Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#135-The Easter Drama

In honor of this special week, we look at one of the most enjoyable features of the Easter Drama which reenacts certain features of the story of our Lord and Savior. 

If you have not witnessed a Passion play, you are missing out. Find the local mega church near you this weekend and make your way down there...

I do not know if it happens any more, but I do recall that the Pentecostals of Alexandria (the Mangun's church in Louisiana) setting the mark for perfection in Messiah plays amongst apostolic churches. And i think it was because they had real live donkeys and goats walking around the church for the performance...There have been several others churches to use real animals in their play to make the play seem more authentic...I can just envision the conversation now as to how live animals in a church Easter play became a good idea...

Producer: "How can we make our Jesus play as real as possible?"

Pastor: "Well they used to sacrifice animals in the let's get some real animals and have the priests cut them up beyond recognition and then sacrifice them to God....this will really bring the crucifixion scene home."

Producer: "Okay I do not know if the whole sacrifice thing will go over well. So let's just compromise and bring in live animals....but let's not kill them...."

But let's go to some other features of the Easter Drama...

Bed Sheets
Thanks to Stephany Mirelez for the inspiration behind this post, and more specifically this specific point, for as she pointed out Apostolics love Bed Sheets....simply because they allow us to dress the part in Easter plays....I think the entire attic at my church is flooded with these sheets...Fraternities have toga parties with the same material, we have sheet parties once a year.....

When you look at illustrations of how we suspect the Jews dressed, it's like everyone just got right out of their bed, and then decided that they didn't want to make their bed that day, so "why not just wear my bed out on the town today?"

Actually, as i wrote that last paragraph, I am realizing that I want everyday of my life to be a Dress up for Easter Drama would be so comfortable!

Beards/Devil's Paint
There are a few specific moments in my life where I can recall the initial birth of the skeptic/cynic within me. One of them was when I found out girl's in my church were allowed to wear cover-up (but never make-up). Another one was when a respected lady in my church was observed wearing a giant, shiny broach, but no one was throwing stones at her. But perhaps, none had a more profound effect than a glowing April day in 1992.

I was all of 6 years old and I had the largest role of any child within my church's "Messiah" play... (it was still none-speaking none-the-less). Anyways I made my way to the dressing room.....

And the anxiety of guilt instantly rang out in my heart....

There were very familiar faces with very unfamiliar facial hair on their face. And there were women and some men of familiarity from my church with very unfamiliar darkened "paint" on their face...

6/10ths of me wanted to pull a Jesus in the temple, and start making a disaster out of the room (complete with whipping my least favorite Sunday School teachers), and declare out loud "You have made the House of God a house of Jezebel you heathens!"....

but 4/10ths of me knew there was a satisfactory explanation to this apparent contradiction. And alas at inquiring of my mother, she explained that the make-up (devil's paint) was allowed because some ridiculous reasoning of the lights on the actor's face....

And then as for the beards...she pointed out that Jesus and all his friends rode down their alleys back in the day 13 deep and a lot of beard....

Me: "Okay, so Jesus had a beard right?"

Mom: "Yes."

Joel:"And we can't have a beard right?"

Mom: "Well son you haven't even hit puberty yet so you don't need to worry about that yet. but that is correct, having a beard isn't a good witness to the world and we need to look our best in church."

Joel: "But aren't we supposed to imitate Jesus?"

Mom: ...."Not exactly."

Okay, so maybe this is a "What in the world is he talking about?" section....

But every kind of Messiah Play I have attended at different churches has had some way over the top kind of explosion during the resurrection in the tomb scene....

And here's why: The Sound men...

We know the Sound men run a lot of weird sorcery with the sound to make the distinction that they are the most valuable contribution to the church service. They allow for mics to "coincidentally" run out of battery for the best singer on the platform if the singer ever makes demands of how the sound should be run.....they have millions of buttons and gidgets that eat up 48% of the church's budget that oddly enough only the sound men themselves can tell make a difference....It's a weird science from weird men...(see more specific post here. )

Anyways, it's these sound wizards that are the same people behind the giant explosions in the Jesus dramas....The only thing more entertaining to sound men than sound, is fireworks and explosions from the depths of hell. So the sound men searched throughout the gospels looking at their opportunity to involve the explosions within the church drama. And finally they see in Matthew 28 a description of an earthquake and an angel like lightning and that's all they needed....

