CT: Embrace you inner Pentecostal

awesome article by Chris Armstrong in CT. here are some choice excerpts:

A typical Pentecostal service follows no printed order; bulletins, if present, contain only announcements. After all, why should an order be needed? "All the members expect anyone of the local assembly to follow the Spirit's leading," Pentecostal scholar Russell Spittler has written, "and to do so at once."

This sort of congregational freedom has marked Pentecostalism from its beginning, along with a unique emphasis on the "priesthood of all believers." Azusa Street pastor William J. Seymour, the driving force behind the earliest Pentecostal revival, typified a new breed of church leader. He allowed and encouraged worshipers to exercise their gifts during services, providing what Fuller professor Cecil M. Robeck has called "a forum for various members of his congregation to make their case or to demonstrate their charism in the context of the worshiping community, without fear of recrimination." When someone moved beyond the bounds of accepted order, Seymour corrected him or her in a manner that, while firm, was also "gracious and soft-spoken."

Seymour also worked with a diverse team of volunteers and gave them a great deal of autonomy within certain boundaries. His leadership model was decentralized and open to genuine moving of the Spirit in his co-workers and in the entire congregation. Lay ministers were encouraged and empowered, because the Holy Spirit blew wherever he wanted to—and God forbid anyone stand in the way.

This style of ministry is seen today in many churches. A professor of religion at the University of Southern California, Donald E. Miller, noted in Reinventing American Protestantism (University of California, 1999) that Pentecostalism's transparent personal style and non-hierarchical corporate structure had migrated to three prominent California churches: Calvary Chapel, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel....

Until that moment, I had been dutifully following scholarly debates about whether baptism in the Holy Spirit was primarily about holiness or power. But these testifying scholars described Spirit baptism in terms of something deeper than either one. Indeed, they all put their finger on one main effect: a new, joyous sense of communion with a loving God who counted every hair on their heads and watched over them every minute. The central moment of their Pentecostal experience had opened them to a deep well of living water from which everything else flowed; it had opened them to the personal, relational presence of the Living God.

A quick check of history books confirms the centrality of divine encounter for Pentecostals. William Seymour and his co-leaders repeatedly told the Azusa Street faithful that their experience with the Spirit was not about speaking in tongues. It was about God's presence through the crucified and risen Christ. Early 20th-century leader Robert Brown, echoing the testimonies of thousands of other Pentecostals, said: "To abide in him means one continual round of revelation, blessing, and power. Oh, the grandeur of it, not a passing pleasure, nor a transitory joy, but an abiding presence; not it, but him. Glory to his name!"

Though it may discomfit the religiously buttoned-down, the rationalists, and the nominal, the Pentecostal God deigns to meet with us and care for us in immediate, experiential ways. We speak to him in a language of love, saying "Abba, Father," and he responds in kind.

This encounter has always been the open secret of Pentecostal spirituality. The belief in God's real, experienced care and the passion for union with Christ—often likened to the thirst of the psalmist's deer for the stream—may turn out to be Pentecostalism's chief contributions to Christianity.

To some critics, such "divine love" seems mawkish or even self-indulgent. Though there is room for self-indulgence in Pentecostalism, its emphasis on encounter puts God, not humanity, at the center. In an encounter with God, the believer cannot help but bow and worship. Duke historian Grant Wacker calls this trait "submissiveness … a deep-seated awareness that humans do not create themselves and therefore owe their lives to another source."

A seminary colleague gave me one of the best one-word definitions of charismatic church culture I have ever heard: expectation. Charismatics believe and expect that God will do great things among them, just as he did in the Acts of the Apostles. "Do it again, Lord," they say. "As it was in the apostolic age, let it be now."...

What distinguishes Pentecostal healing? Wacker identifies two marks: the expectation that not just physical ailments but also addictions will be healed, and the insistence that Christians should pray for healing not as a last resort but immediately, as a first step in every case of illness.

Author Donald Miller says Pentecostalism's embodiedness makes it postmodern and cutting-edge. Pentecostals, he says, embrace "a worldview that does not dichotomize between mind and body in the way that a modernist, Enlightenment-based worldview does." Another way of putting this is to say that by their engagement with a powerful, healing, and prayer-answering God, church cultures influenced by Pentecostalism gain a sense of living in another world—a primitive world unlike our modern, secularized one, a world charged with the power and grandeur of God....

Pentecostals preach a religion that is "anti-modern," that is, it recognizes that the most important powers impinging on our lives rest not in our hands, but in God's. Pentecostals stand against the modern project rooted in Newtonian science, which has told us for centuries that by learning the laws of the universe, we can control all that is important in our lives: physical, social, moral, and even religious. I call this "Star Trek theology": the faith that through natural and social sciences, we can all live longer, solve world hunger, and make war obsolete.

From the beginning, Pentecostals reveled in a God who runs the show. Actor Robert Duvall captured this confidence perfectly in The Apostle, when the evangelist stands at a dusty crossroads, eyes toward heaven, and whispers, "Which way, Lord? Which way?"...

Along with the praise choruses and freedoms that have spilled over from Pentecostalism to many other churches has come a rising acceptance of Christian desire and fulfillment. In the glow of worship, in tender moments of prayer within the warm community of saints, those of us who have been influenced by Pentecostal eudaemonism can experience the bliss of intimacy with Christ as a valid and nourishing part of our relationship with God. We can rejoice, along with Augustine, the Westminster signatories, and John Wesley, that the human desire for transcendence and love is God-given—a blessing to be enjoyed both in heaven and here on earth.


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