The Community Bible Church and Charismatic/Pentecostal Distinctives and Dealing With Other Differences Among Christians
Table of Contents
A …….. The Defining Character of a Church.
B …….. Why We Are Not Charismatic.
C …….. What About the Freedom of the Spirit?
D …….. What Role Do the Leaders/Elders Have In This Matter?
When, in the summer of 1994, a group of Christians met in Tunkhannock to explore the possibilities of starting a church it was the intent of this group to found a church that was evangelical/fundamental in doctrine and non-Charismatic in practice. It was not to be, however, an anti-Charismatic church. By this we meant that the church would:
a) not embrace an attitude of overt hostility toward Charismatics and
b) warmly welcome into the congregation Charismatic brothers and sisters who, we hoped, would participate fully in the work
God would give this congregation.
In the first draft of our constitution the issue was expressed this way:
Article VIII…Section 1
We recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ is large and diverse and that the only requirement for entrance into this “family of God” is through personal faith in the Atoning Death of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf. We also recognize that aside from the essential doctrines of the faith there are many secondary issues that separate brothers and sisters in Christ. It is our desire to keep these secondary issues that separate genuine believers in Christ to a minimum in our congregation. But we also recognize that, by the very nature of some of these secondary issues, it is essential that we as a church set down certain guidelines for our worship services. We do so humbly and in the full recognition that our understanding of God and His Word is not, by any means, perfect.
The worship service of this Church shall not entertain the Charismatic /Pentecostal distinctives of “speaking in tongues”, “first person prophecies,” “Words of Faith”, “Words of Knowledge” and other Charismatic /Pentecostal activities that are distinctive from those worship services that characterize the evangelical Christian community of believers.
This church is not anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal and does not in any way wish to separate itself from those congregations that consider themselves as such. Neither do we wish to separate ourselves or to exclude from membership and fellowship brothers and sisters in Christ who consider themselves Charismatic or Pentecostal. We must, however, insist that those activities that are distinctively Charismatic or Pentecostal not be exercised as part of our church worship. This does not mean, however, that we are demanding that these brothers and sisters not exercise these distinctives in their homes or in other congregations.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify this church’s position on the charismatic and Pentecostal distinctives, the place those distinctives have in its worship services, and to explain why this church insists on separating itself from some of those distinctives.
A. The Defining Character of a Church…
Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
1. The universal church…All of the men and women who have placed their faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation from God’s wrath against sin are born again into the Kingdom of God and as such are members of God’s Family and are part of the “church, which is His body…”
2. The local church…The local church is made up of men and women who are members of the “universal church” and who live in a particular geographical area in a particular time. But, because there are so many issues on which genuine Christians disagree, it is important that a local church define itself more particularly or it will find itself in a constant state of confusion and turmoil.
3. Isn’t being a Christian enough for membership?…No! While it is critical that a man or woman who becomes a member of our church be a Christian, being a Christian is not enough. And the reason is this: Many Christians have very different ideas about God and man, the Scriptures and the church, etc. If these differences are too great, problems can result. A clear and well-defined church character can help to resolve many of these problems.
4. What is meant by…”The Defining Character of a Church?”
The defining character of a church…A church is defined by what it believes to be true and how it wishes to conduct itself. Usually, those things a church believes to be true and the ways in which it chooses to conduct itself are expressed in its constitution. The constitution then, should express the defining character of a church.
5. Some reasons for a local church to have a well-defined character:
a) Chaos and turmoil…If there are too many men and women with too many different ideas about God and man, the
Scriptures and the church, there will be too many different directions in which these men and women will be going in.
And, as is often the case, each will demand that the group go in its particular direction. It is impossible for a group to go
simultaneously in a multitude of conflicting directions. If this situation exists, chaos and turmoil will rule the day. The
only solution to this chaotic situation is for everyone to recognize that each church has a certain defining character or
body of beliefs and practices and that it is unacceptable for anyone to try and move the congregation outside of this
b) Prospective members…It important for prospective members to understand clearly who we are and what we believe so
that they are then able to determine whether or not they want to join with us.
c) Alleviate rehashing beliefs…A well-defined character will alleviate the need for a church to be constantly rehashing who
it is and what it believes. If the local church is going to devote itself to building the Kingdom of God it cannot spend its
time arguing over issues that need to be settled at its inception. It cannot spend 20 years arguing over whether or not it
will be charismatic; it cannot spend 20 years arguing over infant baptism; it cannot spend 20 years arguing over whether
the mission of the church is a) to build the Kingdom of God now (as in amillennialism and postmillennialism) or b) wait for
Jesus Christ to come and set it up (as in premillennialism). Unless the local church settles a number of these primary and
secondary issues at its beginning, it will end up wasting time. A church that clearly defines what it believes to be true and
what it wants to be as a church will alleviate a lot of controversy and can then get on with building the Kingdom of God.
