Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Sure How to Think about Revival - Still

I admit readily that I have been jaundiced by my experiences with Pentecostal revivalist Christians who have been my bane in the last few years. They have proven themselves to be hypocritical, and judgmental, and I have been on the receiving end of this judgment.

Yet, I have been leery of revivalism even before the season of my struggle with my former fellow journeymen in the faith began.

Tonight I visited a meeting happening here in Salem for a half hour or so, and here is what I experienced:

"This woman says she has back back pain. We are going to pray for you. Is that okay?"

The Spanish speaking woman nods her head. The large screen projecting the service to the back of the room shows her face.

"Now as I pray touch your toes. Have you been able to touch your toes since you've had this problem? No?"

The woman shakes her head signifying no.

"Can you touch your toes now?"

Again she shakes her head negatively.

"Go ahead try to touch your toes as we pray."

The woman on the screen reaches down to touch her toes. She is a mother in her late twenties or early thirties.

"Did that hurt?"

She nods affirmatively, and mouths some words I can not hear.

"It hurts a little bit? Let's do it again. Reach down and touch your toes as we pray for you."

She does this again.

"Did it hurt this time?"

She shakes her head, and says, "No."

A brief conversation between the man praying, the young mother, and the interpreter ensues.

"A hernia? Oh a herniated disk. Folks, she has had 2 herniated disks for the last 2 years. No, 2 herniated disks for 6 years! She has had 2 herniated disks for 6 years and tonight she has no pain."

The crowd cheers.

"Oh excuse me. She has had 2 herniated disks for 6 months, and tonight the she has no pain."

The crowd cheers again. Less fervently this time.

I was standing in the back, and put my face in my hands. I thought to myself. Why didn't you ask about the specifics of her condition before you asked her to bend over?"

I am still not fond of the word revival. This particular revival meeting has a connection to the Lakeland, FL event, and I think that there were about 200 people in attendance when I popped in very late for a few minutes tonight.

24 comments:

Agent B said...

Good reflection. Thanks for sharing.

I too use to be neck deep in event like the one you described. I've gone through culture shock and back again since those days.

I don't know anymore.

bd said...

How about stopping in tomorrow night at 7pm when it starts and spending the entire 3, 4, 5 hours there among your brother's and sisters in Christ? If at that point you find nothing there then fine, but at least give it a chance.

Steve Hayes said...

I was at one where they were lengthening legs. Someone asked for prayer for deafness. Sorry brother, today we are lengthening legs, we do ears another time.

I wonder - don't they ever shorten legs?

Beth said...

I was there from 7 to about 9:45, when the message was underway, so I didn't see any of what you describe. However, I do think I ought to say that the previous 2+ hours of worship, in particular a very tender and powerful sharing of the Eucharist early on, were amazing. I more or less see the narrative motivating events like these, and the "This Is It" hype, as a discardable part of that religious culture.... but I'm sure that would be harder to do for people who've been inside it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor Phil, for your thoughtful story -- and, wow, what an incredible photo of the surfer and the wave.

Most of the people at revivals and outpourings are not there to receive physical healings or to witness them. They are there because they are radically in love with Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, the God who became a human being and walked among us, took the hit for us by dying on the Crsss. Why? He is radically in love with us. We want more of Him. We love because He loved us first.

Pastor Phil, you are an observant and articulate person. You must have noticed, for example, how much the ushers extend themselves to help with the needs of any visitors. I attended on Friday night, too, the same as you. I asked my companion, "Are you thirsty? I'll go get us some water."

An usher overheard us and came back with two bottles of water. No charge.

Jesus bless you.

Beth said...

Dear Phil--
Another Beth here--from the Virtual Tea House...

Having been brought up in first a Pentacostal church home and then a Wesleyan Methodist church/school, I can attest that all your friends are correct: there's a lot of love and a lot of hype and a lot of lost souls and a lot of kindness.

Having left these scenes as part of my childhood, I can say without flinching that I was never comfortable in them, from a young child maybe 3 years old listening to Tommy Barnett in my living room singing. I can remember feeling like I was supposed to be feeling or doing something that didn't come naturally to me--the immense demonstrative expressions of love for Jesus were off-putting and almost repulsive to me. As I was then put in a Christian day-school where I experienced this kind of religious expression almost daily, I never became immune to my feelings of distaste. And I did leave the church when I became an adult, for the reasons you write about: there's an expectation--almost a herd-mentality--that we all attune to the same frequency in our love for our Maker, and our devotion to Jesus.