So at the resurrection from the tomb (or perhaps they did it at the cross where an earthquake also happened in Matthew), a blast from out of nowhere rings throughout the church causing kids every where to cry and poop their pants, and pre-teen boys everywhere to want to go blow up a cat which will make them become a sadistic serial killer years later.

And here's the scariest part, we as the church body trusted these amateur pyrotechnics to blow stuff up. It's not like they were trained professionals. This kind of dynamic of uncertainty made me all the more happier during the plays...."Man i hope they mess up....I hope a real fire happens....Please God please god...let this Easter play end differently than the rest."

The Awe of the Dude who is playing Jesus

Maybe it was just me on this one, but did not everyone have like the biggest awe of the actor who played Jesus? I remember as a kid that whichever person in the church was playing Jesus loss their personal identity, and I would forever remember them as the guy who played Jesus. For some reason i also concluded that whoever had to play Jesus was extra spiritual, so this all added to the allure more...

except, on some rare occasions, some of the dudes who played Jesus decided to become pedophiles years later which completely obliterated any reverence for guys who played jesus ever.

There are many more facets to the easter drama but alas this post is getting too long...comment on some of your favorites not mentioned below...

Also, Twitter/facebook page it...

Monday, March 29, 2010

#134-The Front Row aka The 8 mile road of church

Note: Not only did SAL catch up to the 21st century last week by making a twitter, but we also scurried right on up to 2010 and made a facebook group page (right side of page as well)! Now we can be satirically cynical, but also encouraging to one another as a community to social networking believers in one place....

This blog is credited to a fellow Urshanite who once wrote an essay when he was at school (that I would randomly stumble upon months after the fact) that literally had me thinking C.S. Lewis' quote that defines friendship out loud: "What? You too? I thought I was the only one." He is also the primary source behind a future, more adventurous post that has been brewing for months....

Firstly, we have already addressed one aspect of the phenomenon of church seating with the post entitled "Claiming your seat in the sanctuary as a separate independent nation."

Now onto the most sacred part about church seating: The front row-

To quote the recommender, "the only place more sacred than the platform is the first row of pews." When I read this quote I wondered aloud...Is this true? Is the front row more unique in it's reverence than that the platform demands?

And I think ultimately the answer is yes....

The front row and those who possess claim to have the boldness to sit in it's hallowed seats do indeed hold a more sacred place amongst the congregation than that of the platform simply because the platform can include many of the lay congregation (through conga players, children's choir, etc...) while only the fanatic fancies him/herself ready to take on the great burden that is the front row....

In other words, the sacredness is not determined by the physical entity of the platform/front pew in relation to it's location within the church, but rather the sacredness is determined by the constituents who represent that sector as a whole....

And thus, we arrive at the front row as the most sacred location within the church....

For what religious zealot possesses the fervor to take such bold steps as to make the front pew his home? not I, who feels naked and ashamed in such a context....but rather those that have the guts of Abraham to kill the own son at the request of is these amongst us and in our church who reside in this holy arena of the front pew....

The one advantage of the front pew zealot: He does not have the long walk of shame at the onset of altar call as the others (who must awkwardly push their neighbor to the side in the pew to stumble up embarrassingly to the altar if the message is one that demands repentance.) For the front pew sitter is already present at the altar upon the altar call. Essentially this can partially explain the ecstatic behavior of the front pew sitter: They treat the entire church service like it was one long altar call....

But when we think front pew possessor, we think of the fanatic. They dance...they jump..they shout....when we're struggling to simply lift a hand during a song...

Better yet is the fanatic of all fanatics: The front row seater at big-time youth event. This not only means that they got to church a lot earlier than everyone else, but they did so with a determination that they are not here to impress anyone but God himself....And they really mean it....

Where most of us go "that's awesome...I wish I could have the guts to do that." They are actually doing it.

Which leads into the second part of the post....

the Front Row as the "8 Mile Road" of church....
Some of you may be familiar with the 8 mile movie starring the rapper Eminem (if you're not, don't watch it.)...but essentially the movie is named after 8 mile Road in Detroit (my home).....8 mile road is the road that separates Detroit and all it's roughness, criminal, and ghetto-related connotations that come with the city and that of the suburbs where life is much more calm and orderly. South of 8 mile is Detroit and chaos. North of 8 mile is suburban life (I live on 12 mile and thus in a very safe and middle to upper-middle class town). Those of us who live north of 8 mile (basically all my friends) kind of have a romanticism of Detroit. We try to head down there many of weekends (only enough guts to hang out in certain areas) when we get the opportunity, and we admire the lifestyle and the anarchy therein of those who our age who live in Detroit. Just like there is a longing for us to return to nature in us all at times, there is a longing for suburbanites to want to return to the urban centers that once were but are no more.....

