Unpacking this James goes on to describe "a deep sense of expectation and an openness to surprise." Pentecostal worship "makes room for the unexpected" where "the surprising comes as no surprise."
Key to this experience is a posture of receptivity. As James says, "pentecostal spirituality is shaped by a fundamental mode of reception." This posture of receptivity creates the potential for surprise. All of which creates the experience of gift.
Again, all this is very much what I've experienced in the charismatic worship at Freedom Fellowship. And it's an important element in my book The Slavery of Death.
In The Slavery of Death, borrowing from David Kelsey, I connect the experience of gift to an eccentric experience of God. By eccentric I mean that God comes to us from "the outside" as it were. We don't own or control God. We can't erect a fence around God. God is not property, a possession of the faith community we must hoard and protect from others.
God is, rather, welcomed and received. Or waited upon. God is experienced as gift.
This is a critical insight in The Slavery of Death, this notion of eccentricity. Eccentricity is the term I use to point to the experience of gift, a posture of receptivity, radical openness to God, and a capacity to be surprised by God. And as I argue it in the book, the eccentric experience of God--and all it entails--plays a vital role in emancipating us from our slavery to the fear of death (Hebrews 2.14-15).
The eccentric experience of God is the experience of grace and gift which roots our identities in a foundation of joy and gratitude rather than fear, anxiety and worry.
And here's my point. I would have never made these connections if I had not experienced the charismatic worship at Freedom.
Prior to my life at Freedom I had God in a box. A rational, logical box. And when you have God in a box you lack the capacity to be surprised by God. And when you lack the capacity to be surprised by God you lack the capacity to experience grace.
And if you lack the capacity to experience grace all you have to rely on, spiritually speaking, is the neurotic junk rattling around in your own head and heart. All the vanity, pride, weakness, jealously, fear, woundedness and shame.
And that's not a pretty picture.
The charismatic worship at Freedom--in its radical openness to God and to being surprised by God--helped me identify and name something that I've come to think is the key to Christian faith and spirituality. The eccentric experience of God.
The experience of gift.
The experience of grace.