I had an interesting visit recently with a lovely lady of about 70 years. She has been a Christian for 60 of those years, all spent in one Pentecostal denomination. She made and appointment to see me, and came to my office with a notebook and a pen. She opened the conversation with a question: “What is the difference between my church (she named her denomination) and your Word of Faith churches?” We proceeded to compare doctrines and found them quite similar. I told her that I could not speak for all “Word of Faith” churches, but only for ours. I asked her what prompted her to ask such a question. She responded by referencing her notebook. She said, “I try to visit other churches occasionally, and I have visited yours several times. I notice that there is more of a manifestation of spiritual gifts here, and also the way you pray is different. You pray the Word.” She continued talking, observing that people seemed to enter into worship more freely and that we had a great deal of emphasis on praying for people to be healed and to be filled with the Spirit. I was blessed!
In the course of our discussion, two areas seemed at the core of the matter:
- Our attitude toward the Word. It is one thing to acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God. It is another to believe that what it says is true for me right now. What she noticed in our prayers was the tendency to thank God for what we believe He has already done rather than beg Him to do it, or simply recount our problems and whine. It is that “faith thing.” It is my absolute belief that I have to get people grounded in the Word in such a way that they can believe God for themselves. I don’t want them to depend on me, but on God. He honors His Word. This is our primary purpose.
- Our practice regarding the Holy Spirit: He is not a doctrine, He is a person. He lives in us and rests on us. He is our Comforter and Guide. He commanded us to “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1) Our attitude is that if the Holy Spirit is not manifest in our services there is something wrong. We make a place for Him and take time to wait on Him. In addition, we regularly talk about speaking in tongues and demonstrate it in our services. We pray for believers to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and expect every one to receive. Many so-called Pentecostal churches are ashamed of the Holy Spirit. We are not. He is God. People need God, not me.
Somebody Said: The earlier practice of the Church had been more or less to employ in worship under the presidency of the pastor or pastors, the gifts of the congregation.
…Meanwhile the Church more and more provided for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, by practically chaining His influence to the hierarchy and the sacraments. Robert Rainy
Scripture Reading: But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:38-40 NKJV)
I have a simple rule for pastoring: I don’t want to pastor a church I wouldn’t go to. I wouldn’t go to a church that did not teach the Word in such a way as to encourage people to exercise their faith. I wouldn’t go to a church where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not manifest. If I wanted to join a social club I would look elsewhere. If I want the power, person, and presence of God, I look to my church.