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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Be in Practice What We Are in Christ – A Wild Shrub!

Written by: on October 10, 2014

It is generally understood and well documented that the center of Christianity has shifted from the centers of Western Christianly to the South and the East. Philip Jenkins notes, “We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide.”[1]In Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, Donald Miller and Tetsundo Yamamori propose the significance of social ministries in this global shift.[2] The authors present a well-researched, compelling presentation of Pentecostalism in the context of embracing “a holistic understanding of the Christian faith.” It is the Progressive Pentecostal Church, “inspired by the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and who seek to holistically address the spiritual, physical, and social needs of people in their communities”[3] that has fostered the rise of world Christianity

Burning Bush

As a part of the reading, I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from the interviews on the DVD. The interview of Takunboh Adeyemo with the Association of Evangelicals in May, 2002 demonstrated much of what is said through the book. He was asked to expresses the phenomenon of new church plants and growth in the Pentecostal movement in Kenya and throughout Africa. He stated that “in a nutshell, there are four points:”

Number one, the Pentecostal charismatic churches are scratching the people where they are itching … They’re contemporary, they’re contextual – they’re right there where the people are; it is like what I said, “How do you define a shepherd? He must smell like a sheep.”[4] The Pentecostals, the pastors are like the people there [in the community]. They just identify with them.

Number two, they take the Book, the Bible at face value. They believe it. They believe it is the Word of God; they believe that the power, the miracles, signs, the wonders that you read about in the Bible are operating and they are applicable today. There might have a little bit of heresy but it is not like the heresy that you find in the west where the deity of Christ is denied, where maybe a part of the scripture is questioned. For these guys it is maybe the opposite,

Number three, they believe in prayer. They believe that prayer can do whatever God can do. And since there is nothing impossible with God, they actually believe that with prayer you can do everything. Moving mountains, even sicknesses, raising the dead. They go to prayer meetings expecting things to happen. There is a very common practice … all night of prayer. They go to their churches – the hundreds and thousands nearly every Friday and they pray from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Praying! Praying! Praying! If you were to ask them, “What are you praying for? All night!” It might be their families, finances, marriages, their walk; it is anything and everything. They believe in prayer and this is major.

The fourth thing, the Pentecostal charismatic movement is giving the people a new ID, a new identity. It is like the people were nobody before. When they become born again, spirit filled, tongues speaking, they begin to carry themselves. You see them with their shoulder up! They begin to take a scripture like 2 Corinthians chapter nine; “they who were poor have become rich.” There is that sense of somebody-ness; that we are somebody! As an African, how timely that is. People have been oppressed for a long time; people who have been suppressed; people who have been trodden upon; people who have been marginalized. People have been more or less asking the question, “Who are we, by the way?” And here comes the gospel and tells them, “You are somebody. You are kings and prince, and princesses… of the King.”

These four factors summarize what I see as factors [in Pentecostal growth], two of them are theological and two of them are social.[5]

The summation of the interview with Adeyemo could be stated in four words: incarnate, scripture, prayer and identity. How significantly can we learn from this! It validates what I see as a basic application for Miller and Yamamori, “Pentecostalism is not a set of beliefs, it is an experience.”[6] In other words, it is a holistic message and ministry that is applicable to the individual and the masses. Note his implication of belief (theological) and application (social). These as essential factors that do apply to local ministry in the western church as congregations minister in their neighborhood.

In an interview with Chris Komagum from Kampala, Uganda, these factors seem as essentials in creating vision for “holistic” ministry. To achieve a holistic ministry ­­­Komagum refers to the government of “twelve” or the Jesus structure. He characterizes a personal ministry that disciples individuals in a local cell ministry but expands to include the masses. As such, it ministers first to the individual. This structure established in the ministry at the Kampala Pentecostal church in Uganda is based on demographic and geographic factors.[7] The significance is not the governance of the church, as important as this might be, as a large body of believers in a large area, arranged as districts, regions, zones, sections, and cells that provides structure to govern the church. Rather, it is that each cell ministers to the few, that is, one on two relationships where each cell is limited to ten members. As stated by ­­­ Komagum this “is to provide interaction, for many interactions and to build many relationships.”[8] The model is to allow the local cell to grow and divide when a cell reaches ten. This allows the larger district to grow massively (at the time of the interview each district goal was 25,000 people) while allowing, as Komagum notes, “love and care and understanding and everybody knows who is my neighbor.”[9]

I feel the most instructive and, perhaps adaptive, learning opportunity for the western church is the model of empowering and giving the ministry to the people. This is accomplished through the formation of cell ministry in the progressive Pentecostal church. There is considerable variation in how cell groups are designed to function, but as Miller and Yamamori note, “…the cell group model puts the ministry in the hands of the people … churches that are halfhearted in their implementation of cell groups usually fail.”[10]

Certainly a major highlight is the many stories throughout Global Pentecostalism that demonstrate the unselfish work of men and women of faith as they undertook the humanitarian challenges of the poor and oppressed. It lends credence to the thesis that the spread and growth of Christianity through the global South, the East and Africa is “that Pentecostals are increasingly engaged in community-based social ministries.”[11]

[1] Philip Jenkins, (2011-08-11). The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity 3ed (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1. Also: Elijah J.F. Kim The Rise of the Global South: The Decline of Western Christendom and the Rise of Majority World Christianity. (Eugene, OH: Wipf and Stock, 2012),1.

