The purpose of this essay is to paint a portrait of the 21st century Pentecostal. What does one look like exactly? Do we dare study this face? Can he/she be recognized by the similar birthmarks of the Pentecostal of the first century and/or the past century?
As we take out our theological paints and begin to put this on the canvas of our new genre, let us pause before we paint. Let us admit that glossolalia, the Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit, evangelism and the willingness to be led by and obey the Spirit have been the five foundational “colors” of Pentecostalism since the Upper Room. Do we do justice to God, His Spirit and the great men and women of God to now assume certain aspects of such evidences in the new century are suddenly unnecessary? By redefining Pentecost, by painting our new picture over an old one, will we rob contemporary Christians of the power to withstand 21st century temptations?
I hope to paint an accurate portrayal of how the new-century, Spirit-filled person should appear. At the end of the project, I hope to discover that my acrylics have been put to good use. I trust that through my ponderings, I can do more than paint-by-number. Although an artist is the worst critic of his work, I want to stand back at the end of the project and exclaim: “Yes! I have captured the spirit of the new-century Spirit-filled person!”
Since my father is a Cherokee artist, I would like to follow his lead by first selecting my canvas and backdrop. The backdrop gives our portrait life and the background is our Pentecostal heritage. Secondly, I need to select my materials: canvas, paints, and brushes. These represent the theology I must bring to the easel—those things that have formulated my Pentecostal perspective. Lastly, I must interact with both canvas and backdrop by personal application of the acrylics. By interaction with the men and women of Pentecost these past 34 years, I have come to see that kindness, grace and love must be set deeply into the face of the person on my canvas.
Now that we have established the five foundational “colors” for our portrait, let us consider them one at a time.
Acrylic # 1: Glossolalia
It is unfortunate that something as wonderful and positive as Pentecost could have stirred so much controversy throughout Church history. Since Spirit Baptism involves an endowment of overcoming power, it is expected that Satan would like to have his hands in the paint. Due to his efforts to cloud the picture, the backdrop of Pentecost is crowded by a myriad of dark colors. They are the various doctrinal blotches that have caused many to choose not to view this picture at all. There is the accusation that tongues are senseless ramblings, despite the fact that the languages spoken on the day of Pentecost were boni fide (Acts 2:5). There is the splotch on the backdrop by those who would say “Because no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost, you received all of the Holy Spirit there is to get when you are born again.” And there are the gray areas that would-be artisans would paint in who go so far to say that “Tongues are of the devil”. It is not the purpose of this essay to clean off the many paint-ball accusations the destructive critics have shot at the canvas. Let’s examine only two.
As this has been a controversial topic for a century, let us consider only a couple of the major issues concerning what we will hereafter refer to simply as “tongues”. One of the primary arguments centers on whether glossolalia is a day of Pentecost only phenomenon or an experience to be appropriated today. The question is whether or not tongues were always accepted as the normative initial evidence since the early 1900’s. I am amazed at the self-inflicted blindness of those who discount the millions of tongue-talkers as folks who engage in meaningless, emotional chatter. Pentecostal/Charismatic authors seem inevitably to accept tongues as a normal aspect of Spirit Baptism. Although cessationist theories can be traced back a hundred years, glossolalia is still something inseparable from the movement.
As ever, events on and subsequent to the Day of Pentecost are carelessly explained away by those who do not speak in tongues. Many assume they are authorities on topics outside of their personal experience. Not only do they bring a lack of experiential knowledge to the table of doctrinal revision, but they come with a bias—and sometimes with a vengeance. To admit the possibility of tongues being a contemporary experience, the skeptic would have to perform the accompanying soul-searching to discover why they have not participated. Had Paul not spent so much time in his Corinthian correspondence concerning tongues as a current, post-Pentecost reality, the cessationists might have a valid argument. If tongues were restricted to the Day of Pentecost, why does Paul deal with this topic years later?
We must add to the myriads of shades in our backdrop the obscure instances of Spirit Baptism sprinkled over nineteen centuries. Cessationist theories throughout church history usually rear their cynical heads in response to these scattered episodes of glossolalia. Most of our Spirit-filled authors admit at some point that only the truly Spirit-filled person can begin to explain glossolalia. But even they have a tough time forming a clear explanation, for by its very nature it is an experienced-based phenomenon. As an old country preacher was heard to say, “It’s better felt than telt.”
