My tenth post on topics ranging from holidays to the glory of a woman’s hair (and a man’s if it looks good!) to the pregnant girl who sat in front of me in senior English class.
The church I grew up in worshiped aerobically.
The Friendly Ghost Who Might Slay You
I refer to Mt. Zion as Pentecostal or charismatic. I’m not sure what the difference is. They talked about faith a lot and giving. They all spoke (and the musically inclined even sang) in tongues. The Holy Spirit, or rather the Holy Ghost (I think that’s King James), and the baptism thereof were also popular sermon topics, though usually at Sunday night or Wednesday night services.
It usually happened at these evening services (but sometimes on a Sunday morning) when the Spirit would let loose and all manner of worship celebration would occur. Music would go on for an hour, yet it was obvious the praise band had only prepared four songs, which was why they kept playing them over and over and over—and these were short songs to begin with, choruses they called them, because they didn’t normally contain verses or bridges or pre-choruses, as are common in today’s worship songs. In an effort only jazz greats like John Coltrane and Bill Evans could appreciate, the band would beat a four-line stanza to death: One more time! “I went to the enemy’s camp …”
I absolutely loved it as a kid. I was about ten years old and learning to see God as the Father I never had. I paid attention to the sermons, scribbling notes even during the offering sermonette. That’s when someone, other than the senior pastor usually, shares from Malachi 3 about not cheating God and how he’ll “open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing” on those who empty their pockets into the offering plate.
As a kid my pockets were already empty, but I gave all of myself in worship. With the other high-spirited worshipers, I danced like David in the front before the altar call when those seeking prayer were inadvertently slain in the Spirit. There were repeat responders—those who liked to get walloped by the Holy Ghost every week.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that not every Pentecostal worshiper is sincere. Sometimes, like the sociology of a mob, you just get caught up in what’s happening around you—like a church version of the wave or L.A. riots. I haven’t spoken in tongues since I was a kid and don’t know if I could. For many it’s real, while some have learned to fake it. (Fake it till you make it. And if you don’t make it, just continue faking it.)
One thing I miss about aerobic worship is the willingness to try anything.
- Clapping—easy, 2 and 4 is a given on any fast song.
- Raising hands—the higher the better, reach for the roof, like you’re stretching wide for those blessings from heaven.
- Singing—the Ancient of Days is hard of hearing so sing louder.
- Dancing—you don’t need rhythm, just move that body.
- Waving banners—they weren’t meant to hang on walls, grab one like you’re playing capture the flag, just watch the ceiling.
- Bowing—not so much, because you can’t see what everyone else is doing in this humble position.
- Falling prostrate—see bowing. When you’re slain in the Spirit, it’s sort of the opposite of prostrate, because you’re on your back. (Ushers, grab those handmade quilts to use as modesty covers for the ladies; we don’t need to see their panty-hosed shins.)
Reverence vs. Enthusiasm
I’ve been in many church settings since those days in the ‘80s, some that emphasized reverence more than exuberance. Some that are somewhere in the middle. In an effort to satisfy both camps, some churches try to find a balance, but I’m not sure this is the best approach. Sometimes we should be reflective and serious, and sometimes we should be enthusiastic and jubilant.
I think of our 16 month old, Micah, whose demeanor is often a “sober” one. He could win just about any staring contest. But I also know the Micah who can become downright crazy. I love both personalities.
So balance is not the right word. Perhaps bipolar is a better one. Let’s not settle for a bland middle like Goldilocks. At times let’s be reflective, considering the magnitude of God’s holiness and his great love for us, and at other times exultant, like Jesus put a hurt on the devil, breaking the chains of sin’s grasp and defeating the power of death. Let’s be so bipolar Satan will think we forgot our meds. (Pentecostals like to talk about the devil a lot.)
What do you think? Do you have a bent toward reflective worship or loud celebration? Are you a Goldilocks worshiper? What prevents you from singing, clapping, raising hands, bowing?