Sunday, August 12, 2007

changing of the guard

Hey, go to Future AG to learn about what has been going on in the Assemblies of God as of late.

Also, here is a great well written comment by George P. Wood on what it means to be Pentecostal:

What fundamentally defines Pentecostalism is its emphasis on Jesus as Savior, Healer, Baptizer, and Soon and Coming King. Although Pentecostalism has roots in the Wesleyan Holiness and Fundamentalist movements of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, it flowered into a different tree. Although our Holiness and Fundamentalist predecessors believed that Jesus saved, healed, baptized, and would soon return, they embedded these beliefs in a different theological matrix. Both believed Jesus saved. Both believed Jesus healed (at least in the apostolic era). Both believed that Jesus baptized in the Holy Spirit (though for Fundamentalists, this was part of conversion, and for Holiness people, part of entire sanctification). But neither, in my opinion, believed that these were all experiences to be had today by all believers. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever was the watchword of Azusa Street. He saves. He heals today. He baptizes for holiness and service. And right now we live in the last days before his coming. Right now we can experience the outpouring of God's eschatological gift.This distinctive theological matrix was tied to our distinctive spiritual experience: baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues (Articles 7 and 8 of the Statement of Fundamental Truths).

Whereas Fundamentalists (and many evangelicals still today) speak of the Holy Spirit as a point of doctrine, Pentecostals speak of it as a person to be experienced. The Holy Spirit points all people to their need of Jesus the Savior. The Spirit brings people to physical wellness at the hands of Jesus the Savior. The Spirit consecrates and empowers us through Jesus the Baptizer. And the Spirit awakens us to the realization that we are living in the last days, that time is short, and we have an urgent commission to make disciples of all nations.

Obviously, we are evangelicals. Apart from Articles 7 and 8, our Statement of Fundamental Truths is generically evangelical. But it is our relentless focus on Jesus as experienced in the power of the Holy Spirit that makes us more than evangelical. In my opinion, evangelicalism is becoming increasingly politicized and psychologized. It needs to be Pentecostlized, i.e., it needs to be reminded that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever--not just in our doctrine, but in our lives. (And by the way, lest anyone think I'm being old-timey here, we should beware of limiting the Spirit's work to speaking in tongues.

In our Statement of Fundamental Truths, tongues is the initial, physical evidence of Spirit-baptism. But the ongoing, substantive changes wrought by Spirit baptism are what truly matter. Do we experience God more deeply? Practice holiness more actually? Evangelize more effectively? In too many of our churches, people speak in tongues but don't evangelize, take proper care of their bodies and the needs of the poor, make progress in personal holiness, or live in awareness of the shortness of time.)

Since we're talking about authentic Pentecostalism, I would be wary of Margaret Poloma. As excellent a sociologist of religion as she may be, she has a definite agenda. She believes, for example, that the Holy Spirit is leading the church toward the acceptance of committed same-sex relationships. I'm not saying she's wrong in her critique of past Anglo-Pentecostal racism, but I am saying that we need to be wary in citing her as an authority on Pentecostal practice.

Why, then, to answer to your second question, are we in this fellowship together? Admittedly, we don't have a single, dominant founder (Luther, Calvin). Nor do we have a strong, overarching theological tradition. (Unlike Calvinism, for example, Pentecostalism is not a total world-and-life view.) But we do have a distinctive experience of Jesus, which we believe is rooted in the New Testament, visible in moments of church reform and revival through the ages, and experienced by millions worldwide today. We are in this fellowship together because our experience of Jesus draws us together.Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That insight ignited Azusa Street, and in our current context, can ignite spiritual, moral, and social change today too. As we consider the election of our next set of leaders, not to mention the general direction of our denomination, let us make sure we're keeping the experience of Jesus--considered in its totality--as the touchstone of our thinking.


At 8:04 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Brian, I wouldn't normally leave a response to a comment on a post of the commenter, but I wasn't sure if you would go back and read my reply.

And I apologize if my post offended you. I did not intent to characterize pentecostal churches that way.



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