Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Pentecostal Church (Galatians 5; Acts 2:1-11) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

I recall visiting Calvary Pentecostal Church years ago.  A rock and roll band was blasting away as you entered the sanctuary.  People were standing in the aisles waving their arms, shouting amen in loud voices, rocking and moving from side to side, dancing in the aisles, falling down on their knees in tears, speaking in tongues.  The preacher yelled for people to come forward to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and men and women rushed to the front of the sanctuary, where the pastor would hit their foreheads with the heal of his hand, and slain in the spirit, they would fall back into the arms of the ushers standing behind them.  Yes, it sounds like another typical Sunday morning here at PBPC?
Question - are we a Pentecostal church?  Well, my friends I certainly hope so.  Biblically, the answer is yes.  Pentecost isn’t about a particular stereotype or style of worship, but rather in a deeper sense, it is about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the life and the lives of the people in the church.  Pentecostal worship can be loud and spontaneous or orderly and contemplative.  Pentecost is about God’s Spirit penetrating the hearts and minds of God’s people.  Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit inspiring the worship and ministry of the people.  A Pentecostal church is a church alive in the Spirit of God.  And if the Holy Spirit isn’t present in our midst, then we may be a social club, or a non-profit organization, but we are not the church of Jesus Christ.
At Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, when the disciples were all together in one place in Jerusalem, God sent the Holy Spirit to the people.  It was like a mighty wind and tongues of fire, spiritual gifts were imparted, and they were galvanized into a unified body of believers and equipped and empowered and sent out on a mission into the world.  On the day of Pentecost, a crowd had gathered around these disciples, and a miracle occurred; the people coming from different regions in the Mediterranean world, and speaking different languages, heard the disciples speaking about God and God deeds of power in their own languages. 
A Pentecostal church is where God’s people understand their purpose.  It can answer the question – Why are we here?  Why do we exist?  It remembers Jesus’ Great Commandment:  “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  It remembers Jesus Great Commission:  “Go forth and makes disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, for Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
Why are Jesus’ teachings important?  They are important because the Great Commandment combined with the Great Commission makes a great church.  One Church’s mission is: “To live lives to glorify Christ, by making disciples who are growing in relationship with God in worship, with the church in fellowship, and with the world in witness.”   Another Church’s mission is: “To reach unchurched people, help them grow in Christ so we can together serve the Lord in ministry.”   Another Church’s mission is –“ Love God and bless the city.”
Our mission is rooted in our name Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, PBPC, People Bringing People to Christ.  To be more specific, based upon our spiritual discernment and the demographics of our community, it is: “To reach young families and singles for Christ and to rekindle our congregation to feel empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to reach out into our community.” 
A Pentecostal church is committed to God’s mission in its particular corner of the Kingdom.  And the church must be flexible, adaptable, malleable and be able to change in its mission as the world around it changes.   Once a man stood up at a lecture that the famous rocket scientist Dr. Werner Von Braun was giving and asked:  “Why can’t we just forget all these new-fangled ideas about going out into space and be content to stay at home and watch television like the good Lord intended?”  Is that what the good Lord intended?
God didn’t establish the church at Pentecost for the church to stay at home and watch television.  God didn’t establish the church at Pentecost to resist changing its ways while change is swirling all around it.  God has empowered us to be a Pentecostal church with the mission of loving people and reaching people in the name of Christ.  
The Day of Pentecost was an outpouring of spiritual energy and power and enthusiasm.   A Pentecostal church is a church where believer’s lives are transformed and being transformed, where energy and enthusiasm is evident, like the story in Acts.   Now must this zeal and energy be constant?  No, we do get tired at times and need to rest. Right. Do you ever get tired?  Remember Jesus words:  “Come unto me all of you who labor and are over-burdened and I will give you rest.”  Jesus recognized that there are times when we simply need stop as individuals and as a church and rest, and re-energize ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.  God doesn’t expect the church to go full steam ahead 24-7.
That strange day, the day of Pentecost further reveals something about the being, the nature of the God we worship.  Christian preacher and author A. W. Tozer writes:  “God is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong.  God pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing mighty wind and sight of tongues of fire on every forehead. ... Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of spiritual enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire.”  