Take, for example, glossolalia claimed as instant languages for evangelistic endeavors. The past century has proven that tongue-talkers tend to be more evangelistic than their non-Spirit-filled brethren. This would stand to reason, for an emphasis on soul-winning followed the Day of Pentecost and in every true Holy Ghost revival ever since. Some held that missionaries could receive an instant knowledge of a foreign language, a sudden linguistic equipping so that a particular ethnicity could receive the Gospel more readily. Those who held this theory saw this as a sort of a reversing of the Tower of Babel. Whereas the scene at Babel bespoke confusion of languages, the instant gift of tongues for soul-winning purposes brought order. When we turn to Acts, we do find that those nearby heard them speak in known languages, but nothing is said about instantaneous bilingual knowledge. There is no question that they were known languages, for they were comprehendible by those who used the same dialect. It cannot be proven, however, that those who spoke in an unknown language could self-translate. The testimony of the overwhelming majority of tongue-talkers from that day to this is that “their understanding is unfruitful” (I Cor. 14:14), that they did not know precisely what they are saying or praying.
Furthermore, there is no hint in the Bible anywhere that tongues were a shortcut to language preparation. Mastering a foreign language quickly does not fall into the category of gifting, as those of this persuasion might define giftedness. As George Scholl informed a group of missionary students in 1902, “You will have to learn the language of the people, as you learned Greek and Latin in seminary. Mastery of any dialect comes only through self-discipline.”
It may be argued that God can bestow any type of instantaneous gift, such as the quick proficiency of a musical instrument. Since God is the sovereign distributor of all gifts, what more pragmatic gift than instantaneous languages to fulfill His Great Commission? Finding hardcore evidence that any Pentecostal preached in these new found, intelligible languages is impossible, for this doctrine exists only in the minds of those convinced of it. At first glance, it seems to make perfect sense that Spirit Baptism would involve the restoration of the gift of tongues, believing that it was part of Jesus’ promise of world evangelism (Mark 16:17). But restoration, by definition, presupposes an existing condition. The question remains whether instantaneous evangelical dialects were ever a part of that promise to begin with. This doctrinal discoloration on our canvas has proven difficult to remove.
Acrylic #2: The Gifts Of The Spirit
In general, the gifts of the Spirit in Paul’s three lists are for exhortation, enablement, evangelism and encouragement (Eph. 4, I Cor. 12 and Rom. 12). Restricting the number of gifts to the nine listed in First Corinthians is as well established in the 20th century Pentecost realm as Van Gough is in the world of art. But the lists have been expanded in the post-modern era to include other “gifts.” In fast-growing conservative congregations known as “new paradigm” churches, the gifts of the Spirit are affirmed, although speaking in tongues usually occurs outside of corporate worship. Although the gifts have been in use for two thousand years, many questions remain unanswered, such as: How do we classify the gifts? Are gifts restricted to the sum total of Paul’s three tabulations? How do we identify the gifts? How is natural gifting related to spiritual endowment? What spiritual level must one attain to be used in the gifts? Does one receive the gifts one at a time? If so, what is the limit? Is there any limit? Are gifts different than offices? Are evangelism, laughter, apostleship, hospitality and martyrdom actually “gifts”? For many of these questions, there are no textbook-answers.
As there are myriads of volumes extant concerning the gifts, it is all too easy to gloss over things essential in our picture of Pentecost and omit details that could serve to validate a carefully proportioned artistic scheme. The topic of women in ministry is one of these essential colors. Before we apply this second color of the Gifts of the Spirit to our canvas, let us allow our brush to stroke this touchy subject.
Although there were remarkable displays of feminine leadership, they were not so much in evidence in that day as we are sometimes led to believe. It was felt that much of the over-emphasis of Azusa era women in ministry by contemporary authors is an attempt to protect themselves lest they be accused of gender bias. In my personal Pentecostal pilgrimage, it has been women who have had the dynamic influence in my life—that have added the brilliant colors to this portrait. It was Spirit-filled women that prayed for me before my conversion in 1971, who prayed for me as I went through Teen Challenge in 1972, who wrote and encouraged me throughout my years at Trinity Bible College and who, in the person of my incredible wife, have been a intimate source of spirituality and practicality to this very day. Our current ministry to Native couples is being strongly promoted by the leaders of Women’s Ministry Unlimited. My personal identity as a Pentecostal has been shaped dynamically by the sensitive artistic touch of godly women.
