Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yeah, But What's In It For Me?

When my wife and I got together, we came from two different Christian backgrounds. She, a practicing Roman Catholic, and me, a Charismatic Protestant (a.k.a. "Non-Denominational"). Over the years, and many breakfast conversations, the differences have become more and more apparent. Now I grew up Catholic, so I knew where she was coming from. She, on the other hand, had minimal Charismatic experience, especially of the Protestant variety. Since the Charismatic movement had much development in the Catholic church though, she wasn't completely lost.

A notable difference between Catholic and Charismatic churches is their view of community and growth. If you look around, you will notice that there are Catholic churches around, but none too close to each other. There are usually only one or two in a specific geographic area. Charismatic churches, on the other hand, can be found practically across the street from each other. Again, the difference is based on their view of community and growth.

When a Catholic church has become too large for its current location to support, they will either move to a location with more property, or more likely, the diocese will start another Catholic church in a nearby, but different, neighborhood. The reason for this is that each Catholic church is designed to meet the needs of that particular community. If and when that church reaches a point where it is unable to effectively meet those needs, another church is required - usually close enough to assist with those needs, but far enough away to reach a separate community as well.

Charismatic churches, on the other hand, tend to be more growth focused. They go from one program to the next, always looking for what brings in the most people. And to assist with this, "successful" Charismatic churches hold seminars and publish books on what they have done to reach such phenomenal growth. So, they are always trying the "newest thing", and usually, at the expense of reaching the needs of the community in which they are located.

Understand, the reason for the difference is that charismatics, by definition, are "What's in it for me?" people. The word "charismatic" comes from the word "charis", meaning "gifts". Unlike their neighbors, the Pentecostals, whose focus tends to be the Holy Spirit (see "Pentecost" in the beginning of the book of Acts in the bible), Charismatics focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, what can they get from the Holy Spirit.

Through the years, charismatics have danced with different "movements": Word & Faith, Prosperity, Healing, etc. All of which have been focused on getting FROM God. Along with this hunger for what they can get, comes the nickname "Cruise-a-matics"; as they jump from church to church, seminar to seminar, event to event, always looking for where the Spirit is "moving". They stand in long lines at the altar with hopes that the minister with the "gift" can bestow it on them by laying their hands upon them.

Before you get upset with me, understand that I've been in the Charismatic movement since the early 1990s. I know of what I speak.

Because of this, Charismatic churches struggle with attendance, as they find people come in the front and leave out the side; going to where the worship is better, or the pastor is more gifted, or they "preach the word". Also, the congregations are made up of people from all over; many driving many miles to attend a particular church. This results in a disconnect between the church and the local community, as the attendees have very little to connect them once the service ends.

If you don't believe me, take a look at the church bulletins of your local Catholic and Charismatic churches. The Catholic one tends to be pages long, with staples holding it together, filled with community needs, reflections, names of the sick to pray for, births, weddings, funerals, and social opportunities. The Charismatic one tends to be one sheet of paper, folded a few times, with one whole section to take notes during the sermon.

What's the solution? The only thing that comes to mind is for people to stop looking at what they can get FROM God. A way to do that is to not spend so much time thanking God for what He has given, but instead thanking God for WHO He is.
God loves us without condition. I'm sure that's the kind of love He would like in return.

© Emittravel 2015

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