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Good News of the Kingdom of God: An Interview with Paul Pomerville

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the impetus for Christ’s mission, the Spirit-empowered church is the means for mission, and the Spirit himself is its Chief Strategist. He is a missionary Spirit. Biblical theology is the Pentecostal basis for belief and practice; obviously, a theology deficiency in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit impedes both the belief and the practice of missions (your second question). Not only is the biblical theme of the kingdom of God in both Old and New Testaments appropriate for a “theology of mission,” showing the new people of God born, empowered and led by the Spirit for Christ’s mission to the world, but it is also appropriate and central for developing a full-blown Pentecostal biblical theology that should replace so-called biblical pseudo-dispensational theology. How must the church in the West change in order to maximize the effectiveness in working to fulfill the Great Commission?

In humility, Western missionaries and theologians should look to the Christian global South to see what they themselves may learn for maximizing Western missions, as well as how they may maximize the effectiveness of the church’s missions’ efforts in the global South.

Paul Pomerville: Your question here points to a very important issue for the church in the West, how it should assume a “servant role” in assisting the vital Christian movement in the global South. The preponderance of Christ’s mission has shifted to the global South. First, in humility, Western missionaries and theologians should look to the Christian global South to see what they themselves may learn for maximizing Western missions, as well as how they may maximize the effectiveness of the church’s missions’ efforts in the global South. Instead of viewing Western systematic theology as normative and perennial, in humility the church in the West must recognize that this theology has been “contextualized” in Western culture, leading to a significant deficiency in pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It must recognize both the influence of a rationalistic scholastic theology and the influence of dispensational theology as negative theological biases that have suppressed the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the theology of the West, as well as affecting negatively the faith-context for receiving the Pentecostal experience in the West. Therefore, Western missionaries should not export these Holy Spirit-deficient theologies to the Southern Hemisphere. With regard to Western rationalistic systematic theology, it should only be used for teaching purposes as an example of theology that has been contextualized in Western culture; it may provide lessons to theologians of the global South that would help them to avoid “the context of theology there” excessively affecting the content their theology. Rather, the church in the West should focus on presenting a hermeneutic to theologians and churchmen in the global South that would enable them to focus on and develop their own truly indigenous biblical theologies.

The message that Jesus proclaimed and the message the disciples proclaimed when they were sent out was simply: “Repent, the kingdom of God is here” and that message was confirmed by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.

With regard to Darby-oriented dispensational theology, it should be recognized as unorthodox, a pseudo-biblical theology that denies basic tenants of Reformation theology and it should not be exported to the global South. In referring to “maximum effectiveness” in fulfilling the Great Commission, the Western church should recognize that the true motivation and enablement of mission is not the Great Commission (this is Christ’s strategy of mission)—a command—but a Pentecostal-charismatic experience, an experience with the full ministry of the Holy Spirit. This, the global South clearly has in hand. However, it remains to be seen whether the church in the West will make the changes I have mentioned here in order to maximize effectiveness in Christ’s mission in the global South. What special contribution can the Pentecostal movement make to the church at large?

Paul Pomerville: If the focus of this question is on the worldwide Pentecostal movement, it can provide the church at large an awareness of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in Christian theology, the spiritual life of the church and its mission. As mentioned in the book, Pentecostals providing an up-to-date statistical picture of the worldwide Pentecostal movement would help in bringing this awareness which to date evangelicals have not accurately presented.

If the focus of the question is on the Pentecostal movement in the West, a contribution would be possible if Pentecostals would avoid ethnocentrism in critiquing the Pentecostal-charismatic movement in the global South, applying their Western Pentecostal theology and experience from the first two waves of Pentecostal-charismatic renewal as normative and perennial. Like Western rationalistic theology, Pentecostal theology and experience in the West are also “contextualizations,” a historical example of Pentecostal theology and experience. What is normative and perennial is the New Testament documents and a NT Spirit-oriented biblical theology. However, the historic example of the renewal of the Pentecostal-charismatic experience in the West and the theologies following may be instructive in helping theologians and churchmen of the global South to understand the “contextualization phenomenon” and avoid an excessive impact of their cultures in their theological work.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Paul A. Pomerville, PhD (Fuller Theological Seminary), is a seventeen-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department who served as a missionary to Asia and Europe for thirteen years and as a Graduate Professor and Department Chairman of Christian Missions and Cross-cultural Communications at the Assemblies of God Seminary for two years. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission. For seven years he trained police in cultural diversity all across the United States, and continued for another seven years training police in Indonesia, East Timor and Bosnia Herzegovina. He is the author of The Cross-Cultural American: Ending America’s Obsession with Race (CreateSpace, 2009), Culture Blind Evangelicals and the Good News of the Kingdom of God (CreateSpace, 2009), Recovering Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom in American Culture: A Study in Luke’s Gospel-Acts of the Apostles (CreateSpace, 2010 and second updated edition 2016), The New Testament Case against Christian Zionism: A Christian View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (CreateSpace, 2014), and The Third Force in Missions: A Pentecostal Contribution to Contemporary Mission Theology (Hendrickson Publishers, 1985 and second updated edition 2016).

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