DMINLGP

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

Here and There

Written by: on October 10, 2014

Surely Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement is a book that confronts Western stereotypes and expectations concerning Pentecostals. I recall hearing the excitement in a young college student as she described what she had heard was happening in far off Africa. People delivered from demons, being healed of their diseases and even raised from the dead! Hidden, more to her than to me, was her own hunger for a tangible sense of God’s presence in her life and affairs, but even more importantly within “her” world. What she expressed was a yearning for an experience of God’s presence, more than doctrinal affirmation.[1] I wonder if she would have associated the steady, committed work illustrated again and again in this book with the same enthusiasm. Whichever way it might be, Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori have provided not only in depth analysis they have also focused on the potential of the gospel through their steady level handed approach. Might there be an experience of God that does not see the “miracle” as the end or point of the experience, but something that is a part?

 

I raise the question because in my late teens and twenties during the 1970’s I could have been like my younger friend. During that time in many places in North America there was a Jesus People movement. Larry Norman, Johnny Cash, Love Song, and (even) Kris Kristofferson were among those on stage at Expo ‘72. Fusing together music and evangelism in a Woodstock like event (without the rain since it was in Dallas, Texas). Today you could probably trace contemporary worship music to this gathering. I wore out my record listening to the songs. But this movement was not just music, there was a recognized belief in things of the Spirit – miracles, healings and a very high expectation that Jesus was returning driving evangelism. Heck, I even had a “Maranatha” t-shirt complete with “BAC” for born again Christian!

 

What was missing was any sense of social transformation. This crucial aspect draws the focus of Miller and Yamamori, one they define as Progressive Pentecostalism. “Christians who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and seek to holistically address the spiritual, physical, and social needs of people in their community.”[2] Is this holistic approach what was missing in my earlier years? Is the lack of holistic concern a significant contributing factor to the petering out of the visible charismatic presence? Or was it because our Christian faith does not have the testing crucible present in other cultural contexts?[3]

 

I am wonder (not in doubt but in observation) at the interwoven nature of presence and experience referenced by the authors in the stories and global places of their research. While we in Western Christian culture seem to be more linear – A then B followed by C or if this, then that. Miller and Yamamori related the transference of the Spirit’s presence from individual and corporate worship and prayer into their everyday common life. The Spirit is here and there. So why would we not be there?

 

While on one hand miracles have and do take place, there is a sense that the same Spirit is in the trenches to undo systemic oppression. Thinking back on our time and witness in South Africa there are similar connections.

 

Within the spiritual dimension is the commitment to human self-esteem, the value of each individual.[4] At JL Zwane Memorial Church in Guglulethu they are “committed to protecting the dignity of the individual, developing human capital, rescuing hope through Word and Deed with Christ in the centre of our lives.”[5] This commitment is demonstrated in their pioneering work with victims of AIDS/HIV regardless of sexual orientation. There is no “don’t ask, don’t tell”; there is just do for the least of these.

 

The authors noted that they were continually impressed by both humility and risk taking among Progressive Pentecostal organizations.[6] Here we wait for people to complete training or to have training. We put a high value on professional competence. This is more often not the case among the ministries highlighted in their research. Central was both a sense of call and reliance upon the Spirit, a learning culture rather than a learned individual.[7]

 

Sitting in church on Sunday morning in Cape Town I was more a spectator than a participant. The language sung was not my language and yet it seemed to me that the women leading out in song were leading the congregation in both heartfelt worship and in intercession. “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.”[8] I read and re-read that statement as I do I am struck by the contrast to the contemporary, even liturgical worship that I often experience. One that is more centered on the individual or the individual church community than it is upon the community at large. What is it I wonder about the distinction that we create in terms of mission and missional?

 

This book is certainly not a “how to” book. It is however, a mirror of reflection. “Progressive Pentecostals are not trying to reform social structures or challenge government policies so much as they are attempting to build from the ground up an alternative social reality.”[9] Subversive and risk taking walk hand in hand.

 

 

            [1] Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), 14.

            [2] Ibid., 2.

[3] Ibid., 12.

            [4] Ibid., 62.

[5] Quoted from photo taken of statement at the Church on 28 September 2014. www.jlzswane.sun.ac.za.

[6] Miller and Yamamori, 128.

[7] Ibid. 196.

[8] Ibid., 132.

[9] Ibid., 4.

About the Author

mm

Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

12 responses to “Here and There”

  1. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Hi, Carol.
    Very thought provoking post – great…
    Your statement is intriguing, “Might there be an experience of God that does not see the ‘miracle’ as the end or point of the experience, but something that is a part?” We do tend to focus on the miracle as if it were the end it itself.

    Jesus told the disciples, “anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12) Doing great things is not the focus, rather it is believing in Jesus as God in the world incarnate, emptied out. The point is that we are also sent (John 17:18) to allow God through us to be emptied into our world. Many will believe, as Jesus acknowledges, because of the miracles but the point is the love and grace that causes one to allow themselves to be emptied.

    • Ron…
      I wonder if what we might be pointed to is both …. the works are both an evidence of faith and forge faith. Maybe what the authors are pointing us toward is the recognition that the manifestation is Spirit induced both in miracles and in the hard work of investing in societal and personal need. Could it be a bit muddy? Thanks for your good thoughts

  2. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    “There is no “don’t ask, don’t tell”; there is just do for the least of these.”- sigh! Such a good point, but I’m beginning to understand that most Christians need the background story before they are willing to help someone… what if they don’t really repent and our help goes to waste? What’s the point of helping if you don’t do something to save them… like make sure you preach to them before you hand out the food. Sigh!