It is a well-known fact that God bestowed on a woman of God, Agnes Ozman, the honor of being the first to experience 20th century Spirit baptism. From that New Year’s Day in 1901 to the present, the role of women in the Pentecostal movement is more than a side note. As one who had “been there, done that,” Helen Boyd told me in 1979: “Women could be highly used in the gifts in those early days, but we had to know our place. When the Spirit spoke through us, male ministers trembled behind their Bibles and mumbled something about ‘women who usurped authority.’ Paul never made two separate lists of gifts—one for women and another for men. Us ‘weaker vessels’ were also in that Upper Room—praying beside Jesus’ own mother. While our Fellowship will quickly admit that our daughters can imbibe in the gifts, Joel meant that full equality would be restored on the Day of Pentecost.”
In America’s patriarchal society, men and women are usually painted in basic colors of pink and blue. But in Native America, in about fifteen percent of the 601 tribes, the husband does not head the household. Although such systems are less common than patriarchal, this does not make them wrong. As the future matriarch, the eldest daughter is bred to believe she will hold the prominence over all her younger siblings. Since many of the kinship systems we work with are matriarchal in structure, ministering Native women are forced to strive to validate their key positions within the movement. Because of leadership concerns, it is extremely unfortunate that this fact has been virtually ignored by the constituency. Although there is no deliberate conspiracy to suppress Native women in ministry, certain factors continue to have a negative impact on female American Indians who attempt to break into the male-dominated Pentecostal/Charismatic fellowships. The following key frustrations were compiled by a consensus of Native women during a Christian women’s conference in Phoenix:
A. Women are still seen as second-class citizens in the Kingdom of
God, evidenced by the almost total absence of female presbyters.
B. Women called of God to become pastors are seen as “Christianized
C. The wearying, bogus “defense” of the legitimate role of women in
D. The in-your-face misinterpretation of I Timothy 2:12 concerning the
usurping of authority over men.
E. Suppression of the prophetical gifts of women in ministerial
F. The complications of dating as an unmarried female pastor.
G. The cynical attitudes of women in the congregation
……often based on envy and spite.
H. The stress factor concerning the counseling of men.
I. The non-support of husbands of female pastors who become
“stressed” for any combination of the above listed reasons.
J. The high drop-out rate of female pastors who admit defeat after
only a few years of active ministry.
Any blend of these factors in the life of a Native female minister can prove insurmountable and explains the defeatism that often results. It is strange that a movement which so prides itself on being led by the Spirit would have such a lack of sensitivity to these issues. Why the gender-phobia in Pentecostal America? Do we fear that Spirit-filled women will surpass Spirit-filled men in the area of spirituality? Or do we know that already? Before we clean our brushes at the end of the day, let us bring our portrait to life by giving credit where it is due.
Acrylic # 3: Fruit Of The Spirit
This color should dominate the portrait of Pentecostalism. But we must consider the metaphorical use of the term, for fruit represents the result of an action or attitude. The fruit of the Spirit can be said to be the result of the Spirit’s working in our lives. The term “fruit” is often used symbolically: children are fruit of the womb (Luke 1:43), humankind is told to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22), words are the fruit of our mouths (Pv. 12:14), and holiness is compared to growing fruit (Rom. 6:22). The term is often applied to the consequences of our motives and actions such as the “fruit of wickedness” (Jer. 6:19) or “the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11). Fruit is also used in the sense of a reward: “gathering fruit unto life eternal” (John 4:36). Paul told the Philippians that he desired “fruit that may abound to your account” (4:17). A better translation might be “the fruit from the Spirit”: teaching, cleansing, leading, comforting, regenerating, enlightening, transforming and uniting.
One aspect of the figurative use of the term “fruit” is inescapable: fruit grows. It would follow, then, that we are to produce that which the Spirit works within us. As edification, exhortation and comfort (I Cor. 14:3) are all positive characteristics of the Spirit’s work, so are all the fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. In order to bring out the richness of this color, I can’t help but apply the brush, hoping to enhance the richness of each definition.
