Guest Post #6 for May's Different Beautiful Church Series
by Leola Ogle (Writing With Leola)
Almost seventy years ago, I was born into a family of Pentecostals on both my mother and father’s side. As a child, I experienced long church services where the power of God’s spirit manifested in ways different from other faiths. I didn’t know it was different because it was all I knew. Weeping, shouting, dancing (referred to as dancing in the spirit), shaking, speaking in tongues, laughing (referred to as laughing in the spirit), rebuking Satan, passing out or being slain in the Spirit, clapping during worship, and raising hands in worship were all normal in a Pentecostal church.
I was fourteen when in response to an altar call by a minister, I accepted Jesus as my savior. Being born into a family who attended church would not get me into heaven. I had to ask Jesus into my heart on my own. I don’t remember the sermon, the songs that were sung, or what or who moved me to the altar that night. I remember the rush of warmth that flowed over me. It was a tangible presence that stirred every fiber of my being, and I wept tears that came from deep within. Although I was a good, kind, and compassionate girl, in that moment I knew I needed Jesus.
This decision would be the pivotal point on which the remainder of my life would be hinged.
We had church services several times a week. Revival services were nightly and would last for a week, two weeks, a month, or longer. Revival services happened in the local church or whenever tent revivals came to the city. Oral Roberts and A.A. Allen were names of tent revival ministers I remember.
Sermons weren’t hurried. Altar times at the conclusion of a sermon were to be expected. With few exceptions, everyone went to the altar to pray for salvation, healing, a deeper spiritual walk, and other needs. People sought the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues as mentioned in Acts 2. We believed baptism by complete submergence in water followed a salvation experience.
I have experienced all forms of Pentecostal worship mentioned above. Looking back, at times there was chaos and misuse in this form of worship; but ask me if it’s real, was it beautiful, was it fulfilling, and I’ll answer yes, unequivocally. God wants to be more than just something we know in our hearts and minds. He wants us to feel His presence in a powerful way.
We are natural beings, but God is supernatural. As humans, how our natural bodies respond to the supernatural presence of God is determined by our personality. My husband I are sports fans. When we attend a game and our team makes an awesome play or wins, my husband stays seated, quietly clapping and murmuring, “Good play. Great game. Awesome win.” I am on my feet, clapping, cheering, jumping up and down, and maybe crying. My husband and I react to God’s presence in the same way. He’s calm and laid-back, and I’m exuberant.
The Charismatic movement happened in the 1960’s. Charismatics experienced everything Pentecostals did, but in a more orderly fashion. I’ve attended – still attend -- Pentecostal and Charismatic services and love them both.
Pentecostal/charismatic is not necessarily a church or denomination as much as it is an experience or movement. Our worship is lively, dynamic, and full of movement. I love God’s presence, but I don’t always feel it. Sometimes my faith journey isn’t about what I feel, but simply my belief that God exists, Jesus gave his life for me, He loves me unconditionally, and is compassionately concerned with everything in my life.
I have danced in His presence like David in 2 Samuel 6:14. I sing, clap, bounce, sway, shout “hallelujah, praise God, and amen” during worship. I have fallen prostrate to the floor. I have wept with awe and wonder. I have wept with a broken heart and wounded spirit by circumstances. Often, I stagger beneath the overwhelming emotion that fills me that Almighty God, Abba Father, He who spoke worlds into existence, the One the wind and seas obey – He knows my name and loves me with a depth of love I’ll never understand. It fills me with humility and gratitude.
Without Jesus, I would be dead. When life dealt me things that stripped me of hope and the will to live, it was Jesus I clung to. When despair surrounded me like a dark shroud, it was His presence that would not let go of me. Sometimes I hung on by a thin thread, but it was enough.
My mature worship has a different dimension than my youthful worship. My youthful worship was often motivated by an emotional hype. Now I worship with thankfulness that words can’t express. He deserves my worship. He is pleased by my worship, not by its outward performance, but by the attitude of my heart. God is always pleased when we worship Him with our whole hearts.
I might lose a debate based on Scripture of proper ways to worship, but no one can ever sway me about my experiences. They happened. They are real. I am grateful for my Pentecostal heritage.
Leola Ogle lives in Arizona with her husband, Jeff, and their large blended family. She has been involved in ministry most of her adult life. Writing about tough issues Christians struggle with, she has authored four Christian women's fiction books, "Like A Cedar In Lebanon," "In An Eveningtide," "Of Splendor and Ashes," and "The girl Under The Porch." She's also had several short stories published in books.
To read Guest Post #1 in this series: This Year On Good Friday
Guest Post #2: I Do Church Differently Than My Ancestors Did
Guest Post #4: Silence is Meaningful and Other Lessons Quakers Teach Us
Guest Post #5: I Do Church Differently Because We Keep Moving