6. How do we define ourselves?…A more complete definition of who we are and what we believe will be found in our church constitution. Only a few of those defining characteristics will be cited here to help illustrate the need for a church to define itself clearly.
a) Primary defining characteristic: Evangelical/Fundamental. Our primary defining characteristic is that of being Evangelical or
Fundamental. By this we mean that we — along with other Christians and churches who identify themselves by these names — believe
in the great fundamentals of Christianity. They are:
> The Inerrancy and Authority of the Scriptures
> The Deity of Christ
> The Atoning Death of Christ
> The Doctrine of Justification by Faith apart from works
> The Return of Jesus Christ
b) Secondary defining characteristics….These are characteristics that are not as critical to the Faith as are the primary defining
characteristics, but they are critical to the harmonious well-being and the fruitfulness of the congregation. Without substantial
agreement on these issues the church will fall into quarreling and confusion.
> Let’s look at a few of these secondary characteristics and examine the problems that arise when there is disagreement on these
1. Dispensational, Premillennial…We believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth following the Great Tribulation and that He will set up a Millennial Kingdom of righteousness and peace. We believe that this is the kingdom that the Old Testament Jewish prophets longed for. We believe that the church is not called to usher in this kingdom of peace, but rather, that we are to build the kingdom by winning the lost to Christ and nurturing them to maturity.
Disagreement…Now suppose a man comes into our congregation who does not believe in dispensational premillennialism but believes in postmillennialism. While there are a variety of views within the postmillennial camp, the general belief is that the church will usher in the kingdom of peace and righteousness (not Jesus Christ) and that Christ will come to earth after the church ushers in peace and righteousness on earth. Many postmillennialists believe that in order for the church to accomplish this mission from God it must involve itself heavily in the social and political structures of our society so as to bring about the necessary changes. As a result, this man will be constantly urging our congregation to involve itself more and more vigorously in our social and political institutions.
Now we have a problem…The premillennialists in the congregation will, for the most part, not want to make much of an effort to change a society they believe will only get worse until Jesus Christ comes and makes it better. On the other hand, the postmillennialist, will want the church to do all it can do to change society. How can we satisfy both?… We can’t!
Resolution: Because we have defined ourselves as premillennialists we will tell our postmillennialist brother that he is welcome to attend, but he must do so recognizing that we are premillennialist congregation and he is not welcome to try and:
a) change us or
b) work within the ranks to get his agenda adopted.
Are we stifling differences of opinion? Yes and No…
No…We are not telling him that he must believe exactly the way that we believe in order to attend our church. And no, we are not telling him that he must keep his opinions secret. And no, we are not telling him that he is not free to express his opinion.
No…We are not suppressing truth. It is our intent that on all legitimate Biblical issues, there be a full airing of opinions. But, this does not mean that we as a church will have no opinions on these issues, being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Eph. 4:14). We have come to some settled persuasions on a number of issues and we are building a church based on them.
No…We are not close minded, and unwilling to change. Most of us have examined these issues thoroughly and have not heard a new argument in years. Based on the arguments we have already heard, we have developed some very strong opinions. If, however, some new and persuasive argument came along, we will always be open to it…
Yes…We are stifling this difference of opinion in that he is not free to teach it in our congregation, nor is he free to go about in the congregation urging members to adopt his position and then join him in working to change society according to his particular doctrinal belief.
This would be divisive and cannot be allowed!
Rom. 16:17 “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way…”
Tit. 3:10 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
Why are we “stifling” him?…We are doing so, because those of us who started this church studied this question very carefully and came to a settled persuasion that the premillennial position is the correct Biblical position. And based on this persuasion, we want to build a church that acts accordingly. We do not want to devote large amounts of time re-examining a position we have already examined and have come to a settled persuasion on. If we devote ourselves to constantly re-examining every position that we have ever taken we will have neither the time nor the direction to accomplish anything for the kingdom of God. Also, if we allow every divergent opinion to have full sway in our congregation, we will not be united, we will not satisfy Amos’s admonition (Amos 3:3) “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” and we will have chaos and turmoil.