Love is affection characterized by respect. It is the deep and consistent interest of the welfare of another—a veneration manifested by the action it prompts. Joy is gladness and refers to a heart rejoicing by expressions of exuberant positive emotions. Peace refers to harmonious relationships between people and freedom from fear. Longsuffering is patience, forbearance and self-restraint. It speaks of deliberation prior to reaction. Gentleness is defined as sweet reasonableness, mildness, kindness and graciousness. Goodness is seen in fair and honest dealings with others. It is an attribute of one who acts beneficially toward another. Faith can be defined as assurance, fidelity and a firm conviction based on one’s belief. Meekness pictures a person of gentle, humble and sweet disposition. It depicts an attitude toward God in which we accept His dealings with us without resisting or disputing. Temperance means mastery of self and is manifested by self-control and self-restraint in attitudes and habits.
Paul ends this incredible array of shades from his palette by writing “against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:23). He states the same thought two verses later in a positive sense by suggesting that “if we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.” Why is this such a hard lesson for Spirit-filled individuals to learn? All the fruits and all the gifts are positive. The offices, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers are all for the positive goal of church edification (Eph. 4:12). Indeed, there is no activity of the Holy Spirit that is negative. But Satan seeks to twist and distort that which God meant for good and to destroy the sweet fellowship of the saints. Thus, fresh controversies, new genre and pet eclectics continue to surface. But it is God’s desire that we continue to paint in His giftings “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of God as mature people” (Eph. 4:13).
Many controversial issues have clouded the Pentecostal picture throughout the centuries. Instead of fighting the good fight of faith, some fight other saints. Those who deny speaking in tongues are inevitably quick to point out that the real proof of Spirit baptism is the evidence of His fruit in our lives. While it is true such fruit is essential, it does not prove that tongues is not an evidence as well. If Christians continue to fight and devour one another, we will consume one another—and destroy the very thing the Spirit was sent to perfect in the body—the fruit of love. Jesus was right. We will be known for what we really are “by our fruits” (Matt. 7:16). Visible evidence of a healthy tree is what Jesus seeks to find (Luke 13:6). The best fruit grows in a environment of fertile soil and cultivation. We must break up our hard ground and submit to the pruning action of God’s Word (Hosea 10:12 and John 15:3). Good fruit is never produced from the dirt of controversy. From that we harvest only weeds, something that we do not want in our portrait. As the list of the Spirit’s fruit opens with love, so all the fruits are summed up in this word. So let us brush on a little more love pigmentation, with close attention to detail.
Acrylic # 4: Evangelism
The forth hue we will add to our canvas is the brilliant color of soul-winning. The problem today is our general reluctance to leave the upper room and deliver the Pentecostal message. Even the extremists who view glossolalia as a linguistic evangelistic endowment acknowledge this power must be somehow utilized for winning the lost. Mass conversion followed the experience of the 120 on that day. Were it not for the altar call at the end of Peter’s sermon, we may never be able to paint the mosaic scene in that room. Clearly, the Spirit of the Lord was upon Peter to preach under the anointing (Isa. 61:1). Conviction followed Spirit-filled preaching (Acts 2:37), the call to repentance was given (Acts 2:38) and three thousand came to Christ (Acts 2:41). Revivalism always accompanies bona-fide moves of the Spirit, whether glossolalia is an aspect of it or not. The revivalism era of Edwards, Finney and Moody have validated this. Although few of those saints ever spoke in tongues during that 200-year period, bringing others into the fold seemed to be an obligatory joy.
As we are led by the Spirit, He will lead us to win the lost. If the one who wins souls is wise, who is wiser than the Spirit of Wisdom (Pv. 11:30 and Isa. 11:2)? The evangelistic efforts of myriads of Spirit-filled individuals show the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation.
But the upper room passage is not an isolated proof-text, for pictures continue to be sketched throughout the book of Acts. It is interesting that in every passage tongues are mentioned, there is evangelistic activity (Acts 10 and 19). It is impossible to segregate glossolalia from the desire to bring others into the kingdom of God. Jesus’ commission at the end of Mark’s gospel commands believers to “go and preach” and these same soul-winners “shall speak with new tongues.” If the Lord intended for the Baptism of the Spirit to be a complete package, why have Charismatics and Pentecostals attempted to divide it up amongst themselves like children with a box of candy?