The reality is we know that we couldn't survive one day living in Detroit as a real detroiter. We couldn't keep up with the madness. We would get caught at gun point within the first week and go running home to our mommies....But that doesn't stop the longing

I hope you see the analogy in relation to the front pew fanatic. We think they're slightly crazy. We look in shock and their worship, wondering what in the world is going through their head, but there is also a longing where we wish we could have boldness in church to act so free unashamed of the onlookers behind us....

Of course for the evolutionary psychologist within me, I would call this front row sitting an act of signaling wherein the male who is looking for a female mate signals to the female that in their front row sitting and the exuberant worship therein, they are indicating more than anyone else that "they are spiritual." And when one is spiritual this closely implies a higher probability that they will grow up to be a preacher/pastor which is every good apostolics girl's dream: to marry a preacher because that is the highest respected alpha male office in our social setting. So the front row enthusiast is actually beating us all to getting the best girls....(i mention the part about apostolic girls wanting to marry preacher in jest).

And to think that after all this typing I did not get to another crucial aspect of pew-sitting: The further you gradually slip back in the pews, the more you are considered a backslider all the way to the point of the dreaded "backrow backslider." But alas, i will leave this to a future post.

(For all those concerned, I think that if we stopped accepting post suggestions now, we'd still have roughly 100 or so more posts to write...that said, keep sending the suggestions!)

Not only have we

Monday, March 22, 2010

#132-Taking verses out of context....(aka our priceless endeavor to educate on context and not brief sentences)

To fully understand this post, let's see an extreme example...

Psalms 14:1- "...There is no God..."

Done. Atheism is proven by the bible....

Except, of course for my honesty to include the ellipses indicating there is more to the verse than what I wrote....

which upon further investigation will reveal that it is the fool who says there is no God.

But the idea is evident, it's very easy to pry small parts of the bible and the foundation from which God and the author intended, and use them for your own assumptions to back up some weird image of how God works....

The difficulty from the verse quoted above is that the verse was pried from it's immediate context within a verse itself. The trouble comes with understanding that chapter breaks were not even within the bible until 1227 AD via Archbishop Stephen Langton. Verses were not apart of the bible until the 1400's. That means for the first 14 centuries of Christianity, the idea of quoting specific verses was unheard of.

So let's look to some of my favorite verses that are ripped from their immediate context for the sake of supporting a peculiar view of God which is not necessarily justified within the broader context of which the scripture is ripped from.... (I have not done anything of a comprehensive list in hopes that the comment section will include other examples)....This means that each verse that is quoted necessitates us to read the entire chapter/book to grasp it's larger context

My favorite for apostolics:
James 2:19-"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."
This verse has us using justification that God is one. Except James is mocking the point. There is nothing to brag about the fact that we know God is one. It does not add us any extra benefits in such an acknowledgement. Even the demons themselves know that God is one and as we know, demons are not on the fast track to heaven.

Philippians 4:13-"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
As if this verse means I can become president of the United States or fly via my own wings if I wanted to. Or worse yet, let it be a verse that justifies a pursuit of wealth. I have observed a church that had this verse painted on it's back wall as if it was the justification they needed that all matters of pursuit of material success were justified in this brief sentence. Yet Paul writes this statement from within jail and as a proof that God will give him the strength of contentment (v. 12) in all his circumstances.

Matthew 7:1 which cites "judge not lest ye be judged." As in the picture above, some people assume that judgement is reserved for God alone.  Except these same people fail to read the rest of the context of the verse which clearly demonstrates that once one takes the plank out of their own eye, it is feasible to help a brother along with their sin (or the "speck" in the neighbor's eye). See the second half of I Corinthians 5 for further proof that in being brother's with another, judgement in hopes of reconciliation is not only acceptable but promoted.

Matthew 18:20- "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I with them."

Firstly, we must notice that if we take this scripture as absolute truth, let's understand that it's numerical opposite may very well be true also: "If one is gathered in my name, I am not with them." Of course we know how ridiculous this idea is. We know that God is with us in our prayers through one person or by a community.

The worst is the fact that the immediate context has nothing to do with prayer as supposed. The reality is the context is dealing with rebuke amongst a body of believers. See I Corinthians 5 again for further evidence of the idea that judgement and rebuke may occur via the pronouncement of a body of believers.

