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Empowered to Serve: an interview with French L. Arrington

PR: What can Pentecostal/charismatic leaders do to promote a more irenic dialogue with non-charismatics?

Arrington: As I understand it, the aim of such dialogue would be to enhance mutual understanding and respect, to identify a number of areas of theological agreement and disagreement, and to explore the possibilities of common witness. Charismatics and Pentecostals can do a number of things to promote dialogue.

First, care should be taken not to make non-Pentecostal/charismatics to feel or believe that they are unsaved. Spirit-filled Christians should recognize that the Holy Spirit is at work in all Christians. For one reason or another some believers have not been filled with the Spirit. Many of them have been called to ministry. Because of their prayer life and devotion to the work of ministry, they have had effective ministries. Pentecostals/charismatics cannot have good relations with such believers if they question their salvation or depreciate their ministry.

Second, Pentecostal/charismatics should heed the warning against spiritual elitism. They need to resist spiritual pride, feelings of superiority, and obsessive denominationalism. Such attitudes create ill will and alienate evangelicals. All that we have in Christ is a matter of grace, including Spirit baptism and the gifts of the Spirit. To take that seriously should be conducive to humility before others.

Third, an appreciation of the great traditions of the church would promote good relations with historic churches. Many Pentecostal/charismatics have been strongly anti-traditional and have failed to take seriously the contributions of the great traditions to the church. They need to leave behind the “sect mentality” and recognize that they are a part of a living, vibrant, Spirit-filled body of Christ and strive to promote the unity of the faith, which is one of the great works of the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, those within the Pentecostal/charismatic movement should recognize that a number of believers outside the movement are in fact charismatic. Many of the historic churches have experienced the gifts of the Spirit. With regard to worship and immediate communion with the Spirit, the Pentecostal/charismatic paradigm has won the day (see Harvey Cox’s Fire from Heaven).

PR: Do you agree with adopting secular models to achieve ministerial goals?

Arrington: Here a qualified answer must be given. God is sovereign over the secular world as well as the sacred (cf. Romans 13). That is, through His common grace, God has infused practices, procedures, and organizations for the efficient running of the world. On the other hand, we need to ask ourselves does the Bible teach a culture of relationships for the special community called the church. For example, the Scriptures call for the ordering, the submission, and conduct for the family; but if such is not in vogue at the time, what is the church to do? At this point the church needs to say that it is a different community from that of the world, with different values and different ways of relating to life.

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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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