Three Things That Keep Me in My Church Tradition

Rather than simply answer in the comments section to Dan’s post about “What Keeps You In Your Church Tradition?,” I have decided to reply via a post and offer it as my own personal answer (because I have in fact been asked this very question at other times).  I decided three was a rather Biblical sounding number…so that should make this a very spiritual response.
First, I remain in my fellowship/tradition (the Assemblies of God) because it is where my deepest roots and greatest familiarity lay.  By that, I mean to say, I am most fully aware of the church structures and practices of this particular tradition.  I am well integrated into this tradition as well as being heavily networked with other A/G churches, ministries and ministers.  There is something to be said about the knowability factor.  Were I to join another tradition it would mean moving into unknown waters.  This may seem a rather pragmatic approach, but, hey, this is reality.
Second, I am kept in my tradition by its Pentecostal confession and practice.  I am unabashedly Pentecostal.  I believe God desires to empower His Church via the rich outpouring of Christ’s Spirit.  I believe in the continuing demonstration of the ministry of the Spirit in and through the communion of saints.  I remain because the A/G emphasizes this desire and passion for God’s Spirit to glorify Christ in and among us (even if at times we have not followed through either as genuine practitioners of the life of the Spirit or have simply gone wacko and blamed it on the Spirit).  I still fully believe God’s Spirit is at work in the wider Church and see the A/G as playing (hopefully) a pivotal role in seeing the Spirit poured out in greater measure on all varieties of congregations and traditions.  I have told Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics…Pentecostal experience of the Spirit is no respecter of denominational boundaries.
Third, and finally, I remain in the Assemblies because of missions.  This tradition stated from its inception that we are committed to “the greatest evangelization the world has ever seen”.  We remain committed to this and have continued to demonstrate it through our unprecedented mission program.  I am thrilled to be a part of a fellowship and tradition that makes its aim to reach the lost with the good news of the Kingdom.
So, how is that for my answer to the question Dan Thompson posed?  What are your thoughts on this?
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Originally published at Bluechippastor.org on August 15, 2012

What Defines Us?

BoxIn a recent conversation with Andrea Wheeldon (a PAOC minister and friend, and staff member at Providence Theological Seminary), we were discussing what we are known by as the local church.  There are many who have identified themselves by their stance AGAINST certain hot-topic issues (like homosexuality, abortion, etc.).  But is this what should define us?  Then today I read Andrea’s blog on being “outside the box” (a REALLY great post if you ask me) and was reminded again that we cannot simply define ourselves by what we are against or not.  How about we define ourselves by what we are?
Have we fallen into the trap of allowing other things to define us than the God who conforms us to His image?  For example, are we against homosexuality, or are we for whole, reconciling, godly relationships because we have been reconciled to God in Christ and are being renewed by God’s own Spirit?  I thought it was good food for thought.  (Thanks Adrea!)
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Originally published at Bluechippastor.org on August 1, 2012

Why Am I Still Preaching? A Conversation

Why Am I Still Preaching?

Steve Swan (a friend who pastors in Winnipeg) nails it: Why Am I Still Preaching?.
I’ve said something similar in a paper I presented for the Society for Pentecostal Studies that has been picked up for an edited volume in the works on Pentecostal Preaching. You can read the proposal for my contribution HERE (and there is a link there for reading the paper as it was presented: “Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response”).
I’m with Steve…traditional preaching remains an integral part of the responsibility of the Church. It isn’t the only way for instruction, but it remains one of the essentials of Christian proclamation and community formation.
via Steve Swan.

Am I Really Pentecostal?

