Making Room for the Holy Spirit
By Abby Rossnagel
King’s Way Church is a Pentecostal congregation that meets for worship every Sunday at 10 a.m. in Irondale, Alabama. Every service looks very different because they let the Holy Spirit guide them in the moment. In The Purpose, Pattern, and Character of Worship, worship scholar L. Edward Phillips explains that “central to early Pentecostalism was the belief that worship, as all of life, must be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and therefore Pentecostals generally resisted the idea of fixed order. . . . improvisation was important for Pentecostal Worship” (Phillips 2020, 25). While King’s Way does not use “Pentecostal” or any other denominational labels, based on my observations in March and April 2023, it is clear that these early Pentecostal beliefs and practices still guide worship at King’s Way. It was clear to me that the Holy Spirit was guiding them.
About King’s Way
One of the senior pastors, Jason Hooper, started King’s Way in 2012. He wanted to start his ministry that included his family; therefore, he created King’s Way to be a family-oriented church. Hooper and his wife, Tina, serve as the senior pastors. Jason leads the adult worship and Tina leads the separate children’s service. I spoke with Jonathan Newman, one of the community care pastors, about the church. He told me that the pastors’ kids are very involved as well. The pastors want their kids to see what real ministry is like, so they do not hide anything about their work from them. The church meets in a large building on US-78 (Crestwood Boulevard) which was previously used by Advocate Ministries and other Pentecostal churches.
A Layout of Their Services
When you walk into King’s Way you are not handed a leaflet with the order of service. They let the Holy Spirit guide them in the moment so no one knows what the service will look like when they walk in the doors. However, week to week they have an outline they typically follow. As Phillips explains, Pentecostal worship is characterized by “freedom within established conventions” (Phillips 2020, 25). They have a time for worship, a time for prayer and offering, a sermon, and an altar call. On the Sunday that I went in person, the musical worship at the beginning lasted for an hour, and someone told me on her first Sunday it lasted three hours. While they have this outline, they will let the Spirit move them and every service will look a little different.
Their worship is very spontaneous. The worship leader will typically choose three songs that they know they will do before the service; however, how they get to those songs and what comes in between is up to them in the moment. The worship team was constantly going in and out of the familiar songs and adding their own melodies and tags. Sometimes they would introduce new songs not originally on the set. For example, on the Sunday I attended, the worship leader decided to start singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” famously recorded in 1961 by Elvis Presley. This church and worship team practices very spontaneous worship completely led by the Holy Spirit.
After worship is over, comes a time of prayer and offering. This is where Hooper will come up and lead the church in prayer and give a short message about the offering. On this Sunday, they were raising money for a member of their congregation whose house had just burned down. People were called to give their normal tithe and also to give an offering for the family. After the message about the offering, there was another short time of worship before the sermon.
The sermon was very long, close to an hour. Hooper was talking very passionately and emotionally. The worshipers were responsive in saying, “Amen!” and lifting their hands. He asked the congregation questions frequently as a means of witness to what the congregation was doing in their faith life. At the end of his sermon, he very smoothly transitioned into the altar call. Almost every person went up to the front and they pushed chairs back to make room. Hooper then went down and laid his hands on the people worshipping. Some fainted, some shouted, and some cried. He stayed with certain people longer than others and spoke in tongues a lot. This was a very emotional moment for everyone in the congregation. After twenty minutes or so, Hooper prayed over the congregation once more and closed the service.
Goal of King’s Way
When I talked to Newman, one of the community care pastors, I asked him what he thought the goal, or telos, of the service is. He claimed that their goal is for everyone to have an “encounter with God.” This corresponds to Phillips’s statement that the telos of Pentecostal Worship is “spiritual union with God” (26). King’s Way wants people to come and have an experience and then go live it out in their daily lives. The team wants everyone to experience God during their services and that is a clearly seen goal every Sunday morning. Phillips defined ethos as the character or style that supports the telos. I think King’s Way’s ethos is the way they let the Spirit move and guide them in the moment. Phillips calls this “embodied ecstasy” (26). Everything is very spontaneous and what the Holy Spirit is moving the congregation to do. I think their telos is made known through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They want everyone to encounter God, and this will happen if you let the Spirit move you.
The telos of their service was accomplished well. Their goal is for everyone to have an encounter with God and everyone in the room was physically showing that God was present. The Holy Spirit was moving in this congregation and almost everyone was lifting their hands, shouting, or running. From my perspective, it seemed like their worship could be more communal. The church has a great sense of community, but the worship itself was all personal. It seemed more about how God was moving in individuals’ hearts and less about their concern for the person standing next to them. I think worshipping openly with others is vital to our faith and something King’s Way could grow in.
Also, the service and songs were so spontaneous that it was very hard for me to follow along. I could not sing along because I did not know what was coming next, and I was not alone. Many people were not singing. I found this shocking because in my mind charismatic churches love to worship, but they worship in a different way than I had previously thought. They do not seem to hold singing as the most important way to worship. I would disagree, but this is just my personal opinion. Singing together as a congregation is something I fell I need on every Sunday morning. For me congregational song is an important part of being a Christian. It is something God calls us to do.
After visiting King’s Way, I am definitely pondering ways that I can get my beloved congregation more excited for worship. I loved seeing King’s Way worship, and I hope to see some of that excitement one day in my own church. King’s Way is full of the Holy Spirit and is constantly being moved to do what the Spirit wants. They are a very spontaneous church because of this, and no service looks the same. They were a very welcoming community, and I loved the opportunity to be a part of this congregation for a small time.
King’s Way Church
Location: 4445 Crescent Rd, Birmingham, AL 35210
Service Observed: April 2, 2023 (in person)
Video Archives: King’s Way Church. Youtube https://www.youtube.com/@KingsWayChurch
Church established: 2012
Phillips, L. Edward. 2020. The Purpose, Pattern, and Character of Worship. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Abby Rossnagel ’25 was a student in Christian Worship: History and Theology in Samford University’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in spring 2023.
Published April 29, 2023.