Thursday, 31 January 2008

Being Pentecostal Today

Attending a Pentecostal church for the first time nearly 30 years ago, I was struck by the contrast with the Anglican churches that I had previously been familiar with. I mean struck. The differences were stark! Not only was the difference in the way they conducted a worship service, but the entire philosophy and theological understanding was different. To be Pentecostal then meant that you were different - very different. But not today.

Pentecostals once emphasized seeking God, studying the Bible for illumination, and exercising spiritual gifts that could not be emulated naturally (this began with speaking in tongues). The more extreme Pentecostals went so far as to say that if a person didn't demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives with at least the gift of tongues then they weren't really saved in the first place! But this was always a heretical fringe, not the mainstream of Pentecostalism.

Philosophically Pentecostals generally regarded the studying of theology as unhelpful to ministry. Ministers were then proudly untrained but "anointed". The "Anointing" was regarded as the pre-eminent requirement for a ministry candidate. With the anointing an unlearned person could heal the sick, cast out demons, and save the lost. Afterall, this was what Jesus told His disciples to do and He also told them that they would need the anointing of the Father's Promise to be able to do it. When the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit's anointing took place on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) it gave rise to the designation of what later Spirit-filled believers would be called: Pentecostals.

As the next generations of "Pentecostal" have replaced the early ones there has also been a replacement of theology and philosophy. Many of the things that the early Pentecostals of the mid-twentieth century did are now considered uncouth. To be Pentecostal today apparently no longer requires that a person has had any experience with the Holy Spirit or His gifts. Ministers no longer consider the anointing the exclusive component for ministry. And Theology is now a major emphasis in most Ministry Training Colleges (although which theology is still being determined).

I want to be a Pentecostal who heals the sick, casts out demons, saves the lost, teaches the Bible, grounds in sound Reformed Theology, motivates people into their Spiritually-gifted ministries, lives with passion for Christ, inspires faith, influences society, and continually seeks God. I want to declare that Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but our Healer, Deliverer, Saviour, and Vindicated King!

Andrew Corbett

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

What Does The Church Offer?

For the past two weeks I've been on holidays. The hardest thing about being a pastor on holidays is that you can't go to your own church. I love my church and don't just attend it because I'm the pastor. But holidays does present the opportunity to visit other churches. And this is what my family and I have been doing. It has enabled us to see where some of the church crowd are going.

I pastor a church that is affiliated with the Australian Assemblies of God which causes people to make certain assumptions about what our church must be like. The general assumption is that we are a church driven by emotionalism and preach an overly simplistic message akin to the Word-of-faith heresy. But when people actually visit our virtual church or our ministry site they assume that we are a "Word-heavy" church devoid of prayerfulness or care. But none of these assumptions are correct.

While the general direction of the Australian Assemblies of God in the past few years has been a syncretism of Word of Faith and Seeker-sensitive-services, we have not 'joined in'. Most Australian AOG churches are essentially Arminian. We are essentially Calvinistic. Nearly all Australian AOG churches are Futurist. We are Partial-Preterist. Our church was recently described by a visiting evangelical Arch-Deacon of the Anglican Church as "the most unusual AOG church in Australia!". We are not interested in going along with the crowd.

And where is the crowd going? It seems that prayer, preaching, congregational worship is either being replaced or subjugated for x-boxes, Wii game consoles, coffee and cake, and "40-Day" programs. But is this what Christ was dying to build?

What does the Church offer? If it's merely more entertainment options then it will hurtle toward total irrelevance- which would be ironic since this is what many in the church crowd are desperately trying to avoid!

I consider that the Church offers the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of God's love, grace, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It is presented through prayer, worship, devotion, community, service, but most importantly: preaching. It is offered 24/7/52/365.25 - but especially on Sundays ("the Lord's Day", 1Cor. 16:1; Rev. 1:10). And it is my prayer that as long as I am pastor (and even long after I have gone) that Legana Christian Church will be passionately committed to delivering the Gospel without succumbing to "the crowd". I pray that we can take the faith of the early Pentecostals along with their willingness to pray and seek God for the miraculous and galvanise it with the best historic Reformed scholarship and offer ourselves unreservedly to God. Let's pray.

Andrew Corbett
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