Denominational Stereotypes: I’m Here To End A Rumor.


I’m sitting on my bed, laptop plugged in and charging, my mind racing, and my fingers ready to type.  It’s a warm, spring, October day in South Africa, and the wind sounds beautiful tonight.  I wish so badly everyone I know could be experiencing this.  Talk about relaxing.

Lately, I’ve been restless; in my mind and in my heart.  I attend a Pentecostal church here in SA, also known for promoting the fivefold ministry.  Churches here don’t call themselves Pentecostal churches, but instead they call themselves full gospel.  Pentecostalism is the only form of denomination known in SA.  There are a few Methodist churches, but when I say a few, I literally mean a few.  They don’t know who or what Mennonites are.  In fact, someone I talked to thought Mennonite was another religion.  I laughed at that.  But seriously though, this is how much SA is formed of only one main denomination.  They don’t know of any other way to worship.

When I first told people back home that I was attending this type of church, you should’ve heard the responses I got.  I was already struggling hardcore theologically, trying to understand why every Sunday almost everyone was being slain in the spirit or speaking in tongues or having prophecies.  When I first started attending Northdale Christian Fellowship here in SA, I’m going to be honest by saying that I was downright terrified.  In fact, the first few Sunday’s I was there, I had to get up and walk out and just collect myself.  Their worship was something I never experienced before in my life.  I think most Mennonite’s can be honest when we say that speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit just really isn’t our thing.

So here I am, a young Mennonite girl in a blown out full gospel church, just sitting in the congregation while people are falling over and being slain in the spirit and speaking in tongues.  Sunday after Sunday, this was happening.  I talked to Andrew and Karen, our RJ leaders about it and the questions I had, and they told me that if I was feeling uncomfortable, I could always look around for another church to attend.  I thought about that offer, but then rejected it.  I’m not sure how to explain it, but I know I’m supposed to be at Northdale Christian Fellowship for a reason.  And I will not leave, no matter how different their worship style is.  If we’re comfortable in our faith, something’s wrong.

My whole life, I’ve been told that Pentecostalism is almost like a cult.  I’m here to stamp that rumor into the ground, because from what I’ve seen, it’s not a cult.  The Western culture almost hates to accept any form of supernatural or charismatic worship, because, let’s be honest here, it is pretty insane, scary, and totally over our heads.  We don’t understand it; and that’s the point: because it’s not a part of our culture.  The people who have told me it’s like a cult are the people who have never even attended a worship service or a Bible study in that type of setting.  I’ve been attending this church for almost a month now, I’ve sat in on the Bible studies, and I’m here to tell you that fivefold ministry is in fact Biblical.  Are there things I’m still struggling with theologically about these types of churches? Oh yes.  Do I still have a lot of questions? Heck yes.  And am I still confused on their style of worship?  Double yes.  But just because I don’t understand the way they worship doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a cult.  In my opinion, I don’t have to be slain in the spirit or speak in tongues just to feel the Holy Spirit, because I’ve felt Him so many times at my home church and we don’t do those things.  But that’s how these people here feel Him; it’s how they get connected.  And I’m finally beginning to understand.

It’s been hard hearing the responses of people back home about these types of churches, especially from the people I love.  I want them to understand, but they don’t, and that’s okay because I can’t expect them too. In the end, everyone’s opinion about if fivefold churches are actually Biblical or not will be different.  And to be honest, I’m not sure if there’s a right or wrong answer. But if you have never sat in on a worship service in this denomination, what say do you really have, you know?  No worries fellow Mennonites, I won’t be leaving my background any time soon.  But it’s about time we let go of the denominational stereotypes and come together as one body under Jesus Christ.


5 responses »

  1. (: It took a lot of guts to put that out there and me being full gospel Thank You for showing we are not a cult! Who knowns maybe you will come back speaking in tongues.

  2. Abby,
    Awesome insight! Amen. You are an awesome young woman of God. Continue to seek God’s discernment. His word never lies.

  3. Another good post, Abby. You are a young woman of faith, with much to teach me. You hit on a very important point: It is very easy to criticize and demonize what we do not understand, whether it’s a different political point of view, a different way of worship, or whatever it is that’s new to us. I believe we don’t all have to think alike. We just have to think. And never stop asking questions.

  4. Appreciate your comments Abby. Most Mennonites around the world worship like Charismatics and Pentecostals. And they are still Mennonites. As you know, even my church here in Philly is filled with the life of the Spirit and today at a class at EMU I’ll be teaching about the five-fold ministry perspective. While I’m not always comfortable with all of what is happening in worship services like the ones you describe, I have to acknowledge that the Spirit is beyond my comprehension. And to move and live in the Spirit, in the way of Jesus, is to recognize that God speaks and moves in many different ways. Keep on serving, discovering, wondering, hoping, dreaming in South Africa for all of us.

  5. We, too, are in a situation of learning what it means to be Mennonite while attending a non-Mennonite church. My “default” is to concentrate on the differences. I’m very consciously trying to focus on the commonalities instead. To see how Jesus is working in different churches is truly amazing. Praying you feel at home in your church setting and can embrace the differences and same-ness!

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