Evangelistic passion, more than gifts or fruit, is the greatest evidence of the Spirit’s presence. We have forgotten that the power of the Spirit was primarily given so that we would be witnesses (Acts 1:8). While it’s true that Pentecostal/Charismatic missionary societies are the fastest-growing on a global scale, the same impetus to win the lost is not always the case stateside. Soul-winning churches are on the decline in Pentecostal USA. While we plant new churches, we neglect to revive old ones. We have grown comfortable in our upper rooms, sedating ourselves with Pentecostal archival readings while relegating dynamic evangelistic endeavors to a Heritage Center.
Doris and I have been a part of the greatest evangelistic church in America, Phoenix First Assembly, for fifteen years. Here, on a daily basis, we see the Spirit at work, feeding, clothing, sheltering, mentoring and loving those others deem unlovable. In this superchurch we are more concerned about individuals than the crowd. As found in John’s gospel, we have all three types of sinners represented in our church. We have the seeker-sensitive religious types, represented by Nicodemus in chapter three. We have everyday sinners with family challenges, represented by the woman at the well in chapter four. We have the helpless street people, as represented by the impotent man in chapter five. Phoenix First is growing because we take the Word to the streets. We do not isolate, inoculate and insulate ourselves from the felt needs of the people. When any mega-church produces true disciples, you can be sure the Pentecostal priority of soul-winning is a foundational color on the canvas, not merely an accent for effect.
As field missionaries, in our marital ministerial travels, we go where the need is. In Matthew 22:19, Jesus commands us to go to the highways. In Acts 2:26 the disciples went from home to home and in Acts 17:17 they went to the marketplace. Doris and I have preached more than six hundred missions services in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. While many claim a missions consciousness, bringing the lost to church is usually not part of their portraiture. They know the Romans Road; they just don’t walk there anymore. In our travels, one fact has become crystal-clear: the church that is truly evangelistic on the local level tends to be evangelistic on the global level. Empowered by the Spirit, we must resurrect the simple soul-winning facts every Christian should know: that everyone can do it, that it can be done any place at anytime and that God desires to reach all ethnicities, genders and age groups. In my Pentecostal journey I have found another truth to be irrefutably true: that anointed preaching and teaching of God’s Word is always the basis of conviction and conversion.
Before we let this acrylic dry completely, let us add a final stroke of the brush. The essence of this evangelistic Spirit-baptism is prayer. They were praying when the Spirit came to the Upper Room and they were praying when the Spirit came to seekers a century ago. Glossolalia is primarily prayer. Let us not allow the next generation to discover it only in Pentecostal history books.
Before working further, let us set aside our brush and ask ourselves some searching questions. Were soul-winning not a part of the Spirit’s color-scheme, why do so many millions, worldwide, come to know Christ through Pentecostal ministries? If the Spirit has not come to draw to Christ both sinner and saint, what did He come for? In our era of seeker sensitivity, have we paused to ask what the Spirit is seeking from us?
Acrylic # 5: Obedience
The portrait of one who is truly led by the Spirit will be active in our first four “acrylics”. But all that we have discussed prior to this—glossolalia, gifts, fruit and evangelism—are but splotches of paint on our canvas if we do not obey the Spirit of God.
An accurate portrayal of Pentecost involves daily listening and obedience, for it brings our picture to life. “As many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Touch the brush throughout Acts and you find the leading of the Spirit in evidence everywhere. Apparently, Luke felt no need to justify the promptings of the Spirit, for he portrays doing as the Spirit leads as natural, expected activities. Anyone associated with God’s Spirit soon comes to realize that the Spirit leads by persuasion, not manipulation. The Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism as a gentle dove. Since the subject of obedience is so broad, let us confine ourselves to asking what the person led by the Spirit of God looks like. What are the attributes of a Spirit-led person? The final details of our portrait can be seen in the following characteristics:
The Pentecostal person must be holy, for the word holy is the term most often associated with God’s Spirit. Since the root “hagios” refers to “that which is consecrated and separated to God”, it would follow that those endued with God’s Spirit should desire to be holy also. The Spirit will never lead a person into anything that is unholy, dishonest or contrary to God’s Word. He will always lead us to rid ourselves of selfishness, bad temper, prejudice, unforgiveness, laziness, self-pity, greed and immoral thoughts and actions. The Spirit seeks to drive a wedge between the saint and the world. One led by the Spirit will have a deepening awareness of sin and be on guard against temptation.
