“Let’s go to the club!”
Not exactly a phrase you hear a lot on a beautifully overdressed Pentecostal Sunday morning, however, I would argue that it is a perfectly acceptable analogy for the cacophony which immediately greets us upon our arrival to church these days.
Now before I begin my iconoclastic rant, allow me first to reveal my Pentecostal credentials:
I grew up Baptist (I wonder how much of the esteemed readership of this blog will not finish this “lesser” article now?) In fact, it was only in my twenties (19 actually) that I fell under the Pentecostal label. In reality, my only Pentecostal claim to fame is that I had the grandson of William R Starr as an usher at my wedding – I also picked Tommy Brandon up from the airport once!
Now understand me, as I have only been Pentecostal for the last thirteen years and it may just be that I have not had enough time to appreciate the “dancing generation” (or maybe it’s just because I cannot dance and am terribly envious…) but I see a whole lot of “worship” without very much worship.
Listen, I’m not sure I could count the number of times I’ve danced like David when the Spirit of the Lord came on my heart. It would be difficult to say how often I’ve gone down to the enemies’ camp and taken back what he stole from me (See Digression #1) and in fact, it’s sickening how many times I’ve looked in the back of the book and found that I’ve won. All that aside, and in spite of praising His name at sunrise and sunset; I’m not totally convinced that any of the aforementioned tasks actually constitutes worship. Call me “nuts,” but there seems to be more to it than all that.
Let’s begin with a lame definition; dictionary.com defines worship as “reverent honor and homage paid to [G]od” (brackets added by me). Dan Rogers defines worship as “pure adoration, the lifting up of the redeemed [S]pirit toward [G]od in contemplation of His [H]oly perfection.” In other terms, worship may be defined as exaltation to God resultant of the realization of God’s majesty, and in reality, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What really irks me, regardless of your preferred definition of worship, is that we take our “worship services” (See Digression #2) and turn them in to what Timothy Ralston calls “idolatry of self rather than the worship of God.” What often seems to be overlooked in worship… is God.
Let me qualify that statement with some song examples:
1) I’m a Pentecostal by Nathaniel Haney…
I’ll be honest, this song make me ashamed to have ever acquired the label “Pentecostal.” I’m not even sure where to begin, oh now I know; “idolatry of self rather than the worship of God.” If this song were any more obsessed with the glories of being Pentecostal (rather than being a child of the Creator) it might be downright sacrilege. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t want to glory in their Pentecostalness? I mean the freedom of Christ living in perfect harmony with the burden of man-made standards! makes me want to put on a paisley tie and run aisles. To continue with the point at hand, if I may quote a piece of the verse, “There’s a hunger in this world that gets bigger every day, they’re crying out for Pentecost…” I forgot that Pentecost paid the price and shed its blood for my sins… oh wait that was Jesus, easy mix up I’m sure. Before I go off on some terrible rant, I would like to acknowledge the fantastic criticism of this song done by my new friend Caroline at http://www.pentecostalfreedom.org/:
“This award [STUPID PENTECOSTAL ARROGANCE AWARD] goes to a relatively new song written by UPCI pastor Nathaniel Haney called I'm a Pentecostal and performed hyperactively on YouTube. It is interesting to note that many Pentecostal songs, written ostensibly to give glory to God, in fact give glory only to Pentecostals. The only praise in the song is praise of Pentecostals. And, since Pentecostals are singing the song (and in a Pentecostal church) it is little more than a bizarre cheerleading theme:
"I'm a Pentecostal, I am not ashamed!Just read the book of Acts, we are still the same!"
People who have nominated this song almost invariably ask, "Who are they talking to? It's a Pentecostal church, fer crying out loud. Do they think half the congregation is going to look around and say, 'Pentecostal? Really? Well, I'm glad they cleared THAT up. All this time, I thought I was attending the First Baptist Church of Snodville!'" But it seems quite clear to me that the Pentecostals are really talking to themselves. And that actually makes this song rather sad. I'm sure we all remember the deep insecurity that made us all feel the need to repeat over and over to ourselves that we were so happy to be Pentecostal and definitely not embarrassed about it!”
