So, what's the deal between Baptists and Pentecostals/Charismatics? Why is it that these two groups allow the non-essentials (non-essentials to salvation, that is) to divide them?
I grew up in a conservative, Baptist church. Certain "things" that Pentecostals did, were basically mocked and considered "evil/of the devil." Raising hands during worship? Forget it. Praying in tongues? ABsolutely NOT.
As a kid, I remember watching African-American church services on TV, and being mesmerized by their enthusiasm in worshipping God. I wanted to worship like that - to fully express my emotion and love toward the Lord with other believers. After all, I LOVED Him! He was my closest Friend since I was about four years old. I WANTED to express my love to Him. Frankly, I found my church growing up to be very BORING. Grab a hymnal. Stand up. Sing a song. Sit down. Yawn....
When I turned 18, I was invited by Joe's mom, to attend a Foursquare church where I lived. Now, having been indoctrinated my entire childhood that charismatic expression and theology was "bad," I was somewhat fearful, yet I had this deep excitement that I was going to find what I had been yearning for. It was explained to me that people raised their hands during worship, and they believed in "speaking in tongues," or a "prayer language." Prayer language? What the heck?! I was cautious, yet oh, so curious. So, my mother-in-law bought me a couple of books on the subject, and I devoured them, while looking up scriptures to compare and see for myself.
Anyway, I went to the Foursquare church service for the first time. It was PACKED. Plus, there were lots of young people. The worship music was personal - words to direct me to God in an intimate expression, with others who felt the same. I watched. I sang. My heart and my spirit were FILLED and MOVED. I loved it. Nobody was "rolling in the aisles," as I had been told. The pastor talked about raising of hands, and that it is Biblical. He made a little joke, and said that it's not a gauge as to how spiritual you are. Meaning, if you raise your hands all of the way up, it's SUPER spiritual, or if you only have you hands down at your hips, you're a little bit spiritual. He just encouraged us to use this expression of worship as a point of surrender to God, and do it as we were comfortable. OK! I liked that!
Well, in the meantime, I read my books. I learned a lot about what the Bible said about "tongues," and realized that this particular subject, while clearly in the Bible, had been glossed over and pretty much ignored in my church growing up. This was interesting to me. Here I grew up with people who loved the Lord and thought this was bad, and now I'm attending a church with people who love the Lord and they don't think this is bad.
I said to the Lord, "Lord, if this is real and there is a way that I can pray that will enhance my prayer life, then I want it. If it's not real, then, You will not have me receive it." I prayed in my bedroom privately. All I can say is, as I focused on Him, surrendered myself to the Lord, and opened my mouth - another language came out. It's something I do as a private prayer time with the Lord - not all the time, but often. From what I know, the private prayer language is something different from the tongues with an interpretation (required) in a corporate setting. Go read Jack Hayford's, "The Beauty of Spiritual Language," or "The Holy Spirit and You" and "Nine O'Clock In The Morning," by Dennis Bennett if you are at all interested in this subject. And, of course, research what the BIBLE says.
I also tried the raising of the hands thing. I started out with my hands at my hips, just turned up a little. I made a decision that I would close my eyes to focus totally on God, and raise my hands to Him as I felt led to. I wanted to make sure that my heart was sincere, and not just going with the flow, and following what other people did. I am still like that to this day. I never want to express myself to him, just because others are doing it, or because of a feeling. I try to focus on the words and my hands raised to Him are like a bodily form of an "Amen!" or an affirming, "Yes, Lord, I believe THAT!" to Him. I am quite focused with it, and I attribute that to my conservative upbringing.
Now, back to my original question: what's the Deal? Here's the thing for me. If people aren't interested in speaking in tongues or raising their hands (I pick those, because they seem to be the biggest dividers), then JUST DON'T DO IT! It makes no difference to your salvation. And, if you interpret the scriptures differently, so that you don't believe these things are of God, you can absolutely believe that!! You are not less of a Christian, and don't let anyone make you feel like that. Like I said, there are some things interpreted in Scripture that are NON-ESSENTIALS. Things that make no difference to your salvation. I have heard that some Pentecostal denominations DO believe that if you don't speak in tongues, you're not saved. But, just like all Baptists churches are not alike, neither are Pentecostal churches. The one I attend does NOT believe that you have to speak in tongues to be saved. Don't lump all Baptists together, and don't lump all Pentecostals together!
That said, I would like some Baptists to stop looking down their noses at some Pentecostals for interpreting Scripture this way, and saying that speaking in tongues and raising hands is bad. I would hope that they're not just saying that because they've been indoctrinated to believe that, but rather, they have actually researched the scriptures for themselves.
I would also like some Pentecostals/Charismatics to stop looking down their noses at some Baptists, who made a decision to reject this thinking. Pentecostals are not "better" or more superior Christians for speaking in tongues or raising their hands during worship. They have interpreted the Bible regarding this subject in a certain way, and choose to have their own style of worship in a church service. If you don't like that style, then find a church with a style that fits yours and let Baptists love the Lord while you love the Lord at the same time.
I would also love it of Baptists and Pentecostals would stop letting these non-essentials divide them, and come together to change their communities for the glory of God. Set aside their interpretive differences (everybody has them on a variety of subjects, anyway), and on occasion, morph into this big force to change the hearts and lives of an entire city where they live.
All of us, whether Baptist or Pentecostal, should STOP the divisive talk between the denominations. I hear it all the time - the subtle little ways one will put down the other. I've heard Baptists say with a condescending tone in their voice, "Oh, you DO realize that they have some different theology, don't you?" Or, Pentecostals will make some inuendo about the local Baptist church's worship style. It really needs to STOP. I've spent years and years in both settings, and I know for a fact that people genuinely love the Lord in each one. Each group cares immensely for the eternal lives of people in their communities. Each group wants to see people in their cities, come into a relationship with God. Each group has awesome youth that are excited about their relationship with God and want to grow. So, just THINK of the potential of joining youth groups on occasion, for a concert or a mission trip or some Christian FUN. Just THINK of the spiritual FORCE of joining together as churches to fight poverty and hunger, or change the climate of a school, or improve living conditions of the poor in their city.
We just need to get over ourselves and stop allowing these things to divide us, so that we can make a difference in our communities. Something to think about: I believe that these divisions are the very things that are turn-offs to the world. Our own behavior might very well be keeping people from coming into a relationship with God.
Finally, I believe there is a ton of false teaching out there. A TON. All you have to do is turn on the TV. We should ALWAYS stand against false teaching, but, just because you see a Pentecostal, false teacher on TV, does not mean that all Pentecostals/Charismatics are like that. And, vice versa. I look at whether or not the church is Bible-believing, and that all of the fundamentals (essentials) to salvation, God, the Trinity, the Bible, etc., are present. The rest is interpretation (and don't we know there are certain things that are left to interpretation in the Bible!), and style. We must take a balanced approach, be conscientious followers of Christ, guard our hearts and minds and test everything against the Word of God and not just rely on what other people say. We shouldn't be so afraid of the differences in the interpretation of scripture on the non-essentials to salvation between Baptists and Pentecostals. I think we should stop freaking out so much about those things, and letting them divide us. Rather, I think we can accept the differences of interpretation the non-essentials, as well as the differences of worship styles.