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

Those Crazy Spirit Led Pentecostals

Written by: on October 10, 2014

It is unfortunate that at the mention of “Pentecostalism” so many people in the family of God have apprehensions, have the religious rolling of the eyes, have the embarrassment that these people are actually part of our family. These Pentecostals are like the family members that everyone knows about but hopes they don’t show up at the family picnic. But low and behold the somewhat backward, tongue talking, Spirit led and often shunned family members, are the very ones who are leading the rest of the family of Christ in world wide church plants, conversions, and as we read in Global Pentecostalism by Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, these family members are beginning to embrace a greater role in social activism. Though they may be the “new kid” on the block they are quickly taking on the heavy burdens of society’s problems. Whether it is educating “dump” children in Cairo, or preschools in Johannesburg, or bringing medical care to the very poor village in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it is these crazy Pentecostals with their Spirit led world view that are making the greatest growth strides in both salvations and life transformations. The Progressive Pentecostal, as Miller and Yamamori have named them, move toward truly at risk children in order to “communicate a vision of human possibility and then serve as a vehicle for implementing this vision.”[1]

Miller and Yamamori state, that “The assumption underlying holistic ministry is that it is impossible to divorce moral and spiritual needs from physical and economic needs. The two are inextricably linked.”[2] When I read this I said, “of course.” I have been a Christian since January 27, 1987. Having only a Catholic upbringing, I dove into this new found relationship of mine and set out to find a church where I could call home. From Catholic, to Baptist, to Methodist, to Presbyterian, to Disciples of Christ, to Church of God, to Episcopal, to United Pentecostal, to Assembly of God and many other non-denominational churches, I visited them all. The United Pentecostal Church had the most active congregation while the Episcopal held the record for the most orderly and reserved. My search was finalized when I was invited to a youth service of a church I had not visited. When I saw the love of the kids in this group and the truly passionate desire to chase after Jesus I wanted to join. As ignorant as I was about this church stuff, I asked my friend what the monthly dues were to be a part of this group. Regardless of the cost I was going to become an active member. The free price was both a shock and a “confirmation” for the Lord. J

The Living Fire Youth Ministry was passionate about God and Man. Both seeking to know God and make Him known in a holistic ministry that did not divorce the spiritual needs from the physical needs of their fellow human beings. I was home. The church to which this radical-on-fire youth ministry belonged to was an Assembly of God church. Unlike other AOG churches that I had visited, this one was home to a well educated, mature, and very devoted group of people. They were much more subdued than the UPC congregation but were certainly more lively in worship than the Episcopal members. I believe I had stumbled, or as we Pentecostals would say, I was led by the Spirit to this group. They fully embraced the Pentecostal traditions of the power of the Holy Spirit, emphasizing a personal transformation, but also displayed the maturation of the Pentecostal movement as they engaged the world around them in a truly holistic presentation of the saving relationship found only in Christ Jesus.[3]

From these Pentecostal roots I began to grow in my faith. It was in this same church that I began working with the Living Fire Youth Ministry as a Jr. High Youth Pastor only 2 years after my conversion to Christ. It was in this church that my worship and relationship for my Jesus deepened without any necessary external props.[4] It was here that I first learned about missions, and it was at this alter where I was called into ministry. I heard, no, I felt the voice saying, “I am calling you to preach my Word.” My career path changed from medicine to ministry and I have never looked back. It is this deep passionate and personal love relationship with my Jesus that as Jackie Pullinger puts it, “We love others because of the great love by which we were loved.”[5]

It is this outward thinking that causes us Pentecostals to know it is not just about us. It is about the King upon the throne that desires to share His love with others. We are his ambassadors imploring others to be reconciled to this passionate loving God. I love what Dominic Yeo of Trinity Christian Centre Singapore said on the DVD that accompanied the book, “Our destiny is in the nations. I believe that every church has a redemptive gift and we feel very strongly that our redemptive gift is really beyond the shores of Singapore.” I wish all churches, Pentecostal or not, would see that their redemptive calling is outside of themselves. Nations are waiting, may we see our destiny in the nations.

Unfortunately, I must conclude, there are still a few to many Pentecostal churches that are “mired in legalism and prefer to pray for the salvation of the world rather than to transform it through their actions.”[6] There are also too many who too often “trade in magical thinking and psychological manipulation.”[7] They are the odd ones that though I recognize them as part of the family, I hope they do not show up at any family picnics. If so, we will have words.


[1] Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), 97.

[2] Ibid., 66.

[3] Ibid., 127.

[4] Ibid., 136.

[5] Ibid., 100.

[6]Ibid., 66.

[7] Ibid., 29.

About the Author

Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

4 responses to “Those Crazy Spirit Led Pentecostals”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Mitch, you are a tremendous testimony to what these authors describe throughout the book. As my post indicates, I was one of those who at first had a great deal skepticism about Pentecostalism, but that is long in the past. Watching some of the videos accompanying the book, I couldn’t help but think how tame it all looks now, where much of today’s Western church worship (including my own) has become far more emotional and active — which 40 years ago freaked me out! So, the West is catching up…not only in its worship, but especially in its understanding of moral and social connection of Jesus’s teaching and practice. I truly believe the next 20 years, our Pentecostal brethren from the South will continue to influence, challenge and awake the churches in the West, and this will be a very good thing. Thanks for your stimulating thoughts and personal journey. It was great being with you in S. Africa!

  2. Deve Persad says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey, my Capetown roomy. One thing I know for sure: If anyone tries to show up for your family picnic they better get there early, because the food won’t be hanging around for long. One more thing that I have come to appreciate: your deep rooted passion to serve the Lord. You embody this call to take the message of the Gospel beyond ourselves. You show great enthusiasm and you’re willing to sacrificially serve towards those ends. As you travel throughout central and south america, is there one country or one region that inspires your faith, in light of our reading, more than others?

  3. Michael Badriaki says:

    Mitch, Mitch, lol “They are the odd ones that though I recognize them as part of the family, I hope they do not show up at any family picnics. If so, we will have words.” Mighty funny as usual.

    I was looking forward to reading your post on Global Pentecostalism. since I learned from hearing your testimony in London that you had experience with the Pentecostal orientation. I was also introduced to ministry through working at Pentecostal churches in Uganda where I was highly involved. From door to door, lively worship through music, dance and drama. Daytime and overnight prayer meetings, discipleship, speaking in tongues (Glossolalia), exorcism, serving people’s needs in the community etc.

    This is why I found Miller and Yamamori’s book rather naive and condescending for them to call Pentecostals “Progressive” as though they have discovered something new about Pentecostals in the “developing world”.

    There are certainly “odd” characters in every community, be it Protestants, Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Lutherans both conservative or liberal and I believe we should meet one another with love and truth through dialogue.

    Thanks my friend.

  4. Mitch…
    Love hearing more about your spiritual journey and finding “home” (condensed version aside :). Perhaps the authors had to find a distinction between what we understand as Pentecostalism and the Pentecostalism that is emerging that is distinctive from what has been “normalized” (where we “go” when we hear the word itself). What I am most intrigued by is that the authors noticed the subversive nature of Progressive Pentecostalism. They are developing a social structure that is an alternative reality. That challenges me … By the way … you are always welcome at any picnic I’m at!

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