Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Response to Being a Pentecostal


Read and tell me your thoughts!

Recently a friend asked me a very important question after reading some of my posts on this blog. Specifically, he asked, “Are you still a Pentecostal?” This is a very important question for me, and I will try to answer this question in the following article. I hope this will help both my Pentecostal and Non-Pentecostal friends.

Indeed, I am a Pentecostal, but I wholeheartedly believe that the Pentecostal movement needs serious reformations. I believe that just like any other religious movement, the Pentecostal movement has its own blind spots and errors, yet at the same time, the Pentecostal movement shines in its own beauty. Whenever I say that I am Pentecostal, I do not mean that I belong to a Pentecostal religious system, organization, or denomination. Instead, I believe in the very essence, the very foundation of Pentecost that took place in the Book of Acts and also in my own life 18 years ago. Following are some points for reflection.
I am Pentecostal because I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that the Holy Spirit’s power is still at work today; nevertheless, I don’t agree with some of my Pentecostal friends who use the name of the Holy Spirit in a simply abusive way, i.e., as an escape to do and say what they want in the name of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune Godhead and simultaneously a power or a force. Indeed, this force is love. I am Pentecostal because I believe that love is the greatest result of the works of the Holy Spirit. Jesus urged the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them, at which time they received the power to witness about Him. I am increasingly realizing that the greatest sign of the Holy Spirit is the power of love! Love is indeed a power; it forgives, liberates, and heals. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love even the unlovable, to reach to the untouchable.
I am Pentecostal because I believe and emphasize the miracles of the Holy Spirit. I cannot deny them. I have seen with my own eyes people healed from sicknesses, some even instantly, when others prayed for them. At the same time, I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostal friends who merchandize the works of the Holy Spirit. I disagree with the commercialization of the miracles of the Holy Spirit. I disagree with the overemphasis of miracles, signs, and wonders, while neglecting justice and the righteousness for the poor and oppressed. I disagree with those who practice Pentecostalism while their own personal character shows little to no signs of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I disagree with those who practice so-called Pentecost but do not know how to treat their spouses, neighbors, or children. True Pentecost-experience changes our characters and offers us humility, grace, peace, and love. These are as important as the signs and wonders.
I am Pentecostal and do indeed believe in the Holy Spirit, but I do not believe that the Pentecostal denomination or churches have exclusive rights on Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit is free to move among any Christ-loving church or denomination. I am Pentecostal, but this does not make me any better or superior than any other brothers and sisters who belong to different denominations. I am Pentecostal, but I do not tolerate any arrogance among those who claim to be Pentecostal. I love all denominations that love Jesus Christ. Because I am Pentecostal, I have learned to respect my brothers and sisters from different denominations. I have great friends from other denominations and from the non-denominational realm.
I am Pentecostal, and I believe that the Bible is an inspired work of the Holy Spirit; yet, I am also aware that the Bible was also written by the hands of man, so some aspects of the Bible must be viewed in its historical and cultural context. I am Pentecostal, but I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostals who recklessly quote the Bible out of context and hurt others by doing so or use Scripture to manipulate others for various reasons. I disagree with those who use the Scriptures without love or consideration. For example, I disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle, but I am also aware of this ongoing issue in our society. I do not like to beat others with a doom and gloom message by using a “thus says the Bible” approach. By doing so, we are also condemning ourselves because the Bible describes many other things that condemn our personal behavior as. If we choose to be judgmental, we will be measured by the very judgment stick that we used. Do we measure others using the Bible? So, we will be measured ourselves by the very Bible itself. I do not approve of perversion in any way or by any means, nor do I tolerate it. Nevertheless, I am looking for wisdom and understanding to deal with this sensitive subject.
I am Pentecostal, but I disagree with my Pentecostal friends who quote the scriptures to enrich themselves financially. I am not against blessings or prosperity. At the same time, I do not believe in manipulative and exaggerative methods of fundraising or tithe-raising systems that are used by some men and women who claim to be Pentecostal. Unfortunately some televangelists have gone too far with this. I disagree with and disapprove of such acts done in the name of Pentecostalism.
