Pentecostals in the Light

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

1 John 3:8

Big doors swing on little hinges. Unbeknown to most, my denomination the Church of God, was founded upon the raw emotion and charisma of interracial congregations. Through out history revolutionary preachers such as Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this emotion and charisma as a huge part of the churches he grew up in and knew that this emotion wasn’t enough.

I believe Henri J.M. Nouwen expresses it best in his essay called Pentecostalism on Campus when he says that ”We know that electroshock, an artificially induced emotional experience, can cover a depression for many years but does not cure it. It may make us forget our problems for some years, but, in fact, it delays the process of cure by not using the human qualities to heal. One might wonder if the miraculous effect of the Pentecostal experience is not in a certain way like such a treatment.”    To be honest some might fight this kind of statement to death. But to look at life and church soberly, this statement deserves admittance to the conversation of historical Christianity.

In the Pentecostal churches I grew up in there was a huge emphasis placed on experiential spirituality. I think there is nothing wrong with this kind of experience but at what cost? Anytime there is an emphasis placed on a discipline or an act of the church something else suffers. Sadly when a church gets so caught up in the “movement of the Sprit of God” and the “feeling”, a lack of liturgy and intellect can be the result.

Liturgy is like a cuss word in some Pentecostal churches. Liturgy is simply the practices of the church that give it structure and stability. Liturgy for an individual this is how we learn to get to Jesus. They are “rituals” that we learn in our disciplined life that has been proven to work. For example the way I pray and read each morning is more or less my liturgy that even when I am sad and depressed and not “feeling” spiritual religiously return to this structure to get me to God.

Intellect in the Pentecostal church has become the “devil”. When a Pentecostal pastor who is moved by every wind of doctrine steps into the pulpit it tares the congregation’s ability to think for itself out. I believe this is what Nouwen was speaking about earlier, that when we are so caught up in the feelings it seems impossible it integrate the mind into this experience and truly be changed on every level. The emotional experience of the Pentecostal movement is the greatest tool of revival that the church has ever seen. But without the grounding of the teaching of Jesus it will be washed away like the house built on the sand.

This is what Martin Luther King Jr. rebelled against when he went to Pennsylvania to Theological Seminary where he was the top of his class. King saw the emotionalism, in the African-American churches he grew up in, as a pacifier to true revolution. And as we have seen throughout history he was right. In the days of slavery it was the biggest and cruelest punishment to a slave to keep them from learning to read. When we begin to learn for ourselves we find liberty, freedom, and strength.

And this is where we stand today in churches that need the holistic way of the Gospel. It’s easy to see the culture of the disciples, or the culture of the desert fathers who fled the “world”, and see the holes in there discipleship to Christ. But today it is easy to see that in a culture so advanced that it needs disciples of depth and wisdom to change it. I hate to say it but most of our traditional understanding of “evangelism” doesn’t work any more. Our traditional way of looking at “the World” needs to be bathed in wisdom, intellect, and understanding.

Life in the Kingdom of God is a new world or Cosmos. There is a totally new way of being in the world where spirituality and mentality are not at ends with each other, but where they are fused together in the incarnation of Christ Jesus. We look at everything through the lenses of the Kingdom. The scripture teaches that Christ is the cornerstone. If that is true for us, that means that he is not the cream in your coffee, not the added flavor to your life. That all that you have ever known about life, about scripture, about Hebrew culture, about the church, about yourself, has to be torn down and restructured where He becomes the foundation of everything in your Cosmos.


Side note:

I am and will continue to be a Pentecostal. I embrace the gifts of the Spirit and the Spirit with which the Church of God out of Cleveland Tennessee stands for. I have never read an essay that so clearly and soberly expresses this movement than Nouwen’s essay from Intimacy published in 1969. I would like to thank Jonathan Martin for so beautifully and consistently embracing the Pentecostal heritage yet at the same time reforming it to fit and affect the present Cosmos that we live in.  



One thought on “Pentecostals in the Light

  1. Amen, Brother!

    I relate to this post on a very personal level. Having grown up in Pentecostal/Holiness churches that were so much about “when the Spirit moves ya” – when the time came for me to make my own spiritual decisions, I rebelled because there had been no rules…no “liturgy” that encouraged me to act – even when I didn’t feel it.

    I believe that the Spirit does still move me…but sometimes it’s up to me to do the movin’.

    Enjoyed this one!

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