Pentecostal Spirituality: Are we Creating a Culture of ‘Encounter Addicts’?

Pentecostal spirituality can often be defined as a series of power encounters that has a tendency to ignore the biblical notion of journey.  We can be criticized for sometimes conditioning people to seek God in an episodic fashion, rather than through the ordinariness of day to day life.  Why do we believe that anything significant from God has to be shrouded in the unorthodox and strange? What about the daily?

For instance, there is a tendency to pursue God at special times and places, like a  meeting, summer camp, conference, or altar service, and then attempt to live off the residual effects of that encounter. We may not even realize it, but I think we may be creating a culture of ‘encounter addicts.’ And, the implications are significant. Not the least of which are people who lose the wonder of the ordinary.

Will there be special moments with God that occur from time to time that make a particularly powerful impact in our lives? Defining moments that stay with us for an extended period of time, perhaps a lifetime, that prove to change the course of our lives in some way?

Absolutely.

However, rather than isolate these kinds of experiences to the extraordinary, I encourage us to stay awake to the possibility that these interactions can just as easily occur within the daily routines of reading a good book, during a stimulating conversation, or a hike in the country. While God can interact with us in the extravagant, he more often than not chooses to walk with us through the normalcy of everyday life.

My point in all of this is to encourage you to never allow yourself to seek only after the spectacular, but also learn to embrace the everyday as having the capacity to provide places of learning, growth and life-informing change. Never limit God’s activity to only the extravagant, but the mundane as well.

Remember, we know where the Holy Spirit is, we do not know where he is not.

The greatest encounter could actually come in the most unexpected ways and places, if we are open to it.

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10 Comments on “Pentecostal Spirituality: Are we Creating a Culture of ‘Encounter Addicts’?

  1. Great Word Jeff! Thanks for being “both/and” and not “either/or”. There is definitely a shift occurring in charismatic/renewal culture that is moving us toward the importance of journey and process, while contending for a “suddenly”. You rock!

    • Thanks, Mike. I’m a ‘both/and’ kind of guy I guess. :)

      I think it’s important to make room for both in our ‘everyday’ lives, in whatever arena it may happen. If God is present to all, as I laid out in another post, then we should expect his active interaction in the simple, everyday moments of life, as well as in the sometimes more dramatic, though certainly less so. Scripture, and human experience, points us to both as a platform for us to walk on even today. Though I’ve learned to more fully embrace the ‘everyday’.

  2. Mind if I translate this to Spanish to give out to a class I’m teaching for our church’s Latino ministry (I’ll attribute and point them to your site in the handout). We’re currently in a series on the Holy Spirit in the Wed night study.

  3. Thoughtful and relevant. We can’t have our lives radically changed by God in every service!

  4. Well said Jeff. Someone else used the phrase “emotional junkies” in reference to the issue you address.

  5. Pingback: Pentecostal Spirituality: Are we Creating a Culture of 'Encounter … – Charismatic Feeds

  6. I agree that it’s both/and, however….

    My most profound, life-changing “encounters” have been in the “mundane,” outside the big tent/service/hype. In some ways I feel my journey echoes that of Elijah in the cave. The Lord has spoken most profoundly and heavily in the still, small voice as opposed to clamour. This has occurred in the forest, in university, in my home and on the busy streets of Toronto.

    And yet… I lead worship in a Pentecostal church, the context of which is “contemporary” and is designed around the “worship experience.” The irony is something I think about often. The conflict runs so deep that I sometimes wonder if I should be leading worship at all.

    I can’t think of a way, logically, to develop perseverance or suffer for Christ, or…., through altar “experiences.” Faith and belief are tested, honed and strengthened in the battlefield of life, engaging the culture, being Christ to the community. This is often done when one is alone.

    I have come to the conclusion that “encounters” are truly meaningful only if they result in greater godliness outside the “encounter.” Otherwise, while not necessarily counterfeit (I think that’s too strong an indictment), the encounter is naught but a good time together in worship as a body of believers. Valuable? Yes. As valuable? No.

    Enter wisdom….

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