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

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Transformed Lives

Written by: on September 4, 2018

Jackie Pullinger quickly discovered that she needed the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit for her work among addicts in the Walled City.

“Jesus did not promise running shoes in the hereafter to the lame man. He made him walk. He not only preached but also demonstrated that he was God. He made blind men see, deaf men hear and dead men return to life.”[1]

I am fascinated how Jackie’s amazing faith in “God showing up” to save, deliver, and often miraculously heal individuals often happened in the most unlikely circumstances in the most unlikely places. These encounters did not take place in an organized church service but rather on the streets and in the drug dens, prisons, and cramped hovels of the Walled City. These encounters happened every day of the week at all hours of the day and often at night. The individuals who experienced these encounters would have failed our (or perhaps my) “minimum theological litmus test” expected of those wanting to draw closer to Jesus. That is, they often were only motivated by their unconditional desperation to finally try Jesus’ power in a last-ditch effort to overcome the life-controlling and life-destroying “demonic” forces of heroin and opium that had reduced them to living corpses.

And yet the resultant changes in their lives and health were unquestionable, to themselves, to their friends and families, to law enforcement officials, and even their enemies. So undeniable and verifiable were these resultant changes, these brand-new (Holy Spirit power) encountered individuals became the indisputable evidence for Jackie’s witness of her God and her Christian faith. While not all continued in the faith (much to Jackie’s frustration and heartache), many did over many decades. These power encounters became known both as the common catalyst and the working definition of what it meant to be a transformed Christian coming out of the broken lifestyle of the Walled City.

While not extensively covered in her book, I appreciate Jackie’s reflections of having to press through the sectarian differences in non-essential issues surrounding expressions of the Holy Spirit (including speaking in tongues.)

One example of this was, “Some missionaries had cultural hang-ups that infected me, until I found myself worrying over such questions as to whether I should wear sleeveless summer dresses and whether it was wrong to go bathing on Sundays.”[2]

My faith journey started in a Pentecostal branch of the church (the Assemblies of God). While deeply appreciating my Pentecostal roots, I deeply regret the wasted time and energy I often spent in my ministry on many non-essential issues that I now feel detracted from God’s singular desire to miraculously change the life and the eternal destination of an individual. And similar to Jackie’s “boys,” all those who could be influenced by this freshly transformed individual’s life.

I also deeply appreciate Jackie’s reflection of pursuing the reality of the power of the Spirit despite others who didn’t want to “rock the boat” or simply play it “safe.”

“Even more surprising, the Pentecostal churches would not talk about it. I went to their services – they still retained the noise, the handclapping and the repeated amens and hallelujahs – but the gifts of the Spirit were absent. The Pentecostal missionaries explained that they had made a pact with the Evangelicals not to discuss these things because they could not agree about them.”[3]

With no judgment, I grieve that often we who allegedly believe in and desire the reality of the Spirit’s power, continue to have the “noise” without the actual presence of the Spirit’s gifts. While our reasons for “noise” without power may differ, in this reflective moment, I am sure our (my) grief pale in comparison to God’s grief who desires his kingdom to be extended, both corporately and individually, by the life-transforming power of the Spirit.

The inaugurated eschatology of my Vineyard movement accommodates the inbreaking of the power of the Spirit in the lives of individuals. Our seminal theological construct is the “already, not yet” motif of George Eldon Ladd. That is, we theologically invite and expect the Holy Spirit to “show up” and dramatically (as he chooses to) impact the lives of those who avail themselves of the Spirit’s power. Unfortunately, my fear of little or no effect or the prospective disappointment, disillusion of the individual causes me to draw back and play it “safe.” That is, be kind and gracious and affirming while leaving the “minimal” results to God.

Jackie Pullinger’s work and ministry challenge me to be more daring, more consistent in allowing myself to do my part while always expecting the Holy Spirit to do his part (and yes, it probably took her years to start gaining traction, seeing results.) I am somewhat surprised that Chasing the Dragon is one of our required leadership texts. While not a scholarly work, it certainly is inspirational and challenging. That is, I am inspired and challenged to allow the messiness of the Holy Spirit to be at work in and through me along with continuing to develop a robust and comprehensive pragmatic theological grid.

[1] Jackie Pullinger, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, rev.ed. (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2006), 60.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pullinger, Chasing the Dragon, 65.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

5 responses to “The Proof of the Pudding is in the Transformed Lives”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi Harry. I enjoyed reading your post. As I did I was reminded of Henri Nouwen who experienced the power of God in very similar ways but without the physical or obvious healing attached. His story of leaving the prestigious academic world to work in the L’Arche community among people with serious intellectual disabilities described how the power of God worked through the disabled to heal those who thought they were whole. Kind of the reverse to what happened in Pullinger’s ministry. For Pullinger, it was the empowered bringing healing to powerless. For Nouwen, it was the powerless offering transformative love to the powerful. The only similarity is that both had to relinquish their hopes and dreams to follow their calling. The paradox of the Gospel. 1 Cor 1:27

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Digby, Thanks so much for your thoughts and your perspective. Thank you for reminding me that the power of God expresses itself in unique ways within a given context. I suppose we become distracted and “go off the rails” when we take what God is doing (i.e., normal) and try to insist it must look like this in all contexts (i.e., normative). That is why we need the whole church throughout history to see that the power of the Holy Spirit is always at work (even when it looks different from our personal experience or context.) Thanks again, great post.

  2. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Harry, I resonated with your post and have very similar musings and responses as your own. Our movements have a common journey and belief in the “already, not yet” and I have been challenged of late to press into the “already.” It seems over the last 30-40 years we have leaned more into the “not yet” and God is bringing us back toward the middle which we were birthed in. The tension between the two is so important and it is the tension itself that keeps us from veering too far either way if we continue to allow it and in fact, appreciate it.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Tammy, very well said. Yes you are so right, there is a very real tension between the “already, not yet” and the “both, and”. The tension is that we actively expect and lean into the” already” while truly trusting Jesus/being OK with the “not yet.” It is a tremendous challenge for our humanity as we so easily default to the “not yet” in the face of modest or no results. Thanks again for your post and I pray I can learn from your heart and your perspective, H

  3. Harry, thanks for reminding me about the many times we read about the successes of St. Stephen’s Society in rehabilitating the drug addicts compared with the failures of other programs in Hong Kong. Indeed, this shows the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. What an amazing testimony this is. This is an example of God’s plan to restore things, the Gospel truly at work.

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