I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. This meant several things: The only instruments used for worship were the piano and organ. Period. If you wanted to sing, you better like wearing polyester because everyone on stage wore a choir robe made of the cheapest polyester you could find. And the ONLY raised arm you would EVER see on a Sunday morning was for a question. Charismatic worship didn’t exist. Weird people did that. REALLY weird people.
When I moved to the north, I couldn’t find a “real” Baptist church, let alone one that was Southern Baptist. So, I went to a non-denominational church… until they told me I was no longer welcome when I became pregnant with Sydney. (There are SO MANY things I could say about this church and their leadership… rife with false teaching and built on manipulation. But, I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was the teachings spoon-fed to me through my Southern Baptist upbringing were never cloaked in the “love” and “acceptance” I felt from this church… at first.) Had I known they believed the TRULY saved speak in tongues and never get sick, I would have been out of there so fast, no matter how nice they seemed.
That church also introduced me to charismatic worship. It was an introduction from afar because no sane person would make a fool of themselves by raising their arms while they sing, swaying side to side. (Some might be saying, “Amen!” and some might be offended. Remember, this is a glimpse into our lives, an evolution of our faith. This was my introduction to charismatic worship. I was skeptical, AND I’M STILL SKEPTICAL, for many reasons, including my strict religious upbringing and my experience under false teachers.) Anyone who knows me now would also find this hilarious because I’m a full-fledged arm-raiser and music swayer. It took me a while to throw off the heavy yoke of legalism, but still hold tight to the importance of reverence… and honestly, to not care what people thought about me. I once sat in that place of judgment; I know what people might be thinking. Getting to a place where I didn’t care was a lot harder than I imagined. Laughable now… but, at the time, a very real weight.
All of this is important because it underscores a very powerful, debilitating reality: I had God in a box. And FORGET about the Holy Spirit. Up until seminary, the Holy Spirit was hardly preached about at ANY church I went to, which I find really odd. Jesus left us so the Holy Spirit could come. We’re supposed to walk in the Spirit; the power of the Spirit is in us. But, looking back I don’t remember hearing one sermon about what that REALLY looks like. (Since this time, I have. But those sermons are still few and far between.) So much of my spiritual life was shaped by the crafted theologies of man and not my own understanding of the Bible. I never really questioned the teachings, whether it was the sermon on Sunday morning or the policies and programs instituted by leadership. Remember when I talked about reading the first few chapters of Acts and asking the elder why our church didn’t look like that? He flat out said the church wasn’t like that anymore. That should have been a red flag. I should have asked more questions. When things contradict scripture, no matter how seemingly innocuous, ALWAYS ask questions.
I would read passages like 1 Corinthians 12-14 and become uncomfortable. But, I would also watch sermons where the preacher took horrid liberties with scripture, preaching false doctrine about the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit… as they told people to call their 1-800 number and financially support their ministry… to receive additional blessings from the Lord. There was a real tension I was feeling between inexplicable truth that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around and a very real twisting of the truth that clearly violated scripture. I wanted to push into that tension. I wanted God to show me where I was putting Him in a box, unwilling to explore the possibilities of His power, not for my gain… but for my loss. That last part might not make sense now, but it will over time. Our family has definitely gained so much over the past 6 months, but we have lost so much more. We’ve lost things that people in the church told us we didn’t need to lose, or give up, in order to follow Jesus. Always be skeptical of people who tell you that living a life of comfort is biblical. Jesus never says that and he most definitely didn’t live it. Neither did the Apostles. But, those Pharisees surely did.
The next three posts will show you how the Lord began answering my question. Over the course of three days, with three different interactions, the Lord opened my eyes to who He is, what He is capable of and what it looks like to truly be willing to go where He wants you to go.