Point being, that in context this verse has absolutely nothing to do with prayer.

I Corinthians 15:31- "I Die Daily." Never have I witnessed a scripture so consistently stripped from it's context and applied to a need for daily biblical devotion within a sermon than that which is quoted here. But I really believe, the tendency to rip such scripture from it's context (which has to do with daily sufferings in Paul's life) and apply it to prayer displays our horrible irreverence for the Word and manipulate it any which way we want without thought about what we may be doing to God's word.

I repeat, this verse has nothing to do with killing our flesh daily in prayer.

II Corinthians 6:14- "Do not be unequally yoked." Probably the second most popular verse to rip from it's context and apply some insane meaning which Paul, nor God ever intended. This verse has nothing to do with marriage. The bigger context of the immediate verse itself demonstrates the need to be weary of friendships which unite the "unbeliever and the believer...darkness and light..." Degrees of spirituality or the suspected amount one prayers or the invisibility of one's ministry outside of the platform/altar should have no bearing on who we decide to marry (at least with this verse in mind)...

In closing, thanks to my good, great, and long lost friend, John Wallace for the banner. I think the awkwardness of the banner fits well with what we're going for here on the site. Also, remember to leave your own verses taken out of context in the comment section...and a reminder about our new twitter...

I love you all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#131-Not Gay People

Firstly, stuff apostolics like has a twitter! You can find the feed at the right side of the page. Follow us. You should find the occasional commentary on SAL topics that do not have enough content to deserve a post and an announcement about a new posting...with this in mind, if anyone has any photo shop skills/creative ideas, a logo for this place would be awfully nice (I'll write a very sincere formal piece of mail to you at your home address/and also on your facebook page....I'll even make my own amateur microsoft paint photo for you (it will be like from a 3rd grader)...

And now to the topic...

This one will probably make me out to be a bad guy (if i am not already)...A long time back I did a preachy post on the horror of how interracial marriage/dating is frowned upon in many circles in our's one more preachy post...

Apostolics do not like gay people.

It's actually quite a common preaching point complete with Bill O'Reillyesque commentary that God made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve and that America is a Christian nation and should never allow gay people to marry. 

I can specifically remember a preacher at a conference uttering the derogatory term "faggots" across the pulpit and preaching against them. Ironic that undoubtedly 99% of the people in the auditorium were straight (or self-proclaimed straight), and the preacher thought it was high time to preach against the "pandemic" of homosexuality when frankly it's topical relevance to that audience was zero. Sure, we were all suffering from pride, arrogance, selfishness, fornication, disobedience, and a hideous amount of materialism, but why not take 5 minutes that a pastor is paid to speak into the lives of young people and rail against a small minority of people who feel ostracized from society at large as it is?

I was encouraged by the fact that a good quarter of the audience stayed seated and sat shocked by the announcement. I was horrified to see the rest stand up and applaud and amen the preacher right along with it. This happened two years ago. 

Last 3 weeks ago, I saw the same evangelist at a youth rally, and he used the exact same preaching point, much to the same reaction.

But it's what we as apostolics do. We find groups that are marginalized and obscure and rail on them without empathy for the dilemma. We avidly disbelieve any claim of the homosexual that they were born this way, and say homosexuality is a choice. And in doing so we feel justified in our paranoia of this "disease." 

Now where it gets awkward is those two or three very effeminate men from our church or nearby churches...We know them, we gossip about them, but we will do nothing to reach out. They are too different for us to extend God's loving arm to, so we become friends or acquaintances of them, but leave their troubles and their fears to themselves to figure out. 

Now some of you may be thinking that I am justifying the sin. I am not. What irks me is that homosexuality is seen as some kind of super sinner on the fastest road to hell. We have ministries to save drug addicts, fornicators, and alcoholics, but we do not know how/or want to touch the reconciliation of homosexuals with the God that wants so dearly to love them. We are God's helping hand, and we keep it open to every kind of sinner to salvation, but that of the gay person. We may even know a few gay people who were converted, but what irks me is that I do not know who gay person who was converted, who slipped up, and then was still extended further mercy upon their transgressions by the church. 

We say to hate the sin and love the sinner. But does this hold true for our treatment of homosexuals?

And then I guess this is where some chime in that it's an abomination in the Old Testament?

