Do not quench the Spirit;
do not despise prophetic utterances.
But examine everything carefully;
hold fast to that which is good;
abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Thanks to all who left comments on my previous blog.
I did attend the Call on Saturday. I was only there for three of the 12 hours, so I'm not sure I have a completely accurate picture, but I think I got a decent glimpse of the rhythm of that day.
I attended with my friend Eric, a fellow "open skeptic." When we walked into the arena about an hour into the gathering, it was actually much more soothing than I expected. People were on their knees singing, with not a lot of other noise to distract. It was a nice time to join in.
Shortly after, after a couple more worship songs, things got a bit more intense. As expected, there was a lot of passionate yelling, which actually made it extremely difficult to hear what was being said. In addition, the band continued to play LOUDLY in the background, which also made it difficult to pray.
We were encouraged to grab people and confess our sins. Not really down with this intensity yet, Eric and I sat and read our Bibles. In a spirit of trying to participate in prayer and confession, I read a few passages aloud and really tried to center myself. We then sang "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," which I very much enjoyed.
However, at this point I began to feel concerned that there was very little Scripture being used in worship--it seemed like it would have been especially timely during absolution. I heard a few mentions of Joel 2, and a few other verses being quoted, but in the three hours I was there I didn't see a Bible opened or a verse on the screen.
It was also at this point that I began to experience a deep sense of loneliness. I couldn't feel the Spirit of God, which I expected to be so strong. I couldn't tell whether it was my hesitations that were making it difficult to engage or whether it was the event itself. As we moved into deeper intercession for various topics, I felt more divided from the Body of Christ than I've ever felt; it seemed as though everyone else was sharing something intimate and intense that I was being left out of. I also felt threatened--and I know the Holy Spirit is not normally threatening. I began to feel deep sadness, and began to pray for the Church, this movement, and the people there.
Many things being brought before the group were things I don't really believe in: "a divine spirit of revelation," etc. Though it was never really talked about, the things being yelled by Lou Engle very much led me to believe that this movement is at least *influenced* by Latter Rain theology.
Going into my issues with the Latter Rain movement would require another post. Here's a quick summary from apologeticsindex.org:
We can sum up the Latter Rain or Dominion teaching this way:
--the Church must be restored and equipped to rule by the five-fold ministries [apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers].
--it must come to perfection and complete visible UNITY.
--out of the purified church will come a spiritual elite corps, a Corporate Christ who possess the
Spirit without measure
--they will purge the earth of all wickedness and rebellion
--they will judge the apostate Church
--they will redeem all creation, and restore the earth
--they will eventually overcome death itself in a counterfeit of the Rapture
--the Church will thus inherit the earth, and rule over it from the Throne of Christ.
Tricia Tillin, 1997, "The New Thing"
The intensity of the gathering continued to increase, though rather than praying with groups I continued to pray alone (until a guy grabbed me who was speaking in tongues--which wasn't really alarming, though I admit I doubted his authenticity). I started to shut down emotionally during this time and my introvert level went WAY UP. The format became really distracting for me: a couple worship songs, intercession, testimonies... it was constantly changing. I could really have gone for an hour of teaching, an hour of prayer, and an hour of solid worship. No luck! Maybe it's just my learning style.
I did appreciate some of the testimonies that were shared, particularly one about slavery. One man had brought a cooking pot his forefathers used to pray into on their faces at night so they would not be heard and beaten. Their prayers for their grandchildren to be free were realized and the pot has been passed down from generation to generation as a symbol and reminder. The speaker brought the pot on stage to remind us that there's a bowl in heaven collecting our prayers.
As we delved more deeply into intercession on the topics of race, pornography, and sexual abuse, I started to shut down. I knew abortion would come next and remembering all the Rock for Life videos I've seen, I knew I had to get out. I don't need to be convinced of that evil to pray for its end. I heard later that adoption was majorly emphasized and a lot of neat stories were shared by adopted children and adoptive parents. I also learned that there was more worship at the end of the gathering, which would have been nice to participate in.
I left the gathering feeling educated, confused, and spent. I literally had to crawl into bed under the covers and pray for a half hour just to recover! I saw enough to feel concerned about this movement--especially about the kids who follow it around. These leaders people believe worship is our highest call--which I agree with--but there are so many ways to worship, and some of those ways include solitude, quietness, and service. I do believe we're supposed to bring heaven to earth now, but if we're consumed with trying to worship like we're in heaven already and neglecting the Great Commission and *getting* people there (yes, I'm still an evangelical), it seems we're missing the point.
All in all: I'm sure many people were there simply to worship, or as my roommate admitted, to "get a God fix." I'm sure they got something out of it (especially extroverts, who get charged off these gatherings). It's hard for me to believe that any prayer is bad, and it's difficult to criticize people who are fasting. I think I secretly hoped for something life-altering to happen to me, but I was probably too defensive to hear whatever God was trying to say or just couldn't hear and respond in that kind of environment. I do think there are elements of this campaign that are dangerous, but that goes for the other organizations associated with it too. That's a shame, because I really appreciate that these people are creating a place for people to pray and worship for extended periods of time. I do hope to visit an IHOP in the near future, as I'm sure that will be a lot more chilled out. In the meantime, this has been a good reminder to pray and has sparked plenty of good discussion among my household and friends regarding the Holy Spirit!