This past Sunday was Pentecost (or Whit to my English friends) Sunday, the official church calendar end of the formal Easter season. This is the date fifty days after the resurrection of Christ that the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles. But do we really celebrate it?
Sadly most churches heard very little, if anything about the Spirit last Sunday. Sure, their might have been a mention of the day being Pentecost, but for most churches outside the charismatic movement, the subject of the Holy Spirit is treated lightly and with velvet gloves. The subject of the Holy Spirit is one evangelicals seem to have difficulty in coming to full terms with, like single moms and suicide. We dance around it but never dare to tackle it head on. What are we afraid of the Holy Ghost?
26 But the Helper [Counselor; Advocate] will teach you everything [all things] and will cause you to remember [remind you of] all that I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name. John 14:26 (The Expanded Bible)
It’s too bad that Evangelicals are so afraid of the Holy Spirit/Ghost. We’ve allowed decades of viewing our brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal, Holiness and related charismatic denominations as less qualified citizens of God’s kingdom get in the way of authentic worship and praise. We’ve let our ignorance lead to gaps in our spiritual growth and understanding.
I’ve had the privilege of worshiping and fellowshiping with some charismatics who have found themselves attending a small Southern Baptist church plant in Central Maine. In my time with them ranging from a few months for some, to a couple of years with others depending on the person, I’ve discovered one common theme among them. They all have an authentic joy and passion for worship.
I was raised a Baptist, conservative one at that, and I never saw hands raised in worship time and certainly not in prayer time. It’s not “what we did”, well, in our defense it is hard to get the hands swaying to many of the hymns. I mean have you ever tried to sway to “Nearer my God to Thee”? But there is some truth in my humor. For many Christians Sunday worship is a hot, dry and boring encounter that requires sitting in formal dress clothes on a hard wooden pew listening to the pastor talk over and not too them. There is no passion, there is no joy and there is not a spirit moving among them.
And that’s too bad.
As Christians we should be celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives every day. Like some sort of spiritual ADHD we should be filled and overflowing with it and wanting to share and show it, both during worship and outside of church services. It should be a catalyst for our changed life. For being “filled with the spirit”, far too many christians are still empty and hollow inside. Where is our joy? Where is our excitement? Where is our… well…. spirit?
I have to ask; if God is so great in our lives, why do so many of us look so miserable when we are worshiping him? It’s time we learn from our fellow Christians across the denominational divide and learn to live with the Spirit. Letting it not only fill us, but befriend us. And maybe, just maybe, raise our hands when we sing in praise.