It is critical that:
a) A church…embrace very real opinions on major issues
b) A church…act on those opinions
2. The Role of Women in the Church…We believe that women may speak and sing in our church and that they may teach women and children. We do not, however, believe that women should be allowed to preach or teach the adult men.
Disagreement…Suppose a man comes into our congregation who has a Plymouth Brethren background. The Brethren are a remarkably fine group of Christians to whom we Evangelicals owe a great debt (pretribulationalism and premillennialism sprang from the Brethren). And suppose that after he has been worshiping with us for a while we allow him to lead the “prayer and share” time. After a few weeks we notice a real problem; he calls only on men to share with the congregation and allows only men to pray. Lots of women are upset…and a lot of men as well. We talk to him about it and he tells us that based on 1 Cor. 14:34 women should not be allowed to speak in the assembly and so, he will not call on women to speak nor will he allow them to pray. What do we do? Do we allow him to have his way? And if we do not allow him to lead the “prayer and share” time, do we still allow him to promote this teaching in the congregation?
The answer is this:
> We do not allow him to lead the “Prayer and Share” if he refuses to call on women.
> We do not allow him to promote his Plymouth Brethren teaching in the congregation where it
would undoubtedly cause divisions.
Why would we not allow this? We would not allow him to exercise this particular Brethren belief in our congregation nor would we allow him to promote it because:
> We are not a Plymouth Brethren church
> We do not embrace this particular teaching. We recognize that a case can be made for his
position, but we also recognize that a case can be made for allowing women to speak and
> His teaching is opposed to the Defining Character of our Church. We are a church that will
allow women to speak (based on other Scriptures that seem to support allowing them to
What if he protests…”I’m a member of this church and as such I should have the right to express my opinions and shape the direction of this church.”
Our answer would be this…We would say: It is true that you are a member of this church and as a member you have a right to express your opinion and to help shape the direction of this church. But, you do not have the right to change the defining character of this church. When you came here you knew that this was not a Brethren church and that we allow women to speak. Now that you are a member/attendee you do not have a right to change the very character of who we are. We are not a Brethren church, we do not wish to become a Brethren church and if you insist on us worshiping in a Brethren manner then you are not welcome here…we suggest that you find a Brethren church.
3. Infant baptism…What has been said about a Christian who believes in postmillennialism and the Christian who comes from a Plymouth Brethren background is true for the man who believes in infant baptism. We do not believe in infant baptism and would not allow this doctrine to be taught or promoted.
4. Charismatic distinctives…What has been said about Christians who are postmillennialists or who have a Plymouth Brethren background or who believe in infant baptism is true for those Christians who are Charismatic or Pentecostal. Our church is not Charismatic or Pentecostal and while these brothers and sisters are welcome to attend they are not welcome to teach or promote or practice these distinctives in our church. The reasons should be obvious. It is impossible to have both a Charismatic and non-Charismatic service.
Separate group…Some might suggest that we allow the Charismatic brothers and sisters to have a separate service, but this would create two bodies (each convinced that it “had seen the light”) and the unity that is required for a church to function as it should would be lost. This would also create confusion in the minds of new and immature believers who would not really know what to believe because they would be hearing two voices. There will be only one voice on this issue in this church, and that is this: This church is non-Charismatic and it is non-Charismatic because we do not agree with many of the Charismatic distinctives. We think they are wrong.
Charismatics are welcome to join but they are not welcome to try and change the defining character of this church. Just as others whose theology on some of these secondary issues is at odds with the defining character of this church are welcome to attend but not act to change who we are, so it must be for our Charismatic brothers and sisters.
B. Why We Are Not Charismatic – There are many reasons why the men and women who started this church are not Charismatic. It is not the purpose of this paper to go into all of the reasons; many of those reasons are covered each time we teach on the subject of spiritual gifts.
