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What Meaneth This? A Question for 21st Century Pentecostalism


Pentecostalism can say to this world that change need not be feared but invited; change is evidence of redemption; change means that God is still speaking to us and shaping His future in our present.

I started this message with the 2004 tsunami, a natural disaster that we in the West barely consider now that the media has moved on. But at the close of the Twentieth Century, Leonard Sweet challenged the institutional church with his SoulTsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture. Near the close of the book he has a small section on “A Theology of Pentecost,” and challenges us with this observation, “The spiritual and social implications of Pentecost, which defines the relationship of the human spirit to the Holy Spirit, have yet to be explored for the age in which we live.”12

Perhaps together we can go exploring “for the age in which we live” in such a way that they will once again ask us not only “What meaneth this?” but also, “What must we do?” Amen.





1 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1996. 161.

2 The interview can be heard at

3 Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing Inc. 1980 with forward by Vinson Synan) 46-50. This is a reprint of Bartleman’s 1925 original How “Pentecost” Came to Los Angeles—How It Was in the Beginning.

4 Wright used this phrase in his lectures at the Sprunt Lectures, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia in February 2001.

5 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The Gift of Peace. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1997. Quoted in Newsweek. May 22, 2000.

6 Os Guinness. Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2003. 75, 77.

7 Ephesians 5:15, 16.

8 Philip Pullman. The Subtle Knife. New York: Laurel-Leaf, A Division of Random House, Inc. 1997.

9 C. Peter Wagner. Changing Church. Ventura, California: Regal Books. 2004. 121-139.

10 E.G. Schwiebert. Luther and His Times. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950. 293.

11 Schwiebert. 603, 604.

12 Leonard Sweet. SoulTsunami. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.378.



This message was originally preached at the Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting on March 10, 2005, at Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia. It also appeared in Summer 2006 issue of the online journal Encounter from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. It has been slightly expanded and updated for publication in The Pneuma Review.

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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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