Modified from Wikipedia
Traditionally our worship has been described as a “gestalt made up of prayer, singing, sermon, the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, altar intercession, offering, announcements, testimonies, musical specials, Scripture reading, and occasionally the Lord’s supper”. Russell P. Spittler identified five values that govern Pentecostal spirituality.
- The first was individual experience, which emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s personal work in the life of the believer.
- Second is orality, a feature that might explain Pentecostalism’s success in evangelizing non literate cultures.
- The third is spontaneity; members of Pentecostal congregations are expected to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, sometimes resulting in unpredictable services.
- The fourth value governing Pentecostal spirituality was “otherworldliness” or asceticism, which was partly informed by Pentecostal eschatology.
- The fifth value is a commitment to biblical authority, and many of the distinctive practices of Pentecostals are derived from a literal reading of scripture.
Spontaneity is a characteristic element of Pentecostal worship. This was especially true in the movement’s earlier history, when anyone could initiate a song, chorus, or spiritual gift. Even as Pentecostalism has become more organized and formal, with more control exerted over services, the concept of spontaneity has retained an important place within the movement and continues to inform stereotypical imagery, such as the derogatory “holy roller”. The phrase “Quench not the Spirit”, derived from 1 Thessalonians 5:19, is used commonly and captures the thought behind Pentecostal spontaneity.
Prayer plays an important role in Pentecostal worship. Collective oral prayer, whether glossolalic or in the vernacular or a mix of both, is common. While praying, individuals may lay hands on a person in need of prayer, or they may raise their hands in response to biblical commands (1 Timothy 2:8).
The raising of hands (which itself is a revival of the ancient orans posture) is an example of some Pentecostal worship practices that have been widely adopted by the larger Christian world.
Pentecostal musical and liturgical practice have also played an influential role in shaping contemporary worship trends, with Pentecostal churches such as Hillsong Church being the leading producers of congregational music.
Spontaneous practices have become characteristic of Pentecostal worship. Being “slain in the Spirit” or “falling under the power” is a form of prostration in which a person falls backwards, as if fainting, while being prayed over. It is at times accompanied by glossolalic prayer; at other times, the person is silent. It is believed by Pentecostals to be caused by “an overwhelming experience of the presence of God”, and Pentecostals sometimes receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in this posture. Another spontaneous practice is “dancing in the Spirit”. This is when a person leaves their seat “spontaneously ‘dancing’ with eyes closed without bumping into nearby
persons or objects”. It is explained as the worshipper becoming “so enraptured with God’s presence that the Spirit takes control of physical motions as well as the spiritual and emotional being”. Pentecostals derive biblical precedent for dancing in worship from 2 Samuel 6, where David danced before the Lord. A similar occurrence is often called “running the aisles”. The “Jericho march” (inspired by Book of Joshua 6:1–27) is a celebratory practice occurring at times of high enthusiasm. Members of a congregation began to spontaneously leave their seats and walk in the aisles inviting other members as they go. Eventually, a full column is formed around the perimeter of the meeting space as worshipers march with singing and loud shouts of praise and jubilation. Another spontaneous manifestation found in some Pentecostal churches is holy laughter, in which worshippers uncontrollably laugh. In some Pentecostal churches, these spontaneous expressions are primarily found in revival meetings or special prayer meetings, being rare or non-existent in the main services.