The Balance; Heart and Head…

In the chapter entitled “Being Pentecostal without Losing Your Mind,” Pastor Hamilton sets up two ideas that some see as opposed: a concern for the heart and a concern for the head. Said another way, emotion and intellect.  For the purposes of argument, he proposes that there is a middle way.  He states that two denominations of Christian churches illustrate the opposite ideas:  the Pentecostal Church [the heart] and the United Methodist Church [the head].

Of course, he uses generalizations and we all know when we do that, it causes problems. Generalizations never seem to cover all the experiences we have.   However, he is trying to make a point with his argument and the point is this:  Christian churches do not need to be in the business of critiquing each other.   We are better off cooperating.  We are better off making disciples in this world.  There is plenty of work to go around.  We need to work together and get to it.

But what can we do when we seem to be so different in our approach to worship?

Hamilton says we need to evaluate what we offer and then see if there is something the other church is doing that could improve our worship experience. As I have posted earlier, I have attended several Pentecostal worship services and I have been a member of the United Methodist Church for nineteen years.  Hamilton was a member of the Pentecostal Church for five years and he left that church to pastor in the United Methodist Church.

Again, where is the middle way?

Hamilton states “Today in many conservative churches pastors are not required to have any theological training at all. One can be ordained by another pastor in a worship service even if the candidate has had no training, no education, and the church has conducted no background check.”

Training may benefit a pastor, especially if he offers little more to his congregation than a strong ability to speak. Again Hamilton says knowing about the history of the church, how the Bible was formed and some answers for the difficult questions of faith can be so beneficial for people of faith who need some solid guidance.

Can a pastor from a conservative church train on their own? Of course they can.  Study on an individual basis can yield much fruit as well as a mentor relationship with a more experienced pastor.

In contrast, in the United Methodist Church the focus can be on such a reserved worship experience that the soul is left “empty, dry and devoid of the Spirit’s power” [Hamilton, 55].   The United Methodist church comes out of the tradition that the most educated person in the community was the pastor.  He was seminary trained and people looked up to him for wise counsel and solid theological answers to faith problems.

Where’s the problem? Many Methodist churches just don’t seem to have the capacity to help people experience the presence of God.  Also many members don’t encourage an emotional response to worship due to their very reverent attitude toward behavior in the pew.  “Amens” or other exhortations are often discouraged.  I have rarely ever seen a Methodist service where worshippers held their hands up in praise.  I even heard not long ago that a Methodist church in our community was upset because the congregation applauded a musical performance by the choir.  Applause was deemed undignified.

Hamilton states it best when he says “Too often, the challenge for mainline pastors, and one of the reasons church began to be cautious about an educated clergy, is allowing our education to diminish our passion. When you focus on the intellect, and you devote yourself to study, there is a tendency to become a bit more broadminded, but often this comes at the expense of conviction and passion.”

Ok, where is the middle way?

Conservative churches could seek out more training for their pastors while still emphasizing the Holy Spirit experience in the worship service. A little education never hurt anyone.  I was serving on a district Methodist committee and an aspiring pastor came before us, saying God had called him to preach.  Our committee said “Great, but you have to have some training.”  He said but “God has called me to preach!”  As was our duty, we asked him some basic doctrinal questions that any Methodist pastor should know and he did not do well in his answers.  Our committee did not pass him on to be a pastor.

Were we wrong?

He had the passion.

What did he lack? The knowledge.

Adam Hamilton says so well, “We cannot afford to have a reasonless Christianity, but neither can we afford a passionless one.”

We have to find the middle way.

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