Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I ran across a very insightful article on the Grateful To The Dead church history blog, titled Embrace Your Inner Pentecostal. In it, he examines Pentecostalism’s abiding fruit and contributions to the larger Body of Christ. I think it’s an article very much worth reading.
Two highlights for me:
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. These neo-Pentecostals “truly did believe in the priesthood of all believers,” Miller reported. “People were not only having their needs met, but they were finding an avenue for service. That created a lively sense of community—something that many people yearned for.
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.