Proverbs 6:17 lists the liar and those who have a proud look (i think all of us have been guilty of), as those which God hates and considers an abomination.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Ahh food. America’s greatest vice. What demonstrates the excess in America more than the muffin tops spilling over our waist lines as we walk into our local eateries. And no one loves food more than this guy.
I enjoy all types of food, from the deliciousness of mine and Joel's favorite barbeque (Slows BBQ, look into it), to a good chicken shawarma. From the deserts of the Middle East to the cafĂ©’s of Sicily, from chili dog to shrimp tempura, there’s no type of food I’ll not try.
But the irony I love about apo’s is the intensity with which we condemn other vices while stuffing our faces full of saturated fats. Some of the greatest messages I’ve ever heard were preached by preachers who were pushing 300 lbs.
“Don’t drink that! You might get drunk!! Don’t smoke that! Know ye NOT that your body a ha, is the temple, a ha, of the Hoooooollllyyyyyy Ghhosttt?!?”
….three hours later….
“Yes I’ll take the 18 ounce porter house, rare, mashed potatoes with extra gravy, and an extra sweetened ice tea. Oh and also the loaded bacon cheese fries as an appetizer, thank you.”
It seems we’ve given our most addictive vice a free pass…
The irony of all of this is the logic stretching and ignoring of scripture.
We’ll preach against alcohol outright when the bible only speaks against drunkenness, with the logic being that drinking at all leads to drunkenness and since we all know that Christians can’t do anything in moderation we have to ban it altogether.
We preach against smoking, which isn’t even in the bible, though they were definitely smoking in that time, and the logic we use, (albeit good logic), is that our body is the temple of God and a gift and we should honor it and not defile it. Makes sense.
We forbid tattooing with little scriptural support (inapplicable Levitical law), on the basis that it is harmful to our bodies, but uuuuhhh… Starting to see the inconsistencies?
We have to stretch scripture, use loose semantics and hyperbole to draw these conclusions, but what about this:
Proverbs 23:2
and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”
And this:
Proverbs 23:20-21
"Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the GLUTTON shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."
And then there’s all that moderation and self control stuff Paul is always talking about...
There’s not really a point to all of this, just trying to call attention to a humorous hypocrisy. The fast track to being seated from your ministries would be to walk into Applebee’s and order a Corona with lime, but you can eat a 1,400 calorie meal and chase it down with a maple butter blondie and brother I appreciate your ministry!
I propose we start calling it like we see it. Those overweight preachers don’t have a glandular problem or a low thyroid. They’re addicts, just like any other addict, and they need help, just like the alcoholic, and should have some accountability.
But this phenomenon isn’t isolated to preachers. Our pews are about a Big Buford and large fry away from needing steel reinforcement. And if it weren’t for Pentecostal women, plus sized womens stores would have gone out of business twenty years ago. And the men don’t exactly have LL Cool J’s abs either. Thank God for adjustable waistband pants or we’d be at church in our Wilson Athletics and a size 54L blazer!
So ladies and gentlemen, please, let’s start practicing moderation in all area’s of our lives, not just the ones that are easy. It’s no sacrifice to not consume alcohol, but to pass on your third Mountain Dew – that’s a challenge of will power.
May our eyes and arteries be opened!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

#129-Gang Prayer

Giving honor to whom honor is due (yet another thing Apostolics like), I must start out by acknowledging that Joel coined this term. However, after reading his home run post on the Altar Hierarchy System, I felt that gang prayer deserved an entry of its own, and with his blessing, decided to pen this post. Gang prayer as a phenomenon should be discussed more in depth, but we would do well to include discussion of the individual members and functions of the gang prayer team as well.

Gang prayer definitions and conventions
To be clear, 'gang prayer' is a noun which denotes the Pentecostal ritual of an assembly of people rallied around one, usually at the altar in an attempt to bring the person (henceforth known as the "praythroughee") to a state of physical, emotional, outwardly observable response. The praythroughee's reponse is the desired ending to gang prayer, although it also sometimes dissipates if the praythroughee fails to respond accordingly. The infinitive verbal form of 'gang prayer' is 'to gang-pray' (note the insertion of the hyphen). The verb form is often accompanied by a direct object and normally used with the preposition 'through.' Ex: The fervent congregation members were ready to gang-pray John through to the Holy Ghost as soon as altar call began.

IMHO, gang prayer has good intentions. Some of us have a need to ensure that people get what they need from God, and gang prayer, for some, is a means to that end. However, gang prayer gets tricky when it relies so heavily on an outward response. Once the person starts crying and jumping around, we can breathe a sigh of relief and go on with our business, knowing that God is still able to touch them. The downside is that though emotional responses can be positive, they are rarely indicators of lasting change. It can also get annoying because a response of a certain type is expected. Sometimes the praythroughee feels obligated to go through the motions due to that expectation to satiate the gang prayers rather than actually having any spiritual needs met.

