Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, but also the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Even more deeply, it is the day when God the Father’s mighty acts are spoken in every known language. I presume from what follows that this includes the Act of God in Jesus. Thus Pentecost is a Trinitarian event: The Father’s intention is heard in the Son’s actions, transmitted by the Spirit’s translations through a church’s proclamations to reach all nations for the worlds reclamation.
But Pentecostal has come to mean primarily the Spirit’s Baptism of speaking in tongues. Some may include other signs and wonders of the Spirit. This is too thin of a piece of the pie. Additionally, it makes Pentecost about the “individual” being given a “power,” that one possess or are possessed by. It misses the Spirit’s work in creating a Diverse Unity of a People empowered to be the Body of Christ. Tongues is not the problem, it is the vasectomy that we create when “our experience” is focal and cut off from the work of God in giving life through the gifts for the world.
Specific individuals cannot have an experience that is from the Spirit alone. All is gifted from the Father of Jesus. Giving our attention and adoration to the Spirit alone we are missing the wider mode of sharing God’s mission. Specifically seeking the gifts engages one in spiritual self-pleasure that is not malicious, but is misplaced. God gives us God, not gifts for our private use.
If natural theology is the mythological move of conceiving of God from our interpretation of what is good and beautiful to us in the world, then using the gifts of God to feeling spiritual attainment is a form of natural theology as well. This focus on “my growth or my worship” has taken experience and made the Spirit, cut off from the Son and Father, a spa treatment for enjoyment.
Pentecostal theology needs to affirm all the gifts of God as facilitating the life of all three Persons of the Trinity. The Gift of the Spirit is from the Gift of the Son, whose body we are and we continue His ministry by the same Spirit. The Son is the Gift of the Father who sent this Son to reclaim the world as an act of Covenant Grace—we are all gifted by the Father through the Son who is made present and active by the Spirit, who works through us as needs be, to fulfill the Mission of God.
Can we have “prayer language,” abandoning ourselves to the groaning of the Spirit on our behalf when we have no words (Romans 8)? Absolutely, we can always affirm that connecting to God is a mystery beyond our control and we are best when yielding to the foolishness. We can give up all our abilities and inabilities for God’s use and connection. However, we cannot expect all others to share our form of foolishness. Every art form and service offered is a prayer language that outfits a person to express the inexpressible in forms inadequate, yet offered in humility to serve the Kingdom.
I am a Pentecostal if by that we can mean that the day of Pentecost was an in-breaking event in which we are still sharing. It was an event affirming that God still speaks to the world in the language of the people. God validates every culture by using their language, but speaks His message to them in that language, rather than accommodating to their gods or blessing a nationalism that enlists God to be their motto or approve their highest ideals without having listened to God. If Pentecostal can mean that we let the old and the young speak, males and females minister, and people of all economic classed be empowered to be the Body of Christ, then I am in.
What is excluded is all personality worship, experience for the sake of the individual’s self-growth, thinking we are better than everyone else, and requiring that miracles are the only thing that we can pray for. Pentecost explodes into the world to break down barriers and pride.
What is included is a life of humility, sharing in God’s mission as those who believe God is present and active as Father, Son, and Spirit—all three at work in caring for believers and not-yet believers alike. It involves being creative and caring as the Spirit produces fruit in us that reflects the overwhelming love flowing from the life of the Father. Let the gifts flow, but as a humble releasing of our pride to let God’s lead prompt us. We need to be people of prayer who, like Jesus, make sinners and tax collectors want to be around us, not run like they just stumbled on Christian TV and are in shock from the show.
I want Pentecost back, and so does God. Pentecostals should not be a separated group; they need the whole Trinity and community of the church. The rest of Christians, who are embarrassed by Pentecostals, deeply need the life of the Spirit in addition to Jesus and the Father. We all need a revival, but not just a Spirit revival, we need to rediscover and reorient the whole church within the life and ministry of the Triune God. Then we will be revived as a people who are a fruitful community, who walk with a Present and Active God, and who refuse to give any part or point of Scripture to one group to roost upon.
I am a Pentecostal, an Acts 2 Pentecostal. I love those other Pentecostals, but wish for a re-grounding of Pentecost in the events of that day, reawakening believers to the Acts 2 text that gives a rich God-human drama of engagement and transformation. May the Yes of the Spirit bring a No to all that distracts from the kind of In-breaking event that fulfills prediction, creates connection, and catapults the church into being a vitalized community of worship, support, learning, and good-news bearers.
Pentecost, like Christmas, is the intersection of God and humanity with God as the Gift, but we have come to love the wrapping paper. Pentecost, the fiftieth day, should be like Jubilee, the fiftieth year, a way of being that marks the fulfillment of restoration, forgiveness, and a people made free by Grace. We need a Pentecostal Jubilee to reset the order of things so that it is fulfilled in our day within the Triune Pentecost.