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Reflections on a Term at the Gregorian University

I also explained that Pentecostal pastors learned how to move and in some cases manipulate people from studying Charles G. Finney, and his appeal to the emotions. Finney argued that if he could get his audience to laugh, or to cry, to feel happy or sad, or if he could strike fear in their hearts, such things would open the hearts and minds of the people to hear the Gospel message, to repent, and to be “born again”. Many Pentecostal preachers understand and work with this method still.

“My prayer is that my Pentecostal and Charismatic sisters and brothers will look again at what God is doing in His Church, and set aside those things which keep us from trusting Him completely.” –Mel Robeck

Another important aspect of much Pentecostal preaching is the “Call and Response” style that comes from African American worship and camp meeting worship along the western frontier. The preacher and the people speak back and forth to one another. Most of the time the people speak back, affirming what the preacher is saying. In many cases, a rhythm or cadence develops as the sermon moves forward, and the congregation becomes an intrinsic part of the preaching process.

I pointed out that ignorance is not a Pentecostal virtue, even though many Pentecostals still do not trust those with formal theological training. This leads to obvious challenges that Pentecostal preachers face. The limited amount of education that most Pentecostal pastors have when compared to the clergy in most other denominations is revealing.[2] The need for a specific, formal, rigorous, theological education and the elements that are part of that education varies from culture to culture. A robust theological education may provide its recipients with tools that can make them more effective in a wider range of ministry opportunities than if they would have without it. On the other hand, just because one has received such an education, does not guarantee that the recipient will become a great preacher, pastor, or leader. The same is true for one who has little more than a Divine call and a compelling testimony. Still, for Pentecostals, these latter two factors are typically valued more than is a formal education, though they may limit the preacher in what issues he or she might address effectively.

“One of the topics I found most difficult to address was what we call ‘the anointing.’” –Mel Robeck

One of the topics I found most difficult to address was what we call “the anointing”. I am deeply troubled when a preacher claims that he or she has “the anointing”. It should be obvious. Unfortunately, there are preachers who make such claims. They may be genuine, but they can also be self-serving, manipulative, and abusive. In so doing, they make it clear that because they are God’s “anointed”, anyone who criticizes or disagrees with them is in danger of suffering from God’s judgment (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:23; Psalm 105:15). It then functions as a threat. Yet throughout Scripture, the idea of an “anointing” suggests that the Lord has set someone apart and empowered that person to do a specific task.

I closed with some reflection on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The Holy Spirit played an active role in its writing of Scripture, and the Holy Spirit of God continues to play an active role in its application to the hearts and lives of people. The Holy Spirit takes the text and transforms it into a living and life-giving testimony to Jesus Christ. Through this means, the Spirit transforms the lives of those who read/hear it.

Fr. Felix Körner, S.J. and Mel Robeck discuss Interfaith Dialogue through an Ecumenical Lens at the Lay Centre in Rome.

For Pentecostals, preaching is a complex activity that seeks to carry the message that God wants the world to hear. It begins with God’s loving Word, spoken to a fallen human race that declares His love for us. It demonstrates the extent to which God has gone to pay the cost of our redemption and restoration through Jesus Christ. It is a living Word because the Holy Spirit was present in its writing, is present in its application, and is also present in the signs and wonders that confirm the Word as it is preached. In the end, a mutuality emerges when God gives the Word, the Holy Spirit enlivens it, the preacher proclaims it in the power of the Spirit, and the community hears the Word as it is proclaimed in words accompanied by signs and wonders.

Later that evening, Professor Körner and I engaged in a discussion at the Lay Centre on “Interfaith Dialogue through and Ecumenical Lens”. There were about 20 students present, along with a few other guests. Two nuns and two laywomen from the class at the Angelicum came for the discussion as well.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Ph.D. (Fuller Theological Seminary), is Senior Professor of Church History and Ecumenics and Special Assistant to the President for Ecumenical Relations at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God who has served at the seminary since 1974. His work on the Azusa Street revival is well known. His ecumenical work, since 1984, is highly respected around the world by Christian leaders outside the Pentecostal Movement. He continues to serve as a bridge between Pentecostalism and the larger church world, leading international dialogues, participating in ecumenical consultations, and working on and writing about church-dividing issues. He appears regularly on the AmericanReligious.org Town Hall weekly telecast. He co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism (Cambridge, 2014) with Amos Yong, The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy (Wipf & Stock, 2009) with Harold D. Hunter, and The Suffering Body: Responding to the Persecution of Christians (Paternoster, 2006) with Harold D. Hunter. He is also the author of The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement (Thomas Nelson, 2006 and 2017) and Prophecy in Carthage: Perpetua, Tertullian, and Cyprian (Pilgrim, 1992). Faculty page

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