Meet the gang prayer team
Gang prayer is not as simple as it sounds. There are specific roles that each member plays in order to maximize the chances of the gang prayer being a success. Here are the most common of them:

1. The Arm-Uplifter—That person who feels it necessary to keep the praythroughee's arms uplifted. There's some kind of Pentecostal folkloric belief that you have to have your arms upraised to receive anything from God.

2. The Whisperer—They're all up in the praythroughee's face and the Whisperer's breath can be felt as he or she whispers holy sweet nothings into the praythroughee's ear. What they say is usually soothing, always spiritual and more often than not, intelligible. (i.e. "Yes . . . that's right . . . That's the Lord's Spirit . . . don't be afraid . . ." )

3. The Yeller/Screamer—This person is also all up in the praythroughee's face, but instead of feeling his ears being tickled and warmed by soothing breath, the volume causes the praythroughee's ears to ring, making him wonder if God will then restore his hearing after He's finished having His way. The Yeller/Screamer's exhortations are not soothing suggestions, but rather firey demands, and also interspersed with unintelligible glossolalia. (i.e. "Let the Lord have his way! Recieve it! Let go! Don't hold back!")

4. The Back-Rubber—This person feels obliged to make sure the praythroughee gets a holy back rub, either in an attempt to make the praythroughee feel at ease, or out of a misguided hope that they can literally rub the Holy Ghost into somebody.

5. The Rocker—This person starts a back-and forth motion and obligates everyone involved in the gang prayer to stay in motion as well. Staying in rhythm is necessary because if anyone’s timing is off, there will be a bit of uncomfortable collision. Besides, the Holy Ghost likes it when folks move around.

6. The Clapper—These people don't usually physically touch the praythroughee. They just huddle around around and clap, maybe interspersing encouraging commands in an effort to create an atmosphere of praise around the praythroughee, thus allowing the Spirit to flow more easily.

7. The Head-Palmer—This person is either Mufasa, one of the Pillars or one of the Excited Ones, (see the Hierarchy post) and they often play the role of either Whisperer or Screamer as well. The head palm is like hitting the gas on the Spirit's movement, and it usually happens after the other six team players have already had a crack at the praythroughee for a few minutes. Once that palm is planted on the praythroughee's forehead, something better happen. It must be noted that each Head-Palmer has a special style of handling the forehead (sometimes the entire head) of the praythroughee. Perhaps discussion of head-palming styles will be fodder for a subsequent entry.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#128-The In-N-Out/Bi-Monthly Pray-througher

“Fast Apo’s Conscience Cleanse. Pull your soul in every 3,000 sins for a guilt-flush and conscience cleanse!”

This pretty much defines itself. We know exactly who I’m talking about. They treat the altar like a metaphysical oil change. Enter-pray through-socialize-and on to the club we go!

Once a month we see this peach of a person. The characteristics are generally the same. They’re usually a girl, somewhat-to-very good looking, in her late teens to mid-twenties, and very conflicted. She’d say she wants to live for God, but has so much in her life, blah blah blah. The “things” in her life pulling her away usually amount to the same things everyone has in theirs: full time job, school, boyfriend, etc.

This member of our congregational roster is usually the catalyst in the Breakout Service. The Shouting Song plays and said person is so overcome by guilt and raw emotion that they begin to respond. Soon after the Militant Altar Workers (future post) and Helping Hands bombard the person, which catches the attention of the rest of the congregation and I’ll be doggoned if a revival doesn’t break out! That is, if you define revival by a lot of screaming, a temporary alleviation of a guilty conscience followed by an inevitable return to the same debaucherous behavior within the week.

This person is met with much care and concern when inside the four walls but ceases to exist when gone. We rejoice with her when she prays through, yet treat her like she has SARS when she isn’t there, for fear that her sinful lifestyle is a contagious airborne virus. Her in-and-out pattern is as much our fault as it is hers, but I’ll stop preaching, as this is taking a bit of a serious turn.

May we treat our in-n-outers with a little gentler care and concern in the future! Adieu.

Monday, March 8, 2010

#127-The altar Hierarchy system

Okay, first off, this idea is completely not my own. A good friend has long held this idea, but he does not want to be cited in this article for fear of ramifications in his current cultural context. But the show must go on....

