08 October, 2011

The Skinny on Church

I've been debating whether or not I should approach this topic, but church {and where I attend} is a big part of my life. As a milspouse, I know that finding a good church is going to be a constant battle and is also for many of my readers. So, I decided I'd tell y'all what's been going on in our house regarding church these days.

Most of you know that I started attending a church here while Joe was deployed. We never found a church home before he deployed, so I went to one at the suggestion of a friend. She told me that this was a Foursquare church, but I had absolutely no clue what denomination Foursquare was. I don't know why I didn't bother looking it up, but I didn't. I attended and listened closely to what the pastor taught and didn't find any faults with it. The worship was contemporary - which is what I love - and I really liked the pastor. So I stayed. When Joe came home on R&R, he went with me and seemed to like it too. I felt like I had a huge win.

That is, until recently. Once Joe came home and we weren't traveling, we attended the church's monthly "get to know us" meeting after the 11:00 service. I never attended one before because - honestly - I didn't want to go alone. Sad, I know, but this is what happens during a deployment. Plus, I didn't feel like I really needed to. So, we went to this meeting. We learned 2 things that didn't really sit well with us. 1) Foursquare denomination was started/founded by a woman in the '20s/'30s. {The Bible tells us that men are the spiritual leaders of the household, so our belief is that they should also lead churches.} 2) They have very different beliefs about the Holy Spirit. #1 is almost something you can dismiss, especially when women in the church we were attending rarely spoke from the pulpit. #2, however, is a different story. It's kind of a big deal.

So there was that. Then came the conference last month. You remember - the one where I worked nursery and Joe helped run sound. We were scheduled to serve during the Thursday and Friday night services, so we decided to attend the Wednesday night kick off service. We were pretty excited about listening to one of the speakers as well. Worship was awesome, as always. Our pastor spoke first for about an hour, and then the guest speaker was up. At first, everything was great. Then, suddenly, things took a turn. He spoke about how in debt he and his church is... {Which isn't necessarily uncommon in this economy, but we have a hard time believing God would lead someone into debt, as this man said he was lead.} Then he started speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then came some questionable actions... He started "speaking in tongues" {aka babbling} and supposedly performing miracles on people.

It was at this point that Joe and I started thinking/praying about leaving that church and finding a church that believes as we do.

Now, I do believe that God performs miracles, but I didn't personally witness any that night. All I saw were people who were knocked backwards by what this man said was the Holy Spirit. Honestly, I'm still not sure what to believe about that. The bigger problem was the "speaking in tongues" and how it was "okay because we're Foursquare." Here's what we believe about speaking in tongues:

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I bet to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in notes? ...So it is with you. Unless you speak INTELLIGIBLE* words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air
I Corinthians 14: 6-10

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers... So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
I Corinthians 14:22-23

First, can I just say that I love Paul? I can just hear him saying, "Will they not say that you are out of your mind?!" =) Anyway. So basically, speaking in tongues/unintelligibly shouldn't happen in the church. The babbling, in unintelligible "languages" are what I've come to know - through our church in NC - as prayer languages. The Bible says that when we don't know how to pray or don't pray intelligibly, the Holy Spirit will interpret for us. We believe that this kind of speaking in tongues should be done in the privacy of your own home, where you alone are talking to God. It should not be done in front of hundreds/thousands of people.

This isn't to say that I don't know people who have spoken in a different language...while not meaning to. I believe this is what true speaking in tongues is. When we were in college, Joe and I had a friend who went to China for a mission trip with our college ministry group. The group ministered to students in different ways, but this particular guy went to teach English. So, of course, they told the school that he would need a translator. I think it was on his first day... He went into the classroom with the translator and began to introduce himself to the class. As he turned to the translator to wait for him to speak to the class, the translator looked at him and said, "What do you need a translator for?" He had been speaking Chinese to them and had absolutely no idea. God put him in that position for a reason; God wanted to use him to minister to these people and gave him the brief ability to speak their language so they could better relate to him. Now, that is speaking in tongues! Also - going back to what Paul says - if you're going to speak in tongues {i.e. a different language}, have a translator.

Now, I kind of skipped over the baptism of the Holy Spirit part earlier... So let's get back to that.

