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What Meaneth This? A Question for 21st Century Pentecostalism

 

But I am also concerned about some things:

  • The loss of holiness—not in the Wesleyan/Reformed doctrinal debate—but as lifestyle that truly beckons the lost to God’s purposes and blessings in godly living.
  • The loss of humility—the ways we pride ourselves on having such large world-wide numbers, having our share of mega-churches, and so pleased with ourselves that we have, again, made Time magazine. Our loss of humility reminds me of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s remark that when he was standing in the hall waiting to have the bishop’s miter placed upon his head, his mother sensed his pride and rebuked him, “Joseph, don’t look so pleased with yourself.”5

It took a long time, but I’m finally old enough to know that God really doesn’t need my approval with how He chooses to work.

Please don’t take me wrong. I’m really not in an “anti” frame of mind. I recognize that just because something doesn’t fit my style doesn’t mean that it is not of God. It took a long time, but I’m finally old enough to know that God really doesn’t need my approval with how He chooses to work.

It’s deeper than that to me. It’s that nagging sense that all our popularity and success may have actually marginalized us more than we were sixty years ago when our churches were on the other side of the tracks. I struggle with what Os Guinness calls “The cultural captivity (of) fashionability, the power of the pull of corrupt timeliness or distorted relevance. The recent Christian obsession with relevance and the future leads all too often to moral and intellectual cowardice. Afraid to challenge the power of progress and the lure of the latest, or to delay the arrival of the brave, new future, we bite our lips and cave in weakly to what we know in our hearts is neither right, nor wise, nor lasting.”6

The Christian’s commitment to love their neighbors gives them a reason to stay in the mess.

That’s why I have felt compelled in my spirit to return to Peter’s sermon to answer the question that is at times my question as a Pentecostal denominational leader, “What meaneth this?”

In my working answer to this question that I think every generation of Christians, not just Pentecostals, should prayerfully ask, I offer the following to you.

We need an urgent sense of being in the “last days.” I don’t want to debate traditional Pentecostal eschatology with you. I’m really not talking about a linear progression with a new set of charts, especially now with all the uncertainty in the entire region of the Middle East. I’m talking about a profound sense of the nearness of the Lord to us; an eschatology that is conscious of the closeness of His kingdom “right here, right now.” To me, this nearness is better expressed in intimacy. I believe that eschatology and intimacy are related concepts. But this is more than a modern version of C.H. Dodd’s “realized eschatology,” or a charismatic “kingdom now” theology. It’s an invitation to take seriously the only days for which we are directly responsible, these days, “right here, right now.” At best, by God’s grace we can “redeem the kairos” (opportune or decisive) moments of the past and live presently so that the future does not curse us.7 In these last days of our generation, I am convinced that God is nearer to us than we usually dare imagine.

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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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