What we have above is a hierarchical chart that basically defines who is allowed to pray for who at the altar. The theory goes that there are clearly defined roles for each church patron on who they can allow to pray for them and who they can pray for. Within these rankings (which can allow  for promotion/demotion as necessary), the answer comes as to who is more spiritual than who and with that, a level of respect/contempt is associated with the appropriate level accordingly.

An expansion of the roles outlined in the picture above

The Pastor-This is pretty much self-explanatory. The only occasion by which the pastor (or bishop) may be prayed for is by the following population figures (the numbers in parenthesis denoting the amount of people necessary from said group that can then pray for the pastor):
                     -Elders/Leadership (2-3)
                      -The Pillars (3-5)
                     -The Steady bunch (4-6)
                    -The Youth Group as a whole
                     -The church as a whole
                     -The Emotional- (never...but it does happen on occasion and it's always Awkward)
                    -The Sinner (don't even think about it)
Further, the Pastor is the only one who it can be said that he may pray for anyone he likes. And when the pastor makes his way to pray for someone (most of the time it's the sinner and/or "the one going through a lot") a reaction by the one getting prayed for  is mandatory. If the reaction is apathetic, expect an attempt at an exorcism or the stretching of hands all over the congregation in the direction of the spiritual crisis.

The Leadership/Elders- Once again, pretty self-explanatory.  It must be said the roll of the leadership/elder is generally much more actively involved with the rest of the congregation than that of the pastor. 

The Pillars-They are the rocks of the church. While not bound by a formal title, the amount of respect they command is pretty much the same of that of the leader/elder. Outside of those above, do not think about praying for these pillars. Although pillars do tend to pray for each other (horizontally), and it is quite common to see one pillar "getting it" in regards to the Holy ghost, and to be supported by 1-2 fellow pillars encouraging the "getting it." After roughly 5-10 minutes of one pillar "getting it," the tables are occasionally turned where the one who "got it" turns to the prayer supporter and encourages them to "get it."

The Steady/but taken for granted- They are the ones who you don't have to worry about. They are consistent at church but they don't yet command the respect that the pillar commands in the years of reputation build up. Generally, they are not usually involved praying for others (save a best friend), but at the same time, most people let them have their space and go unprayed for. That is, until one of "the steady" start "getting it" and at such a point, the pillar/fellow steady brethren become encouragers. Unlike the "pillars" the "steady" person who starts to "Get it" rarely turns the table on the encourager. Also, it can be seen on occasion to find the "emotional" for the class below to be praying for them in usually  a spat of boldness/confusion/misinformation.

The Emotional/ "Going through a Lot"- While on the same level of respect on the hierarchy, the "Emotional" are not to be confused with those who are "Going through a lot." 

  • The emotional are the ones sobbing the loudest at a sad worship song and dancing the hardest at the first note of Eddie James' "Freedom". Further, it is "the emotional" who are the least respectful of the altar hierarchy system. At any given moment, the "emotional" can be seen praying for a church elder, pastor's wife, or a Sunday School Teacher. It is the "emotional" who are usually the ones running around with anointing oil of their own and  praying for the foreheads of any unsuspecting church member (usually complete with "head rocking" and speaking in tongues the volume of a Ramones concert. Essentially, despite being the second lowest level of authority in the altar hierarchy system, the "emotional" assume the role of the elder.
  • "The Going Through a Lot" is pretty self explanatory. This group consists of those who were recently found out to be living in some kind of God-forbidden sin (such as those who were kicked off the platform) and are now repentant. Also it is those who are going through some massive trial not for the faint of heart (death/divorce/dehydration, etc...). It is when one sees people from the "steady" grouping praying for a pillar quite passionately that it is safe to assume the former pillar has now assumed the role of "Going through a lot." It is at such an altar sight that the rumor mills begin churning as to why Bro. So-and-so was kicked off the platform or speculation that Sis. Courtney discovered her daughter coming out of a near-by movie theater and thus is weeping for her daughter's salvation. At such a point, Sis. Courtney demotes herself from "pillar" to "Going Through a lot" in hopes that the demotion will serve as a promotion of her rebellious daughter who is confined to the stage of sinner....
The Sinner-The Sinner is obviously at the bottom of the hierarchy. And for good reason, the sinner is up to no good. It is the sinner to whom most of the messages about “apostolic identity/holiness” are directed towards. They also write tend to write blogs about apostolics in a satirical manner. The sinner rarely finds him/herself at the altar, but when they do the participation is minimal.