I am Pentecostal, and I indeed believe in the end times and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostals who describe with the end times and the coming of Christ. I am against commercializing eschatology because our end-time theologies can create fatal consequences in dealing with other people and other nations! In the name of end times, we easily label others as antichrists and justify our hateful actions towards them. I know that Jesus Christ is coming back; in fact, this is the foundation of my faith. However, I can never preach with 100% certainty how and when He will come back. Only He knows.
I am Pentecostal because Pentecost honors racial and cultural diversity. Pentecost is about people. Jesus Christ came to restore us to the Father; the Holy Spirit came to restore us to each other. Therefore, on Pentecost day, people from all nations under the heaven were present, and when they heard the disciples praying in foreign tongues, they each heard their own language, i.e., the Arab in Arabic, the Persian in Farsi, etc. Peter preached on that day about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all people!
I am Pentecostal because Pentecost is about hope, visions, and dreams. Indeed, the prophet Joel prophesied about such things on the day of Pentecost. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to give you strength and power to believe and hope, to dream about goodness, righteousness, dignity, integrity, and unconditional love towards people and creation. Pentecost gives hope when there is no hope. When people, nations, diseases, viruses, epidemics, natural calamities threaten to ruin the world, we are given the power to have the vision to rebuild, restore, care, and love! As Bishop Tutu said, Christianity is about helping God to fulfill His dreams for humanity and creation. That is Pentecost! At least that is what Pentecost ought to be.
I am Pentecostal because Pentecost is the day of equality for all mothers, daughters, and sisters! Pentecost is about equality between men and women in the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter quoted the words of the prophet Joel who mentioned that God said in the last days both men and women, His servants, will prophesy (Acts 2:18). For centuries, and even today in many places in the world, women are being oppressed; they do not have equal rights with men. Unfortunately, men like me have forgotten where we come from; i.e., we are the seed of the woman. Today we speak about the rights of women in other nations, like in the Arab or Islamic world. We criticize how these nations treat their women. What about us? Does our Western society truly respect the freedom of women? What have our consumerism and capitalistic society done to our women? It has made them an object of lust, sexual desires, etc. Is this true freedom?
I am Pentecostal because Pentecost means sharing and participating in social action! In chapter two of the Book of Acts, we read that the believers devoted themselves to prayer and fellowship, and those who had much sold what they had and gave it to those who had less such that they had all things in common. The true Pentecost is concerned for the poor, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and the migrants. The world is full of imbalance, injustice, and poor distribution of wealth. It is the duty of the Church to rise up and do something about poverty, illness, and injustice in society. We must share what we have with others.
I believe that, if we do not change our style and if we do not correct our mistakes, the Pentecostal movement will lose ground in the Western world. We need a reformation in the Pentecostal Movement, just like other Christian movements in the past. Many criticize me because I am friends with a man like Brian McLaren. I must tell you that I would rather have Brian McLaren as my friend than those who manipulate others, commercialize the Holy Spirit, commercialize end times theology, or prophesy to enrich themselves. At the same time, I have Pentecostal friends, like Lee Grady, a Pentecostal brother who is standing up for the rights and position of women in the Church. Just like me, Grady is also tired of the showmanship and manipulation associated with the Pentecostal movement. In his new book, The Holy Spirit is not for sale, he addressed concerns that are quite similar to mine. As a Pentecostal, I have read the books of Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo while simultaneously admiring people like Lee Grady and my Pentecostal friends in the Netherlands who genuinely preach the gospel in love and humility.
Lastly to my Non-Pentecostal friends, I would say give the Pentecostals the benefit of the doubt and hear them out! Unfortunately, the noise of some “super” Pentecostals, you can not or choose not to hear the real ones. Fellowship with us because we want to fellowship with you. Let us learn from each other. Not every aspect of Christianity can be explained with theological knowledge. Some things cannot be explained theologically or even scientifically, but they can indeed be described as the moves of the Holy Spirit and found in the mysticism of His love and His work. Pentecostals have great things to offer the body of Christ, and at the same time Pentecostals should reform their own ways, address their own faults, and learn to listen to others, especially to other fellow believers from different denominations.
Blessings to you all,
Samuel Lee

4 comments:

Canadian Goose said...

