My Quote of the Week — So Far
This is from Jonathan Martin’s excellent response to “Ask a Pentecostal” at Rachel Held Evans’ blog. It is definitely the most exciting thing I’ve read all week.
Pentecostals are not fundamentalists who speak in tongues. Pentecostal spirituality is a distinct way of being in the world with God, a distinct understanding of the kingdom of God. Pentecostals are people with an apocalyptic sense of urgency, because they believe the Holy Spirit is empowering the Church in dynamic ways in preparation for the return of Christ. But we are not just a people anticipating the consummation of the kingdom, we are participating in the kingdom already being established on the earth. This apocalyptic expectation is hardly a pie-in-the-sky, detached, other-worldly escapism. Pentecost is about the Spirit falling to the earth to particular people in particular places—and where the Spirit touches ground, the kingdom does too.
It’s not surprising that when Pentecostal power is at work in communities, it brings disruption, for this is the future reign of God breaking into the present. There is no racial division because that’s not the way of God’s future. There are no gender barriers because male and female, slave and free only made sense before the terror of Pentecost disrupted everything. Now sons and daughters alike prophesy, whomever the Spirit chooses to use. It’s not surprising that Pentecostal communities have brought justice to the poor and oppressed—that’s the future breaking into the present. Neither is it surprising that there are accounts of divine healing—as it was in the early church, this is only a foretaste of the wholeness that is coming when creation is restored. Neither is it surprising that there is speaking in tongues, because this is eschatological speech—this is future talk. In the account of the tower of Babel, language divided the human race. No wonder, then, that Pentecostals needed new language—it’s a marker of a future where one language of adoration covers the earth.
People aren’t Pentecostal just because they speak in tongues, they are Pentecostal because the trajectory of their entire lives has been re-oriented by the power of the Spirit. As Steven J. Land contends in his landmark Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom, “There may be Pentecostal-like experiences, but Pentecostal spirituality is another matter.”
So you can see how Pentecostal spirituality is not garden variety evangelicalism with spiritual gifts clumsily added in an eccliesial game of pin-the-tail-on-the- donkey. It’s a whole way of life, a whole perspective on being the church in the world, a whole vision of being human. It’s unsurprising that early Pentecostals were marginalized within the broader church when the future started crashing into their present. As it was on Mt. Sinai and as it was on the day of Pentecost, the presence of God is cataclysmic, violent and disruptive. In the Pentecostal revivals of the early 1900s (most notably at Azuza Street), people of different ethnicities were worshipping together, women were preaching, poor and marginalized people were being empowered. On the day of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit was first marked by “violent rushing wind.” Once again, the disruption of Pentecost was sweeping the Church.
And there is more good stuff where that came from: Ask a Pentecostal (Response). You might also want to check out Jonathan Martin’s blog.
So what do you think? If that’s what it means to be a Pentecostal could you be one? Are you one already and you didn’t know it?
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