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Empowered to Serve: an interview with French L. Arrington

From Pneuma Review Summer 2004

 

Pneuma Review: How do you feel the Pentecostal/charismatic church today is doing at understanding and effectively communicating the teachings of the Bible? What can leaders do to improve?

French ArringtonFrench Arrington: Generally speaking Pentecostal/charismatic preaching and teaching is not substantive in biblical content. In making this observation I must ask, however, what sector is being evaluated—North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, etc.? The different parts of the world are not on the same page when it comes to Christian education. For the most part, there is a dearth of knowledge of the Bible in evangelical churches. It may be that Pentecostal/charismatic churches are farther behind the curve of evangelical churches for these reasons: (1) Extreme emphasis is placed on praise and celebration at the expense of teaching the Word of God. (2) Some churches no longer have Sunday School or use the Sunday School hour to study subjects other than the Bible or Christian doctrine. (3) Many pastors do not preach expository and doctrinal sermons nor sermons that are solidly rooted in the Scriptures. (4) Some make a practice of selecting a few popular issues in which to focus in a year’s preaching rather than providing some balance in their preaching.

I think there are a number of things church leaders can do to help their congregations to be more biblically literate: (1) cultivate a climate of serious Bible study packaged in a way that appeals to contemporary churchgoers. Such a climate begins with the pastor and other leaders who take seriously the Word of God in their preaching and teaching. (2) use visual aids (chalkboard, bulletin inserts, projector, computer, etc.) in preaching and teaching: (3) employ language that is understandable and meaningful to the congregation. I know that language can be a problem, especially in communicating the teachings of Scriptures to a younger generation. (4) encourage the reading of the Bible by distributing a weekly guide for family Bible reading and devotion. (5) teach the people how to study the Bible and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Let me make a few more observations. There is a real need for pastors to be biblically and theologically informed. Such pastors will recognize the importance of following the church calendar or some other guide to ensure that in preaching and teaching the congregation gets a “balanced diet” of the Scriptures. They will be equipped to focus their preaching not only on personal needs in the congregation but also on the great truths of the faith. Furthermore, they will be able to discern heretical teachings masquerading as authentic Christianity and the authority of Scripture being sacrificed on the altar of pragmatism or political correctness.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2004

About the Author: French L. Arrington, Ph.D., has served as a pastor, was on the faculty of Lee University for seventeen years, and was on the faculty of the Church of God Theological Seminary (now Pentecostal Theological Seminary, from 1981-2002) until his retirement. A respected lecturer and Pentecostal educator, he is the author of numerous books and articles including being a general editor of the Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary and author of Encountering the Holy Spirit: Paths of Christian Growth and Service.

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