ImageAm I  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 🙂 ).
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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Emerging Homiletics

ImageI just realized that while my paper “Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response” was accepted for presentation at the Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting (March 20-22, 2013) in Seattle, WA, I had failed to post it to this blog. So feel free to follow the link above and select the paper from the limited number I’ve already posted on several other topics.
And while you are at it, here was my proposal to the Practical Theology study group:

It is hoped that through a study of one leading voice (Doug Pagitt‘s) in the Emerging Church Movement (ECM) that there might be a more well-rounded perspective of what ECM may be offering for homiletics as well as the potential impact specifically upon the field of homiletics. While Pagitt’s voice will not be the only voice, it will be the primary one as he has written several volumes on the question of homiletics from the ECM perspective.
Pagitt’s own model for homiletics will be discussed in its relation to Pentecostal homiletical thinking and practice as a model which might better exemplify what Pagitt is aiming to accomplish, but perhaps without many of the pitfalls. In order to facilitate this study, questions of worldview, hermeneutic and homiletic will be briefly presented from a post-modern perspective with particular attention to such matters as proposed by Pagitt. The notion of “story,” and “community” will be discussed as it relates to the Pentecostal experience of preaching in response to the post-modern perspective proposed by Pagitt.
The Pentecostal response which is offered as a conclusion is tentatively intended to both utilize the strengths of Pagitt’s proposal as well as critique it in hopes of proposing a more thoroughly Biblical and Pneumatic approach to homiletics within the broader ECM.

So what are your thoughts on the homiletic proposals of ECM (particularly Pagitt) and/or Pentecostalism as I’ve briefly described them?

Sacramental Pentecostals?

I’m delighted to announce that Chris Green (newly dubbed “Dr.” for the completion of his PhD) has just published his (long awaited and anticipated in my opinion) dissertation: Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper: Foretasting the Kingdom (CPT 2012).  This is a continuing trend among Pentecostals to view the Lord’s Supper in more sacramental terms.  His dissertation is not the first move in this direction (by any stretch), but is another helpful volume clarifying that Pentecostal tradition and practice is already sacramental in many ways (see Dan Tomberlin’s Pentecostal Sacraments: Encountering God at the Altar, Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care 2010). 

One of the reasons I bring this all up is because I received an update in my blog feeder that Renovatus (a well-known church in Charlotte, NC) just announced their move to a weekly Lord’s Supper as part of their move toward a greater sense of community.  Pastor Jonathan Martin had some tremendous thoughts in this regard and in relation specifically to being Pentecostal and sacramental.  It marks a turn toward the table as offering “the real presence” (something the Reformer’s — aside from those called “radical reformers”– held strongly to). 

This may seem a strange move for Pentecostals, but in actuality our doctrine and practice of the gifts of the Spirit are themselves offer a sacramental perspective (particularly as we affirm something akin to “the real presence”).  I do know of other Pentecostal works (including Assemblies) which share in communion every week as a part of their corporate worship experience.  It seems quite fascinating that we act like we MUST sing X number of songs, have announcements, etc. every week, but don’t practice the Eucharist that often because we usually say we don’t want it to become less meaningful.  Is that what we think we’ve done with our singing?  Why don’t we sing choruses and hymns just once a month?  Or the reading of Scripture?  When it is all said and done, this is just the kind of thing that the church needs as a reminder to confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and mission.  This is why I regularly equate the Lord’s Table with our modernist “altar call”.  I believe it is the call to the saints to embrace the life of Christ even as we work and live toward His coming again.  There is something which our Lord works in our presence as we participate in His life.

What are your thoughts on the sacramental nature of the Lord’s Supper? 

Pentecost In North West Minnesota

I was given the following brief account (written by Mrs. Anna Vagle in 1958) of some of the occurrences in 1905-6 in north-western Minnesota when the “winds of the Spirit” began to blow with “Pentecostal power”.  It is a marvelous thing to read what God has done in the past…and it makes me long to see what more God will do in the present.  While not every phenomenon is to be treated equally it is still a wonderful piece of Pentecostal history that I thought should be shared with a wider audience.  And so I’m posting it here for your reading pleasure.

The Spirit in the World

Today is Pentecost Sunday and I was asked to cover the adult Sunday School class since our normal teacher was gone.  I, of course, knew what the content would cover and did not really prepare as I usually do.  Instead, we discussed the passages from the lesson (Acts 8, 10-11, 19) and what it means for the Spirit to be poured out on the Samaritans who had professed faith in Christ, the Gentiles who were “God-fearers” and were only afterward baptized into the name of Christ, and the Ephesian disciples of John the baptizer who received the baptism of the Spirit at the hands of the apostle Paul.

