Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#215 - Chaos and Confussion at the altar: What did he say?

I wonder what it would have been like to be in the upper room 2000 years ago. Watching. Waiting. Praying. Not knowing what’s going to happen, not really knowing that anything is going to happen except that a gift – this “Holy Spirit” – was going to be given.

And then it happened! Tongues of fire crashed in to the room and landed on them. All present began to speak in different tongues themselves! This act would become known as the “giving of the Holy Spirit.” Could you even imagine?

Now, not to put some spiteful/bitter/blasphemous spin on this situation (I am not poking fun at this event whatsoever), but what I cannot seem to figure out is how those people in that upper room, with no idea of what was going to happen, with no mood-music, and with no preacher/elder/usher screaming tongues in to their ears; how were they able to receive the Holy Spirit?

The modern, Apostolic-Holy-Ghost-receiving-atmosphere generally consists of; the call to receive, the mood-music (be it “I Win” for the excitable sermon or “Let it Rain” for the more somber ‘repentance’ message), and a pastorally initiated, non-verbal directing of elders, deacons, and ushers that would put delta force to shame.

It is at this point that the repentant of heart, standing at an old fashion altar, alone, transparent before his maker, bearing his soul, hears the sound of a rushing, mighty wind: “SHOULD’A BOUGHT’A HONDA!”

Now drama aside, is this really necessary? When I received the Holy Ghost, thank God there were people with me who were respectful of what was happening. They didn’t turn it in to some sideshow, fast food joint with a goal of turning out new believers like premade combo meals.

I’ve witnessed events to the tune of one man (we’ll refer to him as “sinner” from here on out), two elders, the sinner sandwiched between like a stale ¼ pounder. In his left ear, the sinner was told to “hold on brother, the Lord’s coming for you!” In his right ear, the sinner heard “let it go brother, lay it all down!” So what we have here are contradictory statements; hold on, and let go. What is the poor sinner to do?

This is what he is to do. Just wait it out. At some point, sooner probably rather than later, the men on either side are going to run out of clichés and scripted adages and change their tactic. This is what the poor sinner doesn’t see coming. The men on either side have switched to screaming in tongues in the sinner’s ear.

At this point the sinner, with eyes the size of frying pans and a hammer-n-anvil inner-ear symphony that would leave a medieval blacksmith envious, begins a last ditch effort to filter out the room noise and focus on God.

It is of no avail, the buns of this fast food burger are too much for his dinky ¼ lb patty. He lowers his hands and wipes his eyes.

This, however, has not deterred the buns. In fact they probably haven’t even realized that the sinner has given up. They scream until they are horse, slowly take their hands of the sinners’ wrists and then, with the resolution of an oak, simply tighten their belts and move on to the next sinner.


  1. Wow so true. I remember being a patty.

    One question; just two elders?

    The scriptures do say to lay on hands. However, there are a few alter workers that could polish their tecnic a bit.

  2. Yes, I remember those days. Free back and shoulder massage with a visit to the altar.

  3. Just wondering, what then is an effective method to help seeking "sinners" receive the Spirit baptism? While I understand the satire, I'm genuinely wondering what we can do to move away from the screaming in a person's ear and still witness "sinners" receive the Holy Spirit?

  4. anonymous,

    I think the book of Acts is of great instruction here....

    The apostles preached sermons and discussed scriptures and if the audience was receptive, the Spirit fell....

    This if we believe what we preach, the sinner won't need our aiding in their prayer pursuit of God's Spirit. Trust more in Him at the altar and less of fleshly "encouragement" that all too easily cheapen the HOly Ghost experience. The Bible talks nothing about this "aiding" of Salvation outside of preaching the word.

  5. Well said good sir Joel.

  6. First, the Spirit baptism was a promise, not a command we have to force upon people.

    We certainly can "lay hands" on people to pray they receive that experience (Acts 8, 9:17, 19:6).

    The Bible says we should ask (so that avoids us doing nothing, and having a little more intentionality).

    But the Baptism of the Holy Spirit should not be confused with the indwelling presence that a believer receives when they believe. (If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. -1 John 4)

    (It is difficult to disassociate 'one spirit' (1 Cor 6:17) in this sense from the one Spirit in whom all the people of Christ are united into one body with Him, just as it is difficult to disassociate the 'life-giving spirit'(1 Cor 15:45) that Jesus became in resurrection from the Spirit of life that indwells His people.' FF Bruce)

  7. I truly appreciate being in a church now that really instructs and teaches 1) alter 'protocol' (for lack of a better word on my part 2) that receiving the HG is not just a 'at church event' and 3) anyone can pray with anyone to receive the HG (not just those in positions. We are all called to minister to the lost, to have a word rightly divided and be able to give an answer.

    We are taught is first, receiving the HG is not an emotional experience (it can be, but it is not first and foremost), it is a faith experience of asking and accepting and receiving. That it is much better to explain to them what is going to happen, what they may feel or experience before they begin to pray so they can understand (especially if they are new to this type of atmosphere). Secondly, because it is a faith experience, it's okay to stop them while praying to talk to them. If this was an emotional experience (as all too many churches teach), then stopping them would be the last thing one would do.

    Also, because it is a faith experience and not a begging experience, God responds to faith (ask and you shall receive, not beg and you shall receive). Encourage them that God loves them no matter what. Also, there is no 'tarrying' on God. The only time people tarried in the Bible is that first experience. God is not holding this back from people saying 'come on....you have to beg a little more or be a little better for this in order for me to live inside of you.' NO! God wants to have fellowship with His creation! If someone hasn't received the HG after a short time (and I'm talking that day, not a few weeks), then there is something/a block that person has up. It could be unforgiveness, bitterness, doubt, misunderstanding, etc...

    Once they have received it and are speaking in tongues, to tell them (while they are still praying) that that is God (this may seem like 'duh' but if this is your first experience, then often we may not totally understand) and encourage them to continue, to not stop. This allows them to become comfortable in this and deepen that flow and start to build that hunger to allow this to not just be a one time thing.

    Also, after they are finished praying, talk to them. Don't just walk off and leave them. Find out if they have someone teaching them a Bible study. Get them rooted and grounded.

    All of this doesn't matter if you're in a church building, on a street or in someone's house.

    (First time posting and wow, it's long!)