Saturday, April 07, 2007

New Birth vs. Cloned Pentecostals

Are folks getting the "real" Holy Ghost? Is there such a thing as a "false" infilling? I have heard it stated that, because a non-apostolic preacher delivered the message of salvation, that folks who came to God at the close of the message received a "false" Holy Ghost, not "the real thing".

Let the record show that I wholeheartedly disagree with such sentiment. God uses whom He will, and He has used preachers outside the confines of the UPCI to deliver His Word when the occasion called for it. It's tough to swallow...I know; we tend to think that God has limited His anointing to only those who carry a fellowship card.

I am not convinced there is a "false Holy Ghost"; I am concerned, however, over what appears to be the "cloning" of Pentecostals.

There seems to be a trend in our churches lately (much more evident in large conferences or conventions) where it seems folks are almost rushed to the point of speaking in tongues, then someone (usually the person praying with them) pokes a thumb in the air, waves a hand, or shouts excitedly "Here's another one!"

I am concerned that we are dangerously close to by-passing God in our attempts to fill churches. Some have made accusations that our ministers are "just out to pad their numbers" or "just looking to get some more tithe-payers", and other hurtful statements. Overall, however, I don't believe that is the case. I do feel, however, that we are obsessed with "reaching the lost", to the point that we attempt to create what must be born. We have derided scientists for cloning sheep and other animals, and have cried loudly against their desire to attempt cloning humans. "It is unnatural! Only God can create life!" we say. Yet we are recklessly attempting to "clone" God by creating "Pentecostals"...not born-again Christians.

It seems (to me) that the accepted norm is now to "get 'em in the door by whatever means necessary" with the idea that we'll train folks into the Holy Ghost. By no means am I advocating that we should keep our doors closed and our focus narrow; I am stating, however, that we can never replace an apostolic experience with a classroom environment. Thank God for home bible studies; thank God for small groups' meetings and home friendship groups. These, however, should be accessories to the moving of the Spirit in our churches...not replacements.

First, I am concerned with this "it only takes a moment to repent" ideaology. Perhaps that's because I've always been very tender-hearted, and when I fail God, I find myself sobbing on the floor, broken at the idea of hurting Him. There is much to be said for godly sorrow, and I firmly support the idea that kneeling is a posture of submission to God. Let the sinner kneel in the presence of a holy God! Let them cry, let them weep, let them get snot on their chin, taste the salt of their own tears! Don't raise them to their feet and say "Now worship God!" We need a revival of repentance in our altars; the church needs to be the ones leading the way, and the sinners will soon follow. Every move of God in scripture was preceded by a time of brokenness and repentance...not by a worship chorus singing "I wanna dance dance dance dance dance dance all night...all night". We're fond of quoting Joel 2:28, but we need to read the first part of that chapter, where Joel 2:28 was preceded by a time of weeping, repentance, sackcloth and ashes.

Secondly, we need to quit this "lalalala" thing, trying to subtly teach folks how to speak in tongues. This is just my feelings on the issue, but I will say it: When I'm praying with folks in the altar, and I feel the "urge" to speak in tongues, I back off from the seeker. I don't want them listening to me thinking "That's what I'm supposed to say." I've seen folks seeking the Holy Ghost, and it bugs me to no end to watch folks pray with them and yell tongues into their ear. If you feel good, fine...back away and do your thing, but don't confuse someone else by causing them to think they have to speak like you're speaking. There are thousands of languages, and thousands of dialects, and the Holy Ghost may move on them to speak Swahili....not Hebrew like you are. People get confused when they hear a good ol' sister jabbering, because they think that's how it's supposed to sound. We need to pray with and for people...not at them. Let the Spirit give the utterance, and quit trying to demonstrate how it's supposed to sound!

On another note (yet in the same line), there is a great man of God who heavily influenced my life and ministry. I love him and hold him in the greatest esteem as a man of God, but I wholeheartedly disagreed with him when he would work the altars and tell people, "When I got the Holy Ghost, I only spoke three words in tongues." That's fine, but (again, just my opinion) that's dangerously close to telling someone to be satisfied with just a little murmer or momentary jabber. Let them speak for an hour if God does it that way; keep your personal testimony for another time.

Thirdly, we have seriously bypassed the joy of receiving the Holy Ghost. When folks say a few words in garbled English (often the result of not being able to swallow their own spittle), we scream "That's it! That's the Holy Ghost!" Hey, that was the object of the game, wasn't it? So why stand around and wait for something different, especially when their arms are tired. So they stop short of the full experience of being born all over again. It was harmful enough that they didn't fully die (because they were told they'd repented enough already) but now they're being born without truly experiencing the life-giving event. Folks need to experience the full effect of God changing their life.

Last, and I believe this answers a lot of questions about whether folks are getting the "real deal" or not, if you have to tell someone they got it, chances are good they didn't. I'm not saying they didn't speak in tongues; I'm saying they didn't get the apostolic experience.

We need to understand that there's more to this than just our supposed "finish line" of speaking in tongues. No one has to tell a newborn infant, "Guess what? You've just been born!" The wonderment, the attempts to focus, even the fear of an unknown world, tells that little guy (or girl) that something is curiously different! Why does a newly-born-again person have to be told that things are different? If they're unaware of any change, again...there probably wasn't any change. Our fixation on getting people to speak in tongues is crippling us, and is creating weakened, damaged new converts that demand much of our attention.

And we've brought it on ourselves by spiritually "induced labor".

We have, I'm afraid, grown somewhat lazy and selfish. Child-bearing has never been a comfortable process, and often exacts hours upon hours of agonizing labor from the mother, not to mention the nine months or so of discomfort she has endured to this point of delivery. As a church, we should not expect to come easy that which has demanded---both physically and spiritually---so much since the beginning. I believe that if this apostolic church returned to the basics of prayer, fasting, and travailing for children to be born---instead of looking for spiritual surrogates---God would move in our altars, and the "old-time" New Birth experience would be seen again.

Until such time, however, we will continue to create our "Pentecostals", rather than watching our churches give birth to apostolics.

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