[2] Donald Miller and Tersunao Yamamori Global Pentecostalism: The New Face pf Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007).

[3] Ibid., 212.

[4] Global Pentecostalism, 185, Pastors “are products of the social context in which the church is located.”

[5] Tokunboh Adeyemo, May, 2002, Interview Church Planting and Growth, Nairobi, Kenya, DVD.

[6] Global Pentecostalism, 14.

[7] Chris Komagum, February, 1999, Interview Church Planting and Growth, Kampala, Uganda, DVD.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., emphases mine.

[10] Ibid., 191.

[11][11] Ibid., 6, 211.

About the Author

mm

rhbaker275

7 responses to “Be in Practice What We Are in Christ – A Wild Shrub!”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    As always, a wonderfully written post and a great summary of the book. I too appreciated the interviews on the DVD; I think seeing and hearing these leaders share their ideas really brought the message home. What I think you have done so well is to capture the essence of this movement, and in so doing this, you show how basic much of it is…that it isn’t rocket science. What this movement seems to be doing is sticking to Jesus and the basics (prayer, Scripture, incarnation and identity, along with Jesus’s model of discipling). We still in the West seem to want things more complicated, more structural and systematic, more thought-out. It seems like history is repeating itself, that when God’s people get back to essentials and follow Jesus, His church grows and changes societies. We’ve seen this many times, in the monastic renewal movements in the Middle Ages, in Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and so on. These movements were all about getting back to basics…essentials. I am hopeful this approach will eventually influence our part of the world. Do you see that happening? Thanks for a great post!

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      John,
      Thanks for your response. I also believe that, in many ways, Christian believers are focusing on the practices and beliefs that unite us while refusing to allow usually unimportant issues to divide the body of Christ. I see this in doctrinal issues – the simple message of love and forgiveness overcomes our being divided by dogmatic or absolute defense of doctrines that are not central to the Christian faith. There are some non-negotiables but these are not usually the things that divide us. I do see this happening and I have great hope that when we make Jesus the subject we can return to the basic gospel that transforms lives and gives hope.

  2. Ron, thanks for your lively thoughts here. I appreciate your contagious positivity and your authentic love for the Lord. I have not yet seen the DVD, but after reading your post, I will definitely watch it.

    As you may know, I am pretty skeptical about the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. But I realize that I need to be open to the fact that these movements are doing good things in the world, particularly in non-Western settings. Every movement has its faults, but they also have their positives as well. And the longer I am in this program, the more my heart is becoming open to the possibility that this branch of Christendom is not totally off-the-wall. Posts like yours are helping me to be a bit more objective and open. Thanks for that.

    Your four words: incarnate, scripture, prayer, and identity were very helpful. I believe in incarnational ministry; I just don’t see it very often, but I know it is happening somewhere. Frankly, my spiritual life has been more down than up the past several years, but I long to see it fruitful again. Perhaps there is hope even for a non-Pentecostal like me. I will keep you posted.

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Bill, thanks…

      I note in some of my other post responses that I do share an affinity with movements that for some tend to over-emphasize spirituality. The problem is that often we attach stereotypical suppositions that do not allow us to see clearly at this point. I used to become quite defensive when the conversation would turn to Pentecostal beliefs. My underlying motivation would be to make sure I was not associated with the more “extreme” practices. I am still that way somewhat. I seldom identify my tribe as Church of God without added, “Anderson.” I might make a joke about being afraid of snakes … but actually across my tribe there has always been strong objection to speaking in tongues and similar displays of spirituality. I am still guarded but we are doing more together and certainly accepting the cultural differences in the South and East that is more accepting of a faith-based, emotional response to the gospel. We have much to learn.

  3. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Ron, thank you for your thoughtful insights. As you succinctly summarized, the four points are among the spiritual practices that characterize the Pentecostal churches in my countries too. However, the challenge of many Pentecostal churches in Ethiopia is they take salvation/conversion as their only prime ministry enterprise and neglect the social need of their community. I don’t know how churches in my country can possible incarnate Jesus to our community if they do not go where they are and listen to their struggles, so that they know how to address their needs. Thanks again!

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Telile, you are so right on…!
      It is true that much “going” to the world by Western churches has emphasized evangelism from an “other worldly” perspective to the extent of missing the whole application of loving one’s neighbor. Today, I believe we understand, as you note, the holistic gospel that brings reconciliation between all of creation. We do have (the Western church) much to learn from the indigenous spiritual movements that have taken place around the world.

      I have always had a little aversion to how some have applied the gospel to the political side of life. My scriptural foundation is based on Jesus’ words, “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Jesus was not a political activist but I do believe where Jesus is the subject, there will be political action and change.

  4. Hey Ron,

    I think you summed up a key point of the progressive pentecostal movement with the statement that the movement is more an experience than a set of beliefs. It is a transforming and a renewing of the mind. If there is no deep renewing and relationship with Jesus then all ministry comes out of some legalist attempt to please God. This is one true strength of the Pentecostals. They keep the fire of relationship before the people which fuels the passion to serve Him and others in a holistic nature. Amen Brother! Bless you Friend!

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