1. A partial list of problems we have with the charismatic movement…
> The emphasis on “speaking in tongues”
> First person prophecies…in which an individual stands up and acts as though God is speaking through him
> Healing services
> “Naming it and claiming it”
> An emphasis on health and wealth…as opposed to sacrifice
2. We have not failed to see the light…Before going into some of the reasons why we are not a Charismatic congregation, we must deal with a bit of fiction that Charismatics often hold to and that is this: Many Charismatics believe that non-Charismatics are not Charismatics because they have failed to see the light.
This is a delusion…It has been my experience over the years that many of my well-meaning, but mistaken, Charismatic brothers are under the delusion that non-Charismatic Christians are non-Charismatic because they have “failed to see the light” or that they have not “progressed sufficiently” in their Christian lives to embrace the Charismatic distinctives. This sort of thinking is based upon the assumption that to have failed to embrace the Charismatic distinctives is to have failed to be all that God wants a Christian to be. Let me state as clearly and as emphatically as possible that this is a delusion in the mind of the Charismatics.
We have seen the light…While it may be true that many non-Charismatic Christians have not examined the Charismatic distinctives with any thoroughness, many of us have. A great many non-Charismatic Christians have examined the Charismatic distinctives very closely and have found many of them to be wrong (that is, contrary to the Scriptures). Not only have we found many of them to be wrong, we have also found many of these distinctive to be without sufficient Biblical support to justify embracing them. We have also found that some of the Charismatic distinctives to be closely associated with false and occult religious practices. To suggest that non-Charismatics are such because they have “failed to see the light” is silly. Many of us have “seen the light” and that light has shown us the errors in the Charismatic movement. The truth is that we have looked at the Charismatic movement and found in it a lot of darkness…so much darkness that we have deliberately chosen to separate ourselves from it.
3. The elevation of the subjective…The major problem with the Charismatic movement – in our opinion – is not “speaking in tongues” and healing services, etc., but with the elevation of the subjective over the objective in determining truth.
Emphasis on the subjective…The Charismatic movement has placed an enormous emphasis on the subjective (perceived experiences) as opposed to the objective Word of God. (I called these experiences “perceived” experiences because they may not be real, but only “perceived” to be real). There is in the Charismatic movement a trend toward developing a body of beliefs that are based on perceived experiences. And these experiences – which may or may not agree with the Scriptures – become the doctrine that drives the movement.
John MacArthur wrote, “As experience after experience is reported in the press and religious radio and television, a subtle but sinister pattern is developing. Instead of responding to proper interpretation of God’s Word, Christianity is collecting fantastic and preposterous experiences. The Bible is either mangled to fit those experiences or simply ignored altogether. The result is pseudo-Christianity.
“Mysticism is a system of belief that attempts to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable facts. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition, and other internal senses. Objective data is usually discounted, so mysticism derives its authority from within. Spontaneous feeling becomes more significant than objective fact. Intuition outweighs reason. An internal awareness supersedes external reality…mysticism is at the heart of modern existentialism, humanism, and even many forms of paganism – most notably Hinduism and its close ally, New Age philosophy.
“Irrational mysticism is at the heart of the Charismatic experience. It has subverted biblical authority within the movement and replaced it with a new standard: personal experience. And make no mistake – the practical effect of Charismatic teaching is to set one’s experience on a higher plane than a proper understanding of Scripture. That is precisely why [one Charismatic leader went so far as to tell a woman], ‘put away your Bible and your books and stop studying.” Her private ‘revelations’ and personal feelings mean more to her than the eternal truth of God’s inspired Word.”
“There are only two basic approaches to biblical truth. One is the historical, objective approach, which emphasizes God’s action toward men and women as taught in Scripture. The other is the personal, subjective approach, which emphasizes the human experience of God. How should we build our theology? Should we go to the Bible – or to the experiences of thousands of people? If we go to the people, we will have as many views as there are individuals. And that is exactly what is happening throughout the Charismatic movement today.”
This is what some major Charismatic leaders have said about the mind…
Kenneth Hagin “…the mind is something that will trip you up and cause you to fall”
Kenneth Copland “…the problem area is not in your spirit; it lies in your mind and your body”
4. Self-induced ecstasy…There is much in Charismatic worship services that is good and godly and well-worth imitating. There is, however, much that is not good. The mysticism (seeking spiritual reality through feelings, intuition and internal senses, apart from objective, verifiable fact) that so permeates the preaching and teaching in Charismatic churches also permeates their “worship services.” The Charismatic practice of repeating phrases of songs over and over and over again in such a way as to induce ecstasy experiences in which the worshipers feel as if they are becoming one with God is dangerous because this is exactly what takes place in Eastern religions and in the Occult.
