And Yet…

I still remember how a song and dance made me flee from charismatic Christianity. I forget the name of the song now, but the church I wascharismatic-worship attending at the time made up this dance to it where you spun around in a circle while pointing your index finger in the air. I was usually spared the indignation of having to participate in this ridiculous spectacle because I played bass on the church’s worship team, but on this particular Sunday someone decided to play the song off a CD near the end of the service. Our pastor thought all the men of the church should show unity by coming up front and doing the dance. To paraphrase The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper, in an infinite number of churches, in none of them am I dancing.

And yet…

From that moment on, I began to lose my enthusiasm for the elements of the charismatic service. The newer praise and worship songs, the dancing, the hand-raising, the “words of prophecy” (More on that later…), the trendy author or speaker of the month, the marathon service lengths… What was exciting to me as a younger Christian had become wearisome. Worse yet, I had begun to question whether much of it lined up with scripture. Something was off.

And yet…

So my family and I began about a three-year period of searching for … something. We tried Sunday family devotions at home, getting together with friends at the park, visiting family members’ churches. We even wound up in a Presbyterian church for a while. Through it all, I think in the back of my head I was still thinking about getting away from songs and dances and unruly services. I started listening to more hymns. I became vaguely familiar with the Westminster Catechism. I learned more about Calvinism and reformed theology and big words like exegesis and eschatology. I finally felt as if my family was building a solid theological foundation.

And yet…

Our searching eventually brought us to a small, family integrated, non-denominational church located nearly 45 minutes away from where we live. It’s composed mostly of homeschooling families, which was a big plus for my wife, since she had struggled to find relationships with other women who didn’t work outside the home. And there are big families there. I mean big families, with seven, eight, nine children. Suddenly, our five didn’t seem like so many. Men are encouraged to participate in the services, and we serve our families communion each week. We have elders, but different teachers each week. I like the way we’re not so pastor/personality driven. I like how there is no designated “prophet” who feels the need to get up each week and say the same thing over and over again. And I especially like it that no one has demanded I dance.

And yet

One of my best friends is a pastor of a non-denominational, very charismatic church, and while I don’t attend there, he and I still talk quite often. A couple of weeks ago, he asked me if I could fill in for their bass player during that Sunday’s morning service. I had been jonesing to play bass with an actual band for a while, so after much hand-wringing and back-and-forth in my head, I decided to do it. The happenings of the service were pretty much what I expected: Hyper-emotional praise and worship, people blurting things out in “tongues,” and, of course, that guy who gave the same “prophecy” I had heard him give the last time I attended the church over a year ago. I didn’t see it, but I’m sure someone was dancing somewhere in the building.

And yet…

And yet my friend gave one of the more passionate and well-articulated messages I had heard in quite some time. And those hyper-emotional worshipers were genuinely excited to be in the building that day. And that guy who gave the “prophecy” … well, I still think that dude was off track. But there was a very palpable sense of anticipation there that day. The sermon itself revolved around Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s question of whether he was the Christ, a question he answered not with elaborate words or complicated theology but rather with a lengthy list of the miracles he had performed.

I guess that’s why I can’t bring myself to totally cut ties with the more charismatic side of Christianity. Because for all the goofy dances, hysterical utterings, and half-baked claims to know the future, there is truth to the fact that God does perform miracles and that we should be excited about that. We should come to church with open hearts, eager to see what God will do. As my family and I discovered, foundations are crucial, but foundations are meant to be built upon. If we could just somehow combine firm theology with charismatic hopefulness, we’d create a church that could shake the world.

It might even be enough to make me want to dance. Maybe.

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