    • Stefania… Context certainly matters as does our mission statements. Those with “bringing people to Christ”” or other similar terminology seem to funnel everything through the lens of evangelism. The church I am presently part of has as its mission statement (in part) to live the gospel in the heart of Tacoma. Thus I am seeing the emphasis is more holistic and located in place. So our worship is not just anchored in Sunday morning …. Appreciate your reflective insights 🙂

  3. Carol,

    Bravo! Love your post and related deeply to it. I especially related to your early experiences with the “Jesus Movement” as I worked at a large church for several years that was at the heart of the movement, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. My pastor was Chuck Smith. He welcomed the “hippies” of the day and ministered to them warmly. I went to dozens of Christian rock concerts during those days and my little Ford pickup truck was plastered with Christian bumper stickers. But, like you, I have often wondered what that movement was really all about. What was it missing? You ask some important questions in your post:

    “Is this holistic approach what was missing in my earlier years? Is the lack of holistic concern a significant contributing factor to the petering out of the visible charismatic presence? Or was it because our Christian faith does not have the testing crucible present in other cultural contexts?”

    The focus of this Movement was spiritual conversion, and there is no doubt that many lives were transformed. But what were the long-term effects? What do I see now when going back to the church of my first full-time ministry? I see legalism. I see judgmentalism. I see shallowness and exclusivism. I see ex-hippies who are now in their 50’s and 60’s driving cars that would have embarrassed them in their counter-culture days. So what are the lasting effects? What changes have been made to the surrounding area and to the larger society? Frankly, I don’t know. But one thing I do know for sure, and that is that we need something that is really “Christian” in our culture that would make people sit up and notice. I don’t know if Miller and Yamamori could speak to my questions, since deal primarily with non-Western Pentecostalism. But I do know that God cares about all cultures. However, I frankly have no idea how our culture will be reached with the true Gospel. Maybe it will take the non-Western Progressive Pentecostals to show us the way.

    Your thoughts?

    • Bill…
      Jason’s thoughts about globalization this morning were interesting. Is that also what happened to the Charismatic movement? I am with you … I think this book has a bit of a mirror quality to it. Pentecostalism is in some ways a “natural” religion within the developing world to gravitate toward, but within Progressive Pentecostalism is there something that might be able to reveal more of God’s kingdom? Will it be subversive to even globalization? Hmmm…. Thanks Bill!

  4. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Carol, Thank you for your insightful post. You ask “Might there be an experience of God that does not see the “miracle” as the end or point of the experience, but something that is a part? I think so too. There is no perfect ministry and all have strength and weakness. As I observed among Pentecostal churches in my country, despite inaccurate biblical teaching, churches failure to balance evangelism and economic needs of their society, God continues to use them to draw others to His kingdom.

    • Telile …
      One aspect the authors touched on was the development of learning communities. Perhaps these could be/can be places of empowerment as well as places to address inaccurate teachings. Telile … I so appreciate your insights and discernment!

  5. Richard Volzke says:

    Carol,
    Great post. I have to agree with your alignment of the Global Pentecostal movement to the U.S. in the 1960s & 70s, although on a much broader scale today. I was just a child at the time of the Jesus Movement, but I do know that it had a lasting impact throughout my parent and grandparent’s generations. Billy Graham was part of this movement, and his work is still doing great things around the world today. His ministries do have a more holistic approach. Billy Graham is not Pentecostal. He is a southern Baptist, yet has relationships with Christian leaders across all backgrounds and disagrees with some of the southern Baptist teachings. This being said, could we learn something from organizations like Billy Graham’s to determine what factors contribute to longer-term transformation? My fear is that “movements” tend to die off over time, and churches need to look at how they can effect true and lasting change. I’d like to see a study on Global Pentecostalism in five years from now to see if there is marked, sustained improvement in these communities and how the movement is trending. The book focuses on “being Pentecostal” as the change force due to the fact that these churches are known to be Spirit led. However, I know non-Pentecostal churches that are also Spirit led and being very influential in their communities. Is “Pentecostal” the success factor or is it something that we haven’t yet identified?

    • Richard…
      Appreciate your insights and reflections. Culture definitely changes – I think that is in part why Crusades here look so much different. I am really intrigued by the reliance and dependency on the Spirit, how that shapes their discipleship and its relationship in their theology of identity – which I suspect is different due to the fact that we are a more guilt oriented culture (though we are shifting), whereas the developing world is mostly shame oriented. These affect our understanding of identity. Which influences our understanding and commitment to holistic ministry. There is much to consider in this book. Appreciate your reflection and pondering!

  6. mm John Woodward says:

    Carol, as always, a very thoughtful and well written post. I am now tempted to get out my Love Song and HoneyTree albums and wonder down memory lane. I remember those years of the Jesus Movement (my high school and college time), and your point is well taken, that it really didn’t produce any significant social movement. In fact, I remember a few small voices that were very much the minority, like John Sider and John Perkins of those whose suggested that knowing Jesus might make a difference in our society and in the world…but these were the exceptions, not the rule. I think your larger point is so important, that we need to rethink worship. What does our worship lead us to? Is it self awareness, personal comfort and feeling good? Or is it like Isaiah, who saw God and couldn’t stay home, knowing that his experience of God’s power and love required him to a witness and message of God’s reconciliation. I do think our worship today is very self-focused and misses so much of what God I think wants to teach us and challenge us with it we truly meet with Him. This was a very hopeful take from the book for me! Thanks for your great insights!

  7. John…
    I forgot about Honeytree! With so much focus and belief that Jesus is coming back SOON why would we need social justice? That was my thinking – the emphasis was all on accepting Christ – Christ would do the healing and set all things right, right? This book challenged me in a good way. As do your insights! 🙂

    Greetings to Gwen!

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