This is post is brought to you by the vibrant and sensible intellect of Brandon Curry, who is currently an
resident, but I think I can safely claim him as a Michigander…. Iowa
For the many of us out there who have grown up in the pews, women dancing in the spirit, men running in suits, and the shouting unknown tongues were all as common to us as secretly saying curse words were for other kids. Relatively bizarre and outward displays of emotion were the normative for apostolic church, whereas the rest of the world would have to settle for an episode of Jerry Springer, WWE Monday Night Raw, or the Rocky Horror Picture so to see “different and exciting.”
Preachers will shout off the peaks that our differentiator is in our holiness standards. While standards (or “distinctives” as the term is being better known as) are indeed a different maker, I argue that our identity is not born out of the standards, as much as our difference really rests out of having “Good church.” Many other obscure denominations have come to share similar standards as us (even the Orthodox Jews), but many of these same obscure denominations still find themselves gawking at the way we have church…
How often do we hear this one?:
"I thought this was an Apostolic (substitute “Pentecostal”) church I came to tonight. It says that's who you are in phone book, even on the front of the building..."
How many denominations can say that it’s a good thing when the preacher starts disrobing himself amidst the sermon by removing his suit and passing it on to his assistant in waiting?
How many a denomination can proudly declare that good church happens when it looks more like a McDonald’s play land than classroom in a
? British Boarding School
How many a churches can say that raising your hands at the altar in prayer over and over again can be hazardous to your spiritual health if not accompanied with the occasional jump, sprint, roll, and loss of a bobby pin?
How many pastors can say they went and done had good church not because of the content of the sermon but rather by the length of the altar call?
So I would posit, that it is in the spirit of being apostolic, one of the crucial pillars of our identity is our drive towards having good church…..
In fact, most of our denomination’s ailment’s can be said to be able to be healed by more “good church.”
We argue that the sudden influence of the emergent church and the tendency towards a compromise of standards in our movement can be traced to the very rock to which we built our foundation on: Having Good Church. Back to the good ole days when services ran 3 hours deep and revivals, 6 days a week (yet whenever it’s preached as a good thing, a dread reaches the ears of the listeners, and a kind of “You got it made” attitude comes from the speaker). More time at the altar. Longer Sermons. More Services. More time in the Prayer room before church services.
We tend to sell this point as if we were salesman with a product. Sure prayer and more “good church” cost us time, but the reward will be more revival which means more converts which means more personal validation for our own congregation as being the “right” congregation.
This is where the salvation of our denomination lies….
Just give us more Good church
So in essence, we arrive as more separation from the world as the solution. More time in doors…More time away from society. More time fighting spiritual demons….and surely the heavens will burst open with miracles left and right on the street pointing all strangers magically to our “good church” wherein the stranger just saw the church sign and knew to come in….
Except we forget we are indeed the miracle. We are the children of God saved only by his grace through the cross and resurrection of our savior. Is there no miracle better than this?
Give me an amputated arm restored, give me a man who falls dead at the altar and is resuscitated moments later through prayer, give me a baptismal tank whose waters separate on command, give me a preacher who levitates his way up to heaven, give me a building whose walls fall because of the enormous amount of volume from a congregation have us good church, and I will easily give back such “miracles” for the idea that Christ came to redeem us on that tree, and with that an opportunity that we may Go Out into the World to help in Christ’s redemption of others.
And in Acts, if I recall correctly, all salvation happened outside the church walls…