Why are Spirit-filled churches generally weak at discipleship?

In the early and mid-twentieth century, those who first joined the Pentecostal ranks sought an experience reflecting their Biblical understanding. Public education had biblical teaching in its curriculum, and church attendance was normative. Early records show that many joined Pentecostal ranks from Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian backgrounds looking for something more.

Despite the removal of biblical content from school, these traditions continued during the emergence of the charismatic movements in the last half of the twentieth century. In addition, churches were very active in hosting Bible classes Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and sometime during the middle of the week. “Spirit-filled” churches have grown in an environment where adherents had a basic biblical understanding. Obviously, the landscape of society has shifted.

Society has become secularized. God is not in culture or taught in public school. Biblical teaching is not part of the foundation of people’s epistemological repertoire. As a result, there is not as much of a desire to experience the things of the Bible, despite the desire in society for spiritual things.

Mainline denominations have declined, so the number of people switching to Pentecostal churches is waning. The “pipeline” of those understanding God’s word with a desire to experience the Holy Spirit has decreased. Societal pressures and attractions have caused less emphasis on time at church.

Over twenty years ago, some Pentecostal churches got a hold of this reality and decided to change.  Many switched up the Sunday morning experience to focus on unbelievers, the biblically illiterate, and those with no concept of God.   Pentecostals have always been good at experiences.  Many made a switch from a spiritual revivalistic experience to attraction-oriented services.  Some churches grew as people began to make commitments to God.  Those churches that did not make the transition slowly died.

At the same time, some other shifts occurred. Often a combination of Sunday school, Sunday night services, midweek services, and prayer meetings were canceled. The environments where bible study and biblical literacy were encouraged no longer existed. 

If history proves to be correct, I would suggest that a lower biblical IQ has primarily contributed to the lack of passion and desire to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that perhaps it’s time to change things up. Maybe it’s time to launch our churches into discipleship.  I wonder if a focus on getting into God’s word can build a passion in our people for prayer, evangelism, the presence of God, and revival that we all desperately need.

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