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The Quest for the Primitive Church

Prayer was the only way these poor, uneducated and persecuted people could find comfort for their needs and answers for their lives.17 It was a prayer of expectancy, which acquired the impossible and supernatural. And somehow, in a way, which remains unexplainable, mystic and supernatural, their cry to God was heard and they were indeed empowered.18

It was a timeless prayer as they wept all day and night. It was prayer for reclaiming the power from the past; prayer for the present needs, and prayer for the future return of Christ. Prayer was not only the source of divine power, but also as the means for preservation of the power and the identity of the Primitive Church. Prayer was not only the request for power, but also for the personal change and preparation of the believer who was going to receive the power.19 Connection between power and prayer was in the spirit of the ongoing Azusa Street Revival, whose members earnestly urged to, “Pray for the power of the Holy Ghost.”20

 

B. Pentecostal Power

Theologically, preservation is an agency through which God maintains not only the existing creations, but also the properties and powers with which He has endowed them.21 Much had been said and written about spiritual power in the second half of the nineteenth century. The theme of “power” was clearly present in the Wesleyan tradition along with the motifs of “cleansing” and “perfection.”22 The effects of the spiritual baptism were seen as “power to endure, and power to accomplish.”23 It was also suggested that “holiness is power,” and that indeed purity and power are identical.24

Nevertheless, it was recorded that in the midst of this quest for the supernatural power of the Primitive Church, the believers in Topeka, Kansas searched “through the country everywhere … unable to find any Christians that had the true Pentecostal power.” 25 The Apostolic Faith began its broadcast of Pentecost with the words “The power of God now has this city agitated as never before. Pentecost has surely come …”26 It further explained that the cause for this miraculous occurrence was that “many churches have been praying for Pentecost, and Pentecost has come.”27

This power found expression in glossolalia, spiritual gifts, miracles and healings. Since, it was physically manifested in the midst of the congregation it was holistically experienced by the Christian community, and that was enough proof for its authenticity. But the power had more than just physical manifestations. It was their only explanation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It was their proof that He indeed was the Messiah.28 Thus, the Pentecostal power produced results in real-life conversions, affecting the growth of the small church in the mountain community. It was a power for witness.29

 

C. Pentecostal Praxis

Although the primitive communities were not the same everywhere, three practices were common for all: sharing of possessions, baptism, and communion.30 They were accompanied by the early liturgical formulas as amen, hallelujah, maranatha, etc.31 For Pentecostalism, however, the list was much longer. This distinct set of physical and emotional occurrences based on the spiritual experience in the ecclesiastical context of the divine presence included glossolalia, joy, excitement, tears and laughing, shouting and screaming, running, rolling and falling, trances and visions, prophecies, tongues and interpretation, healing and deliverance of possessed, miracles and wanders and even resurrections.32

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2018

About the Author: Rev. Dony K. Donev, D.Min. is a graduate of the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and cofounder of the Institute of Bulgarian Protestant History. He is the author of scholarly articles in textual criticism, protestant history, Christian media and contemporary church movements. In 1999 with his wife Kathryn, they established Cup and Cross Ministries International with a vision for restoration of New Testament theology and praxis. They are currently serving as missionaries and leadership developers in his native Bulgaria.

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