“Pentecost means taking Jesus at his word”

Fuller Seminary student (and a neighbor) Joy Moyal writes an excellent musing on tongues, Spirit, and Pentecost in this week’s Fuller Semi, and she has posted her article on her blog. She ends with: “This is what the season of Pentecost is for me—it is realizing that proclaiming the Resurrection as a historical fact is only a doorway into a different—and dare I say mystical—life. Pentecost means taking Jesus at his word, as the disciples did when he gave them one last promise on his way home: “You will receive power when my Holy Spirit comes upon you…” Easter is getting on the boat; Pentecost is asking to be shown the ropes, wanting to know every inch of this ship, learning to harness nature’s power in the sail and run before a wild wind. It’s hanging over the side and letting your hair get wet and salty with the sea.”

Now, I’m certainly one for good theological imagery, and while I tend to use the idea of life with the Spirit being a dance, anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that the sure way into my analogical heart is by using sailing terms. Sailing literally, not figuratively, was the balm for my soul during my first stretch of seminary back in the early 00s, so this kind of stuff instantly gets me smiling and fired up.

But then it got me to thinking about my own Pentecostal experiences. I went from excited about the metaphor to quietly pensive in a pretty quick amount of time. I guess I started across the wind, but didn’t quite get my sails set in time to finish the tack. Now I’m luffing. Instead of being bothered by it, though, I think I’ll heave to and ponder my Pentecostality.

I’ve written a fair amount about the Holy Spirit, and entirely agree with what Joy has to say, so encourage you to wander over and read it. For me now, though, it makes me think less about the broader topic of the Spirit’s windy work, and more about speaking in tongues in particular. I can’t remember the last time I gave that a go.

Now, some might be surprised by the fact I ever did so, and more surprised that it was a pretty regular part of my worship life for a while. A while encompassing, as far as I can remember, most of my teenage years.

Which makes me want to post something I wrote up for part of my Society of Pentecostal Studies presentation I made a couple months ago. The story of my Pentecostal involvement. I’ll add more of my musings a little later about what I’m thinking about it now. But, here’s my story to start off with:

I was baptized in a Wesleyan church not long before I turned five years old. This was young for the believers baptism my church believed in, but it was for me a rational decision reflecting a conscious dedication to Christ and his community. For my part, I did participate in the life of the community in as full a way as possible until we moved to a distant city. Even before this move my parents had become involved in various charismatic meetings, attending a weekly evening service and regularly going to hear traveling preachers and ministries. It was likely this experience which led them to begin attending an Assemblies of God church not long after settling in to our new location. I do not remember the exact date what can be called a further baptism of the Spirit occurred in my life, though I do have strong memories of speaking in tongues in a Mario Murillo led service when I was about ten. The gifts of the Spirit and an active participation in the life of the church with these gifts marks my memories throughout my life, shaping my hopes and dreams, no doubt being a key part of what I felt was a call to ministry when I was about eleven years old.

We moved away from this location, back to the town I had spent my earlier years. Rather than returning to the Wesleyan church, however, upon our return they attended a Brethren church for a little while, but while there was great preaching there was limited paths of involvement. A good friend of mine at my high school was the son of a local Four Square pastor, and we began attending this church regularly. Once again, I was very involved in the church, playing saxophone in the worship band, becoming a student leader in the youth group.

While there certainly were the usual good times and hijinks that mark any respectable youth ministry, what continues to stick in my mind was the strong emphasis on prayer and the pursuit of God, that was coupled with a trust in those of us who took the full Gospel seriously. We were not looked down upon, or kept off to the side while others did the so-called real ministry. Rather, as we were gifted and called we were given space to participate and lead. In the embrace of the Spirit’s work in this church there was a realization the Spirit worked through each of those who attended, and there was both a respect and interest in this work, no matter one’s age or economic background or education.

Even before finishing high school, however, I began to feel there was yet more to this life with God than what I was experiencing in this small Four Square church. My older brother had begun not long before attending what was considered a cutting edge church designed from the ground up to minister to Generation-X. The pastor, Dieter Zander, was a dynamic speaker and leader who radically transformed what was meant by a church service and church community. It was a church for young, mostly single twenty-somethings, led mostly by young, single twenty-somethings. Here, there was a dynamic, holistic ministry approach which embraced broad participation and leadership.

While it could not be considered a charismatic or Pentecostal church, it was after all affiliated with the conservative Baptist denomination, there was in this community a dynamic openness to what each person brought to the church and felt called to offer. All manner of ministries and small groups and approaches were encouraged and thrived. This church is now seen as one of the key proto-emerging church communities, which while not entirely reflecting the direction of the later movement that sprang more fully to life in the late 1990s, did assert a new pattern of ministry for a postmodern society. Indeed, two more properly understand emerging churches, one in Pasadena and the other in Pomona, were planted by NewSong as a reflection of its developing understanding of mission in Southern California.

When I began to attend this church on Sunday mornings I was not in any way rejecting what had become vital Pentecostal influences in my life. Indeed, rather than leaving these behind I continue to feel my transition to this new pattern of church was instead a continued work of God in bringing me to a more complete understanding of his reality and work. Indeed, while I have not regularly attended a Pentecostal or Charismatic church since the end of my high school days over fifteen years ago, I have continually reflected upon the values and priorities and experiences I gained during my Pentecostal involvement, and these reflections have been an almost constant guide in my further ministry and theological development.

This all too brief survey of my ecclesial experiences are thus more than a brief introduction to who I am. These experiences are curious to me because my participation in the emerging church movement did not begin with either a rejection of my Pentecostal or other church experiences, nor did it begin with an attempt to join in on the big new flashy thing. I began participating in the earliest expressions of what became the emerging church movement at a time of intense spiritual fervor and as a way of continuing my spiritual growth with God and with others.

Stay tuned for continuing Pentecostal musings…

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3 Responses to “Pentecost means taking Jesus at his word”

  1. Pingback: Bloggers I like issue #1 | Mistakes, Near Misses, Strange Thoughts and Useless Flashes of Brilliance

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