BRIDGEPORT, CT - The folks at Rushing Wind Emerging Fellowship are struggling with an unanticipated problem.
Some background information may help with understanding just what the issues are. Two years ago, Cade Wilson and Hunter Howard met at a coffee shop in downtown Bridgeport. At the time, Cade was the youth pastor at Dove Tabernacle, a Charismatic church just outside Bridgeport. Hunter, meanwhile, was also serving as a youth pastor - at Grace (Emerging) Church in New Haven.
At the time they met, both young men were struggling. Because they were in their early twenties, neither of them could effect much change in their respective congregations. Cade desired that his church change both its worship style and message in order to be more authentic and relevant. Hunter was frustrated because he wanted his church to much more openly embrace the gifts of the spirit, in particular speaking in tongues. Since neither man could make these changes occur, they decided to leave their churches and plant Rushing Wind Emerging Fellowship.
From the beginning, the purpose of Rushing Wind was to be relevant to the community, authentic in worship, and to encourage all spiritual gifts. Speaking in tongues would be strongly promoted.
Things had been going well up until just a few weeks ago. That's when Rushing Wind ran into its first significant problem. Because of its unique character, the church has grown quickly, attracting hundreds of high school and college age students from Bridgeport and beyond. This demographic lends itself to all kinds of expression, including various hair colors, tattoos of all sorts, and body piercings.
In the beginning, Cade and Hunter encouraged the body piercings, especially when the young people would pierce their hands and wrists to remind them of what Christ did for them on the cross. Soon after this, other piercings began to appear - including piercings of the tongue. That's when things went bad for Rushing Wind.
The pastors soon realized that tongue piercings and speaking in tongues do not mix. According to Pastor Cade, "The bible tells us that if there is speaking in tongues, there must also be interpretation. Our problem is that no one can understand the people who want to speak in tongues with pierced tongues. We have been discouraging this practice, but there are some among us who persist nonetheless."
Pastor Hunter told TBNN, "Last week we actually had to bring church discipline against a 17-year-old lady who kept speaking in tongues. Absolutely no one could comprehend what she was saying. No one could therefore interpret for her. When we brought the charges against her, she tried to respond, but we couldn't even understand that. It was a mess."
The pastors are depressed at this point because several young people have left the church since the disciplinary hearing. Several more are expected to leave. One entire small group has informed the pastors that they will be departing to plant their own church - one that is more relevant and understanding.
According to Pastor Cade, "We just wanted to be biblical. When you take a stand for scripture, some people won't like it."