Someone has observed that the first generation of any movement is usually radically transformed. The 2nd and 3rd generations are grateful – they live the transformation indirectly, enjoy its fruit, and then sadly drift back into complacency. The 4th generation is often clueless. Rejecting the faith of their fathers – they go back to the sin from which the family was liberated – that generation now needs a fresh revival, without which the movement dies.
Lester Sumrall warned, before his death, that modern Pentecostals had attempted to live from their initial blessing, and that every movement needed, from time to time, a fresh blessing that repurposed them, that, in a sense, reinvented them. We must humbly admit, as Pentecostals, that we are now in need of a fresh blessing, one that centers us in mission and empowers us to accomplish that mission. We have stayed at the same mountain for too long. God is moving – and we must determine to move with him, or become a wonderful movement that had its season on the stage of history, but lost its purpose and the power to propel it forward.
In the past, Pentecostal revivals shut down cities – like Los Angeles. In Pentecost, from Acts 2 and forward, it is clear God was never about establishing little churches, enclaves from the dominate, pagan culture. The churches of Acts engaged cities. From Azusa Street, Pentecostal fire was carried to Goldsboro and Falcon, NC. Sparks illuminated Pentecostal fires deep in the hills and hollows of Camp Creek, NC. Coalitions formed in places like Hot Springs, AR. Existing movements embraced the fullness in the Spirit and became Pentecostal. All over the world, people were suddenly fellowshipping with the fire, towns and hamlets were stirred at brush arbors and in tent revivals. Prayer propelled men and women into mission – and then on to the next town; and mission, bathed in prayerful dependence on God, through a revival or some other means, left behind a congregation.
That Pentecostal dynamic, though not necessarily in the same wineskin, must again be recovered.
A Call for Balance
We have confused, at times, faith and confidence; faith and determination; and we have been guilty of a kind of Pentecostal triumphalism. We must, with the task before us, recover, on one hand, Luther’s theology of the cross – weakness, nothingness without God, desperation, humility. And on the other hand, resurrection power – the ghost of Jesus working with us. Humility and Holy Spirit power; Dependence on God and buoyant faith; Emptiness of self and the fullness of God. Simple – Profound; Little people – spiritual giants; no titles – just Jesus. And the compelling proof we offer a watching world, by our message and by God, the Holy Spirit working with us in often miraculous ways, is that Jesus is alive.
When the darkness gathers, and a nation by its words and deeds, invites and empowers evil; when a generation has been mentored on Harry Potter, when it can’t distinguish between Wicca and Christianity, between Allah and Yahweh; when discernment between right and wrong is so displaced that the most egregious immorality becomes the law of the land, and Biblical morals are seen as oppressive, and as hate-speech – then, this is our hour! Only the Holy Spirit can awaken such a culture. Only a gospel of power can set such men free. This is not miracles for the sake of miracles, but the supernatural, as the in-breaking dynamic of the Kingdom of God into a time-space world!
God is inviting us again to join Him on mission – Aslan is on the move. This will not be easy. Some things must change. We must move:
- From church as a Christian theater, praise/performance and inspirational preaching, to the church as a house of prayer for the nations.
- From ministry centered in preaching; to ministry rising out of prayer, and then to preaching.
- From speaking to people about God, to speaking to God about the people.
- From trying to get the people to come and listen to us; to setting our own self aside to go and listen to God.
- From sermons we ask God to bless, to messages God asks us to deliver.
- From the pulpit back to the altar and to the prayer closet.
- From mere preaching – as information; to discipleship and formation out of spiritual disciplines.
We cannot continue to use an Old Testament missional model – focused on place and attraction, rather than the New Testament model, focused on the Person of Christ, and the people who carry God’s glory to the nations.
- From people as spectators to participants in mission.
- From passive to active.
- From ‘come to’ attractional models to a ‘go ye’ model that deploys and empowers.
- From ‘catch and hold’ models to ‘catch and release’ models.
- From church ministry to the marketplace; to churches capable of E2/E3 evangelism.
- From isolation to synergy.
This article is the essence of a multi-tribe address delivered at the PCCNA 25th Anniversary in Memphis in 2019. It is intended for the audience of Pentecostal tribal leaders. Hopefully, it will be informative to all who read it.
<Check back next week for more excerpts from this article.>
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