Thoughts on Pentecostal Theology and Practice

I teach at a denominational school. I pastor in a Pentecostal denomination. My life has been immersed in Pentecostal practice all my life. So, I offer some thoughts with some trepidation. There is always the risk of being misunderstood by people you really need to have understand (like denominational officials who can pull your credentials or keep you from teaching). Nevertheless, here it goes.

I write this to young students and older Pentecostals.

Quit fixating on tongues. Both of you. I mean it. Just stop.

Let me start with the older guys. Learn some history. In my denomination, we just don’t know history, so we refuse to know what certain things mean. Please visit Azusa Street once again. Learn from William Seymour and how he viewed Pentecostal experience. What mattered most to him?

Please review the life of D.W. Kerr, the man who penned the doctrine on initial physical evidence.

And quit insisting on YOUR view of tongues when it comes to doctrinal issues. It’s causing young guys to have conniption fits. We need young guys, so quit making them nervous. You know what? They believe in the gifts of the Spirit. They actually are not opposed to the sign of tongues. Ask them. I have.

To you younger guys… quit blowing your brain gaskets. You’re young and you’re exercising your brains for the first time and you think you can out-think older guys. Therein lies your problem. You’re thinking a bit too much and you need to ease off the gas pedal just a tad.

First of all, tongues is truly a minor issue. You get it in your head that it’s something more. MAKE IT A MINOR ISSUE. Just ease up. You love Jesus. You long for the power of the Spirit. I get it. You also like arguing. You like picking apart things. All well and good… in its season. Learn to find the right season for the right issues. Learn to take the long view. Believe me, you’ll sleep better at night. You’ll have less stress.

Dear friends, it is about empowerment. That is the crux of the baptism of the Spirit. It is about the power to truly love God and love our neighbor. And your shouting at each other or stubbornness toward each other is not really showing the power of the Spirit.

In the past I have had people tell me what we need are more sermons on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I disagree. We need more prayer. We’ve lost our way in prayer. When we become people of prayer again, and get hungry for God again, we’ll find the power of the Spirit again. Until then, we’ll just keep nitpicking. And young guys will stay away from credentials, and old guys will huff and puff and grouse about that “younger” generation.

Enough for now. I’m going to go find my credential card and an envelope just in case someone misunderstood…

12 thoughts on “Thoughts on Pentecostal Theology and Practice

  1. Please explain more what you mean by “minor issue.” We find that the Biblical example is that people spoke in tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Maybe it doesn’t happen with everyone right away, but that would be an exception. However, that was NOT the important part of Spirit baptism. The important part was the power and the love of Jesus flowing out for people of all nations.

  2. By “minor,” is the understanding that what is needed more is ongoing evidence of Spirit empowerment. In the past, the experience of the initial physical evidence was seen as the “end” experience, rather than just the beginning.

  3. Dan,
    Very thought provoking piece. I agree that the physical evidence is important, but it is just one piece, and shouldn’t be what we or others base our Penecostalism (is that a word!) on. I would rather have a church full of people who seek God’s will and purpose and put their faith in action on a regular basis than one who has a prime focus of being more Penecostal then everyone else.

    Maybe this is an issue that folks just take to extremes.

    But surely age has a play here. Not saying it is right, but it is a fact. Look at the numbers. What % in your district do under 35’s make up as pastors? It is extremely low in GA. I wonder if this “debate” at the University level has some effect on the next generation stepping into leadership roles.

    Tim

  4. Tim, our age range can skew lower because we have the school in our district and many will stay in the district. But when those younger guys look to get credentialed, they often don’t choose they A/G because of the perception of being questioned on “tongues” in a way that is overbearing. I think it’s a false perception, by and large. It’s why I’m trying to tell them to “ease up.”

    Yet, for the older leaders, it is somehow an issue and over time they’ve lost track of the historical roots of this doctrine. So, they overemphasize it and cause “angst” among the younger guys.

    Having a district like GA with a larger percentage of pastors being older does demonstrate our problem. Where are the younger guys? They aren’t going into the A/G because we aren’t talking about this particular issue very well. It’s what I’m seeing, anyway.

  5. Thank you very much for the blog here concerning tongues in reference to the older folks and the younger guys. Being hung up on issues such as these can tend to divide and the body of Christ shouldn’t not look like this at all. Keeping the Main Thing the main thing is what really matters most. 1 Corinthians has great scriptures about the use of gifts.

  6. Can a non-pentecostal comment? I love my Pentecostal brothers and sisters, and reading this post makes me realize that if we can get past the “tongues” thing, we might realize that we’re all closer and more alike that we think possible.

    But is it possible to get past the “tongues” thing?

  7. Gary, I think this particular issue is within my denomination. I think by and large we have indeed moved past the “tongues” issue in the wider Body of Christ. When I attended Luther Seminary, I met up with incredible brothers and sisters in Christ who would identify themselves as Charismatics. We had a great time.

    I think, by and large, Pentecostals have contributed to the Body of Christ in a constructive way. Worship in just about any denomination is probably more dynamic now that it was 50 to 100 years ago, and largely because of the influence of Pentecostal expression. More and more people who would not be in “Pentecostal” denominations pray for healing, see other signs gifts, etc.

    It’s awesome and wonderful.

    But as Brian said, some won’t get past it. Some Pentecostals won’t get past it. Some non-Pentecostals won’t get past it.

  8. “Tongues” was not a small thing to the apostle Paul, who wrote; “I praise God that I speak in tongues more than you all.” This is because to pray in tongues is to “pray in the Spirit”. I am surprised at you. A Pentecostal teacher? No wonder the church is without its strength.

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