I think that sums it up…
2) The Spirit of the Lord by Fred Hammond…
First off, how dare I attack a Fred Hammond song, and secondly, when did Fred Hammond acquire Pope-like sanctity? (He doesn’t even have a bubble car!) As far as I’m concerned, he’s not even Israel Houghton-esq, but then I would have to confess how low that sits on my totem pole as well. Anyway where was I? Ah yes, The Spirit of the Lord by Fred Hammond. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this song right off hand, let me remind you: Basically, when the Spirit of the Lord comes on you, you do everything that David did. Well not everything David did, I mean we’re not going to sleep with someone’s wife then kill the husband… well at least not until worship is over. I find it interesting that we spend so much time telling God (I guess) what we are going to do once His Spirit moves on our hearts while the Spirit is supposedly moving on our hearts! I feel that sometimes actions are a good substitute for words; this song would certainly qualify for said instance.
3) Enemy’s Camp by Brownsville Revival
Other than proclaiming that Satan is under my feet and redundantly announcing that I’ve taken back what he’s stolen from me I’m not sure what this sing is supposed accomplish. Where is the worship in this? and yet we sing it for worship. Heck it doesn’t even mention that Jesus helps us take back what’s been stolen. Apparently at some point we became self-sufficient (remember that next time you need help moving, if you can take back what’s yours from the enemies camp then you can certainly move a king size bed by yourself). I am literally deflated by the thought of spending anymore of my air on this song.
Now that I’ve ranted on the lack of worship present in some of Pentecost’s great songs, let me talk about what they have in common and what has enchanted generations of “Holy rollers!” It’s the beat man! Pentecostals love nothing more than to get down and boogie, just look at the first verse of I’m a Pentecostal:
"We’ve been known to get wild and let our hair hang down
Drink till we get merry, rolling on the ground
We’ve cranked up the music, and we’ve danced all around"
You could put lyrics and soulful signing to any grouping of words and Pentecostals would swear they feel the Spirit! I know a Pentecostal pianist who would frequently add the McDonald’s I’m Loving It jingle in to the worship music just to see if anyone noticed and guess what, didn’t happen, but someone surely fell on the ground in a “Holy Ghost heap.” Forget Club Divine, you too Necto, I’m going to church to get my dance on! My worship however, well I plan to leave that for camp; wait no that’s my prom night… HYC then, no that’s my match making time… hmm I guess General Conference, but only if I decide to show up for one of the countless sermons… yea, that’ll do. Praise be to God!
Aren’t we so boisterous! Our humanity sometimes slips in to lapses of judgment classified as “feelings of immortality.” And we, supposing ourselves to by invulnerable, think it possible to sojourn in to the enemy’s camp and take back what he “stole” from us. Ha! First off, we love to lay the blame on the enemy, however, nothing has ever been taken from us that we didn’t allow to be taken. We as Christians love to play the victim, but Christ has made us “more than conquerors!” (Rom 8:31-37) Now secondly, we have no need to go to the enemy’s camp because Christ already did and has come back with the keys to death, hell, and the grave (Rev 1:18). So let’s get off our high horses, thank God for His mercy and grace, and live as conquerors instead of victims.
There is a Lutheran theologian by the name of Geoffrey Wainwright who wrote an exhaustive text entitled Doxology. In this text, Wainwright lays continual emphasis on ‘doing worship’ in the form of daily activities; daily life/actions are worship. I think one of the great failures of the modern church is the focus on the ritual of ‘worship services’ or, worship during Sunday church. Worship, these days, has become synonymous with music, i.e. worship music. The focus has been put on modern contemporary styled music that ‘creates the atmosphere’ for worship. Weekly church services are then the event for worship instead of being what they were originally modeled after; a time for celebrating Christ with fellow believers. This almost completely reduces worship to a weekly event as opposed to an intentional and continuous lifestyle choice and thus, steals glory from God.