Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being "Spirit-Led"

Can being "Spirit-Led" be learned behavior? If one where truly led by the Spirit, wouldn't it automatically be spontaneous, authentic, and unique to the individual?

I was raised in a Baptist environment where "charismatic" was almost a bad word. Upon arrival in South Florida, we begrudgingly became a part of the Southern Baptist Denomination, where "charismatic" was an unspoken bad word.

When I read through the Baptist Faith and Message, I definitely noticed the ill-will that it held toward charismatics. I noticed this same ill-will as I read through the commentary in my John Macarthur Study Bible.

As much as I had no background involving the charismatic lifestyle/worship (whatever you want to call it), I found some of these arguments against it to be weak and reeking of personal bias.

Personally, I'd give someone the benefit of the doubt when they claim to be led by the Spirit - to a point. I'd also say that I'm probably skeptical of these people as well. But this is the conundrum in which I find myself - I'm skeptical, but desiring my skepticism to be discounted.

From personal experience, I've come to believe that in many instances, this Spirit-Led behavior is learned from others, rather than spontaneously given from within. This is unfortunate.

We had a guy going to our church a few years back that would stand in the front row with his arms raised, or sometimes lay flat down on the ground (face down) during worship. Some others in the church complained about his "behavior" citing the usual "Baptist/Biblical" excuse of his behavior being distracting from worship. I disagreed with this criticism, and expressed that his behavior was actually uplifting for me and aided in my worship experience. I wished that I could be the one dancing, raising my hands, and laying on the ground - but the truth is that the Spirit wasn't leading me to do it.

I sometimes look around at the crowd at our Mega-church and wish that the crowd were more into it. I've been to churches where the crowd seems to be totally disassociated with the worship to which they're being led. It makes me sad. Its true that most people find it easier to worship at a sporting event or a concert than they do at church - a depressing fact.

On the other hand, I've been to churches where the congregation is totally into the worship experience. I give them the benefit of the doubt that the experience of most of the individuals is sincere and authentic, but sometimes I wonder. Is it sincere, authentic, and spontaneous, or is it really just learned behavior from those around them? This possibility (and a strong one I suspect) makes me sad as well.

We went to a church a couple years ago where the pastor "prodded" the people into speaking in tongues, and told them what to say if they faltered. This seemed totally inauthentic to me and it was really a downer.

We also went to another church where one of the singers pulled out a Bible and spit out lyrics on the fly right out of the Bible. At the time, I found this practice awe-inspiring, but I've since learned that this is also a trained behavior/skill called prophetic singing. How exactly can you train someone to "sing prophetically"?

This is exactly what I'm struggling with. I want to believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in our churches, our lives, our worship, etc. I don't want to be a Baptist Kill-Joy. As Mark Driscoll puts it, I'd at least like to be a Charismatic with a Seat Belt. But I really struggle with people who are not able to just be themselves. This goes for people on both sides of the fence really. One of the joys that I find in Jesus is the freedom to just be myself, regardless of what anyone else may think of me. This is a joy and a freedom that many Christ Followers miss out on.

When I was a teenager, I went on an outing with the youth group from my church. When the invitation was given at the end of the event, every single youth from our group went forward to answer the call to the invitation. I was left sitting alone with our group leader, Sandy Jelsomino. She leaned over and asked me if I was okay, if I wanted to respond to the invitation. I told her that I kind of did, but I was turned off by the fact that most of my school-mates weren't going forward because of a change of heart, but rather because that was the thing that was expected of them.

At the age of 12 or 13, I'd already declared myself as the anti-hero that I still am today, 20 years later. I refuse to toe the line when it comes to my relationship with God. I'm going to do what comes naturally to me, while still stretching my comfort zone and being open to being led by God's Spirit. I don't want to be a stodgy prude, but neither do I want to be an inauthentic "Spirit-Led" person who's simply going through the motions for which they've been trained.


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