The Charismatic Church

Well, my postings on this blog have been fewer and less frequent. I think with Facebook and Twitter and stuff, personal blogs are kind of going the way of the dinosaur. So I might kill this thing soon, but until then, I have a few more things to say…..

I played a gig this weekend up at a church in the mountains. I’ve played a lot of gigs at churches over the years and unfortunately you just never know what you’re going to walk into. Some churches are really laid back and mellow, some are upbeat. Some are full of younger people and some resemble retirement homes. In a lot of ways a church is like a club. Yes, they are supposed to be all about learning about and worshipping God, but they are also a place where people gather and enjoy community, and so each one develops a personality.

In a way that’s a good thing, because people need other people to associate with, relate to, and lean on. But in another way it’s really bad, because if you’re somebody who outside the club and just trying to learn about God, that club can be a tough group to penetrate. It can also be downright alienating to walk into a room where people are used to doing things a certain way, and you have no clue what’s going on.

So that’s how it is every time I walk into a church. You just never know what the routine is going to be, if you’re going to fit in, or what’s going to be expected of you. Most of the time though that experience is, if not enjoyable, at least non eventful. My experience this weekend does not fall into either category.

There’s a segment of the Christian church that is commonly known as “charismatic”. Charismatic churches are generally distinguished by very high energy preaching (yelling), audience participation (also yelling), something called “laying on of hands”, where people touch each others heads and stuff like they are transferring some kind of energy to you, and a very unique practice called “speaking in tongues”, which is basically yelling in a made up language. That’s the kind of church we played.

All I can say is that it was two and a half hours of complete and utter discomfort. It was distracting, unnerving, and honestly, pretty creepy. Now, I’m not going to go as far as saying these people are not Godly people or anything like that. I’m not to judge, and in normal conversations I found them to be very pleasing and kind. But I have to say that once the service started, it was like somebody opened a can of crazy.

Now, charismatics will argue that the bible talks about speaking tongues and about laying on of hands, etc, etc. I would argue that those passages in the bible haven’t been taken completely out of context. I would also argue that even in the early church Paul saw this stuff going on and argued for some sanity. (1 Corinthians 14).

The real problem here though for the church going forward is that I feel these churches are going out of their way to alienate people. I simply could not imagine walking into a church like that, never having been exposed to the Christian faith, and seeing all that chaos going on. I’ve been in many churches like that and I was still extremely uncomfortable. My wife who was raised Catholic and has never experienced this was in near tears by the time I could get her out of the building. Neither of us will ever go back there, even if you paid us.

So I think every church has to ask itself; Is what we’re doing the most effective way to tell as many unbelievers as possible about God? Because that’s really the primary mission of the church. And if you’re sitting in a room with the same 15 people week after week and everyones screaming at each other in some unknown language, then maybe you’re doing something wrong.