As we discussed these passages, I was struck by the presence and work of the Spirit throughout the world among all people.  We discussed that it was God’s Spirit no longer remaining with the antediluvians in the days of Noah, and God’s indwelling Spirit which sanctified David.  It was also God’s Spirit in the unborn John son of Zacharias and Elizabeth that gave testimony to Mary the mother of our Lord.  That same Spirit was present and at work even as the teachers of the Law accused Jesus of casting out unclean spirits by the power of the evil one. 

Through this conversation, I confessed to my congregation that indeed we are simply partners with the Spirit who is present and always has been.  It is about our relationship (read: yielded, obedient, etc.) with the Spirit that affects in what manner we speak of the Spirit being present.  We join the Spirit’s already ongoing work.  This is why I can affirm that any of us are ever drawn to salvation, because the Spirit is at work even while and where the Church is not.  However, at the feast of Pentecost, the Church discovers this new-found relationship to the Spirit that drives them to live as the Spirit lives…as those who carry the good news of Christ Jesus come into the world by the Father, crucified, died, buried…raised to life and ascended to the right hand of God.  It is a new day for the disciples of Jesus who have now discovered in the Spirit another “advocate” (a term notably difficult to translate from the Greek) who is like Jesus and reveals Jesus in and through them to a waiting world…a world where the Spirit is already at work to redeem and restore.  This is the Spirit in the world (to be fair…I probably should check out Karl Rahner’s book by the same name).

So I was wondering what your thoughts on the presence and activity of the Spirit in the world might be?  Or is the Spirit only present in the Church in your way of reading the Scripture?

Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness

I’m thrilled to once again be attending the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS).  This year it is being hosted by Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA from March 1-4 (which promises to be much warmer than Karlstad).  The topic is one I find close to my heart — Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness” and this year I will be chairing one of the Bible sessions.  It looks to be an interesting conference.  You can view a PDF of the sessions HERE.  

The two presenters and their respective papers I will be chairing are:
“‘New Treasures and Old’: (Re-)Reading the Old Testament Theologically with Early Pentecostal Mothers and Fathers” — Chris Green, Bangor University (Wales)
“‘Tell Me the Old, Old Story’: The Hymns and Testimonies of Ancient Israel and American Pentecostals” —
Meghan Musy, Missouri State University

I am thrilled to be able to chair the session (especially as it pertains to the joint topics of Pentecostals and the OT).  Also, its a delight to be able to chair for Chris Green…who I’ve found helpful in several previous sessions of SPS concerning the integration of the sacraments — and a sacramental appreciation — and Pentecostal theology and praxis.


On a related note…I realized I still haven’t joined Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice, but will have to rectify that this year.  By joining you can elect to receive a PCPJ mug, shirt or book (Pentecostal Pacifism by Jay Beaman).  This group was formed by Paul Alexander (and several others of like mind) of whom I intend in 2012 to read his “Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God”.

Preach the Word

I wish someone had sat me down and shared the exceeding value of preaching expository sermons when I started pastoring. I was coming up with 4-5 topical messages every week right out of Bible College and I thought I was going to kill myself doing it. I would wrestle and wrestle with what topic to preach about, but found myself becoming drier spiritually.

Then one day I realized that if I preached expositorily my preaching would actually be richer and my study time more focused. I could preach on topics as they come up in the text that I wouldn’t otherwise touch doing a topical message or series. I also realized I was creating a better sense of the wider and deeper appreciation of Scripture within the congregation (and myself) rather than fragmented passages strung together creating a pastiche of whatever I could come up with. It forced me to wrestle with the difficult portions of Scripture and to wrestle with the context of God’s dealing with His people throughout the ages. I believe I have become a better reader of Scripture and a better listener to the voice of the Spirit to the church through a faithful hearing of God’s word.

I have since advised many younger pastors to preach expository messages and was delighted to see that Enrichment Journal just posted an article dealing with this topic from a Pentecostal perspective on their online section ( “Why Pentecostals Don’t Preach Expository Sermons” ). What do you think about expository preaching? What are some of its weaknesses or strengths as you understand them?