It is always nice to get away. The past number of weeks have been draining, emotional and at times very bizarre. Recognizing my true introverted personality and make-up, I knew that time away to think, reflect and listen were needed. I am thankful that my wife’s family has an oasis on a lake that is disconnected from the distractions of the world. Time away like this feeds my soul. It was especially beneficial due to the fact that I was going to be taking another seminary course when I returned. I really needed this break.
Upon returning to Lindsay, I began an intensive course entitled ‘Pentecostal Spirituality’ with Dr. Van Johnson. Dr. Van continues to demonstrate the true nature of a Spirit gifted teacher whose ministry is to equip and build the Body of Christ. He is also a prophetic voice in our time of need. Here’s how.
We are well aware that COVID-19 has presented a plethora of challenges to all areas of culture and society. What has this illness not touched and affected? Every political, economic, educational, and health-care system in our nation has had to re-adjust and make changes because of the ongoing pandemic. We have also discovered that religious institutions are no different.
Pastors, congregations and denominations have had to make monumental changes to the way spirituality is offered, modelled and experienced. As a pastor within the Pentecostal tradition, COVID-19 ushered us into unfamiliar waters due to the reality that the worshipping community could no longer gather together.
There is something definitely special and dear to many Pentecostals when it comes to the gathering of the saints. Whether we like it or not, we are a movement that is birthed from past revivals that generally happened within a building and among crowds. Perhaps this is why much of the focus of Pentecostal spirituality has been rooted in the meeting place or worship service. However, one of the things that I discovered this week is that true Pentecostal spirituality is never to be an inward focused movement.
I simply cannot say enough good things about Dr. Van Johnson. I have had the privilege to sit in his classroom for a number of courses during my MTS (Masters of Theological Studies) journey at Tyndale. I have one more course to complete, and I am specifically waiting for Dr. Van’s course in the 2021. Learning from him is that important.
One of the many gems that Dr. Van beautifully illuminated this past week was that early Pentecostal spirituality was a forward looking movement with an outward focus. By referencing our course material and the early revival newsletters, we all could plainly see that when people encountered God’s Spirit, there was one common result: mission.
Testimonies and teachings, words and wonders were all coming from the Spirit Himself that produced a passion for others and a focus away from the gathering. Neighbours needed to hear and nations needed to be won. The motivation for it all was the soon return of Jesus. It is clear that as early Pentecostals looked forward to Jesus, they reached outward to others.
There was no doubt that the Spirit Himself was doing something transformational inside humanity that demonstrated something about His nature, will and function. Time and time again, teaching upon teaching, words upon words, and wonders upon wonders were all coming from the Spirit Himself that produced a passion for Jesus and a longing for His return.
In tandem to the rhythm of the Spirit came an intense burden for the lost and the world which needed to be won. In other words, it seemed that early Pentecostal spirituality was directed towards God and towards others.
In a brilliant display of wisdom, Dr. Van gave this example. On the top of any MacBook is a symbol or sign of the power inside the machine. Most of the known world has come to recognize that apple logo to be synonymous with its famous company. This well known symbol is prominent on the top of any MacBook device. However, the symbol or sign is only properly understood when it is facing others. In other words, the sign on top of my MacBook is not for me. It is for others to see and know that I am operating via the power of the Mac.
Without getting into too deep of waters theologically, all I will say is this. The Spirit of God has wonderfully chosen to empower people and gift them with aspects of Himself for one reason: win the world. The passion of early Pentecostal spirituality moved to the rhythmic drum of the Spirit whose goal is to bring all things to Jesus.
For me, it was evident that true Pentecostal spirituality views the world to be in need of healing and transformation. People, societies, systems and nations all need to encounter the life changing presence of the living God. This outward passion became a lived reality for those who encountered the Spirit of God. This lived reality with God’s Spirit seemed to redirect and reorient ones entire being.
The Pentecostal tradition clearly illustrates this outward focus and heartfelt passion for the living presence of Jesus to come and heal their world. In other words, the emphasis and focus was never to be on an individual experience or on those within the assembly. The world needed to be won, and people needed know that Jesus was coming back. It is clear that true Pentecostal spirituality is one of mission.
So here I sit on a Saturday afternoon writing thoughts about a tradition that I and my family have been associated with for more than four generations. Many things continue to swirl in and through my mind as I reflect upon the task at hand: leading a Pentecostal church forward.
Here is what I know. I do not walk alone.
Perhaps in my upcoming blogs I will talk more about this concept and how our church has finally been able to structure itself in such a way that makes listening and following God’s Spirit a little bit easier. There is an communal aspect to Pentecostal leadership that is often ignored. But that topic will wait.
Let me end with this. COVID-19 has taught us many things. Within my tradition I am sure that there are countless others who can say the same. My prayer and desire is that everyone within this great tradition will return to these true aspects of what it means to be Pentecostal. Pentecostal spirituality is indeed a missional spirituality.
Having said that, I can say this. It ought to be every Pentecostal’s will and desire to keep themselves focused on those who are not yet in the church. The Holy Spirit was given to empower an outward witness before Jesus returns. Heaven help us if our speaking and witnessing has only been reserved for those who have parking spots on our church parking lots. Herein lies the immense challenge.
However, I take comfort in knowing that the restoring work of the Spirit is specifically focused towards those who do not know Jesus. Perhaps this truly is our Pentecostal forte: we are a movement geared toward those who are not yet in the church.
Thank you Dr. Van.