Eastern and Occult religions…Eastern and Occult religions have recognized for thousands of years that there is something in the human mind that enables it to move into a euphoric or ecstatic or even hypnotic trance when phrases are repeated over and over again. The repetition of words and phrases (and even the repetition of musical sounds and rhythms) create hypnotic trances and ecstatic frenzies. Scholars call this phenomenon the ecstasy experience. This ecstatic experience is self-induced. It is created by turning the mind off by engaging in mindless repetitions.
While it would be wrong to assume that all of the ecstasy experiences in those Charismatic services where phrases of songs are repeated over and over again are self-induced, it is, at the same time, difficult to sort out what is the genuine the work of the Holy Spirit and what is self-induced. One thing we do know, the roots of this practice of repeating phrases to produce ecstasy experiences are found in Eastern religions and in the Occult and this should raise red flags.
· Eastern religions…Eastern religious practices – especially Hinduism and its many offspring – encourage the practitioner to become
“one with god” by turning off the mind and allowing the “spirit” to achieve oneness with god. Meditation with mindless repetitions of
mantras is one of several ways in which this can be achieved.
Walter Martin wrote, “…one’s goal is to lose his own personality in the oneness of God…This realization comes through practicing
the meditations of TM” [TM or Transcendental Meditation is one of many Hindu offspring]
Eastern religious meditation…The whole point of Eastern religious meditation is to turn off the mind so that the soul or spirit can
become one with God. Since it is often hard to turn off the mind, many practitioners of meditation recite mantras – a hymn or portion of
text, especially from the Veda, chanted or intoned as an incantation or prayer. These mantras are memorized and repeated over and
over again – thousands of times. Mantras aid the one meditating by tying up the mind in endless, repetitive chants – a mindless
activity – and yet the mind is not really engaged in thinking; it has been, for all practical purposes, turned off. This then frees the soul
or spirit to become “one with God.”
Douglas R. Groothuis wrote, “The basic problem to be overcome in the Eastern systems is the illusion of separation and individuality…In Hinduism the experience of oneness with the One may be called Moksha, Satchidananda or Samadhi; in Buddhism it is Nirvana or Satori. According to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a popular and controversial Indian guru with a large Western following, ‘moksha is not freedom of the self, but freedom from the self.’ Through meditation, he says, ‘you will be tuned to the infinite, then you will be tuned to the cosmic – then you will be one with the whole’…The One is found and experienced through a process of self-discovery, whether it be meditation, yoga or some other spiritual discipline… Eastern meditative practices emphasize emptying the mind of the illusion of separation…A holy word (mantra) may be repeated in order to change one’s consciousness…When the Bible speaks of meditation it means rumination on God and His Word; a filling of the mind with God’s truth. Vain, irrational repetitions are excluded (Mt. 6:7)…God, in many of the religions of the East, is…beyond rationality….Rajneesh himself teaches people to distrust reason and to pass into an experience beyond it…”
Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many
Ecstasy experience…The results of prolonged meditative states lead to a sense of euphoria, ecstasy, hypnotic trances, etc.
5. Occult religious practices and self-induced ecstasy. Many occult religious practices employ the mindlessness, the unbridled emotionalism and the repetition of words and phrases (and even repetition of musical sounds and rhythms) that are seen in Eastern religions to create hypnotic trances and ecstatic frenzies.
MacArthur writes, “…nothing was more characteristic of the mystery religions than what they called ecstasy. Believers in the mystery religions sought to cultivate a magical, sensuous communion with the divine. They would do almost anything to get themselves into a semiconscious, hallucinatory, hypnotic, or orgiastic spell in which they believed they were sensually in contact with deity. Some used wine to assist in the euphoric experience, as Paul implied in Ephesians 5:18. Whether from literal intoxication or emotional exhilaration, when worshippers fell into a state of euphoria, it was as if they had been drugged. They assumed they were in union with God.”
