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Pentecost and the Inside-Out Church


A timely reminder of the empowerment of the Spirit in our daily lives.

Not long ago a young woman I’ll call Karen asked if she could talk with me about her plans for the future. I had known Karen for several years but I hadn’t seen her in a long, long time. She said she had to make some decisions about a career path she was considering and just wanted to bounce some ideas off of me. As we sat down together, I said, “So, Karen, it’s been a while since we’ve talked. How’ve you been?” Smiling broadly, she replied, “I’m doing great, Brian.”

In that instant the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “No she’s not. She’s not doing great.” Almost before I knew what was happening, I said gently, “Karen, that’s not true. You’re not doing great.” As her smile quickly faded and a frown appeared in its place, I was thinking, “Well, this is a great way to get the conversation off to a booming start. What if I’m wrong? What if she really is doing great? I’ve pretty much just called her a liar. No wonder she’s frowning at me.”

But the Holy Spirit prompted me to say even more gently, “Your heart is broken.”

Suddenly, Karen began to weep. She sobbed, her shoulders heaving from some internal agony. As I reached for the box of Kleenex, she continued to cry, one hand on her eyes to hide her embarrassment and one hand on her mouth to stifle her moaning.

When the sobbing stopped and she could speak again, she said, “My fiancé broke up with me yesterday. And this morning, the doctor told me I have cancer.”

She spent the next few minutes crying and pouring out her heart. I listened and responded, sharing with her the love and hope that only Jesus can provide.

I walked away from that experience completely amazed. I was amazed at the goodness of God, at His powerful demonstration of His compassion and concern, at His willingness to speak into the life of this hurting young person. I was also amazed that God had used me: I didn’t know anything of Karen’s circumstances and I couldn’t have known that she was so wounded that day. Her smile seemed so genuine. Even while God was speaking to me I was thinking, “This is crazy. What if I’m wrong? What if I offend her?”

But God was speaking and she needed to hear it. She needed to know that God knew what was happening in her life and that He cared, that she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t offended at all. Amazing. But the most amazing part of the story was where it happened: in my office on the campus of a secular university.

Ever feel like the places where you live and work are dark, lost, maybe even evil? Those are the places where the Holy Spirit yearns to be.

I think I know why I was so amazed. I was raised in a non-Evangelical, non-Pentecostal denomination. When I gave my life to Jesus as a teen-ager and was born again, I knew only a little about the Bible and even less about the Holy Spirit. When I was baptized in the Holy Spirit during the Charismatic Renewal in the late ‘70s, Pentecostal churches were emphasizing speaking in tongues, charismatic worship, and holy living. Being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit transformed my life forever.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2002

About the Author: Brian White, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison), is a professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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