Love for God
Such a person will have an increasing love for God, for one who loves Jesus will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Love is the result of a relationship, not the cause of it. We love Him because He first loved us. It has been said that what we love, we grow to look like. In our painting, the eyes are kind and the smile is loving because of a heart full of love for God. Since God is love and the Holy Spirit is God, to be close to the Spirit is to be close to God Himself. We begin to progress in our Christian walk when we move from knowing the Spirit as an experience to knowing the Spirit as a friend.
Love for Man
Love for others is an essential pigmentation, for all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit focus on human relations. As a living personality, the Spirit guides and directs with compassion for others. Because the Spirit is a unifier, Spirit-led individuals will love others as well. Love involves the accurate estimate and the adequate supply of the needs of another. One of the first promptings after Pentecost was to “have all things common” and minister to the needy.
All of the Spirit’s work concerns individuals and their welfare, ever seeking individuals upon which to bestow His affections and attentions. Few illustrations serve to illustrate this better than the story related to me by E.S. Williams in 1979:
A little barefoot Cheyenne boy was standing on one foot and then the other outside a shoe store owned by a Spirit-filled woman. After ministering to him by fitting him with socks and shoes, the boy looked up at her and asked, “Are you God’s wife?” “Why, no” she said, “I’m just one of His children.” “Oh”, he said excitedly, “I just knew you were kin to Him!” William Penn has well stated, “Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity, but for that reason, we must take heed to learn it.” In a world that seems to be getting more cruel, I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me more and more love for others.
A Spirit-sensitized individual will desire a further knowledge of God, for the Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Ask the average Pentecostal college student to define terms such as justification, propitiation, and sanctification and they must head for the library. Biblical illiteracy is so great that one student wrote that he believed that “Dan and Beersheba were husband and wife, like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Spirit-led persons should have a deepening desire to “earnestly endeavor to show themselves worthy of God’s approval” (II Tim. 2:15 NEB), but it seems evident that the impetus for Christians today to “study to show themselves approved unto God” is waning. If the Spirit of God and the Word of God are inseparably linked, what has changed at the dawning of a new century?
I noticed this trend in the early 1980’s and asked my friend Frank Boyd about it. Although he was nearly a century old, his response was quick and clear; “When people called me Mr. Bible it was, for many years, a real thrill. I was proud of my Bible knowledge, but tried not to show it. The truth is that, when people would hurl Bible questions my way, I would study sometimes all night to find the answers. Years later, upon self-examination, I admitted to myself that I was more concerned that folks thought me to be wise in the Word than to meet their spiritual needs by answering their questions. Bible knowledge does not rest upon our intellectual capacity, but upon the sincere desire to be led by the Spirit. He will lead us into all the truth, and we must let Him, but for the purpose of ministry and not pride.”
Any budding artist seeks to learn by experimental knowledge if he/she expects their career in portraiture to excel. Only by the combination of the Spirit and the Word can we hope to break through the ego-centricity of contemporary Christianity. Anointed teaching takes a great deal of time. Every teacher must decide for him/herself if their students are worth the effort of such laborious artistic efforts.
A hungry heart will seek the guidance of the Spirit in daily activities. Since the Spirit of Truth can never lie or make a mistake, who could refuse a friend who was omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient? Throughout the more than seventy references to the Spirit in the book of Acts, we see dozens of individuals activated by His influence. In Acts 16:6-7, the Spirit forbade disciples to go to Bithynia and in Acts 8:29, Philip was told by the Spirit to go to the Eunuch’s chariot. In one case the Spirit said, “No,” but in the other case He said, “Go.” If the Spirit-led life is pragmatic and the Spirit is indeed a guiding and counseling agent, He will lead me in the activities of daily living as His guidance is sought.
