We’re still working on our analysis of the second half of Pastor Smith’s (a pseudonym) sermon. We hope to post it either later today or else tomorrow. But in the meantime, here’s something that’s been on my mind, as I’ve spent more time lately listening to Living Word Church (another pseudonym) on iTunes.
And that is…even now, nearly a year after we quit attending Living Word, it still puzzles me that we (and lots of other educated long-time Christians) willingly set aside a lot of things we knew to be true and willingly put up with a lot of manipulation and other bad behaviors from the Smiths. What WAS it that hooked us in and drew us back week after week?
As I listen to Pastor Smith preach, I find myself being reminded, just by the sound of his authoritative yet raspy voice, of all that I used to love about the place. And most of that, I think, comes down to how I FELT when I was there, in the sanctuary. There definitely WAS something almost tangible, something that you could FEEL, during many of the services.
Pastor Smith has another sermon available on iTunes, his latest in the series about “The Anointing.” I doubt I’ll take the time to transcribe this new one, but I did listen to it, and as I heard many of the things that Smith said, I couldn’t help but feel some of the same emotions I used to feel back when we went to church there. As Smith talked about “the anointing” in this second sermon, he gave several examples of feeling the presence of God.
And despite all of my wariness, all of my cynicism, all of my “been there, done that” attitudes about Living Word, I found myself remembering that yes, I really did used to believe that the emotional rush I felt when I was at church actually WAS the “presence of God.”
The best way I can explain it is, it felt like a cold blast of water to a thirsty place deep within me. Sometimes it felt like a blast of cold air. (Of course, sometimes that was probably because we often sat near the gigantic air conditioning vents…) Sometimes I would feel waves of emotion, almost to the point of tears. And I’d sit and just shut off my brain and let my thoughts flow from one thing to the next, and pretty soon, I’d glance at my watch and realize that Pastor Smith had been preaching for an hour…when here it felt like time had practically stood still!
And whatever this feeling was, it was quite addictive. Pastor Smith mentions “hungering and thirsting for the presence of God” in both of the “Anointing” sermons. When I went to church there, I would have thought I knew exactly what he was talking about – which was my continual desire for more of what I just described in the above paragraph.
So I guess what I’m wondering is this: WAS that almost-tangible “something” in Living Word’s atmosphere the presence of God?
I’m honestly not sure.
I now lean toward thinking that of course it wasn’t.
I know, as a commenter once pointed out, that no church is perfect, and that even the most sanctified and consecrated pastors are going to have sins, struggles, and problems. I know that God continues to use and work through all of us, sinful and utterly fallible though we are. And I’m very grateful for that.
But…would God choose to manifest Himself in a special, tangible way at a place that is such a hotbed of questionable teachings, unbiblical practices, greed, haughtiness, false prophecies, and manipulation? And if not, then what WAS that feeling that I used to feel, that special “buzz” that I’d get from going to church there?
I think this is a very important question, because I believe there are a lot of people out there in Charismania who are hooked into it by this very thing. Now that I look back on it – and now that I hear Pastor Smith’s teachings on the presence of God – I realize that the entire congregation at Living Word probably also believes that that thing that they FEEL when they’re there at church is indeed God’s presence. And that by desiring that feeling, they are “hungering and thirsting” for God.
I don’t really have any way to wrap up this blog posting…it’s more of an open-ended question. What do YOU think? If you were ever involved in Charismania, do you remember that certain feeling that I’m describing, that certain unique wave of emotion? If so, what do YOU think that it was?
I’m still puzzled.