Week 42: Cornerstone Pentecostal, 19 October 2008 (Michael)

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything to the blog.  Typically I act as sounding-board, critic, and occasional muse, not writer.  Throughout the project though I continue to ask the question, “Why do we do church?”  What’s the point of church?  I can’t find anything in the Sermon on Mount where Jesus says, “blessed are the churchgoers for they shall hold services at 10 on Sundays.”

What I’ve discovered as I’ve gone along is that very few churches seem to articulate why they bother to have services.  Some seem to gather out of obligation, others because they enjoy the social interaction, but very few state an explicit reason for their service, and there are even fewer where the tacit reasons align with the explicit statements.  This is something that I love about the pentecostal traditions.  Pentecostals know why they are in church:  They are there to worship God. Anything else that happens is lagniappe.  They do it with abandon, eschewing social constraints, and expressing their love for God in whatever way the spirit moves them.

Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects in which a pentecostal service is just as scripted as a liturgical service.  No doubt there are people present out of a sense of obligation as well.  But the whole focus of the pentecostal service is joyful, ecstatic, raise-God-above-all-else worship.  Even not knowing the music, it’s a hard not to get a smile on your face when a bunch of folks are clapping, shouting, and singing, “he’s forgiven sin, he sets the captives free, he’s breaking the chains, giving liberty.”  There is tangible, palpable joy in the focused worship of God.

Which I guess gets to my last point.  As a high school student I was involved in a Foursquare church.  Foursquare is an old-time pentecostal denomination started by the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, or Sister Aimee as she is known within the church.  My experience in the Foursquare church was similar to what I saw Sunday at Cornerstone. People came to passionately worship, to wrestle in prayer, and to be exhorted to holiness. In our journey this year we’ve been to one Foursquare church and two Assemblies of God churches (another pentecostal denomination). Both of them were dreadfully watered down.  No shouting.  No speaking in tongues.  No dancing in the aisles.  No tear-streaked altar calls. They were safe, suburban, and dead.  While they had decent well rehearsed bands, they had nowhere near the passion and vitality of Cornerstone.

Perhaps that was what drew me as a teenager, and what draws me still today:  the genuineness of people that are willing to be “fools for Christ” in their worship, putting aside what is socially acceptable or comfortable by modern standards, to fall on their faces and declare the glory of the living God.

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One Response to Week 42: Cornerstone Pentecostal, 19 October 2008 (Michael)

  1. zachary says:

    Yay, Michael,
    Thanks for pitching in here. I have made forays into a Foursquare church on occasion, remembering them mostly as an escape from our Baptist one now and then. I wandered over there when I wanted to be anonymous, but sometimes still found myself leading in their children’s program. Hard habit to break.


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