Tuesday, August 19, 2003
I posted a link to "an experience" a couple of days ago (thanks, Danielle!), and in the comments I mentioned that I'd had a few of my own "experiences" that have shaped me today. I wonder what I would've done differently if I'd been in high school when these things happened...?
I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination, so I've got alot in common with alot of people who went to Wednesday night youth group, sang in Christmas musicals, went on winter ski retreats and summer youth camps, etc. I also have alot of baggage, shared with some of those same people. But one of the things that I feel I was really deprived of was an understanding of the Holy Spirit. While things like demons and spiritual warfare weren't outright denied, they weren't objects of many studies either. Silence was tantamount to denial. The aspect of the Holy Spirit in one's life was as a guide, a friend, a conscience-helper for conviction - something like that.
When we left the church I'd grown up in, we went first to another SBC church to serve in youth ministry, and then a year later - as God began really showing us things about Himself, the Spirit, etc - when the church voted us out, the Pastor started our current non-denom congregation. We've got charismatic leanings, pentecostal roots to be sure - but I also like that we're balanced in those traditions with the Baptist roots. We can walk in spirit *and* in truth - letting the Bible feed our experiences, and letting out experiences flesh out the Word, etc.
One of my first "exepriences" was at a youth retreat just outside of Gatlinburg, TN. I was the driver, and Pastor was the featured guest for a friend of his taking his youth group on retreat. One evening, after the preaching and after the majority of people left the building, folks were still getting prayed for. Laying on hands, falling out, shouting and dancing - but it was so real and not at all "weird" to me, even though this was the first time I'd ever seen anything like this on a scale this big. What I remember most though was this: I almost sortakinda heard God audibly telling me to pray, to lay down and intercede, to get up and watch for a moment, to watch this person find ministry or this person over there seek forgiveness, now on your knees to pray again. It was like that, and I don't know if it could've been any more real if I'd been a puppet on a string.
Another time, we were on retreat in Hilton Head. Charles Carron was teaching our leaders about the Spirit. The thing about learning is having to unlearn so much, right? There was such an air of healing, especially with people's backs. He showed us "how to do it" - one person praying and moving hands in such a way as to effect real adjustment. Really amazing, and some real healing took place. One man had poor back problems for years, and all of a sudden he was running full bore around the room - no pain, no hindrance. And the big thing was that he could feel it happening. This wasn't just a matter of divine suggestion, but as they prayed, he could feel his back being massaged and readjusted. That's something you never really forget.
For all of the people I've seen fall out, I've seen most of them get back up and have nothing change. That's the drawback of stuff like this - either making it up or not allowing it to be real with real lasting change. But it doesn't make it any less real for me. At that same Hilton Head retreat, another friend was delivered from demon oppression, and he's still walking out that freedom today. Many of us were challenged to live what we're learning - and most of the people in that room are no longer a part of our congregation. For me, that's almost proof that it was "real", because you couldn't hide from shared experiences like that. It's either change or leave... I hope I've changed as God has led, because I haven't left yet.