Posted by: mylifeisepic | April 24, 2008

Denominational Distinctives

I’ve been a minister in a Pentecostal/Charismatic denomination (that will remain nameless on this blog), and I’ve grown up in this denomination for my entire life.  Now this fellowship has some wonderful and very Godly qualities about it, such as it’s focus on missions and it’s ability to back that up with finances, it’s heart for evangelism, it has various Bible colleges, it knows what it believes, and it is a worldwide fellowship with many, many adherents overseas.  I’ve been in this denomination my entire life and have no plans to change that.

But, what drives me nuts about it is it has a certain distinctive about it that has made it unique in it’s almost 100 year existence as a denomination, but I feel that this distinctive is making it divisive.  It’s not exactly this  distinctive that is causing the issues, but the way it handles this distinctive.

This issue is speaking in tongues.

Now, let me go on the record and say that I believe in this spiritual gift.  It is found numerous times throughout the New Testament and I truly believe it is real.  I see it in Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14, and other areas.

Being filled with the Spirit of God is real, and I believe that speaking in tongues is an evidence of that.  I also think the Fruit of the Spirit (as found in Galatians 5) are a clear-cut evidence of the spirit filled life.  We will be known by our FRUIT (the results of living a spirit filled life), not necessarily the gifts…right?

And I have no problem with a person, group, denomination, church – whatever – believing in speaking in tongues as a real part in the life of a Spirit Filled Believer.  None whatsoever.

But what drives me nuts is that this issue has become the banner that this denomination must wave.  Since tongues has what has kept this denomination distinctive for almost 100 years, it seems we are nervous to let anything be as important.

But should this be THE banner that we raise?  The banner we lift up for all to see?

I am not so sure.  Here is Song of Solomon 2:4:

He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love.

– or 1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Love.  That should be our banner.  Love.   Without that as our banner, we are out of balance.

Let me take a quick rabbit trail for a second:  I was recently at a youth ministry conference, and the speaker made an interesting illustration that I just can’t shake.  He was talking about him leading a youth retreat back in the late 70s, and he was unsure what exactly to talk about at the retreat when it came to the teaching time (haven’t we all been there?).  He got one idea and just ran with it.  He asked all of the kids at the retreat what were the biggest issues facing the church at the time.  Some of the answers here included:  speaking in tongues (or not to), free will, elements of baptism, when to have a service, what to do about homosexuals, abortion, contemporary worship or traditional, etc.  These, I feel, are an interesting cross section of what most church people think about when it comes to issues facing the church.

Then he asked the students what were the biggest issues facing the world as a whole.  Some of the answers here included:  famine, pestilence, war, terrorism, AIDS, disease, etc.  I feel that’s accurate, especially today.

But then, this speaker was stuck and unsure where to go from here.  So, he stepped back and he said that almost at the same time him and the students realized that for some odd reason, the issues on the left (church issues) and the issues on the left (world issues) had almost NOTHING in common. Whammy.

So, the lesson learned from that is – what kind of student/person is your church helping create:  the person that is well-versed in how to combat church issues, or the person that is well-versed in how to combat the issues that the majority of the world is dealing with?  Wow.  Whammy – again.

So with that said, it takes me back to this denominational “distinctive.”  Is the banner we fly and raise on Sunday mornings, in our ministerial meetings, in our group times together helping create a person who is more “well rounded” and aware of world issues, or are they stuck in a myopic denominational and theological world?

“The WHOLE Gospel for the WHOLE man for the WHOLE world.” I was taught that weekly at the Bible school I attended, which is a part of this denomination.  WHOLE Gospel – not just parts of it.

I was at a denominational meeting a while ago and one thing that I heard that really got me on this line of thinking was something that was said by a leader in our fellowship.  He was talking about speaking in tongues and specifically grace.  And he mentioned a “Baptist” view on grace, and flippantly (I think to try and get a laugh) he said, “But, we shouldn’t pay attention to that view on grace, because if the Baptists can’t understand tongues, they sure can’t understand grace.”

Point. Set.  Match.

WHOLE Gospel.  WHOLE man.  WHOLE world.

The American church is in decline.  We are fractured, broken, and more divisive than ever.

He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love. Song of Solomon 2:4

(AA)

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Responses

  1. i know how you feel.

    isn’t it funny how we too often focus on the non-issue?

    a spirit filled life should create transformation, but that’s a lot harder than speaking in tongues.

    and the responsibility and empowerment that comes with a spirit filled is great. a life of love, grace, and hope that attracts others to find god… it truly requires god’s help to live that.

    to me the issue isn’t so much about tongues as it is transformation and empowerment. and with those, we help others discover and know god.

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