I have been communicating with a person of a similar background to myself in the charismatic movement. I am posting this as it may help those who are looking into Orthodoxy from such a background:
Let’s begin with liturgical worship vs. charismatic worship. For the first few months of inquiry into the Orthodox Church, I found the liturgical style of worship to be quite boring. However, after I began to learn to develop the inner prayer (Jesus Prayer), I found myself deeply moved by the richness and beauty of the liturgical style. Since then, I’ve only been to non-liturgical services a couple of times. Each time I could see people were sincerely attempting to enter into communion with God in their own “tradition”, but it no longer appealed to me.
God is a loving God, and a condescending one too — meaning he meets us where we are. There is a story from the lives of the saints (which I highly recommend) that I will attempt to recount from memory. In it, a widow’s only son dies. She’s crying her heart out in the street while holding her dead child in her arms. A prostitute comes along and sees the intense anguish that this mother is in. She is deeply moved and begins crying with the mother. The prostitute then cries out, “Dear merciful God, please raise this mother’s child from the dead. Not because I’m someone holy or righteous, but because you are a good and loving God.” Because of His goodness and the prostitute’s humility, God raised the young boy from the dead.
Does that story teach prostitution is ok? Obviously not. It teaches that God meets people where they are. I would say that this lesson gets to the heart of many of the other questions that you have proposed. God is an extraordinarily good God, and he meets people wherever they are. I think that even includes people outside of Christianity, if a soul is genuinely seeking Him but is uncertain where to look. Does that validate all religions and denominations? Absolutely not. It merely speaks of the loving character of God.
In an age of relativity, this may prove to be offensive: I believe there is one true church established by God roughly 2,000 years ago. That church is visible and grace-giving. It does not chain God down in any sort of way, but I believe God bestows grace on all of mankind through the prayers of the holy men and women of the Orthodox Church. In other words, God uses the Orthodox Church as His chosen body to bring grace and life into the whole world. So, why settle for little droplets of grace when we can go straight to the source?
I do not deny that someone can have genuine encounters with God in the charismatic groups. I believe I did and I am sure you have as well. What I am trying to say is, “But wait, there’s more! There’s a way to blow the walls off the sandbox, to leave the kiddie pool and enter into the depths of a truly endless ocean of grace!”
Regarding experiences: the ability to mistake positive emotional experiences for genuine moments of divine grace is incredibly easy for all of us. It’s difficult to see while in the midst of it, but once you venture out a little bit, it becomes more obvious.
For that reason, most Orthodox services are designed to NOT stir up emotions in people because our emotions are ridiculously misleading. When someone encounters Orthodoxy for the first time, coming from a charismatic or mega church-type of background, they will often feel grossly underwhelmed. Speaking from my own experience, all of my life churches worked at addressing me not just intellectually but emotionally. To suddenly find a group that doesn’t care the least about entertaining or emotionally appealing to anyone is a difficult pill to swallow in our culture. As tedious as the liturgy was for me at first, I simultaneously also found it to be wonderfully refreshing to finally land among people who had no interest in entertaining me.