Thursday, May 22, 2014

The New Direction for the Pentecostal Movement

My wife is going to give birth to our second child sometime this week, a boy. All the signs are there. We get to try our hand yet again at nurturing a tiny infant. It puts us at an interesting crossroads. Even though we are young parents, we are not new parents and we get to reflect, refine, and redo some of our parenting techniques.

At the same time, the Assemblies of God turned 100 years old this past April, and the modern Pentecostal Movement as is well into its second century. Our umbrella is much bigger than it used to be and I wonder what we might do differently as we seek God? We are still a young movement, and have made our share of mistakes, but we are not the new kid on the block either. Are our core values still the same, and should we still pursue them in the same way? What is it going to take for our movement to progress to its next stage of development and maturity?

Simultaneously, at church we are about to embark on a voyage of preaching through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. This book is all about a very charismatic church finding balance between the supernatural and common sense, between ecstatic experiences and practical morality. I'm excited to go through it with fresh eyes, a vulnerable heart, and scholarly resources.

I think that we will find that the way forward for our movement is really a step back into the era before Pentecostalism, into the Holiness Movement. Not that purity leads to a Holy Spirit filled life, but that the driving force of the Spirit is always toward obedience to God. The theologians may argue whether this should be called "empowerment for mission" or "covenant initiation" (and I think this debate is worth wild), but at the end of the day the Spirit empowers us to be what God wants us to be and do what God wants us to do. The Holy Spirit is the law of God branded on our hearts, the covenant of God written into our DNA.

In the past, in order to differentiate ourselves from other mainline denominations, we took great care to define what and when and how and why the Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs. In the future, I hope that we move beyond these preliminaries and begin to develop our capacity to live out what our experience compels us to transform. That we become obedient to the Spirit that we proclaim. Not measured by how far the message spreads, or how many churches are started, or how many attend, or how many speak in the tongues of angels. Measured rather by our ability to make hard choices that affect our morality and purity. Choices that affect whether we reflect the character of God and live up to being called God's holy people.

Our church is full of Christians burnt out on revival meetings, Christians that are post-modern, post-fundamentalist, post-evangelical, and post-labels. I hope going through Corinthians becomes an opportunity for our church to function as a microcosm of the larger movement. I hope it becomes an opportunity for us to open some closets, air some dirty laundry, and wash that laundry rather than throwing it out.

1 comment:

  1. I would hope that the future would be one of discipleship. Of reaching ones friends family and neighbors for Christ and training them to do the same. The church in America is on the decline denominations are going away some faster then others. We should look to the movements around the world and start being obedient to Christ to fulfill the great commission. The church in America has become a consumer drive thru not a community that shares and grows on several levels. Pentecostals had evangelistic fervor in their infancy today they have traded it for buildings and institutionalization. Its time to make disciples that make disciples, its time for everyone to be trained not just the clergy or elders/deacons. Everyone is a priest to God and when we seek to lead others to Christ and then get them to do the same within their circles of influence moving out from there we will see a new movement in this country. Pentecostals should be leading the way after all we at least intellectually understand the power of the spirit for ministry. Obedience based discipleship needs to be our future period. Without that we will continue to build great churches that take care of the folks within them while not impacting our communities and sparking the movement we need.