I was in a conversation about denominations. So one guy said, “I’m Bapticostal.” Everyone laughed, me included. But I thought that, in a sense, that’s deep. And it turns out Bapticostal is a recognized term now; you can read about it in Wikipedia here.
Things just aren’t exactly the way it was decades ago when it comes to Christian denominations. When I was growing up, lines were pretty clearly drawn between various denominations and often there was a measure of animosity between them. It seems, in many ways, that has changed.
When the guy said he was Bapticostal, what he was meaning was that he was somewhere between traditional Southern Baptist beliefs and what’s known as Pentecostalism. In some respects at least I can see myself somewhere in that range. The church I’ve gone to here for the last 3 years calls itself “non denominational”. It seems most non-denominational churches in Texas have come out of the Southern Baptists but, for one reason or the other, they no longer want to retain the name of being Baptist. But much of their fundamental beliefs are founded in those of the Baptists.
For example, they believe in being saved, born again, and in eternal life through the saving work of Jesus on the Cross. They believe that the Bible is the Word of God and most every Sunday you’ll hear in both Baptist and non-denominational churches a sermon preached which is based around the Bible. Another thing both Baptists and most non-denominational churches believe is in sharing their faith with others, “witnessing” as it’s called.
Pentecostal churches usually are more or less in agreement with these things. But the Pentecostals lay a strong emphasis on the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believers. In fact, the reason it’s called Pentecostal is because of the place in the book of Acts where the presence of the Holy Spirit was first strongly manifested, in Acts chapter 2.
It says there, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, the disciples were all together with one accord. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4) I had a class with some friends about Acts chapter 2. Here is the audio file, and here is the written blog post about it.
So a major difference between Baptists and Pentecostals is in the way they worship. In the nondenominational church I go to, we will all sing some songs together before the sermon. And at the end of a song, everyone will applaud, rather like at a sports event or music event. In Pentecostal churches, they don’t do that; they lift up their hands and praise the Lord.
This is like what Paul said, “I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and without doubting.” (I Thessalonians 2:8) It was very normal to worship this way in Old Testament times. The Psalms are full of things like “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Psalm 134:2)
I feel that the freedom and depth of worship that the Pentecostals have is what I need in order to have a closer relationship with the Lord. But I feel the emphasis on the Bible, on winning souls, missionary work and being firmly rooted in the historical body of Christ are all positive, needful things that I’ve found at the nondenominational church I’ve gone to.
But as the spiritual darkness quickly deepens in this country, many Christians are now realizing that rock-along Christianity will not survive the onslaughts it’s being challenged with. So there’s real hope that a vast number of Christians will see that it’s imperative to greatly raise the level of their discipleship if they’re to survive and help their children survive the new Dark Ages we now seem to be in.
But in another sense, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, as someone once said.
Most of my adult life has been spent on the foreign mission field as a full time disciple of the Lord. Much of the time I was working with dedicated brethren who lived and breathed daily the strongest essences of the things of the Lord that they could. Soulful daily devotions of united prayer, singing, Bible study, praise, and worship. And unusual level of honesty and camaraderie, working together daily to find ways to bring the love of God and salvation to the countries we lived in. It was a heady brew and finding a similar Christian atmosphere to that has been difficult.