CHURCHES I'VE REGULARLY ATTENDED

CHURCH #3: FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD

Springfield, Ohio

 

 First Assembly of God (1979)

After experiencing such great worship at God's Freewill Tabernacle during my freshman year in college, when I went home for the summer after my freshman year, I did not want to go back to my old church, which at the time was still quite dead.  I may have gone to Maiden Lane in the evenings, but on Sunday mornings I decided to try to find a charismatic church.

At the time, I did not think there was a difference between Pentecostal and charismatic or "Full Gospel," as some charismatic churches call themselves.  The only church I could find in Springfield at the time that would fit this category was an Assembly of God church.  So I began attending First Assembly of God.

While attending this church, I soon began to realize that there was a difference between Pentecostal and charismatic.  Here are the things I noticed:

1) The Pentecostals seemed to "work themselves up" into an emotional frenzy to ramp up their worship experience.  This put me off.  The charismatics, on the other hand, seemed to just naturally have a fountain of worship flowing from their soul, so they didn't need to try to get worked up.

2) What I didn't know then, but now know through not only this experience but through subsequently being observant of things, is that many Pentecostal churches are very conservative in their interpretation of lifestyle for Christians.  The charismatics were, by contrast, mainstream evangelicals who were more focused on worship and signs & wonders than how you dressed or where you went for entertainment.

What This Church Was Like When I Was There

First Assembly of God was a small church in a traditional red brick building with white trim and a steeple--the architecture I've seen at so many Southern Baptist churches.  Inside it had pews.  Since I'm writing this in 2011 about a three-month experience in 1979, my memory as to what it was like is not strong enough to give a detailed description of what it was like to go to church there.

The longer I attended there, the more I heard from the preacher's mouth all of that old legalism from the more conservative members of the church where I grew up (in my growing-up church, I rarely heard such things from the pastors).  You know, the stuff where they judge the depth of your Christianity by certain activities or places you resolutely refrain from.  The more I heard this stuff, the more irritated I got.

The last straw for me was when the pastor criticized Pat Boone because he worked in nightclubs, and was going on and on about how a real Christian wouldn't hang out in places like that, or something to that effect.  (Does he even read his Bible?)  I remember thinking, Pat Boone will reach people for Jesus by being in that environment that you never would.

I would've left the church then, but there were only a few more weeks before I went back to school, so I just finished out the summer there.  But after that summer, I never returned.  And ever since then, I have seen Pentecostals and charismatics as distinctly different groups, the Pentecostals being the ones I avoid.

Conclusion

This was an Assembly of God church.  I do not consider all Assembly of God churches to be Pentecostal in this manner.  In fact, later I attended another Assembly of God church that I liked very much.  So this experience did not turn me off to Assembly of God churches, only old school Pentecostal churches.


(I wrote and posted this on February 13, 2011.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: As with all churches in this section, please remember the following points:

1.All descriptions of the churches reflect my own observations and interpretations at the time I attended; these descriptions are not intended to be objective. The main purpose of these writings is to reflect on the effect churches had on my spiritual journey, thus the focus is my experiences at the churches and not an objective reporting of the churches themselves.

2.Keep in mind that churches, like any organizations, change over time. The descriptions I list describe the churches at the time I attended, but the church could have changed immensely since that time, for better or for worse. These writings are not for the purpose of helping one decide whether the church is one they should or should not choose; the church may be completely different by now.

3.Any criticisms put forth in any of my writings on the churches are not meant to be objective criticisms to be answered by the church, but rather, they are merely my opinions of the church at the time I attended there, and how those experiences and my opinions of them shaped my spiritual journey.

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