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. Continue reading Danger among us : How lack of knowledge of Church history is bad for Pentecostals
One of the people I listen to is Darrin Rodgers. He is the general editor of Heritage Magazine, the mouthpiece of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri. He is one of the few Pentecostal historians that I take seriously. They have in one hand the archives of Pentecostal history and in other prophecies of the coming end time harvest.
In the From the Editor article in Heritage 2014, he tries to take the case that the Assemblies of God is on the verge of a great revival. He uses some numbers from what some churches looked like in 1989, a year after Jimmy Swaggart happened, compared to 2013.
Before we look at some of what is happening, let’s be honest about something: a lot of people in the pews does not mean church growth. The success of a congregation is based on their sending capacity; not their seating capacity. It is no secret that the Assemblies of God has some rather large churches and many other megachurches are led by people trained up in our bible colleges.
As we go deep into what Darrin is giving us, there is some understanding that we need to grasp to answer the question: Does the Assemblies of God just want to grow in numbers or have true revival in our churches? As you will see, it is not as cookie cutter as some would think it is.
Darrin Rodgers & AG Stats
Let’s look at some good things, first. The article does say that the Assemblies is growing at .3% faster than the population of the United States itself is. This means if a town of a thousand (common in the Assemblies) goes by 2% over a decade, the local Assembly of God will go by 23 new people over the same time frame.
Now, according to the data that Darrin Rodgers gathered about the Assemblies of God (which I assume came from official district offices), there is some alarming trends that people are just overlooking because they send the spikes in attendance which is the highest of any major evangelical fellowship.
From 1989 to 2013, The denomination has grown over 46% and there was even a percent growth between 2012 and 2013. People are looking at these numbers and doing victory laps. The problem with this is the rest of the numbers that Darrin Rodgers have released to the public.
According to the data, churches claim an amazing 81% increase in conversion (What define conversion?) and 59% more people are following the Lord in water baptism. We even have a 42% increase in church membership in local expressions of the Assemblies of God.
In the same time range, people giving a testimony of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of praying in tongues increased by 17%. It seems that we are not becoming as focused on being people of Pentecost as we are being Pentecostal people.
Another number that is alarming to me is that we have only see a little under 20% more credentialed ministers to pastor and to lead the 81% rise in decisions.
Church Growth or Holy Revival?
Let’s get real about something, shall we? There has been a lot of people praying the “sinner’s prayer” but never really getting converted. If we was really leading them in true conversion and training them to walk out their salvation; we would not see the huge gaps in some of these numbers.
I am not saying that everyone that prays with a pastor is a false convert. However, I am going to say that many are and who knows how many duplicate converts are in these numbers from people who just think they need to get “saved” every service.
There is a clear disconnect between people making a decision for Christ at a service (conversions) and following the Lord in Baptism of water, Holy Spirit, and becoming voting members of the Assembly of God they attend.
One thing that should be a very serious concern is that 3 in 4 of these conversions (or decisions) is not receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. If we are saying we are seeing 81% growth in decisions but 17% growth in seeing baptized in the Holy Spirit; something is seriously wrong with our preaching and our altar ministries.
As we look deeper, we see that more people are becoming members than are claimed be filled with the Holy Spirit. This should be something that every district official needs to address! It is expected of anyone in the Assemblies of God at any level of affiliation to be baptized in the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:1-4.
Why does it matter to Pentecostals?
As we move closer to the end time harvest, it is going to be more painful clear who is playing games with God, who is flirting with Christianity to feel good about themselves and who is committed to revival by life or by death.
The one who are just in the pews to do the “Sunday thing” or become it makes them a better person will be offended when as we move closer to the catching up of the saints. As we see the greatest harvest known to humanity; we will see the greatest anger of hell as well.
People who are not baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16) will not make it in the coming days and it this is quite serious. The Assemblies of God seems to quite good at leading people to Calvary but forget to take them over to the Upper Room afterwards.
I want to make no mistake in what I am saying. I will stand before God for what I write. I believe firmly that Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not required for salvation. However, I believe it is just one step away in importance. I would even put more focus on being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues than baptized in water.
The Assemblies of God needs more that just big churches. We need fiery flames of fires in our churches that are epic centers for regional revival!
