Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Looking at Pentecostalism Afresh

Written by: on October 10, 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Donald Miller’s Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. To be perfectly honest, my understanding of Pentecostalism is informed by experiences from my childhood that are, shall we say, less then ideal. When I was a senior in high school, I went on a mission trip to Ghana with a very prominent Pentecostal group and it was the worst short–term mission trip ever (there’s actually a website dedicated to people telling their story and ‘overcoming’ their experiences with them). It was so bad, that I’m embarrassed to give words to the actual experiences. Suffice it to say, all we did was “preach” to Ghanaians about their souls and that they should accept Christianity, well our version of it anyway. I cringe when I think about it, and pray that I didn’t actually push anyone away from the Gospel of Christ. (Disclaimer, I am in no way saying that other denominations had or have cross-cultural ministry figured out, this experience just happened to be with a Pentecostal group).

Reading this book and spending time with some of my Pentecostal friends in my George Fox cohort has helped cover over the scars from that experience. Pentecostalism as I had experienced it, does not represent all of Pentecostalism today (and probably didn’t then either).   It warms my heart to read the stories in this book of Pentecostals embracing a full understanding of the Gospel.  One that seeks to minister to the ‘least of these’ and expresses the Gospel in both word and deed. As I’ve thought about the Pentecostal movement, there are at least two lessons that I as a less emotionally expressive Baptist need to learn afresh.

As I’ve thought about ministering to the homeless, addict, and rejected, I think Pentecostals have a lot to teach the rest of us. Those forms of brokenness can often be healed better by an expression of the Gospel that really focuses on the heart and responding in joy and exuberance to the Gospel.  When one has been through such trying times one is more exuberant and expressive when redemption comes. When there’s the realization that they aren’t alone and that the future can be different, pure unadulterated joy and a desire to express that joy naturally flows out. In my Baptist church, it’s safe to say that a ‘heart’ expression of worship isn’t the primary one. In fact, you’d rarely ever find a Pentecostal expression of ‘heart’ worship at our church. We’re much more inclined to ‘head’ or ‘mind’ worship and singing theology and allowing for moments of stillness and reflection. To break from our chaotic lives and allow God to nurture our souls.  We’d rather ponder mystery and depth than sing choruses over and over that express our feelings. The main question I have is, how can our church allow for moments of exuberance that allow someone whose natural response to the Gospel is utter joy to express that emotion? Would we be comfortable with that?

I think Pentecostals can be much more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. They’re not afraid to talk about the Spirit or seek the Spirits direction. They’re not afraid the Spirit might do something ‘out of the ordinary’ like physically heal someone or give someone a prophetic word or vision. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many Baptist. We say that the Trinity is a core foundational belief, but we act as if the Holy Spirit is the least of the three. We love talking/praying about/to God and Jesus, but we just don’t know what to do with the Spirit. It’s as if we don’t really believe the Spirit exists, or what it does, or we’re afraid that the Spirit will do something that makes us really uncomfortable.  How can we reclaim who the Holy Spirit is and be more sensitive to the Spirit’s working?

What’s your experience of Pentecostalism and what can we learn from them?


About the Author

Chris Ellis

Leave a Reply