This has a lot to do with salvation, so I suppose I should cover that first. In the Baptist faith {which is how both of us were raised, and still feel is true/right}, there's a lot to salvation. In order to save time, and to keep me from getting a headache, we believe that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. He died on the cross willingly to save us from our sins, and so that we could be with Him one day the way God originally intended it. It is His grace that saves us, and we can do nothing to save ourselves. In order to become saved, you have to repent - meaning you have to truly feel as if you've done wrong and be willing to turn away from it all - and ask Jesus to come into your heart and take control of your life. {That was a lot of paraphrasing, so if you don't understand this or want more explanation along with verses, feel free to email me. Seriously.}

It is at this moment - the rebirth or regeneration, as some call it - that we believe we receive the Holy Spirit. John 14:25 says that the Holy Spirit is our helper, and our teacher. We believe that the Holy Spirit starts speaking to people - teaching, guiding, helping, comforting - the moment they are saved.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance...
Ephesians 1:13-14a

Therefore, the baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at salvation, not at a later date/time. {More info found on the Southern Baptist Convention's website, here. Scroll down to II, A.}

Now, Foursquare believes relatively the same things about salvation. By faith in God, belief that Jesus died for our sins, through God's grace and repentance of sin. Whew. This is where the similarities end. Interestingly enough, Foursquare's site quotes the same verses in John {and others} to prove their belief about the Holy Spirit as Baptists do. This isn't necessarily uncommon, but I always find it interesting how different denominations can take verses and change them into something they want them to say. They also believe the the Holy Spirit is a helper, comforter and teacher. However, they do not believe that this happens at salvation nor is there Scripture on their site to back up/confirm this belief. {More info can be found at Foursquare's website, here. Scroll down to X.} They also do not say when the baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place...only that it does...at some point. That alone is questionable.

All that to say this: we can't under good conscience attend this - or any - Foursquare church any longer. Honestly, I'm a little upset about leaving this church. The people are very kind and welcoming, and I love the worship. I think the pastor is a very good man, as are the rest of the staff. However, we can't attend a church because we like the people and the worship. Over the past few weeks, we've also felt as if the teaching is a bit...lax; not very thought provoking, or including deep teaching. As much as we are called to reach out and teach others about our faith, we also need to be "fed" by our pastor. We need to be taught, we need our toes to be stepped on {don't doubt that God does that} and we need to be challenged. Most importantly, as we bring a little person into the world, we need a church that preaches and teaches the truth. Not just what we think is right or good, but what we know God is telling us is right.

I hate to be "church shopping" once again, but I know it's for the best. And I am perfectly okay knowing that the church I attended while Joe was deployed was there to get me through that time in my life. I'm also okay knowing that I "chose" a church that wasn't right for us. This is why I'm not the spiritual leader of this household - among other reasons. I'm a little sad to be leaving a church full of great people, but I know that God has great things ahead for us and I'm just going to trust Him on this.

If you think about it, I'd appreciate it if you'd pray for us on this. I don't like being between churches and searching for a new one. We would both like to get "planted" as soon as possible and start making more friends and getting involved in church again.

And if you're in the same boat as us, let me know. We can all pray for each other and vent our frustrations together. ;-)


Dianne said...

I also hate "church shopping". I havent been to a church since 2009. Its so hard to find a good one.

I also have never heard of that denomination. And as far as speaking in tongues, I believe it says somewhere in the bible that should be done in private? I've also been in a church where they claimed to have the 'Holy Spirit' and talk in tongues, I never went back there.

Jessica said...

Oh, wow! I've never heard of that denomination. I won't lie... When I was small (probably around 5 or so), my great aunt brought me to church with her and they spoke in tongues. It scared me and scarred me for life. Now, I realize why it did, thanks to your post.

I really need to get back into church. I am doing a bible study at the moment, but I need more. I hope my husband will go with me. I hope and pray that you find a church home soon!

Elizabeth said...

when we were stationed in hawaii it seemed like all the churches were four square churches and it was hard to find something that was not. And I also hate church shopping!! I will pray you all find a church. I don't know if this will help, but while we were in HI we went to trinity central oahu in Mililani. (they have a website). The pastor's teaching was really challenging (in a good way) and while the music was contemporary, it was also reverent. It's been 4 years since we've been there, but I wanted to share.

The Johnston's said...

It's refreshing to see another Christian couple out there who is serious about their walks with the Lord. My Hubby & I were both raised in a Baptist church so I agree with you. The Husband is the head of the house & the spiritual leader. Don't worry about "Church shopping" , God will direct you to the Church He wants you to be at. You made the right decision to leave, you can't attend a church where you don't believe what is being preached. God bless & I will be praying for y'all <3

Kaylee said...

Thanks for sharing your journey in looking for a church family to be a part of - I know it can be hard, and I'll be praying for you guys as you continue to seek out a community where God is leading you to be a part of.

Colleen said...

I love that I'm not the only one struggling with the church search. My husband and I are also stationed in Hawaii, but I'm at home while the guys are deployed. I can't find the courage to go to church alone, without him. It just seems like a constant reminder he's not sitting beside me. We go every Sunday when he's home, and when he leaves, I can feel God missing me. Also, the church that we had been going to turned out to be a church that "speaks in tongues." I feel the exact same way about it as you do, because, HELLO, it's in the Bible! There's no way around those verses--they straightforwardly say that unless God has given others the means to understand your tongues, that you're more or less full of yourself. Have you found a church home in Hawaii? I'll be moving there once he returns in the spring, and the first thing I want to do besides actually move in is find us a new church home!