to Jesus, and you will know that by their actions, particularly when singing songs. There should be some element of inviting the Holy Spirit into events during the service. But, it is generally low key.
2. HOW TO RECOGNISE THEM
The article, “Choosing a church”, explains the differing types of churches in the movement available for choice, their backgrounds and approaches. It explains how these ‘Pentecostal/ Charismatic’ churches fit into the broad Christian Church.
The article, “God’s presence in the Church” may also be of assistance in understanding what can occur in services, with regards to building both belief in God and Christian faith. (To see the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
But keep in mind, churches in the ‘movement’, other than Pentecostal, may offer their so-called Charismatic services separately from other gatherings. You may just need to identify the time and place when they do hold their actual Charismatic services. That is in contrast to more traditional gatherings they could provide for other churchgoers who are not in the movement.
3. FRONTING UP
If you have chosen to attend a fellowship of faith, in the tradition of the movement, then just turn up at the church a little ahead of the service time. I am pretty sure someone close to the front door will assist you with settling in. It may depend whether you are already a baptised Christian, or not, as to how you can participate, or interact, on the first visit to the fellowship.
You can for example as a baptised Christian, in most churches, accept ‘the bread and the wine’, that is also referred as the ‘body and blood’ of Jesus, when offered during the service. And if you are a baptised Christian, you can also open yourself to an ‘anointing’ by the Spirit when and if that is offered by the fellowship leader during the service there.
If you are not a baptised Christian, then you can still join in the service during prayers and songs (hymns). When you are ready to commit to Jesus and actually become a member of the Church (the Body of Christ), through baptism, just discuss it with the fellowship leader.
4. THE ATMOSPHERE
The atmosphere there in the service, does relate to the type of church (its denomination) you are attending. Pentecostal churches will be somewhat ‘more out there’ for example. As I have written, the other types of churches described above, when providing so-called Charismatic services, should have a warm, welcoming and uplifting nature.
At some point in the service, that anointing by the Holy Spirit may be offered by the service leader or other designated members of the fellowship. There is always the possibility of witnessing the manifestation of Gifts of the Spirit in action as well.
I am referring here to prophecies and other words or messages to attendees, healing miracles etc. Without doubt this has to be an inspiring and uplifting environment for attendees. Sounds crazy, you might think. Well … I say again and again that I was an atheist once myself, yet I am convinced!
Read the article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit” for an introduction to these events.
5. WHEN THE ACTION BUILDS
Please note that events, such as those mentioned above, are normally far from being confronting. You can just sit back and watch it unfolding, normally upfront in the church. Then it is back to the normal bits of the service again: talks and songs.
But, if you do chance to attend a real ‘fired up’ service, particularly in a Pentecostal fellowship, where the Spirit really lets loose … as the other attendees must want of him … well, just be prepared for it. The atmosphere can be electric; the air thick with it. Television does not do it justice at all, if you have seen it there.
Some unexpecting newcomers might find it exciting. Others may find a service like that too ‘in your face’. Indeed, I felt very unsettled on one such occasion in my early days of attending Pentecostal churches. The ‘gifted’ preacher was from interstate. And the regular congregation, there in fellowship, was indeed fired up and ready for what the pastor and the Spirit provided on that day. Yes, they delivered!
However, in actual fact, you have absolutely nothing to be scared about there at all, as I explain later.
6. ENGAGING WITH THE SPIRIT
Make no bones about it, God in the person of the Holy Spirit is ready to engage with us there in the movement.
6.1 The offer is there!
As I wrote earlier, if you are a baptised Christian before attending one of these fellowships, you might be offered an anointing (a holy ‘touch’) from the Holy Spirit during the service. Now if you agree and go forward to accept the offer, then it is firstly normal for you to experience something ‘special’ in that event.
Secondly it is possible that the Spirit can also give you a ‘gift’ in addition to the sensation of being touched, i.e. that you can use later to glorify him; to help build up the Church. Remember though you don’t get to pick the gift, the Spirit does that. Again, please see the article “Experiencing the Holy Spirit” to better understand what is on offer here. These gifts are the real deal, ‘I kid you not!’
The local church leader generally leads the events in these services as you might guess. Remember though, that the Spirit will not force himself on anybody who is not ready and willing for him to actually fill them/ touch them/ anoint them. You will not be overcome and powerfully touched by the Spirit for example, unless you are absolutely ready and, most importantly, have fully opened yourself expectantly to him.
6.2 We have to be ready
Yes, you have got to want it to happen to you. You have to be ready.
If you have gone there with that intent, then you can even actually ask him, silently if you like, “Come Holy Spirit”. And even then, he will temper your experience in a way that suits just you. When and if you are ready at a later time for a more powerful touch from him, he can do so then. Remember, I am writing here about a God who is all loving.
Through the person of the Spirit, God is lovingly demonstrating his presence to you. Indeed, he is ready to engage with us, to encourage ever stronger faith for all those people in fellowship there.
6.3 And if we ‘chicken out’
Sometimes – and I am a little embarrassed to admit this about myself – we may not be able to actually open ourselves to him, when the chance arrives for anointing. This can happen through having been too self conscious in front of others in the fellowship. But when it does happen the Spirit may come upon you after you have left your place of Christian fellowship. In other words, he may give you the opportunity for an ‘anointing’ or touch in a one-on-one setting.
Of course the Lord would know that you had wanted to be touched and why you missed out. In such cases, he will start gently in that private setting and build the anointing upwards in a fashion that he knows you are ready for; that you may actually long for. What I am highlighting, first and foremost, is that it will be an ‘opportunity’ for you again, rather than being ‘forced upon’ you.
There are so many alternative possibilities he uses to ease us in to that Pentecostal/ Charismatic relationship (when that is what we want) and then subsequently assist us along that particular path.
It all just falls together so perfectly in the long run, so do not be concerned at all. I write that from my own experience, and that of other Christians I have discussed the matter with.
7. FINAL ADVICE ON THE MOVEMENT
A newcomer does need to appreciate where those Christians in the movement are ‘coming from’. However, I find it odd myself, some congregations in the movement, particularly in Pentecostal churches, seem compelled to speak loudly in ‘tongues’ with very little provocation. (Tongues is explained in a previous article.) And this noisy practise can really be off-putting for newcomers. So please bear with that one if it happens. There is a Biblical warning from St Paul to a fellowship of faith in his time, on this very issue, in 1 Corinthians 14. So the bad habit has been around for a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time. Like 2,000 years!
From my own experience, the vast majority of congregations out there in the movement are indeed genuine. And you can definitely observe and indeed experience the Spirit’s presence there, during those services, in such a tangible manner. All out of his genuine love for you, I must add!
8. OTHER CHURCH OPTIONS
Now if you find you are just not wired in a way to feel comfortable in the movement, then no problems! God is ready to engage with each of us in most any kind of Christian fellowship. There are so many options, including those fellowships with the most sedate, formalised services. Yes, he will still be there. Of course his presence will be much more subtle, in contrast to the movement.
Continue to the next article, “The subtle stuff in any church”.
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