Attending services in the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement.
What to expect.
Build your belief in God’s existence.
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 ‘kind of’ flat atmosphere of formal services , such as those normally held in say traditional/ mainline Protestant or Catholic churches.
You can trust me on what I’ve written above, and within the rest of this article, because I was quite content as a member of a traditional Protestant church for many years. It’s all about ‘horses for courses’ you see.
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 as well. 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 help you to understand what can happen in all sorts of 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 they may regularly hold. You may just need to find out the time and place when they do offer their actual Charismatic services. That is by comparison to more traditional gatherings they could provide for other churchgoers, in their fellowship, who are not in the movement.
3. FRONTING UP
If you have chosen to attend a fellowship of faith, in 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 there. It may depend whether you are already a baptised Christian, or not, as to how you can participate, or interact, during the fellowship for example.
You should be allowed as a previously baptised Christian, in most churches, to accept ‘the bread and the wine’, that is also referred as the ‘body and blood’ of Jesus. That is when it is offered during the service. And if you are a baptised Christian, you should also be allowed to 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 don’t worry either. You can still join in the service during prayers and songs (hymns). When you are ready to fully 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/ action there in the service, does relate to the ‘type of church‘ (its denomination) you are attending. Pentecostal churches will be a ‘bit more out there’ for example. Again, don’t worry though, they’ll welcome you when you attend there! 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 too.
At some point in the service, that ‘anointing’ by, or ‘filling’ with, the Holy Spirit may be offered by the service leader or other appointed members of the fellowship. And look, it can also be referred to in other names as well. Actually, I like the title, “touched by the Spirit”.
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 anyone to attend. Sounds crazy, you might think. Well … I say again and again that ‘I was once an obsessed atheist‘ myself, yet I am now convinced otherwise! Yes, as the auditor that I was at the time, I seriously checked it all out for myself. Please see the article, “Is this Spirit stuff real?” for my analysis of events experienced and witnessed by me, and my overall evaluation of results.
Also please 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 ‘in your face’. 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, prayers, Bible readings 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 people attending indeed 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. But others may find a service like that is actually too ‘in your face’. Indeed, I felt very unsettled once 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 whatever the pastor and the Spirit provided on that day. Yes, they both delivered!
However, in actual fact, you have absolutely NOTHING to be scared or worried 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 when he knows the time is right.
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 or filling (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 spiritually 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 to him.
6.2 We have to be ready
Yes, you have got to WANT it to happen to you. And 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 give you the 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. Absolutely so!
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 does arrive for an anointing. This can happen to us if we are too nervous in front of others in the fellowship. But when that 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’, ‘filling’ or ‘touch’ in a one-on-one setting. And I have had that one happen to me.
Of course the Lord would know that you had wanted to be touched and why you missed out. In such cases, he can start gently in that private setting and build the anointing upwards in a way 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 other possibilities he can use to ease us in to that Pentecostal/ Charismatic relationship (when that is what we want) and then later 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 driven to speak loudly in ‘tongues’ with very little encouragement. (‘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 plus years!
From my own experience, the vast majority of fellowships out there in the movement really are genuine. And you can definitely observe and indeed experience the Spirit’s presence there, during those services, in such a ‘tangible’ way. 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 that helps you feel comfortable in the movement, then ‘no problems at all’! 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 gentle, formalised services. Yes, he will still be there. Of course his presence will be much more ‘subtle’, in comparison to the movement.
Continue to the next article, “The subtle stuff in any church”.