According to S. Angus, once professor of New Testament and historical theology at St. Andrews College, Sydney, the ecstasy
experienced by the mystery religion worshiper brought him into a “mystic ineffable condition in which the normal functions of
personality were in abeyance and the moral strivings which form character virtually ceased or were relaxed, while the emotional
and the intuitive were accentuated.” In other words, the worshiper would get into a state where his mind would go into neutral and
his emotions would take over. The intellect and conscience would give way to passion, sentiment, and emotion. This was ecstasy;
an intoxicating condition of euphoria. Angus further reported:
“[Ecstasy] might be induced by vigil and fasting, tense religious expectancy, whirling dances, physical stimuli, the contemplation of the sacred objects, the effect of stirring music, inhalation of fumes, revivalistic contagion (such as happened in the Church at Corinth), hallucination, suggestion, and all the other means belonging to the apparatus of the Mysteries…[One ancient writer] speaks of men ‘going out of themselves to be wholly established in the Divine and to be enraptured.”
“As the mystery worshiper experienced such ecstasy, he was lifted above the level of his ordinary experience into an abnormal sense of consciousness. He experienced an exhilarating condition in which he believed his body ceased being a hindrance to his soul.”
“According to Angus, ecstasy could ‘range anywhere from non-moral delirium to that consciousness of oneness with the Invisible and the dissolution of painful individuality which marks the mystics of all ages.” In other words, ecstasy could emancipate the soul from the confinement of the body and enable a person to commune with the spirit world. It created an extraordinarily buoyant sensation. In that state a person supposedly had the capacity to see and understand things that only the eyes of the spirit can behold.
Testimonies by Pentecostal-charismatic believers describe exactly the same kinds of experiences. Charismatics who experience various states of euphoria attribute their experiences to certain gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly tongues. The common testimony is, “It feels so good., I never felt this way before! It must be of God.” Not necessarily, as we are about to see from the Corinthian experience….
1 Cor. 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
…As pagans, [the Corinthians] used to get carried away in mindless, ecstatic, orgiastic kinds of activities, but that was not supposed to be true now. The truly spiritual person is not someone who is swept away into trances, ecstasies, and emotional frenzies. When a person is out of control, it is never because of the Spirit. Those who claim to have been slain in the Spirit may indeed have been ‘slain,’ but it is not by the Holy Spirit.
Nowhere in Scripture do we see real gifts of the Spirit operating when someone is out of control or under some sort of supernatural seizure. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that the Spirit of God causes Christians to fall into a trance, faint, or lapse into frenzied behavior. On the contrary:
Gal. 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is…Self-control”
1 Pet. 1:13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Some final thoughts on self-induced ecstasy…
There is something in the human makeup that allows men and women to move into an ecstatic state when their minds are turned off through mindless repetition of words, phrases, choruses, musical rhythms, etc. These ecstatic states are euphoric, even hypnotic, and on occasion may even be influenced by the demonic.
Whatever the case, it is definitely not a part of Biblically-approved worship. It is more akin to the occult. It springs from man and is self-induced, not Spirit induced. It is earthly, not heavenly. It is fleshy, not spiritual. It has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.
C. What About the Freedom of the Spirit?
Whenever there is a discussion of worship, the question of the “freedom of the Spirit” to move and act and direct the proceedings is raised. The idea being that we, the people of God, come together in the name of Jesus Christ and in the presence of the Holy Spirit to worship our God. And because we are human and fallen and flawed it is preferable if we allow God’s Spirit to direct the proceedings. On this we all agree! But there is a problem, and the problem is this: There are essentially two ways in which we can “allow the Spirit to move.” Which do we choose?
1. Very little planning…Many charismatic churches choose to allow the “Spirit to move” and direct the proceedings by limiting the planning of the worship service. The amount of planning that precedes the service will vary from church to church, but the key element is this: as the worship service proceeds, the worship leader adds songs, removes songs, repeats songs, repeats verses, prays, reads scripture, etc…..”as the spirit leads”
Problems and advantages with this approach:
> But how do we know that the Holy Spirit is leading…Those who promote the idea of very little planning for the service
claim that they are giving the Holy Spirit room to lead. But how do we know that it is the Holy Spirit and not the leaders of the
service who directing?
> Why limit the Holy Spirit to the service time?…Why are we limiting the “moving of the Spirit” to only the 15-20 minutes of
the worship service?
> Why not allow the Holy Spirit a full week?…Why not allow the Holy Spirit to have all week to “move” and direct the
service. Why not allow the Holy Spirit to start working on the worship service on Monday morning, when the worship leader
starts planning the service. Which is better?…the 15-20 minutes the Holy Spirit has during the worship service or the 168
hours there are in a week?