What is a Pentecostal: Thoughts from one who is admittedly ignorant...

This article sounds like some people more proud to be called Pentecostal than Christian. I can dialogue running through my head right now...

"Oh no, I'm not 'that' kind of Christian - I'm a Pentecostal!"

I attend Soul Sanctuary as a lover of God, reborn with Jesus Christ and now I am living a life where I feel the Holy Spirit working in my life. I agree with just about everything in this article and how one should live in love; however, I wouldn't consider myself Pentecostal, and more importantly, if I do agree with it, AM I Pentecostal?

I wonder how one even becomes Pentecostal. Do you have to grow up in that church, can you call yourself that because you 'do' believe in the power of the Holy Spirit (although I know of other churches that believe in the spirit for healing too) or perhaps because you've been baptized by someone who was ordained by a Pentecostal minister/assembly?

Now that I go to Soul and have made it my loving home for two years, should I join this name and now call myself Pentecostal? Where do I sign up? Is there a member card? Is there a perforated tear off slip on the weekly? By the way, although I say that in jest, the honest question still remains... what is a Pentecostal, am I one and if I'm not, does it really matter?

Reminding you that I have only attended one Pentecostal-type/style church, Soul Sanctuary... I also add to my wonderment list, how can the word Pentecostal and Charismatic be interchangeable? There is no dancing, no outbursts, no yelping or yelling or falling down fits. Perhaps an occasional nose snort (from yours truly) but that's it.

I now have more questions than answers. Maybe being Pentecostal is like being on a team, and by the sounds of Lee's writings, a winning team! I'm suddenly craving a pep rally - come on, give me a P, give me an E...

Fun aside, there is nothing wrong with having healthy pride for your church or belief system, plus, we all want to fit in and it sure feels good when we do. But, there is a fine line where exclusion occurs and so my tongue-in-cheek commentary is just to make sure that we don't cross any segregation lines simply because one is not Pentecostal.

In the end, it would nice to think that all lovers of Christ would believe much of what Samuel Lee wrote; Pentecostal or not.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men."

1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 (NIV)

She... said...

Interestingly, it never tweaked - no matter how many times it was mentioned - that Soul is a Pentecostal Church. :)

One thing I notice about different denominations is that most seem to want to defend their ideas against the denomination to which they lay claim.

I, also, have defended my ideas against my beliefs and the structure behind it.

Reading this gentleman's post, I simply inserted "Christian" wherever it fit with "Pentecostal." It mostly worked. :)

My thought in recent times is to not defend my beliefs and it's structure. I've moved into a different place where I'm more than happy to talk about my faith when asked, to ensure that my faith is obvious in my life (to facilitate questions), and then to handle any opposing points that people may want to make.

In my mind, God is the one who 'softens' hearts. He'll take care of ensuring that whomever he has chosen to soften has someone to talk to.

Out recently with a new aquaintance, he mentioned how he decided he wanted to 'try going to church' and when he sat by some people they were complaining about this and that and how he couldn't believe the 'unchristian' comments coming out of their mouths. Once I got his gist, I smiled and said: "You mean they were basically just regular people trying to figure out life as best as they can - on that day it was in a 'christian' setting?" He appeared to feel a little silly to start - but I also said - "Yeah... I had to get over wanting everyone around me to act 'Christian' before I could start moving forward spiritually too. People are people are people."

I guess my overall thoughts on this post are... it is basically how (it seems that) everyone feels. It is beautiful, and I try to live it. The more people who try to live it, the more the world will be affected by it.

Robert said...

I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I'm sure our Pentecostal audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

Robert Wright
rev.robertwright@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

So many people define being "Christian" as something that it is not; so many claim that name and don't take the meaning seriously. When you claim that you are Pentecostal whoever you are talking to knows. Your actions speak louder than words though as well as how you convey your witness. Being Pentecostal is actually doing what the Bible says. (Ex. Acts 2:38) You have to BE Pentecostal.