But there is a dynamic about the sinner that makes them different from the rest. Just like the pastor can only be prayed for by a group of members of the lower classes, the same must be said of the sinner. To begin, the sinner can only be prayed for by either an elder/parent/pastor. The rest stay away in fear of the demoniac or in hopelessness. However, once  one of the “permitted” begin to pray for the sinner, the rest of the congregation will soon gang-pray the sinner to salvation.

The “Gang-Pray until breakthrough” is one of the weirdest rituals in our apostolic circle. Not only is there no bible for the practice, but there does not seem to be any spiritual utility to the act. Why must the congregation gather around the sinner? Can’t the same effectiveness of spiritual breakthrough happen with the congregation spread throughout the church? But yet these prayer barbarians gather around the sinner in hopes that the Lord may have His way. The strangest part is that the praying of a sinner does not seek for repentance from the sinner. For that is not good enough. Rather and quite sadly, the only thing the “gang-pray” will be satisfied with is when the sinner is either sobbing uncontrollably or is dancing ecstatically. Only when there is an act of visual emotion displayed do we know God has had his way with the sinner.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

#126-Singing Special AKA

(Special thanks to a favorite Canadian who recommended this post and much of it's content to me. )

First off, let me say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the singing special part of church. To me, it is the most real aspect of the church service. It reminds us of our humanity. There comes time in many a church service where we are floating on heaven. We forget that Obama is president, we forget about the dying children in Africa, and we forget about the earthquakes messing the world up (save a prayer request). We are in our element in church, free to be ourselves without the cares and criticisms of the world. We can pray and shout and dance our lives away and know that we have the truth. Church, in these instances is heaven on earth. That is....

Until the church solo comes crashing into our lives.....and the awkwardness that entails, and how on occasion it allows those who normally go unnoticed in church get their chance to shine....I will forever be a fan of the church solo in church. 

And for those of you who have not been here from the start (most), let us not confuse the church solo with the tradition that we all think we deserve a solo

But there are some many facets to the singing special that I don't know where to begin. As a part-time sound man, I love how most of the tracks people sing along to come on cassette. The cassette has been dead since Clinton's inauguration, but yet here as Apostolics, we hold on dearly to these remnants of the past, as if, if the cassette forfeits it's rights in church to the CD, so too will kids be allowed to bring Harry Potter books into church soon after.

The singing special usually comes around the lull of the service, at some fixed point surrounding offering and before the sermon. When it happens, pure magic is set to ensure. The singer(s) walked up to the microphone clearly in a state of anxious disrepair. Maybe their is a cough in their throat to break the silent tension (the tension worsened because this is vacation time in the service for most of the congregation where they can sit without not worried if they will be scrutinized for not standing up to worship during this time). 

The singer has two options: 

  • A miniature sermon which most likely includes a testimony (As my brother-in-law wants to always know, "why does the singer feel so obligated to preach? The preacher doesn't feel obligated to sing."). This mini-sermon though most likely has nothing to do with the song which makes the disconnect and awkwardness that much better.
  • or to just stare blankly at the audience for a few seconds and awkwardly and politely ask the crowd to "worship with me as I sing" (or of course the rare jewel of "worship me as I sing"). I personally prefer the second option here because the awkwardness going into the song is usually greater when there is no mini-sermon to ease the crowd into their seats
Now the climax of the whole ordeal comes before the first note even hits. It's the "head-nod" to the sound-man. It is the next few moments where the silence will be most heightened and the awkwardness blaring at it's loudness. The soundman sometimes purposefully, sometimes incidentally usually fumbles around with a few switches to get the soundtrack live. BONUS POINTS IF THE SOUND BOARD IS NOT WORKING PROBABLY LEAVING THE SINGER IN A NIGHTMARE SITUATION!

Once the music comes through the speakers, the track is usually some warbly mess. 

From here the tension has still not resided as the singer is usually off-key for the first verse or so at least (ULTIMATE WIN if lyrics are forgotten)

Now here's what I am proposing....Let us live our live like it were one giant singing special....

When we go up to strangers, let's have a microphone in hand. Stare into the depths of the eyes and cough in your throat. While the confusion is on the increase, tell the stranger/friend, "Worship with me as I sing." and then of course from there give a head-nod to a soundman who is not actually there....and then sing acapella to your favorite worship song. It seems like there is much potential here. Can you imagine doing this when you go to order at McDonald's?

I do not have any of those horror stories to recount about singing specials going horribly bad. If you, dear reader, do have any such stories, please recount them in the comment section.