Archive for the ‘Faith & Culture’ Category
It is a moving sight to behold. Thousands of people simultaneously praying in unison, spitting out words as bullets in a rapid-fire mode, heads shaking violently, muscles and nerves taut in deployment, and all are enveloped in air thick with dust and humidity. The ground quakes as they enthusiastically stamp their feet on the floor. Young men and women are rapidly punching the air with clenched fists and angrily wagging their fingers at the devil. And flesh, aided by rivulets of hot sweat, holds on tightly to fabric. Bodies, broken bodies, hungry bodies, rich bodies, old bodies, young bodies, sway toward one another. Worship is a running splash of bodies and words—flung and scattered among four corners like broken mask in the square. This na prayer; this is the aesthetics of talking to God in African Pentecostal gathering. Prayer is a dynamo of excess energy leaping like flames in a dry-season burning bush and heading straight from earth to the throne room of God. But are our seminaries preparing students for this ministry? Read the rest of this entry »
Testimonies played a large role in both the church services and in faith formation. Recently, I lectured for the 2nd Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ of Virginia’s Worker’s Retreat. It took me back to those good ole days in Manchester, GA — both “across the mountain” at A House of the Living God, Church of Jesus Christ and at “Bridge Street” at the Bridge Street Church of God in Christ. As my dad was the pastor of the former but was saved in the latter, the worship experience was very similar. In most African American “sanctified churches,” testimony service was either before the sermon or after the sermon. I remember vividly that during testimony service, my mom or another mother would spontaneously start singing that ole song, “Believe I’ll testify, while I have a chance. I may not have this chance anymore.” The song spoke to a conviction that the Christian faith requires us to testify. But also, it presupposed that those testimonies were not only to be shared with unbelievers outside of the walls of the church, but also to be shared among the sisters and brothers of faith – ” the saints.”
In form, they had only a few ways to start-off: “I do honor the Lord, to the Spirit of Christ and to everybody here to make up this waiting congregation….”; or “I give honor to God, the head of my life, to the saints and friends. I just want to thank the Lord for….”; or some of them were as short as “Thank the Lord for my life.” Whether the testimony was long or short in length, testimonies were deemed essential to faith formation. So, they were not just another thing to do in the service. In fact, they were so important that as young boys and girls, the children were taught to get up and give their testimonies as well. It was part of how the “sanctified church” understood Proverbs 22:6, as recorded in the KJV, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Read the rest of this entry »
John MacArthur, the Calvinist, Fundamentalist, Cessationist preacher from California has done it again. With his newest attack on Pentecostals and Charismatics, Strange Fire, MacArthur, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, continues his hopeless quest to put an end to the most energetic and fastest growing group of Christians in the world. MacArthur never quits. This is his third book on the subject, and perhaps his last. Read the rest of this entry »
Evangelicals have a tendency to cannibalize. There is a strong tradition of self-criticism within the broader movement and it manifests itself in just about every sector, usually along the lines of “you’re disavowing the faith.” In this kind of discourse, ancient heresies serve as “types” that evangelical writers utilize to consign other positions to a doctrinal purgatory.
Evangelicals also like to pit one part of the movement against another without recognizing the contributions of each part to the larger whole. I have certainly been guilty of this kind of partisanship. This is not to say that there should not be a vigorous discussion about the differences, but such discussions should occur with a spirit of generous orthodoxy that says, “OK, we’re different, but we’re still family, even if you’re the cousin I rarely see and sometimes don’t want to be around.”
In this spirit, I want to express my appreciation to Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, for the training I received there from 1992 until 1995. To be clear, I am speaking of the “Maitland-RTS” as opposed to the “Oviedo-RTS” mainly because I graduated before the Oviedo campus had been built. My own memories are of the set of office buildings in Maitland, FL, that provided the temporary housing for a seminary in its infancy. It was a close-quartered and intimate setting in which every building opened to a small common area. Read the rest of this entry »