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Altar Call

I’m in Reynosa this week with a group from my church, and this morning we visited a small church not far from the orphanage. I had an opportunity to share a couple of worship songs that I learned in Spanish — and that was both nerve-wracking and really, really neat at the same time :) Brought back memories of a bilingual church that I used to attend in New York… and stirred up a few other thoughts as well.

The church wasn’t “in your face” Pentecostal, but it was clear that they were open to some of the charismatic stuff. At the end of the service, there was an altar call. It wasn’t the kind of high-pressure over-the-top thing that I’ve tried so hard to stay away from… but I was kinda surprised by how much I enjoyed it… and how much I missed that sort of thing. And frankly, I’m still not sure about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing — to find myself kinda longing for something that I’ve also been running from for the last 5 or 6 years.

I shared this with someone, and they asked me if I missed being the person doing the praying or the person receiving the prayer. I answered “Both, I guess.”┬áBut after that conversation, I realized that I really need to change my answer to “neither.” Yes, there was a time when I was a part of prayer teams that prayed for folks on the road and in some of the big “hot spot” churches. And yes, there were times when I have been on the receiving end of things too. I have both fond memories and nightmare stories from both perspectives. Something that remains a great mystery to me is how on the same night at the same altar, one person could be (apparently) healed while another was (apparently) harmed.

But for the majority of the time that I was involved in charismatic/pentecostal churches, I wasn’t at the altar during prayer times. I was on the platform — leading worship or being a part of the worship team.

During “revivals”, the worship set at the beginning of the service was nothing compared to the worship time at the end during the altar call. It could go on for hours… and often did. I might not have been comfortable with everything that was happening at the altars all the time… but I loved that extended time of worship: not following a program… not worrying about whether or not we’d beat the Baptists to our favorite restaurants… just spending time in corporate worship and prayer.

And I think that’s what I really miss, what I’m really longing to have again. I just don’t know if it’s possible for a church to worship with that kind of abandon… and not also abandon orthodoxy.

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