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3 Confessions from a Former Charismatic

Though I found my way to a Southern Baptist youth group and to ordination and pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church of my infant baptism, my earliest memories of “church” were the charismatic movement of the 1980s.

When I’m on vacation on a Sunday, I seek out such a worship service.

Some may associate charismatic churches with scandals of TV preachers “falling from grace.”

When I was in seminary and would share the story of my spiritual heritage, people often questioned me about the emotionalism attached to the Pentecostal and Holiness churches.

Many may be fearful of the emphasis on gifts of the Spirit and speaking in tongues.

I remember all of these components of the charismatic churches of my upbringing.

Like any denomination or congregation, the charismatic movement was imperfect. There were mistakes made and hurts caused.

But I also remember, and treasure, the quieter, less visible parts of those worship services that were not seen on TV or in the news.

I cherish that the charismatic movement was the portal God used to teach me how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My fondest memories were not of the outward expressions in worship, but rather of the inner work that I felt God doing in my heart.

Some of us may have turned away from the local church because of something in our upbringing.

Others of us may have left one denomination for another because of “church hurts.”

Most of us can point to something we don’t like about the church of our childhood – boredom, irrelevance, disagreement, politics and so on.

We may have abandoned involvement in the church in order to be “spiritual but not religious.”

In doing so, we’ve thrown out the good with the bad.

If you’re skeptical of the charismatic movements or were negatively affected by similar traditions, I’d like to share the good to which I’ve chosen to cling, which is shaping me into the person I am today.

As always, know that these observations stem only from my personal experiences.

No. 1. The power of the Bible.

Yes, the Bible was written down by human beings. Yes, it was not actually written until long after Jesus’ ascension. Yes, there were a lot of arguments by the people who assembled it.

But it’s still the Word of God. The Holy Spirit was at work in all of those years and processes, assembling words into the Word. It is living. It is breath. It is life.

The charismatic church instilled in me a reverence for God’s Word that is still evident when I stand for the reading of the gospel lesson each Sunday in the United Methodist congregation that I serve.

I learned not only to appreciate the Bible, but also to depend on it.

No. 2. How to pray with authority and confidence.

Have you ever noticed that the Lord’s Prayer is filled with direct confidence in communicating with God?

Jesus speaks to God not in a bossy “give me what I want” way, but with a trust that what he asks will happen.

I meet many people who are afraid to pray, worrying that they will say the “wrong” thing or that their prayers will go unanswered. They’ve lost confidence in the power of asking.

Prayer is something in which we’re always growing because it is the heart of relationship with God.

I am grateful to have learned as a young child in Sunday school that God not only heard me when I prayed, but also that I could ask in confident authority that he heard me.

As my prayer life has grown and changed over the years, I still cling to those early teachings on prayer most of all.

No. 3. The intimacy of praise and worship songs.

I love the old hymns in the old hymnals. They are crucial to our worship, and I believe in singing them whether played on an organ or an electric guitar.

There is also much to glean from praise and worship songs, many of which speak to a personal relationship with God.

Some of the songs I grew up hearing were simple in their message and that made the truth of God’s love easy to grasp.

Music sticks in our memory, and I am grateful that the music of the charismatic church drew me closer to God.

When you reflect on your history in the local church, I would encourage you to try not to think of what went wrong.

Instead, try to remember what was right, good, pure, noble and of good report, to paraphrase a part of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Philippians 4:8).

Dwell on these good memories. Give thanks for them. And if you’ve wandered from Christ because of the brokenness of Christians, please search for that glimmer of hope that leads you to return.

Darian Duckworth is pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church and Shipman Chapel in Cleveland, Miss. She has a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in mathematics and English and a master’s of divinity from Emory University. A version of this article first appeared on her blog, DarianDuckworth.com. It is used with permission. You can follow here on Twitter @PastorDarian.