What does it mean to be Pentecostal? Guest blogger Nicole Ponder has the scoop:
I recently took a spiritual giftings test and scored highest in the following three things:
- Gift of Hospitality
- Gift of Discernment
- Gift of Tongues
“Yep, okay, those make sense” was my reaction as I read the results. This was not my first giftings test in my thirty-one years. In fact, it was likely my third or fourth.
Many people are not aware of spiritual giftings in their lives and surely not aware that they can be measured.
For me, I’ve never known any different.
I grew up in a home where speaking in tongues was just about as common as making the bed. I spoke in tongues for the first time around age eight. Healings and creative miracles were not just Bible stories. They were real things that I witnessed.
The spiritual realm was something we took seriously. Every morning we put on the “armor of God” as is mentioned in Ephesians 6—hand motions and all to go along with the scripture recitation.
You see, I grew up as a Pentecostal. Oxford dictionary defines this as:
Relating to or denoting any of a number of Christian movements and individuals emphasizing baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and exorcism.
Growing up in a Charismatic/Pentecostal home was weird and crazy.
I was, and still am, a spirit-filled pastor’s daughter.
It was somewhere between fourth and sixth grade when I realized all churches were not like our church. Not all churches had services every night of the week. Not all churches shouted during worship service and laid hands on those who needed prayer.
And definitely not—maybe?—nope not at all—did all churches have people laying on the floor speaking in tongues for hours at a time while praise dancers danced in the aisle.
Originally my family was part of a large denomination that focused heavily on holiness. Far too often were the outward symbols of holiness (aka legalism) emphasized.
My mother and older sister could not cut their hair, wear pants or makeup, and we couldn’t go to the movies.
Thankfully, these ill decrees did not affect me due to my young age.
When I was seven there was a massive change. My parents left the denomination. It took a few years for the full exodus to happen.
In the early 90s we became “non-denominational.” This phrase is now well-known but back in the 90s, it was still fresh in our corner of the universe.
My parents and their direct spiritual coverings were all very artistic and creative which led to a large array of arts being heavily featured in our church.
My pre-teen years were full of Christian punk-rock shows, Acquire the Fire conferences, lyrical dance practices, and late-night prayer meetings.
Somewhere around sixteen, for various reasons, I became exasperated with it all and disengaged from much of the church. I was still required to go to church every time the doors were open. But I wasn’t fully there.
Unlike the stereotypical pastor’s kid (PK), I somehow toed the line. Despite my jaded viewpoint of “the church,” I had a deep love and desire for the Lord.
The issue had nothing to do with Christ. The issue had to do with Christians.
When I was seventeen, I met some Christians I liked and traveled with them to Africa. They were Methodist. It was with them that I learned more about the religion and the Jesus I loved. I learned things could be both sacred and holy as well as exciting and emotional. I learned to appreciate all I had known in the Pentecostal tradition, but to embrace aspects of liturgical nature as well.
I changed, my God didn’t.
I’ve learned that there is always room for a faith that is changing and growing. When people hold their ideas of “doing” church right so tightly, it smothers out the joy of the experience.
I’m not trying to bring shame on those who think differently. Instead, I hope I can bring humility and contemplation to us Christians—that we be open to learning different characteristics of God and His spirit while always seeking wisdom.
Today I am still a tongue-talking, hand raising, armor-of-God-wearing Christian.
I said I never knew any different. This is true.
I’ll never know what it’s like to not join together in prayer with my family and agree that God will intervene in our lives. I’ll never know what it’s like to not wake up to the sound of the prayers of my mother and father. I’ll never know what it’s like to not see hands laid on the sick and see them recover.
And I wouldn’t want it any different.
Gone are my days of tambourines and banner waving—for the most part. Here to stay is a heritage of faith that I look back on and admire, my love for a Jesus who loves me in ways I can’t comprehend, and peace that passes all understanding.
By the way, I’m still pretty weird.
If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 2 Corinthians 5:13 NIV.
Nicole Ponder is a 3w2 on the Enneagram. She didn’t want to open with her job title (publicity manager) because that is not where she gets her worth. She is known to hum a tune or two from time to time. Currently, she calls the Sunshine State home but held prior residency in Texas and Kenya. Before moving to Florida, she lived in D.C. where she got her master’s degree in strategic public relations. Whatever is thrown her way, she tries to take with a goofy sense of humor and a smile. She’s a steel magnolia who is skilled at saying “no” and will quickly tell you that you’re wrong for thinking Twitter is lame. @nicoleEponder