> Confusion among musicians…Impromptu direction from the worship leader makes it difficult for musicians to play well. They
can’t plan for his changes; they often don’t know what is going on; they are often confused…etc. The results are often less
than what is hoped for in a worship service.
> Confusion in the congregation…The confusion among the musicians is often reflected in the congregation. When confusion
exists, men and women take their eyes off the Lord and begin to focus on trying to figure out what’s happening.
> Confusion and disorder are earthly, Satanic and evil…Confusion and disorder are associated with that which is earthy
and Satanic and evil. Confusion and disorder are not associated with that which is heavenly and godly and righteous.
1. 1 Cor. 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
2. Galatians 5:9-10 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10. I am confident in the Lord that you will take no
other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
3. James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
4. Revelation 4…You will notice in Revelation chapter four that the worship before God’s throne has the appearance of being
ordered and sequential.
> The only real advantage in limited planning is that it allows for genuine spontaneity. But is spontaneity necessarily spiritual?
If so, where are we told this?
2. A lot of planning…There is a second approach to allowing the Holy Spirit to direct the worship service and that is the approach used by most non- Charismatic churches. The Holy Spirit is consulted (or at least, should be) for the entire week preceding the worship service. As the week progresses changes are made – as “the Spirit leads” – and then, prior to the service the order of events is finalized.
Problems and advantages with this approach:
> How do we know that the “order of events” is Spirit directed? We don’t know this to be the case any more than we know that
the impromptu and spontaneous direction of the leader in his 15-20 minute worship service is Spirit directed.
> But we have this advantage: The Holy Spirit has had 168 hours to work out “His program” through fallen men and not just
15-20 minutes during the service.
> What if the Holy Spirit wants a particular piece of music to be played during the worship service. If that is revealed during
the 15-20 minute worship service, there is no way that this can be accomplished. But, if the worship leader has worked this
out with the Spirit of God during the week, there is ample time to get the music and include it in the worship service.
> Musicians who know exactly what God’s Spirit has led them to play during a particular worship service have a tremendous
advantage over those who do not. Music can be laid out and practiced and coordinated with the others participating in the
> Confusion (which is earthly) is minimized…for both musicians and the congregation
> Order (which is from God) is maximized…for both musicians and the congregation
Some final thoughts about the Freedom of the Spirit…To suggest, as many have, that an impromptu and spontaneous worship service is “more spiritual” because it allows for greater “freedom of the Spirit” is just not true. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Allowing the Holy Spirit a full week to work out His program almost guarantees that what we end up with will more clearly reflect His thinking than will the spontaneous and impromptu models that severely limit the time God’s Spirit has to work…on his program.
The need for planning is seen in teaching and preaching…This is clearly demonstrated in teaching and preaching. The preacher/teacher who walks into a service – without having spent many hours of preparation – and depends on the Holy Spirit to give him the words to say, will end up saying very little of value. On the other hand, the teacher or preacher who devotes 15-30 hours during the week to Bible study and to seeking God’s guidance, is a man – if God is directing – who has something worthwhile to say.
D.L. Moody, once encountered a young student studying for the ministry. The young student told Moody that he never involved himself in sermon preparation, but rather “allowed the Holy Spirit to give him the words to say when he got up to speak.” Moody suggested that, under these circumstances, the young man’s sermons would more closely resemble a “hot east wind” rather than the expository messages God expected.
A worship service without preparation all too often resembles a “hot east wind” rather than a service in which the mind of man reaches out to touch the mind of God in praise and adoration and worship.
1 Cor. 14:15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also
sing with my mind.
D. The Role of Elders in Fulfilling the Church’s Mission
A church can lay down all sorts of Biblical guidelines for both faith and practice, but in the end, if it does not act on those guidelines they are of little value. How do churches insure that they become all that they have proposed to be?
The elders are responsible…The answer, in part, is that the elders of the church are given the responsibility – by God – to “oversee” the work of the church and see to it that everything that takes place within the church is done in a Biblically prescribed manner.
Acts 20:17,25-28 “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them…Guard
yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought
with his own blood.”
1 Tim. 5:17 “The elders and deacons who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose
work is preaching and teaching.”
1 Pet. 5:1-4 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the
glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because
you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being
examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”