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What Meaneth This? A Question for 21st Century Pentecostalism

 

Of all Christian groups, it seems that Pentecostals should be able to navigate in, among, and through all the various tribes that comprise Christendom and the cultural matrix of our times.

Third, Peter with the “sound of a mighty rushing wind” still ringing in his ears, understood the impact of “wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath” (Acts 2:19). This is what the apostle Paul affirmed in Romans 8:21 of the creation, still captive to the bondage of corruption, awaiting an eschatological manifestation of Spirit-filled generations who truly comprehend the liberty they have as the children of God.

Fourth, this massive build-up of revelation from eschatology to pneumatology to creation theology was like a giant wave washing away all confusion so this one clear affirmation could stand: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord, shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). And to make certain that the hearers knew who this Lord actually was, Peter drew their attention to the historic fact of “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (2:22, 36).

As we stand on the threshold of remembering one hundred years ago (Azusa Street) and two thousand years ago (Pentecost), Pentecostalism must rediscover the present power of the affirmations expressed and experienced by our First Century and Twentieth Century fathers and mothers in the faith.

There is much in the Pentecostal/charismatic world that I find encouraging. I am not a pessimist about what God is doing through Pentecostalism, as well as through other streams in the desert of this world. Here are five specific points of encouragement I see:

  • There is great renewal with a passion for Christ among many young people. I see a passion for intercession and evangelism among this group.
  • We praise God for the great leaders of the past who have modeled extraordinary faith. While their days are limited due to their ages, I see a new set of faith-filled, vision-inspired leaders arising. Many of them are arising from non-Pentecostal/charismatic churches, but are far more receptive to Spirit-empowered ministry than their evangelical forefathers.
  • Pentecostalism has taken advantage of the media to present the Gospel. While some of that is, for some of us, rather embarrassing on Christian television, we can be thankful that we did not demonize the internet but instead have embraced the possibilities in a globally-connected world.
  • Pentecostalism has a growing awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit to meet the social, economic, and yes, political, needs of people.

There is great diversity within the various cultures and sub-cultures of Pentecostalism. In preparing this message, I sent a copy to Matt Green, a vibrant emerging young Pentecostal leader who was then editor of Ministries Today, for his input. He wrote back, “Doug, plea for the academic community to pursue engagement with the ‘popular’ charismatic/Pentecostal community… to be willing to put up with a little nonsense so that they can contribute; to be willing to associate with the grassroots practitioners of Pentecostal theology.”

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2008

About the Author: A. Doug Beacham, Jr., D.Min. (Union Presbyterian Seminary), is the General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC Ministries). Twitter: @DougBeacham. LinkedIn. Facebook.

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