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The Problem of Old Wineskins

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A Biblical and Historical Precedent

Sure, if we pull out all the stops, we will lose some people, but our gains will be far greater. This is biblically and historically true. The late Peter Wagner, who studied church growth for more than fifty years, concluded: “I noticed that the churches worldwide that seemed to grow the most rapidly were, for the most part, those that outwardly featured the immediate present day supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.”

We need only relearn a lesson Aimee Semple McPherson learned in her own lifetime. By 1919, Aimee had crisscrossed America several times holding Pentecostal tent meetings. But as the crowds grew larger and larger, she thought she might need to “cool down” the manifestations of the Spirit so as not to frighten away newcomers. At Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House, a woman, filled with the Spirit, ran up and down the aisle. Aimee had her removed. Eventually Aimee herself stopped speaking in tongues publicly. But by the 1930s, after she had founded Angelus Temple—America’s first megachurch, and her ministry had become crippled by her infamous kidnapping incident, and the nation had fallen deep into economic depression, Aimee grappled with how to revitalize her ministry. She quickly shed her Hollywood celebrity image, began ministering to the poor and disenfranchised again, returned to her Pentecostal roots, brought back the power of God to her meetings, and started speaking in tongues publicly again. Aimee’s later years were greater than her former, and today her legacy lives on in some 8 million Christ-followers in 144 nations. Aimee reintroduced a supernatural God to her generation and we must do the same today.

The SBC and Biola University

Image: Bianca Isofache

Today, many are heeding that call—including some who have not historically embraced the supernatural. They are getting with God’s program and with what the Holy Spirit is doing in our world today, lest they be left behind. In 2015, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board voted for the first time in its history to admit missionary candidates who speak in tongues. Why? They realized if they wish to remain among the world’s most powerful missionary forces, they must accept what God is doing and can no longer afford to distinguish themselves as “the denomination that does not accept speaking in tongues.”

Likewise, Biola University, a Southern California Christian school with strong evangelical and fundamentalist ties, announced in 2017 that it was offering courses on the Holy Spirit’s work in the world today. Biola’s President, Barry Corey, offered two reasons for this: “the challenges we face in a rapidly changing, secularizing context” and “to tap into the Spirit’s power…and celebrate His movement in the wider world.” Biola’s leadership realized they must have the power of the Holy Spirit in a hostile and anti-Christian culture. An aged John Wesley realized the same when he prayed, “Oh, Lord, send us the old revival, without the defects; but if this cannot be, send it with all its defects. We must have revival.”

 

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This article has been reprinted with permission from www.globalwakening.com.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2018

About the Author: Jeff Oliver is an inspirational speaker and author of Pentecost to the Present: The Holy Spirit's Enduring Work in the Church. This three-volume (Book 1: Early Prophetic And Spiritual Gifts Movements, Book 2: Reformations And Awakenings, Book 3: Worldwide Revivals And Renewals) series traces our Spirit-filled heritage to ancient times and gives documented historic evidence of signs, wonders and miracles continuing in the church to this present age. Jeff is also founder and president of Global Wakening, a ministry that is inspiring and equipping a new generation with a supernatural Christian worldview to help ignite a global wakening of God's church.

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