I managed to find a good Southern Baptist church, Victory Baptist, just a quarter-mile from our apartment complex on the southeast side of Lexington; it takes us longer to get out of our apartment complex than it does to drive down Armstrong Mill to the church. It's a good, vibrant Baptist church, with good preaching, good worship music (albeit a bit too centered on the latest praise music to the detriment of more traditional contemporary stuff of the 80s, 90s and early 00s) and very solid Sunday School (a.k.a. "Life Group") classes.
However, while it's a good Baptist church, it's still a Baptist church. With my emotions, I find being prayed with to be helpful, and the Vineyard or Vineyard-style churches that we had predominately gone to for the last half-decade were good at prayerful counseling; "ministry time" would take the place of altar calls, where people would come up for prayer, even if it wasn't in response to the sermon's denouement. In the Baptist setting, neither the service or the Sunday School class had such an outlet beyond the standard prayer request at the beginning of your Sunday School class.
We also missed the fellowship of a good home group/small group; a good Sunday school class can do some of that, but it's time-limited and people scatter after the alloted hour; you don't have the extended time to hang out and get to know and be known. We were hoping for some more fellowship than what we were getting and gave the Vineyard church downtown (or at least towards the center of town compared to our outside-the-New-Circle-beltway location) a try last fall.
Here in Lexington, the local Vineyard church leans a bit too much into the Emergent/post-modern realm, with an extra emphasis on helping the poor and an almost Goth sanctuary with no windows, negligible lighting and leaf-less trees on the dais up front. We tried it last fall for a couple of services, but the mood seemed a bit too dark for our spirits; the preaching was interesting and dynamic, but the overall mood wasn't for us. Also, since they moved to a Sunday night alternative service (an alternative to Sunday morning rather than an addition to it), all their home groups that fit a mature married couple were on weeknights when I was teaching.
We cycled back to Victory, but the Vineyard bug, or a good home-group bug at least, didn't go away.
A trip to visit Eileen's conservative PC-USA pastor friend in Missouri back in March lead us to give a nearby PCA church a try; they had good home groups, but the liturgical nature of their services left this low-church evangelical guy a bit cold. I lasted two weeks before I needed to move on.
It was speaking to Eileen's Presbyterian roots, but it was also hitting cords from my Methodist roots, where I was used to people mouthing creeds they didn't really mean. Even if the rather evangelical Presbyterians actually meant what they were saying, those old creeds and that liturgical, confessional style smelled of the "hypocrites" of my Methodist youth; my Methodist peers were worse-behaved than the other kids in school, which soured me on the brand.
I was still itching for something more than Victory, so we decided to try the Vineyard church in Wilmore, about 15 miles southwest of us; at first, things looked positive. The pastor wasn't in the Word-of-faith camp and seemed to be level-headed, but some of the parishioners were... a bit out there. One gal had a large prophetic streak, another was a big fan of Toronto and a third was starting to plug a revival in Lakeland that he had been watching via the Web.
The pastor mentioned that he liked the International House of Prayer, which raised a red flag, since IHOP boss Mike Bickle ran heard over a heterodox bunch of "prophets" in the 90s, but the pastor seemed otherwise level-headed. I forgave Pastor Dave Baker down at the Lakeland Vineyard for the occasional Rick Joyner reference, so I was willing to cut this pastor some slack.
We were down at WIlmore for four Sundays; the last Sunday, April 20, the topic of discussion was the Lakeland Revival; note that very few people outside of a few hard-core charismatic circles had heard of Todd Bentley yet, but these folks in Wilmore were wanting to make sure they were a part of whatever God was doing and were talking about making a trip down to Lakeland to check out this new move of the Lord.
I had been vaguely aware of Bentley, who hangs out with the circle that includes Toronto and a lot of the modern "prophets;" my dad, who appreciates a lot of that milieu, came back from a conference in British Columbia in 2001 taking about a real young guy named Todd Bentley with a powerful anointing. Now, he had gone global, and the folks in Wilmore were jumping on the band-wagon.
Eileen and I, after a lot of prayer, came to the conclusion that this church didn't have quite enough quality-control and was chasing after the next new thing a bit too much for comfort. Also, despite how much my dad likes them, I see self-styled prophets like Joyner and Bickle as loose cannons, focusing more on their own imaginations than the Gospel, and I'm uncomfortable fellowshipping with a lot of prophetphiles. They're more likely to be leading folks off on wild-goose-chases than leading them into a deeper walk with God and a better witness.
Dan Edelen has a good comment on this-
We must also realize that a group with odd theology may continue to spawn odd theology even if they attempt to distance themselves from the past error. In charismatic circles, far too much deviant doctrine and practice has come out of the Kansas City Prophets of the late 1980s and early 1990s. One can trace all manner of craziness since 1990 directly back to that group, including the recent Lakeland “revival.” Anything “birthed” out of that movement should have an automatic red flag attached to it, as should any former leaders connected to it. This includes organizations and ministries such as IHOP, The Elijah List, MorningStar Ministries, Passion & Fire, and a whole host of others that looked favorably upon Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson, Rick Joyner, Paul Cain, and anyone else who came out of the Kansas City Prophets movement. In fact, since the entirety of the modern prophetic movement in charismatic circles is inextricably linked in a tangle to those groups and individuals, it may be best (and I say this with a heavy heart) to avoid the prophetic movement altogether as a national entity until God purges the corrupted seed.Edelen is a fellow charismatic, so he isn't your stereotypical heresy-hunter who's looking to bash anything that isn't outside their comfort zone. It's hard to set up a KC-free zone, since you wind up writing off a big chunk of charismatic thought; when you couple that with writing off the Word-of-Faith crowd (TBN, Osteen, Meyer, White, et. al.), you pretty much write off most of the "Spirit-filled" universe.
Toronto goes. Lakeland goes; both Bentley and my old Vineyard church, where Joyner and Jackson were in the reading mix. Even my Vineyard church in Midland goes, with their Harp-and-Bowl worship sessions inspired by IHOP.
Increasingly, the lack of theological quality control in charismatic circles makes it hard to be in that environment. As much as the freedom of worship and focus on prayer ministry makes charismatic churches attractive, the loose cannon nature of things makes problematic.
One of our good friends from our old Vineyard church in Midland has gone PCA; for us, a good Baptist church works for us.