Over the years the congregations I have been a part of have self-identified as different things. First there was Pentecostal, and then there was Charismatic; after that the new-fangled Non-denomination labeling grew in popularity.
So as I continue on my quest for an intelligent faith, I have to stop and ponder the question, “what does it men to be Pentecostal, likewise Charismatic and most intriguingly I wonder what does it really mean to claim that one’s congregation or one’s self is non-denominational or without denomination?” Isn’t that refusal to identify with any larger group really a declaration that you are now a new denomination?
Are you Pentecostal?
Based on the name, it’s not too hard to figure out that the Pentecostal focus is on the Pentecost experience of Acts 2, and therefore, they have a particular focus on each person having a direct experience with God where they are baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. This experience carries much weight in Pentecostal circles. There is, of course, a broad diversity even within the denomination — two major groups, for example. There are the Trinitarian Pentecostals, such as the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the Assembles of God. Then there are the Oneness Pentecostals who deny the Trinity, such as the Pentecostal Assembles of the World and the United Pentecostal Church United.
Are you Charismatic?
My best summation is that Charismatic, first called neo-Pentecostalism, is a widening of the focus. Not born out of the 1906 Azusa Street revivals, Charismatics also believe that the gifts experienced by the first century church, such as prophecy and miracles, are still given to the church through individuals today. The major difference between Charismatic Theology and Pentecostal Theology comes down to the belief about tongues. It is the primary evidence of being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, says the Pentecostal, and the validation of salvation according to some. The Charismatic responds, “not so.” It may be an evidence, not the evidence, and it’s not necessary for all believers to speak in tongues, especially not necessary for salvation. But wait, are you Neo-Charismatic?
You may be Neo-Charismatic.
Out of Charismatic Theology have come many churches, called various things. One trend that is prevalent today among the Neo-Charismatic group is to refer to their organizations as non-denominational. It’s a bit naïve, in my opinion, because even if you refuse to identify the foundational theology of your church, you still hold to it. Not only do I think it’s naïve, but isn’t it also dangerous? Is it not important for the members of these churches to know and fully understand their church’s theological foundations, and thus the theology that they themselves hold to be true?
A revival of thinking
Should it not be the case that you understand the theological position of a church before you align yourself with said organization? With a reported 38000 Christian denominations, it becomes ever so much more important for you to intelligently work out your beliefs and then join yourself to the appropriate group of people.
As Christians we share a rich history of scholarly reasoning. The apostles were certainly men of reason and intellect. The early church fathers would reach back to the apostles for knowledge as they reasoned forward and addressed the issues of the faith. Today there seems to be this rouge and undisciplined approach to Christianity that, unfortunately, is growing in popularity. The early leaders of the church were continually called upon to be diligent in teaching all that was taught to them. If they were obedient, we can safely assume that new converts were willing to learn, study, and retain these God-given principles and follow them.
We have been warned that in the last days many will surround false teachers and false prophets wanting nothing more than an ear tickle. Tell me something good! That seems to be the cry of the day. Tell me I’ll be rich, tell me I’ll be healed, tell me I have been absolved of all work and responsibility to work out my own soul’s salvation with fear and trembling. Oh, and please tell me I can have all these things that I desire now!
Yet I hear the cry of the Word of God respond: There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is destruction. I hear, work hard to show yourself approved. I hear, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things. . .
Why I’m no longer Charismatic
One of the reasons I walked away from Charismatic ministry is because thinking became more important to me than position, title, approval, or progress. I needed to think, to reason, to consider, to decide. I needed the liberty to disagree, to question, to serve the Lord with all of my mind.
Conformity is not unity. You can only truly have unity when all people involved have intellectually ascertained truth that is essential and agreed to it. What I experienced was more brain-washing and bullying than anything else.
We Christians need a renewed focus on the Gospel and a return to the directives of our one leader, Jesus Christ. Have we forgotten that it’s all about the kingdom of God?