I feel much more comfortable now camping, playing with children or animals, watching a soulful movie (just watched a film last night: The US vs. John Lennon) that brought me to tears and opened my heart as I witnessed a man who refused to be bought, co-erced or forced into denying his stance--that love is all there is. That, cuddled with my partner and my Husky, was as fine a church as I'll ever attend. Quiet, reflective and heartful.

So maybe it's just a matter of personality or style or something--
but I dont' need reviving. I find my revival each day, in my interactions with friends, co-workers, my partner, my animals, children and plants.

But I do know that there are many who find solace and challenge in the scenes you describe. Just not for me, or for many of my true 'tribe'.

Thanks for all you all doing--not just Phil but all of you--to make the world more loving and kind.

Ruth said...

A fellow blogger and her husband attendeed the Lakeland meeting and posted about it here.

They felt it to be mostly mass hypnosis.

I'm sure many people are comming to the Lord. But we never hear of any documented healings from these things.

I don't know what to believe. I have seen miracles though. My niece was healed from appendicitis.

Melzoe said...

I went to this event tonight because a friend of mine called me, someone I used to sit side by side in church and haven't now for a year and a half, I've missed her and others that I love. It was wonderful to be there again and see a few familiar faces enjoying the vibrant crowd praising God. For me, worshiping God among those I have relationship with is powerful. Praying for healing for those I know, or recieiving prayer from those that know me personally make it real.

There are things that make it hard for me to worship in the setting tonight...but I just kept praying that God would increase his truth, his word, and his glory, and decrease anything else in the way. I don't want to cut into the worship or what God might do with my critical judgmental thoughts.

Seeing people seeking out healing from God so passionately is great. My prayer is that the Lord will not only bring healing tonight (as a lot of the emphasis was on the event and the timing of receiving blessing right then and there) but also that people will walk away and carry with them the knowledge that the living spirit of God restored them and will continue to do so if only they look to him.

We sometimes need to appeal to our emotions to get carried to a place where our hearts are freer, but it's important that we know the limitations and the distractions of our emotions as well.

God also brought to my heart, when I was feeling awkward or uncomfortable given the different style of expression of faith and when my heart was full of doubt or skeptism, that I need to pray for other churches communities in addition to my own. May Jesus continue to be the focus. May Jesus bring healing to broken hearts, bodies and relationships in all of God's churches, and between them as well.

It's also nice to go to this kind of event and be able to see the good, and have grace for the weird instead of only seeing the weird so I can't even see what God might show me.

It was a BEAUTIFUL thing to see diversity represented as well. How awesome was that! (Melzoe)

Pastor Phil said...

Hey B,

I suppose I particularly don't resonate with the idea of exporting revival, but then again that does not mean it can not happen. So I too "don't know anymore."

Pastor Phil said...

bd,

Thanks for popping in to the blog. I would have visited more, but my schedule at church limited my involvement. I know that I would have found something. That is not at question. Yet perhaps my brief encounter highlights that verse from Song of Solomon about the little foxes that spoil the vine. Small things can make a big difference.

Pastor Phil said...

Steve,

Are you serious?! Did they say they ears another time?

Pastor Phil said...

Beth,

Thanks for your update on the experience at the event. Your note about the "discardable part" of that religious culture resonates deeply within my habitually deconstructionist bones. Of course too much deconstructing might be discardable as well.

I do find I can separate that which is beneficial from that which is silly, bit I think I walked in on a silly moment. People were sharing the good bits with me, but the the part is all I saw.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi anonymous (please try to leave your name in the future - it helps thoughtful dialogue. I typically do not like to respond to anonymous posts.)

Thanks for the update on your own experience. I think I will try to post a set of responses to the revival from different things people say here. This way a community view can be seen by those who are excited and those who are ambivalent, and those who are questioning.

Yes people were friendly, and I actually spent more time talking with people who wanted to greet me than actually following the revival, but that's usually what happens to me in those settings.

Pastor Phil said...

TeaHouse Beth,

Your words come from my own heart. Love and hype all piled together is what I see. Yet is any other church tradition different?

Reformed churches hype sound doctrine. Orthodox churches hype liturgy. Everyone seems to overemphasize their favorite things. I am not saying this is a universal happening, but only that it is the tendency within the human framework. We hype what we like, and make it the only thing God is doing.

My critiques or observances should always cause me to look back upon myself and continue the critique upon my own ways.

Pastor Phil said...

Ruth,

Thanks for the link to the experience from Lakeland. Oh My Gosh it is written well and hilarious. Still need to go back and read to the end.

