There are different reactions when one leaves a Pentecostal type church. Some continue to practice what they learned in their church. Others run away from it. Many go somewhere in between.
Not everyone who leaves these type of churches will turn from all things Pentecostal. And some will simply develop a healthy and biblical view of them, which should be everyone’s goal.
When some people leave a Pentecostal church, they won’t even consider a non-Pentecostal one. They’ve had it drilled in them that all others are ‘dead’ or ‘boring’ and that is untrue. They may have become addicted to that emotional fix in a charged service. They may not yet have come to see how we simply cannot rely upon our emotions. (I have an article that addresses emotionalism called The Presence of God.)
Others leave and run as far in the other direction as they can. They find the so-called ‘dead’ and ‘boring’ services to be just what they need during their time of healing. They don’t want a minister to shout the message and don’t want all kinds of emotional displays in services. They don’t want anything that remotely reminds them of their former church. They want peace and quiet.
These are often steps taken by those who leave the UPC (United Pentecostal Church) and similar churches. Until one has had the chance to fully examine the various issues involved, it’s no wonder people react in either manner.
When I first left, I attended a church that broke from the UPC and was 2 hours away, if traffic allowed. After leaving there, I wouldn’t even consider the ‘dead’ and ‘boring’ churches. They were not in the ‘truth’, you know!
Many years later, I would now prefer a non-Pentecostal church. How I came to this place wasn’t due to my initial knee-jerk reaction. It has come after spending much time looking at the various issues, seeing what the Bible teaches and shows, and coming to what I believe is a biblical conclusion regarding some practices seen in Pentecostal churches today.
So we always need to allow people space in this and be patient as they make their own journey.
Some who leave are triggered by altar calls. In the New Testament church, I don’t see any examples of present day altar calls, but that doesn’t have to translate to meaning they can’t ever be used in a church service. They simply need to be healthy and whatever is done should be based upon the Bible.
Going to the altar in a healthy church isn’t about crying, pleading, begging, getting ‘zapped’, falling down or any such thing. I see it as basically one of three things:
- It is an opportunity for a believer to have another pray with them.
- It is an opportunity for a believer to pray privately to God.
- It is an opportunity for a person to come before the church in a public confession of their newfound faith in God.
Here’s the thing about this- you never have to go to a church altar to pray. As believers, we can pray anywhere at anytime and with anyone. There isn’t some special power that goes with a church altar. God is just as close in your living room and isn’t any less powerful there.
In addition, in a healthy church, you won’t be told you must come up front to pray, nor will you be pushed to do so or made to feel guilty.
Going out of your way to avoid altar calls would be a knee-jerk reaction because of the triggers it causes. However, you may need to do this while you heal and work through your issues. That’s OK. I think you will find that over time you will become comfortable and not run from what would be an altar time in a healthy church.
And what about things like prophecy or tongues or healing?
Some people come to disbelieve anything related to their former church and this is often the result of having been in a toxic environment. These are all mentioned in the Bible, so they are real. The problem is we saw a distorted version of them and when we see these things mentioned, we may equate the distortion with them instead of realizing there is a true biblical aspect.
Here is something that should help should you find yourself in this position. Spend some time reading in the Gospels and Acts and see the supernatural events that are described. Pay attention to how and why things happened. Also notice the absence of examples for what we see in Pentecostalism today. (That’s one thing many of us never stopped to examine and that is if we could find any similar examples of behavior or actions in the Bible.)
In the Bible, people are miraculously healed. Lame people walked and blind people received their sight. A few were brought back from the dead. There were prophecies and even a little speaking in tongues. There were other miracles. See what I mean? These things can be genuine and shouldn’t be discounted because we received a distorted image of them. Get a healthy, biblical view and discard the distortion and see it for what it is.
Hopefully there’s something here that will help those struggling in this area.