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By Bryan Matthew Dockens

Recently, I accepted a friend's invitation to visit a Pentecostal church service. It was my first such experience, so let me share what I observed.

I would be remiss to overlook the good qualities I noticed, so I'll start there. I was made to feel welcome by all, including personal greetings from many of the members (Titus 3:15). My presence was not treated with indifference, but with kindhearted interest and care (James 2:1-13). The members are certainly enthusiastic about what they do, being "fervent in spirit" (Romans 12:11). Nevertheless, as Paul remarked of Israel, so it was true in this instance: "I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2).

I observed a foreign name. The group I visited bears the moniker "Gospel Lighthouse Church", but no such name appears in the New Testament. "Churches of Christ" are referred to (Romans 16:16). "Church of God" is mentioned (Acts 20:28), and so is "church of the living God" (1st Timothy 3:15), as well as "church of God in Christ Jesus" (1st Thessalonians 2:14), but not "Gospel Lighthouse Church".

I observed a band with musical instruments. There was a drummer, a trumpeter, a couple guitar players, a keyboard player, and four vocalists on stage. Scripture teaches praise with instrumental accompaniment in the Old Testament for sure (Psalm 150), but never in the New. Since that first covenant is "obsolete" (Hebrews 8:13), one can hardly use it to justify something the second covenant is silent about. The music approved by the Lord now is "singing" (Ephesians 5:19), just "singing" (Colossians 3:16). Neither instrument playing, nor hand clapping, nor humming, nor whistling is authorized for New Testament worship; just "singing" (Acts 16:25). The covenant under which all men are now accountable simply says to "sing" (1st Corinthians 14:15; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13).

I observed vain repetitions. When the music leader would speak, he would say "Amen" between every sentence at least, sometimes multiple times per sentence. The same was true of one man who worded a prayer for the congregation. It is appropriate to "say 'Amen' at your giving of thanks" (1st Corinthians 14:16), but this was just senseless; at times it seemed like "Amen" was every other word to be heard. Jesus taught, "But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7).

I observed women in positions of authority. One third of the band members on stage were female, and from the congregation at least one woman stood up and used the microphone to present her "testimony". Paul the apostle was rather plain spoken on this point: "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says" (1st Corinthians 14:34). Furthermore, he taught, "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (1st Timothy 2:12).

I observed general disorder. People were walking and talking, dancing, and waving hands throughout the assembly. The apostle commanded, with specific reference to the church assembled, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1st Corinthians 14:40). He explained, "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1st Corinthians 14:33), where "confusion" means "disorder". A sense of "reverence and godly fear" must prevail in worship, for that is how "we may serve God acceptably" (Hebrews 12:28).

I observed indifference as to the frequency of the Lord's Supper. One man began to announce that they might have communion that night, but a visual cue from somewhere in the room indicated otherwise. He then stated that communion would take place at some unspecified occasion in the near future. Scripture shows that it was "on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). When a store posts its hours of operation, understanding when it is open is hardly an ambiguous matter. For instance, Costco is open Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. One is not left to wonder if the hours posted apply every Saturday or just occasionally. The sign is plain enough and so is God's word. If disciples gathered on the first day of the week to break bread, as recorded then, disciples must gather every first day of the week now for the same purpose.

I observed misunderstanding about foot washing. When the upcoming communion service was announced, it was said there would be a foot washing service. When Jesus said, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15), did He introduce ritualistic foot washing ceremonies to the church, or was He teaching an object lesson in humble service? Foot washing was an act of kindness and consideration appropriate to circumstances in which everyone wore sandals (Acts 12:8) and walked unpaved roads, resulting in dust on their sore feet (Luke 10:11). It was not the action of foot washing, per se, that Jesus sought to impress on the hearts of His followers, but the humility of mind that brings a man to do dirty, smelly work to address the concerns of another (Philippians 2:5-7). Efforts to assist others are not meant to be public displays (Matthew 6:1-4).

I observed misunderstanding as to the duration of spiritual gifts. It was clearly stated that miracles could be worked today, but Scripture teaches otherwise. "Prophecies", "tongues", and such would "fail", "cease", and "vanish away" said Paul, because those things were "in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1st Corinthians 13:8-10). Scripture having been recorded in its completeness, there no longer remains a need for "confirming the word through the accompanying signs" (Mark 16:20), which was the purpose of miracles. The signs that were performed "are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31). If faith can be gained from reading of the miracles, then the miracles themselves are no longer necessary.

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