Today we had a number of speakers – again. I’ll offer a bit of a reflection on their contributions further down. I am still very tired and not adjusted to the changes. I did manage to sleep during the afternoon presentation. Don’t freak out and think that I stayed in my hotel room and skipped part of the conference – I was there in the big room with everyone else, I was listening for about ten minutes, and then I was asleep. Probably writing a blog post at 3:45am does not help.
We took our group picture today. I hate group pictures. We had to get in a circle and smile. I hate smiling for group pictures. Here is the mental picture for you: almost 300 Christians trying to make a perfect circle, using protractors and a compass, smiling and laughing, and one grumpy Baptist shouting again and again, “just take the stikin’ picture!”
Well maybe is wasn’t exactly like that. I did crack a smile once, for Jesus’ sake.
Here are my reflections on the speakers this morning:
What is it that is keeping churches and denominations divided? Some say it is theology. Others say it is structure. After being here for four days, I think I would say that it is pride and hubris.
One of the ongoing themes that I have heard again and again is that the Pentecostal church is growing in leaps and bounds. This is shared in a way that suggests that they must be doing something right. Then we are told that churches in the West are not growing and therefore they must be doing something wrong.
But what is a Pentecostal church?
One speaker, Dr. Opoku Onyinah, said that a Pentecostal church is one that, “emphasize the working of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” I am pretty sure that I do not serve in a Pentecostal church, but at the same time I am pretty sure that I am part of a church that emphasizes the working of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, the discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.)
I am told that a Pentecostal or charismatic is one who is “baptized by the Spirit.” I’m pretty sure I am not a Pentecostal or charismatic, but I know that when I accepted Christ as my savior I was baptized by the Spirit. I have seen others who would not be described as Pentecostal or charismatic baptized by the Spirit.
I am told that my church and I need to have a Pentecostal experience and a charismatic experience even though by their standards I already have had one. If I argue this I am told that I am wrong and they are right.
This is where unity breaks down and is lost. When a position and experience is shared as a superior to another’s position and experience people are put on the defensive and unity is lost. When someone claims, with an air of superiority, that they are right and that others are wrong unity is lost.
I think people should be steadfast in their tradition, experience, faith, and positions. I think that should express how their tradition offers such depth in faith and should freely share the gifts and wonders of those traditions. Yet when placed in a way of absolute truth and superiority unity is lost. So we all should go to the local diner and order up a big ole’ slice of humble pie.
While we’re there we should also get some strawberry-rhubarb pie, some key-lime pie, some apple pie, some blueberry pie, some pumpkin pie…