There is a growing concern among Pentecostal leaders about the lack of academic education of the faithful. I find it completely unacceptable that many people have such a disregard for the history of the Church. Many times, the odd teachings that we see in ministries across the country is a result of this disregard.
I am not even sure that most the people in our churches could actually tell us the story of the Azusa Street Revival anymore. Many of them were not know who Charles Fox Parham, William Seymour and William Durham even is. In my mind, this is not something that we should accept.
However, I am not just saying we should know and study our heritage. A lot of the crazy preaching we hear that is out of line with scripture is because we fail to study history. The early history is full of examples of heretical ideas that the believers overcame.
When the heresy hunters accuse us of Gnosticism, most of us don’t even know what that even is. As Pentecostal believers, we should make every effort to have knowledge available to us. Having churches of informed believers would only increase the move of the Spirit.
The danger among us
I see it often and when I see it, it is alarming to me. There will be someone at the back of the church or on Facebook make a statement like, “I just believe the bible. That’s it.” I do believe many of the people are sincere in their desire to be biblical but it is downright dangerous on so many levels.
I will give you an example. Matthew 24 and 25 is known as the Oilvet Discourse. It is primarily about the coming fall of the Holy City that happened in 70AD. Because of the lack of historical understanding, some think it is about “I wish we all been ready.” (Sorry, Larry Norman)
There is a duality of fulfillment for that passage but without proper historical and cultural understanding, misinterpretation is very probable. The greater understanding of what the discourse means can be found in the research of many theologians throughout the ages.
If a person’s attitude is “just give me the bible,” they will never really understand what was happening at the Mount of Olives. They will misunderstand what has happening and as a result, there will be some embarrassing eschatology. Does the name Hal Lindsey ring a bell?
One thing that makes me laugh a little is how people use the Sheep and the Goats for fundraisers for American Red Cross and Salvation Army. The context of it has nothing to do with social justice for the poor (It is biblical but not that passage). It was to prepare the disciplines for what would come in the Book of Acts.
These two chapters are just one shiny example why the “just give me bible” is not as smart as it sounds. It won’t stop. There will always been some guy in the foyer of the church with this mentality but it doesn’t make it informed.
More Faith, less heresy
I am not one to throw around the heretic label like candy but there are some serious errors that flow around our churches. Part of this would be a lack of historical understanding. The over-emphasis on Impartation is an example. It is a biblical doctrine but it is also dangerous when not understood in the context of all the scripture and in the history of the Church.
While some would think that understanding those who went before us is about just keeping the errors of doctrine out of the church; there is also a richness of faith to be found in the history books. Much inspiration for the end time harvest and Holy Ghost revival is lost when we don’t hear the stories of victory before us.
One of the best examples of what revival looks like is found in the testimony of the Moravians in the 18th century. I still remember the first time I have read about Count Zinzendorf and the prayer movement that reach the world. The testimony of how a small group of missionaries baptized a third of Jamaica is encouraging.
The more I study the testimonies from the Great Awakenings, Cane Ridge, Azusa Street and others moves of God; the more hungry I become for Holy Ghost revival in our day. If God is still God, He will still do it!
There is a richness of faith found in our history books.
Where to start with Church History?
While I got my education by going to bible school, I would suggest some other options. Most Pentecostals can’t just leave their jobs and homes to go to Springfield or Cleveland; they need opportunities to learn locally.
Berean School of the Bible is a great place to start. It is a solid education program that is part of Global University. You can study theology and doctrine right from home with their system. The class are at your own pace. Most pastors in the Assemblies of God are trained under Berean School of the Bible.
Another option for people wanting actual college education would be doing online or distance education at many of the Pentecostal universities that are present. One of them being Evangel University that has many of the old Central Bible College professors. Lee University also has similar opportunities.
If you are just looking for easy reading to get you going, I highly recommend 2000 years of Charismatic Christianity by Dr. Eddie Hyatt. It is a quick overview of how the spiritual gifts have been working in and through the people of faith since Pentecost. It completely discredits the idea that of restoration movements.
The main thing is just starting to learn. It does not matter if you start something formal or use informal ways to educate yourself. The important thing is that we raise up an informed Pentecostal movement that is full of faith, knowledge, and the Holy Spirit. Knowledge must never replaced the infilling of the Spirit but we can’t use our Pneumatology as an excuse to historical ignorant either.