Where do we manifest that energy, enthusiasm and zeal?  In Worship and prayer we grow stronger through loving, and glorifying and praising God.  In Ministry, we grow broader through serving and loving others in the church, the community and the world.  In Evangelism, we grow larger through reaching out to unbelievers and making disciples.  In Fellowship we grow warmer through building and deepening caring relationships.  In Discipleship we grow deeper as people grow in faith and spiritual maturity through teaching, Bible study, and learning and developing skills in pastoral care and service to the glory of God. 
A Pentecostal church seeks to always be an environment which is loving and joyful and caring and faith filled and prayerful.  People support others in the midst of brokenness, hunger, loneliness, in the midst of illness and grief and death.  There is compassion kindness and empathy, support and encouragement.  People come alongside one another in times of joy and celebration and in times of crisis and tragedy.  People rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Our Sunday Night Ministry which reaches out to homeless people in our community is a good example of this work of the Holy Spirit.  The free Friday Night Family movie and Pizza gatherings for families in our community is another example of the work of the Holy Spirit.
I have seen this caring spirit many times during the years that I have served as pastor – from when I first came to recent times with families who have lost loved ones.
God calls us as His people to minister in a changing world and at the same time to be open to being changed by God’s Spirit in accord to God’s purpose for the church and for our lives.  Christ calls us to a dynamic ministry in a dynamic environment and to engage in a purpose-filled, faithful, loving, vital and joyful ministry. 
A church which is serious about doing ministry today, must be willing to live with the tension of what Bruce and Marshall Shelley have identified as our “ambidextrous calling.”  On the one hand, we are obligated to remain faithful to the unchanging Word of God.  God calls the church to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.  We preach the unchanging gospel, God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, God’s forgiving and transforming love in Jesus Christ and the promise of life everlasting.  The gospel that says human beings are sinners and God sent Jesus to save sinners. The letter of Hebrews 13:8 says:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
On the other hand, we must minister in an ever-changing world.   Our world is constantly in flux.  Rapido.  Think of the many changes in the last twenty years - social, economic, governmental, technological, scientific, business, and religious.   Society is constantly shifting and changing so rapidly that we hardly have time to catch our breath.  Is this not true?
The message of the gospel must never change, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, but the methods we employ to spread the gospel and reach people must be open to change.  The church’s methods and strategies must be flexible, creative, and innovative.  Our strategy for fulfilling Christ’s great command and great commission must be in sync with the particular demographics and needs in the community surrounding the church.   The church’s mission must always strive to be relevant to the community.
Consider the demographics of Pacific Beach.  I don’t have to tell you how much it has changed in the last 50 years.  The population is about 45,000.  The single’s population comprises about 68%.  The married population comprises about 32%.  Households with children comprises about 13%.  Households without children comprises about 88%.   
We as a church must seek God’s guidance and power and inspiration to live in a changing world and not retreat to either one of two extremes - the extreme of isolation from today’s culture or to the extreme of conformity and imitating the latest ideas and fads of the culture.  Jesus calls us to be contemporary, without compromising the eternal truth of the gospel.
God has called us to reach out in this part of His kingdom in this time and place.  Is it a challenge?  I don’t have to answer that.  Is it a burden?  No, as the great British theologian and missionary to India Lesslie Newbigin said: "Mission is not a burden laid upon the church; it is a gift and a promise to the church that is faithful. The command arises from the gift.  Jesus reigns and all authority has been given to him in earth and heaven.”
God so loved the world that He sent His only Son.  God personally came into this world because he loved this world and decided to save it.  And God sends us into the world to bring his love to others. 
I think of an example of our loving people in the world, our going out into the community in the name of Christ.  Last week, at 1:00 a.m. the young adults from our Sunday Night Roots went out for their bi-monthly Bottle Service.  They walk out on Garnet just as the bars are closing.  They hand out free water bottles.  They set up a sign and hand out flyers identifying our church.  They handed out 600 bottles to young people walking or jogging by on the street in just over an hour.  Why – it might just have something to do with Pentecost.  It might just have something to do with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
What is the true test of a Spirit-filled church?  No, it’s not the style of your worship service.  No it’s not having the word Pentecostal in your church name.   Rather, I think Galatians 5:22 says it well:  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  If those spiritual qualities permeate your life and the life of the church, you can be assured that you are Spirit-filled.
My friends, by the grace of God we are and are becoming a Pentecostal Church, a Spirit-filled church.  Let us open our hearts and minds to God’s power and guidance and be alert to the needs around us and how best to minister to those needs in the name of Christ. 
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues as of fire appeared among them and a tongues rested on each of them.  And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment