One Mission : Catching up with Pentecostal Church of God?
I am Pentecostal. I am not ashamed to say so but there is so many movements out there that it is hard to keep track of them all. One of the many is the Pentecostal Church of God that used to be based in Joplin, Missouri.
The movement started first in Chicago shortly after the Assemblies of God (that I am part of) in 1919 but moved to Iowa a few years later. A decade later they moved again to Kansas City and then to Joplin, Missouri where they remained for the longest of anywhere until about five years ago moving to Bedford, Texas just outside of Dallas. As I said, they are somewhat hard to follow as they keep moving around.
It seems that the movement has been slowly dying over the last generation and this does not come as a surprise to me as many of the people in the Pentecostal Church of God that I know are quite legalistic. They are Pentecostal in doctrine but not as much as experience.
They have about 4,000 churches around the world and a total of about 600,000 members. Most of these churches are 100 members or less. Few of the churches seem to be able to even support having a full time pastor these days. These only hurts the members, ultimately.
Pentecostal Church of God vs. Assemblies of God
PCG really came out of people that didn’t want to be part of the Assemblies of God so they are theologically very close but over time, it seems there is at least two differences in how they view things. At the very least, there is a difference in wording. Let’s take a look at the statements.
The Bible teaches that without holiness no man can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We believe in the doctrine of sanctification as a definite, yet progressive, work of grace, commencing at the time of regeneration and continuing until the consummation of salvation.
While there is many different views on this and some of them get very interesting like the extreme Wesleyan position of the Church of God of Prophecy and to the a lesser degree Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). The Pentecostal Church of God seems to believe that you are sanctified as a work of grace at salvation and it never stops until you die or until we are caught up to be with the Lord in the air!
Azusa Report holds that when are you saved, you are sanctified, justified and glorified. The blood of Jesus has set you free from death, hell and the grave. There is nothing you can do to be more holy. As far as manifestation of holiness (living a righteous life), that is impossible to do without the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As far as the Assemblies of God,
Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God.Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by the faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit.
Another difference, at least in wording is about divine healing. There was a time that this doctrine was something Pentecostal would not only divide over, they would die for. Those days seems to be over and people just think healing is a “good idea.” However, true Pentecostals like Azusa Report’s readership still believe that divine healing is the children’s bread and it is not a secondary issue for us in the coming revival.
What does the Pentecostal Church of God believe?
Healing is for the physical ills of the human body and is wrought by the power of God, through the prayer of faith, and by the laying on of hands (Mark 16:18; James 5:14, 15). It is provided for in the atonement of Christ and is available to all who truly believe.
From what I have read and know from people in the Pentecostal Church of God, they believe that God does heal and and it is provided for by the blood of Jesus but it is not part of the gospel message itself. Many hold to this view that the Holy Spirit will manifest healing but is not critical to the presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, if many in the Assemblies of God that would theologically disagree with this view on paper actually practice this view in their Ecclesiology. They would never admit they don’t expect God to heal people but they really don’t. I do find what the PCG believes to be close to what people in the pews understand in reality.
As for the Assemblies of God, we believe,
Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.
When you look at these two statements, you see several major differences. One of them believe that secondary to the gospel while the other holds it is an integral part of the gospel. The other major difference between them is the PCG believes that healing is available to all who believe while the Assemblies hold it is the privilege of the believer. Things can be available to you but you do not have the authority to possess; privilege changes that. Healing is not possible for the believer; it is their right as a child of God to be healed.
Revival or death: Response to Dr. Wayman Ming Jr.
For those who don’t know who Wayman Ming Jr is, he is not just some hip pastor trying to be seeker sensitive or a missional type. He is also the General Bishop for the Pentecostal Church of God. He also has been touched by the similar Assemblies as he has received his doctorate from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
He believed the Lord has given him the clear call moving forward,
Become a voice for One Mission–One Movement and express the prophetic utterance that the PCG started as a missional movement in 1919, and must live again as a missional movement in 2019.
In the Winter 2018 edition of Pentecostal Messenger, he penned an official article called One Mission One Movement. In it, he tries to lay the foundation for reviving the otherwise dying Pentecostal Church of God with a reminder of their own history.
Dr. Ming points out that PCG started….
- As the Pentecostal Assemblies of God
- Pentecostal Herald was the official paper and was evangelistic in nature
- Delegates all have a voice
- Any doctrine that divided was viewed as of “no profit.”
- Open arms to other Pentecostals
- Funds were set aside for home missions and church planting
- Strong emphasis on foreign missions
- Ephesians 4:3 was the core of the movement.
