Head, Heart, Hands
One of the numerous times that Jesus’ detractors tried to trip him up he was asked “which is the greatest commandment?” His response is a summary of all God’s instructions: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
If I had only one text to explain Christianity to someone, this would be it. Love God and love others in such a way that involves your head, your heart and your hands. The premise of the book “Global Pentecostalism” is that progressive Pentecostals, filled with God’s Spirit, have taken up the call to love God and others with their heads and their hearts—but especially with their hands, through social engagement.
While it’s true that evangelicals, Catholics, and other mainline groups use social involvement in order to be the “hands” of Christ, the authors’ contention is that the involvement of Pentecostals is accelerating significantly. They make this conclusion “since we believe that the root of Pentecostal social engagement is the experience of collective worship. It is the divine-human encounter that empowers people to help their immediate neighbor as well as engage in various community building activities.”
Steve Addison, an Australian director of Church Resource Ministries, and an expert on movements of the church has noted, “Pentecostalism is perhaps the fastest expanding movement—religious, cultural or political—ever.” He confirms the insights about social engagement made be Miller and Yamamori: “Pentecostalism in particular is proving more potent than government programs and social movements in improving the lives of the poor and marginalized.” It seems that these progressive Pentecostals have internalized the idea that we believers are Jesus’ hands and feet.
It’s easy for the skeptic to reduce this growth to a simple equation: human need + compassionate help = growth. And on the one hand there is nothing wrong with that formula: it demonstrates much of Jesus’ ministry. But the reductionist mindset that eliminates the supernatural power of God is not only faithless, but it also fails to explain exponential growth and miraculous works. The Holy Spirit of God is inspiring service, is meeting needs, is healing, nourishing, and freeing; he’s using hundreds of millions of Pentecostal Christians around the world to participate in this work.
My denomination has a shared history with Foursquare and Assemblies but over time they moved into different streams: Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. My Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination went down the Evangelical stream; I have a natural affinity for my Pentecostal kin. I like the way the authors put it: “the membrane separating these movements is relatively thin”.  Our theology is almost identical. A quick look at the logos of the C&MA and Foursquare confirms they’re similar, with only slight differences. The actual difference isn’t in mission or theology, but in practice. My tribe needs to remember and embrace again the powerful expressions, manifestations, and power encounters with God’s Spirit both in our worship and in our ministry. Pentecostals seem to have a more authentic and intense desire and expectation for the Holy Spirit’s work. And with that experience they are empowered to serve their neighbors. To be fair, I see this in my own community of faith as well. But how much more powerful could it be with a fresh wind from the Holy Spirit?
 Mark 12:30-31 (New Living Translation).
 Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 132.
 Steve Addison, Movements That Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel, Revised ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011), 44.
 Ibid. 45.
 Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, 3.
10 responses to “Head, Heart, Hands”
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Dave, you make the comment that our doctrines are virtually identical, I have made the same observation when it comes to what we have generally offered as “Pentecostal Theology.” Our primary textbook is entitled “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology” and is a great desktop reference book that I keep within easy reach to this day. BUT really what you find in that book is Evangelical theology with added sections related to the Holy Spirit’s activity. The theology is not uniquely Pentecostal at all.
It always comes down to “do you speak in tongues or don’t you?” It’s that kind of simplistic reduction that doesn’t really help build cross denominational dialog…
Good point, Jon. It’s a gate that gets closed before anyone gets in the ring to have the conversation. While I understand that one of the “tenets” of St. Stephens is speaking in tongues to be healed, I appreciated while in Hong Kong listening to Jackie how she expressed the essence of what they are doing without a requirement. How do we hold those important convictions we have, while continuing the conversation?
Jon, When I said they’re virtually identical in theology it was a gut reaction to the shared history, and the fact the C&MA believes all the gifts are operative today. We’re not dispensational as is many of our evangelical colleagues. The real problem for the C&MA is the lack of really trusting, anticipating and looking for the work of the Spirit. I would love to see the C&MA actively dialoguing with and working with foursquare and assemblies churches.
“It always comes down to “do you speak in tongues or don’t you?” It’s that kind of simplistic reduction that doesn’t really help build cross denominational dialog.”
Jon, this is a knife that cuts both ways. If you are Pentecostal and base everything on this question, you close the door to dialog and miss the bigger picture of what God may be doing with others. On the flip side, many non-Pentecostals do the same thing in reverse order and shut the door as soon as they hear mention of tongues. This must grieve the Father’s heart.
Dave, you bring the point home of listening for the main point in order to gain something – loving God, loving neighbor, and self. What stands out to me is the way your writing (even with your self-admitted editor to help) speaks so honestly and clearly. As a result, it encourages me to continue thinking as a way to assimiliate an even deeper, richer understanding. For instance, when you speak of the reductionist formula, I am inspired to know that the growth for these organizations/ministries mentioned comes not as a result of ingredients in a particular manner, but rather a “divine-human encounter” that seems to be like the yeast Jesus speaks of.
Dave, “Pentecostals seem to have a more authentic and intense desire and expectation for the Holy Spirit’s work.” Well said. I would have read that as an emotional desire and related to worship and sign gifts before reading the text. But like you say, Progressive Pentecostalism really is about social engagement and an actual loving your neighbor as your self. Love how you brought Addison’s work into the post.
Dave, amen I believe that the love of God is important in Progressive Pentecostalism as well as any other denominations. I have seen the love of God expressed in other denominations sometimes more that in Pentecostal churches. I think the reason that the Progressive Pentecostal movement is spreading so greatly is its worship and its holistic approach to ministry. Its amazing that some denominations dont want to respond to social issues that not only affect their community but it affects their own church members. Its a new day and I think the Lord is moving us into a time that is greater than other time because we have so many resources that the church in the 20th Century and later did not!
Great connection to the Great Commandment…It’s that simple and that difficult at the same time. The work of the Spirit is something to too often neglect and seems like it should be something we always point towards. Just like you concluded…How much more powerful is our work with the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit. Good stuff. Thanks Dave.
I love your statement, “fresh wind from the Holy Spirit”. I’ve felt for a long time that many of our mainstream denominations have become complacent and bureaucratic, and that many churches are more like institutions than communities of believers. Indeed, a fresh wind from the HS is needed.
I must admit that I’m loosing faith that Christians in the U.S. can come together as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is almost as if we look for excuses to stay divided. We take the ‘my doctrine is the only right doctrine’ stand, and then spend our time judging others from behind our doctrinal stance. If it isn’t doctrine that divides us, then we look for other differences (cultural, racial, socio-economic, etc.).
“Pentecostals seem to have a more authentic and intense desire and expectation for the Holy Spirit’s work.”
That is one thing I really appreciate about Pentecostals. They don’t just talk about the Spirit, they expect that they would see and experience Him. This great sense of expectation seems to be lacking in many churches today.