I grew up Pentecostal. When I was just starting into ministry I was introduced to the work of Edith Blumhofer and enjoyed her work on Assemblies of God history.
Years later I was able to meet Vinson Synan a couple of times. He was another great historian and was a bridge from eyewitnesses of the Azusa Street Revival to the current time.
Both of these great voices of Pentecostal history have passed away recently. I am thankful their work lives on.
Gordon T. Smith’s book, Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three gets to the fundamental question of why talk about being all three? Hasn’t the Church been segmented this long and “got along fine?”
One of his answers as to why we need all three is pertinent to what I tried to say last year when I preached on “Living in Babylon.” That virtually got ignored… which I’m getting used to by now… but I just can’t walk away from what I know the Spirit really is saying to the American Church. Long after I’m gone, long after Gordon T. Smith is gone, and the American Church is in the position I could see “way back in 2016” (and, to be honest, back in 2001), I hope these words are found on the internet somewhere and somehow people begin to see with fresh eyes what the Spirit was wanting to say.
Why do we need all three? Smith answers it essentially as I tried to answer it with “Living in Babylon”:
… for the church in the West, in an increasingly secular society, or where the church is the minority presence in a community or a society — whether that society be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or secular, whether we are seeking to be the church in Cairo or Vancouver, wherever the church is culturally swimming upstream — surely we need every ounce of grace (if grace comes in ounces!) that might be available to us. (p. 39)
Quite frankly, when we decide to wake up as the Church in American (realizing we aren’t the “American Church” anymore) what will matter so little at that point in time is if we’re “evangelical” or “liturgical” or “pentecostal.” What will be necessary at that point is to be in Christ and simply latch on to him! And the label that used to be on the door just won’t matter anymore.
I am making my way through a great little book entitled Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should be All Three by Gordon T Smith. I wish I had known sooner it was published by IVP because I would have asked them for a free copy to review! I don’t mind paying for this gem, though. Read more
Is that even “legal?” 😉
Intentional. Pentecostals are known more for spontaneity than intentionality in worship. If it’s planned these days, it’s more pragmatism than thoughtful worship.
What I seek is intentional worship. Careful attention to the songs we sing, the Scripture we read, the education we give our children… all of it. As a Pentecostal pastor I am also looking at weekly communion. (Cue gasps.)
There is a rhythm of Kingdom life for the Church and I want to catch that rhythm. That takes intentional worship.
Confessional. We need to return to the basics. Last week (my first week back after a month long sabbatical) I had us read the Apostles’ Creed out loud in the service. We need to be reminded of the basics. We need to confess our faith and the ancient creeds help us formulate our confession. They did a good job back then. Why have we left it behind?
Pentecostal. It is simply out of my belief that the Spirit is still fully active today. We believe in the gifts of the Spirit and each believer can operate in those gifts as the Spirit gives them. We can pray for the sick and they can recover. We can see deliverance flow to those who are bound by oppression. We are empowered to be witnesses. I am intentionally Pentecostal.
As I have come through my sabbatical, and also my reading leading up to my sabbatical, those are three words that have captured my thinking. Intentional. Confessional. Pentecostal.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I confess my great loves today.
First is my great love for God. I spent this weekend in a “silent” retreat contemplating Ephesians 1-3. I love Ephesians. For the past 15 plus years of my life it has been bedrock to my life. Once again I was blown away by my God’s great love for me. I am IN Christ! What a great Savior! How can I NOT respond in love? I confess I do NOT respond in love far too many times. I confess my foolishness. I confess I chase other “lovers” from time to time. But when I get back to his great love for me… I am in awe.
Next is my great love for my wife. She is absolutely incredible. We are approaching 22 years of marriage and my life is so much RICHER because of her love, her presence, her passion, her friendship. So much of who I am is a result of her love.
My great love for my wife extends to my great love for my boys. One has passed out of the teen years this month and is headed toward marriage. The other two are in high school. When I think of them, I am filled with gratitude and pride. They are great joys in my life.
I must finally confess my great love for the Church. There is something stirring deep within me, something I hope to dig out and actually put into words. To love Christ IS to love his Church. It is his Body. When we insult the Church, we insult Christ. He is the head. When part of our body feels pain, we KNOW it! When I find Christians insulting the Church, I sense the hurt of Christ.
My life is in ministry. I teach and I preach and I pastor. I have tried other things. My realization is this: I have no other marketable skills… and I don’t WANT any other marketable skills. I’m not rich. I won’t be rich. I’m not well-known. I don’t have a lecture circuit or speaking circuit. No one wants to hear from some small time pastor!
But I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ. I love the expressions. My own expression is Pentecostal. But I have a deep love for Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans… and more. I LOVE the expressions of the Body of Christ.
Today, I proudly profess my great loves.
Happy Valentines Day