Am I Really Pentecostal?

ImageAm IĀ  really Pentecostal? I’m thinking of this in several ways because recently I have been attacked by some for (1) being too Pentecostal, and by others for (2) not being Pentecostal enough. So which is it? Or is neither accusation correct? Maybe I’m the perfect Pentecostal (whatever that might look like šŸ™‚ ).
What does it even mean to be “Pentecostal”? Does it just mean I speak in tongues? That would be a pretty lame interpretation that would leave aside the entire Pentecostal conceptualization of the Gospel message (Jesus is Savior/Sanctifier, Baptizer, Healer, and Soon Coming King) or ethos (empowered participants of the life of the Spirit).
Can I be “Pentecostal” and not speak in tongues? Think William Seymour as he began his ministry. Can I speak in tongues and still not be “Pentecostal”? Think Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Does it really hinge on tongues? Should it?
Is it to be a person of the Spirit (whatever that means)? Or is that too individualistic and to generally broad? Is it to be a vibrant member of the people of the Spirit? Or is that broader still even while encompassing the wider movement of God’s presence and work in the world?
And shouldn’t I already have all this figured out because I’m not only a self-describing “Pentecostal”, but even a pastor of a “Pentecostal” Fellowship (and among the regional leadership of said wider Fellowship)? Worse still, I’m a “Pentecostal” scholar working on a PhD in Pentecostal Studies. But does that mean I happen to be a Pentecostal who is a scholar or that I am a scholar of things Pentecostal? And does that mean I really have it figured out?
One would really think a person like myself should have a lot more answers. The problem is that with every answer, I find more questions begging to be answered.
So what kind of Pentecostal am I anyways? I would like to think I am the kind that loves the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loves my neighbor as myself. I would like to think I am the kind that does this in the vivifying power of the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who was sent by the Father, who is the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
Oh, and I also speak in tongues.
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14 Responses to Am I Really Pentecostal?

  1. well, I think speaking in tongues is a pretty significant indicator/identifier Pentecostals generally, no?

    • I agree that it tends to be used that way, but I wonder about the value of such an idea. How is it judged to be authentic? Or is it? Is it sufficient alone? Should it be? Is that all that distinguishes the “Pentecostal” from the non-Pentecostal? Where then do charismatics, or third-wave, or neo-Pentecostals fit into this? Even in the Classical definition of “Pentecostal” is tongues sufficient an indicator?

      • I think history and theology are good indicators that one can use generally to distinguish between Pentecostals and Charismatics. History because Pentecostals are those groups started out of the Azusa Street revival, anything after 1960 is charismatic. Theology because historically Pentecostals have more or less held to a “no tongues no baptism” view of Spirit Baptism whereas Charismatics and Third wavers won’t quite commit to that view. Perhaps this is a bit over simplistic and has maybe contributed to an over simplistic understanding of Pentecostalism and even an under developed Pneumatology – but I think it could be fair that a quick guide to knowing generally who the Pentecostals are is that they speak in tongues. Would that be fair?

  2. TC says:

    Rick, I think you may not be a tongue-speaker but you must be open to tongue-speaking among your brothers and sisters, correct?

    • At the very least, that would seem to be correct. I’m just thinking out loud about how much more this should entail beyond “tongues-speech”. šŸ™‚

      • TC says:

        Ah. As an outside, a Baptist, when I think Pentecostal, I think emphasis on the animation of the Holy Spirit in worship, life, and so on. Emphasis on the Holy Spirit seems to be the bottom line.

      • I think you are more correct on the emphasis. The problem is that some of “us” get caught up in a bunch of other things, like tongues. As far as I’m concerned Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, and EVEN Baptists can be “Pentecostal”. šŸ˜‰

  3. TC says:

    Yes, I consider myself Bapti-costal. šŸ˜€
    But I think we need to make a distinction the denomination, Pentecostal, and Charismatic, which transcends denominationalism.

    • I totally agree on the need to distinguish between such. I am “Reformed and Pentecostal” (though perhaps at times I am better labeled “Luther-costal-esque” due to the significant influences of the likes of Bonhoeffer). But as a pastor I am in a Classical Pentecostal denomination…er…voluntary cooperative Fellowship: A/G. šŸ˜‰

  4. Mark Stevens says:

    Rick, great pst. i think of myself as a small p pentecostal. There is much about the pentecostal tradition that I appreciate. I was formed in the pentecostal tradition but I didn’t fit the culture of pentecostalism (this is where I found Jack Levinson’s book Fresh Air” very helpful. I also cannot hold to tongues as initial evidence and I certainly don’t believe in a secondary work of grace. But i do believe in the Spirit and the work of the Spirit in our world. I believe that faith can be experiential but it doesn’t have to be exuberant, Eugene Peterson describes a Pentecostal as someone who believes in the livability of scripture. Church history is a current event for pentecostals. I like those descriptions.

  5. Pingback: Identity Crisis | Practising Pentecostal

  6. jwheels says:

    I’m no longer convinced that the label or term is even useful, much less descriptive of any particular thing. It was necessary at first, when tongues-speakers and people who believed in miracles were being expelled or exorcised out of their congregations. Now, a description of a Pentecostal is usually just a description of a Christian, and our emphases (when healthy) are things that all Christians hold to (or probably should). I’ve been to Pentecostal churches that weren’t very charismatic in worship style, and I’ve heard more tongues in my current Baptist church than anywhere else in my life combined.
    Let’s just be Christians, and let us be defined by the Triune God.

  7. ron crick says:

    the label, as jwheels says, is not so meaningful today. Generally speaking, Pentecostals are those who speak in tongues as the spirit gives utterance. Pentecostal churches are where those who do not belong or rejected by mainline churches worship. Charismatics (often used interchangeably with pentecostal) are those who speak in tongues as the spirit gives utterance, who are still members of traditional, non-tongue speaking churches. A spirit led life is independent of tongues (spirit in or on a person). Unfortunately, the majority of Pentecostal churches today are comfortable places for even a Methodist to sit and relax as most do not speak in tongues and the spirit does not function in the church as it did even 30 years ago.

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