unbuckling the bible belt – part five

life in the bible belt is one big conundrum.  i’ve written about our heroes, our regional pride, our weather, and our friendliness.  with all these delicious issues from which to choose, i suppose my biggest source of conundrumism (conundrumosity? conundrumitis?) is the reason people go to church.

i can give it to you in one word: goosebumps.

i am proud of and grateful for my pentecostal heritage.  i believe in the gifts of the spirit. i believe that god moves among his church today, and that he wants to manifest himself tangibly every time his people gather.  in our meetings, i always try to be sensitive to the leading of the holy spirit and i am always eager to set aside our schedule/agenda in favor of his.  but, as a general rule, we’ve gone overboard.  we way overemphasize the emotional in our services.

in the bible belt, we love our goosebumps.

i can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard people say, “we had such a great service…the preacher didn’t even get to preach!”  that can be translated as follows: “during worship, we all got worked up into a frenzy.  then we shouted and cried and jumped around.  pastor knew the meeting had reached its climax, so he milked it for a while and dismissed us saying, ‘wow, didn’t god show up today?!’   it was goosebump city!” occasionally i’ll deliver a powerful, convicting word the lord has given me and i can sense people wrestling and processing.  on those days, even when i feel like something profound and beneficial took place, i see people leaving with a look of disappointment on their faces.  no goosebumps.

we love fast songs and loud preaching.  we love old-time campmeeting.

let me say again, i am all about a genuine move of god.  but it seems to me that god should be the one who decides when and where he moves.  mark buchanan says it well in “your god is too safe”:

The problem is not that God is distant and needs to be wooed or badgered into coming near, the problem is that God is ever present, ever near, and some of us seek ways of escape…God does not need t be invoked, we do.  We need to be called to our senses, to be as present to God as God is to us.

sometimes, when i’m in god’s presence, i feel very small…awe-struck.  sometimes he speaks plainly, and i want to be still and listen and soak up everything he has to say to me.  sometimes i feel broken and ashamed.  sometimes i feel needy, like i’ve been underwater for a long time and i need to gulp in huge breaths of his presence.  and sometimes i feel emotionally exultant, like i’m on top of the world.  those times don’t happen every time i go to church, and i don’t think they should.  they are not a sign of “the anointing,” and they certainly should not be the standard for whether or not our meeting was successful.

but l enjoy it when it happens.  i love me some goosebumps.

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