Throughout the reading, he tries to make the case for the churches, pastors and the people of the churches to get back to the core values that made the movement grow a century ago. He states that focusing on church planting and being missional in our communities is the future of the Pentecostal Church of God for the what he called the “First Chapter of a 2nd Century PCG.”
What really grabs my attention to hear a denominational head to make such a clear call to get back to the roots of their fellowship. It is one thing for Azusa Report to be a “voice in the wilderness” crying out for a return to Pentecost and get back to Pentecostal power without the legalism; it is another for a executive director to do it in so many words. Yes, it is watered down much more that you would read on this website but he is reaching a different crowd.
Many churches and organizations have developed mission statements and rightly so, but what I am suggesting is that we are seeking to write a mission statement but rather live a mission statement.
While just words and I have heard many words preached like this in Pentecostal circles for as long as I can remember; it is something to a vision or a dream for the people of the Pentecostal Church of God. He is calling for every church under his leadership to live out the mission; not just quote it.
To be honest with you, I am about sick of hearing church talk about mission statement that condemn everything they are actually doing. They say they want to win the lost but every ministry they have operates in a way that push away the lost, not attract them. Pastors who claim they want to see more of the prophetic but look for their smallest reason to shut down any prophetic utterance. They want to say a statement but not live it.
Denomination vs movement
Many years ago, I was in a closed meeting with a few dozen leaders in Toronto where John Arnott laid down what he believed to be a fork in the road. He said each ministry would move towards revival and ultimately reformation or they would move toward institutional religion. This was a very popular theme around that time as the moves of God in Toronto, Pensacola, Smithton and other places were winding down.
Movement is a catchy word. It is a group of people working together to advance their shared ideals. It sounds good. It preaches good. It looks good on paper. However, how does it work out when fleshed out? That is really where the rubber meets the road and that is where I am not sure the Pentecostal Church of God is really ready for that discussion that we heard from Arnott that cold January night a decade ago.
In many ways, a lot of the Pentecostal groups are in a race to be the next Methodist church: a dead denomination that has amazing revival stories in the history books. After all, John Wesley in his heyday would put many of us to shame. The Assemblies of God, the Church of God, and the Pentecostal Church of God could all be next to be the dead church that God use to move in just like the Methodists.
From my vantage’s point, every Pentecostal fellowship has one of three options: Holy Ghost revival, seeker sensitive apostasy, or lifeless traditions of men. The sad thing is many do not know what the difference between them is today. I have seen churches have emotional and cultural encounters and call that “Holy Ghost revival.” The only biblical hope for any Pentecostal group is nation shaking revival that all of the movements desperately need.
While it seems that the PCG is a more serious position that the others and could face some harsh realities much quicker; the truth is all Pentecostal churches are going to to have to address this sooner to later. Are they going to shake off the traditions of Pentecostalism, the culture of “church,” and say, “If he is still God, He still does it!” The harsh truth is many Pentecostal churches are dying because they are full of old people who want the old Pentecostal Ecclesiology.
Movement requires freshness of vision and clarity and I am not sure many in our churches are willing to give up their “old time religion” to get it. Movements aren’t formed around Send it on down and I’ll fly away. Fresh Pentecost won’t be prophetic words in only King James English. Revival doesn’t start around the potluck table that is central to many Pentecostal churches. Are we ready to lay those on the altar for true Holy Ghost revival?
Applying Leviticus 6 to Pentecostals?
In the Torah, Moses gave the Israelites the guidelines that govern them. One of them is how to do burnt offerings. There is something in here that many Pentecostals need to hear but I am not sure they want to hear. This is critical for all of us, but especially the Pentecostal Church of God as they move forward to return to the vision for revival.
In fives verses, Moses tells the people three times to never let the fire on the altar go out. If he is going out of his way to place emphasis on keeping the flame burning to the point of repeating himself over and over; we need to understand how important this must be.
In Leviticus 6:10-12, the priest are told to go remove the ashes from the fire often and to take them outside the camp. This is critical for the PCG at this point in history. In order for them to keep the flame of revival burning in their churches, the leadership must remove the ashes from the fire from previous touches from the Holy Spirit. They can’t live on what God did for them in the aftermath of Azusa Street.
As I said, the roadmap for the Pentecostal Church of God is just more critical than it is for the Assemblies of God and Church of God only because of size. They do not have the numbers to make them “look” safe when churches are just as dead inside as the next. For more about that, see my thoughts on some numbers Darrin Rodgers released here.