Journey with me to a land far, far away called youth camp. Remember on Thursday nights (that's Holy Spirit night in Pentecostal camps) when you would stand in the altars for hours? Sometimes the preacher spoke and other times we jumped straight to the altar service. I remember when this would happen in my home church. People would simply say, "we had such a great service we never got to the preachin'." Well, I am not ready to vouch for the ethos of the previous statement. However, I would like to declare it false on the pretense that there was some "preachin'."
A couple of weeks ago we had a prominent denominational figure at our church. Our church is an anomaly in Pentecostal circles because we do not have long altar services and the usual Pentecostal idiosyncrasies have somehow skipped over our church. However, on this Sunday, we did have a time in the altar. Then, as every one was beginning to leave, the preacher did it...he started altar preachin'. It then hit me that this is a seldom commented on element of Pentecostal spirituality. Yes there is much to be said for the function of the preacher/teacher in the pulpit. Perhaps there is just as much to be said about a BAD preacher/teacher in the pulpit. However, we cannot over look the role of the altar preacher. To further explain, altar preaching is when the sermon is through, the congregants have prayed in the altar and then you hear "I want everyone to look right up here." This is usually followed by a ten minute sermon-ette. The beauty of this is that these sermon-ettes are often the most relevant portion of the service. The "walls" that separate the minister and congregant have been torn down and the congregants are usually well aware of the presence of the Spirit of God (which was there before the altar service I might add). I can't help but wonder what the Church would be like if the entire ministry of the pulpit was "altar preachin'?" I am not talking here about ecstatic displays of the Spirit and other Pentecostal phenomenon, but I am talking about the absolute awareness of the Spirit in the midst of the congregation and the ability of the pastor to speak to the heart of the individual, erasing the boundaries of pulpit and pew and allowing the Spirit of God to deconstruct both the listener as well as the giver of the message. Yes, I think we could use a little more "altar preachin'."