What the Spirit does, He does for the betterment of human beings. Spirit-led individuals seek the His counsel in career moves as well as daily concerns. The Holy Spirit is an intelligent, personal guide available to every believer as One who edifies (I Cor. 14:3), intercedes (Rom 8:26), regenerates (Titus 3:5), creates (Gen. 1:2), works miracles (Heb. 2:4), corrects (John 16:8) and teaches (Luke 12:12). The problem is not the Spirit’s ability or availability, but man’s willingness to listen to His counsel and follow His leadership.
Our “Blessed Hope” is the Rapture of the church, but how seriously is it taken when revivalism is absent? An awareness of our Lord’s eminent return was a recurring theme of the Pentecostal movement. All true Holy Spirit revivals include some aspect of rapture-readiness. By distancing ourselves from the One who brings revival, we distance ourselves from the accompanying revivalism doctrines, including eminence.
The studio in which I must paint my picture is not one that overlooks a Paris patio, but a brush-arbor in the White Mountains of the Apache. Our pigments are made from the dirt floors and rock walls. The bristles in our brush are made from the soft fibers of the flora of mother earth. An ancient Lakota prayer reads, “God give us Indian women and men who are Spirit-led, Spirit-fed and Spirit-bred. His Breath is the very best gift a Christian can receive. He will answer my questions about God, show me my purpose in life, reveal insights into God’s Word and help me to develop my talents for His path. We asked our Father for bread and fish and eggs and He did not give us stones, snakes and scorpions (Luke 11:11). He gave us His Holy Spirit.”
This Pentecostal portrait cannot be posed for, for posing is defined as “an attitude deliberately but artificially assumed in order to impress others.” So what does the neo-century Pentecostal look like?
Several decades ago, if the portrait was of a female, she might have a granny bun hairstyle. Her long sleeved dress would cover her ankles and her collar would come to her neck. In her hand, she might be holding a hymnal or a Bible. Typical of portraits of earlier times, she may not be smiling. Her head would be held high, for her identity was defined by God. She knew who she was. Today, the woman in the portrait may have six earrings in each ear, wear lip gloss and eye shadow. Her tummy may be exposed and her black leather belt could have silver loops. Her ancestry would be of mixed blood and her skin would be of a bit darker pigmentation than the lady described above. She is not holding a Bible or a hymnal, but a CD case. Whatever her hair color is now, it is not natural. Her smile may be a bit whimsical.
Will we condemn this generation in their attempts to be seen and heard? Will we make the efforts necessary to meet them in their world in order to bring them into the Kingdom of God? We must study them closely to paint them accurately.
A Pentecostal man in a portrait of days gone by might be wearing a three-piece suit. He would not be smiling either, for he would take both his social and his spiritual responsibilities seriously. His hair would be parted in the middle. A Bible in his hand would be held naturally.
A picture of a contemporary Pentecostal man would seem very strange to the man we just described. He may have spiked hair of assorted colors, nose and ear rings and tattooed eyebrows. His jeans will be faded. He does not carry a Bible, for no one has taught him to value its contents. He stands a bit slovenly, for his dad was never around to make him feel self-confident by introducing him to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
But we cannot write off the differences in these paintings merely to fashion and style. Deep within, behind the paint, what is so different? In a word: priorities. Our fast-paced society can take some of the blame, but Pentecostal leadership must take the rest. Somewhere in the past century, we just got lazy. As a movement, we have decided to free ourselves of the doctrines imbedded in our hymnology and embrace choruses that are off the wall. We have traded our Bibles for pragmatic “how to” books and tuned in to Christian TV for inspiration. As Pentecostalism continues to cater to the seekers who are so very sensitive, we are in danger of become desensitized to the leading of the very Spirit we claim to embrace.
As we lay down palate and brush and leave the studio, let us do so reverently. The picture I paint will be different from all others in the gallery, for it is a work uniquely my own. These acrylics are not fast-drying. The paint is still wet. The portrait will not be completed until closer to the end of my days here on earth. My mind is filled with the spectrum of Spirit-filled saints that have added to my picture. Their love for me and mine for them has caused me to desire to continue this portrait. The love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost, from the first century through the twenty-first, will draw people to the cross of Jesus Christ. It always has. It always will.