Before I proceed, a disclaimer is in order as not to reveal the denominational affiliation or particular assembly during my visitation. This blog is written with an unbiased theological perspective and in no way intended to impute division, biblical disputes or any cause for concern but to stimulate healthy conversation as seen through the eyes of someone looking from the inside out. This comparison is not meant to demean the other or even to affirm a more righteous side but will take into consideration all avenues of its structure, ethical makeup, positional statement and ministerial focus. Let’s begin!
During one of my visits, I came across a local conservative church (let’s call them Church A), quaint in appearance from other more orthodoxy traditional establishments. The church had the ambiance of a modern-day concert with soft lighting, a dark atmosphere that barely allowed for vision and every winged instrument they could conjure up. As I walked in I was immediately greeted by a warm face. The greeter handed me what looked like a postcard of today’s service itinerary. As I made my way into the sanctuary I noticed no ushers present to seat me so I assumed first come first serve. While waiting with anticipation for the service to begin, the quietness settled those walking in and the worship began. I was expecting a more ritualistic hymnal accompaniment of songs and was surprised to hear a more modern selection. The worship was concise and only left slight exhortations from the song leader as it would set the tone for the remaining of the service. The next part of the agenda was the offering and the speaker only made mention of our Christian responsibility to give back to God. Then came the preaching of the Word and the pastor stood up and made his way to the contemporary pulpit made of steel. Dressed down with jeans and a fitted shirt he began with his exegetical homily. The sermon was not only preached but taught as I noticed others around me taking notes hunger not to miss a point. His tone throughout the message was softspoken but theological rich with Greek and Hebrew in his arsenal. As the service draws to a close, there was no altar calls or salvations present and just as quickly as they started the service had ended. I walked out and was greeted again by the pastor who welcomed me back to visit again.
Making my way to church B, I was immediately taken back by the location of this Charismatic cathedral-like structure. Come to find out that the church was renting the space and as I made my way to the front doors I was greeted by the pastor. He was dressed down from head to toe and personally walked me into the church and introduced me to others on his staff. The conversation I had with these individuals was pleasant and even got a personal escort into my seat. The sanctuary was modernized with purple lights, large speakers, and an orchestra of percussion and electric instruments. As the worship began, everyone was engaged, clapping and lifting hands and one particular backup singer seemed to dominate the rest with shouts of enthusiasm and joy. After the worship, we had the opportunity to greet and embrace each other in fellowship. As I sat down the speaker would take up the offering next. What seemed to be a sermon before the sermon the speaker presented many ways on how the church could and should give to help within their ministries. A video clip was shown that would further emphasize the need for donations. Next came the preaching. The pastor began with the text and within the first few minutes of his message began to weep as he told countless story after story that related to his message. Those around me didn’t take notes and I myself tried to write down some points but wasn’t successful. Shouts of “Amen” and “Preach it” filled the air and by the end of the message, an altar call was given. Prophetic words uttered, healings was offered and the laying on of hands by anointing oil was rendered. As the service ended, I was ushered to the hospitality table to fill out a connection card for followup. Making my way outside I was greeted once again by the pastor who told me to keep in touch.
Two different faith movements but one spirit, two diametrically diverse methods of Gospel presentation but one Lord, two opposite sides of the biblical spectrum but one God. No matter how you look at it both churches shared the cardinal doctrines held by Protestant believers and theologically keep to the centrality of the cross. I enjoyed my time at both Church A & B and would visit again. The question remains, which church is mission focused, loves people enough to evangelize the lost and dying, disciples the hurting and baptizes the believer? Can there be a middle ground between a conservative and charismatic approach that emphasizes Biblical inerrancy and the practice of spiritual gifts and doesn’t conform to a hyper-faith movement or died orthodoxy? I wholeheartedly believe there is such a biblical balance to be discovered that will be a pillar for our generation and the next, banded together in unity for the cause of Christ and a spiritual awakening that will usher in Gospel-centered communities.