I've seen healings, and I've seen hype... "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend", okay getting silly now. Both good and silly reside in us all, and that is where I usually land in my evaluations. So it does not bode well for people who try to tell that "this is the next great thing God is doing."

I am just hoping that is not the current trend with this set of events.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Melzoe,

Thanks for the update. I am going to post the experiences people share here together on one post. The evaluations of it put together can only give us a greater picture. I wish I could have been there for more of it, but we were not alerted to its coming, and did not find out until a few days before. My schedule was already set.

Adam Gonnerman said...

Phil,

I am not now nor have ever been "Pentecostal" in the traditional meaning of that word. My experiences in Brazil with Pentecostalism also turned me off. It always seemed like charlatans putting on a show. I do not believe Jesus, the apostles or prophets used a stage to heal people. They preached the Good News of Christ's reign, and the Spirit of God added His testimony.

Beth said...

Thanks, Phil and all for this interesting cross-section of dialogue...

And thanks, Phil, for your reminder of 'we all have hype'...mine is also deconstructionism...but the hype there, as so well put on the current satire piece on the Jesus Manifesto blog, made me smile! 'Post-Loving Emerger' indeed!
http://www.jesusmanifesto.com/2008/06/15/an-open-letter-from-a-post-loving-emerger-of-course-it%e2%80%99s-an-open-letter-i%e2%80%99m-post-foreclosed/

Beth, Virtual Tea House style

Tisha said...

Pastor Phil: I was there too. I feel that you misread the healing time that you mentioned. The woman they were praying for was hispanic and even though they had an interpreter, there was some miscommunication because of the language barrier. The important thing is that she was healed.
I was there Saturday night and they mentioned that GOD was healing many different things. I was healed for a shoulder ailment that I have had for several years. I know that I was healed.

God is the same today as he was 2000 years ago. He still heals. He still seeks unity amoung his churches. What is happening is Salem, aside from the healings, is a great deal of unity among the churches. This is a great testament to GOD. It is a great testament to the memory of Rev. Arthur Robinson and Rev. Rocco Rezza (who recently passed away). Unity among the churches and nationalities is paramount for the advancement of the Kingdom.

Come back this week, give us a chance. Let go of your hurts and let GOD heal you!

Pastor Phil said...

Tisha,

I did not misread that situation. You will notice that I mention that she is Spanish speaking, and that there was an interpreter.

The fact is that she was asked to touch her toes before she was asked what was wrong with her. Herniated discs and touching toes are not a great combination. Now if she is still healed today, and a week from now that is good. If she still has pain, I am concerned that someone was asked to do something potentially harmful in the context of faith healing.

As far as your healing. May the Lord continue to keep you in health, and may the Lord be blessed for what He has done.

It seems that you are making an assumption that I must be harboring hurts and therefore have disagreement with the revival. I do not disagree with these meetings, but I do think that "the little foxes spoil the vine" as they used to say in Pentecostal circles years ago, and it is still true that small things can create big problems. These concerns have been consistent for 25 years - long prior experiencing deceit and false judgments at the hands of Pentecostal leaders. So "healing" doesn't change my concerns.

If the outpouring meetings continue I will visit as I am able.

Rev. Robinson I met years ago, before we moved here. He laid hands upon me when we came to visit him at home in his last few years, and he laid hands upon me and prophesied that I would wear his mantle. What that means I am not sure. That is just what happened in his kitchen on Franklin Street back in the early 90's.

Adam Gonnerman said...

My wife and I are studying the Bible (evangelizing) with a family here in NJ that has been visiting the church for a few weeks. Last week the daughter, in her early teens, asked about an incident of a healing she heard about from her hair dresser. When her mother heard it and acted skeptical, the question came up of whether she lacked faith.

My answer? You are only required to believe the Word of God. I trust the miracles, signs and healings in Scripture. Whatever happens outside of that, here and now, may be real or it may not be. It is not necessary to my salvation or Christian growth to believe every single claim of healing or miracles. In fact, were I to be that gullible, I'd be failing to test the spirits and look back to God's revelation for guidance.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Adam Gone,

Thanks for sharing your balanced view of the whole thing. I say yup and Amen.

Andy in Germany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.joshua said...

Yup. I just got back from Lakeland and I still don't know how I felt about it. I'll tell you what I do know:

Every single person there is a messed up screwball (myself included). God showed me that Unity is a bunch of screwballs that roll up together and give God all they have in their messed-upness.

I saw people with herniated disks healed and stuff, but I'm not really concerned with that. Thats for the people being healed and seeking healing. I want revelation from God and I got a little of that. So I'm satisfied.

Past that, I'm not in concern for the criticisms despite some of their validity.