Most of us know the names like William Seymour and Charles Fox Parham but another leader that you might not know about is a man by the name of William Durham. Continue reading William Durham and the impact on Pentecostalism
I was looking through my Kindle this morning and found an old book that I have that is nothing but the teaching of Smith Wigglesworth. I remember when I was at Central Bible College in Springfield, I would read these messages every morning after reading my bible. It was read a chapter of the gospels, a chapter of Acts and a chapter of Smith Wigglesworth. It was a great system to have. Continue reading Smith Wigglesworth & living Pentecostal!
One things that grieves me about Pentecostals is we don’t want the Holy Spirit in our ministries. We want to talk about Him and have doctrines about Him but we do not Him. The days of guys like A.A. Allen and Jack Coe are long gone. Pentecostal is a theological position, not the awakening it was a century ago.
As a student of church history, this grieves my heart. I know that revival is our heart beat as a movement but I also realize that some Pentecostals are happy with good music from Hillsongs, a great hour of their pastor’s opinion, and hearing about what God did a generation ago at a Kathleen Kulnman meetings. Just remember, Irseal loved their dead prophets too.
I remember growing up hearing the stories of the great healing revival on the early 1950’s. God moved through people like A.A. Allen. He was just a simple man with said yes to the call of the Holy Spirit to invade this world with the power of God. He answered the commission to bring heaven to earth. I do not believe that A.A. Allen was anyone special, have a stronger anointing or have a unique set of spiritual gifts. I believe he just was willing to say “Here I am, Send me!”
A.A. Allen was a man of the Holy Spirit
Recently, I downloaded again his old book, Visitation of God. It is a great book and I highly recommend that any one who wants to used by God should grab it and read it. In fact, they should read again after reading it. It is that good.
The power of the Holy Ghost may be readily likened to the power of electricity. When one is filled with the Spirit, it is as though he has had his house wired, and established connection with the “power house”. Many people use electricity for years just to provide light! They never take advantage of the great possibilities that are available through using the appliances which electricity will operate. The gifts of the Spirit may be likened to the appliances. As new gifts are added more work can be done, with greater ease. The power has not changed, but it is made more effective. God never intended to STOP when he had filled his people with the Spirit. This is just the beginning. “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” I Cor. 12:31. This, I found, is the path to greater accomplishment for God.
This is one of the best definition of the baptism of the Holy Spirit I have seen in a while. The power is there if you are filled and you can just add anointings to that power. It is the will of God that you be filled with His Spirit to the point that every spiritual gift flows through you as needed when needed. A.A. Allen believed that and I believe that as well.
Most Pentecostals are filled with the Holy Spirit seems to be cool with just using it to light up a church meeting with tongues and interpretation a few times a year. They never plug into the television (creativity) or use the oven (transformation). They are happy with their light bulbs and Christmas lights in December.
Wasn’t AA Allen a drunk?
I know this does not sit well with our legalistic “holiness” people in the Pentecostal movement, but yes AA Allen was known to have problems with the bottle. Guess what? God still used him despite his own struggles. We do not have to be perfect to be used by God. Pentecostal history is full of people who didn’t match up to the legalist’s list of “must haves” but they changed the world. We seem to forget the bible is full of screwups that had all type of flaws. Only Heaven knows what we would do if Elijah, John the Baptist and Stephen walked in our churches!
The fact that AA Allen was anointed but still had issues with drinking does not bother me at all. I realize that when people are anointed, they are anointed. I also realize when they are not, they are not at all. It is like a prophet and their opinion. Just because they are prophetic does not mean their opinion of everything spiritual is the view of Heaven. Same thing goes for the anointing.
I have seen some of the most broken people do some of the most amazing things for God. I have seen a man in the middle of a divorce lead a revival that went around the world and was aired on international television for weeks. I have seen a prophet that was actively involved in a homosexual relationship give detailed words of knowledge. Being anointed is not being perfect. In fact, some of the most anointed people I know are also some of the most broken people I know as well.
Tapping into God’s power
The power of the Holy Spirit and all the anointing (gifts) that come with it are for you and they are through you. They will empower you to be the agent of transformation to the world around us. However, we are expected, even commanded to “desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy.” If we are told to desire the gift of prophecy, it must be for everyone, not just a select few. Right?
One bad teaching in the Pentecostal Church today is that Tom has a prophetic gift and Jane has a healing gift while John has a tongue gift. If there a man that is dying with cancer, he doesn’t need to find Jane to pray for him. Tom can do it too! The Holy Spirit lives in us, His anointing is on us, and because He is the giver of the gifts; we can operate in any gift at any time as needed for the challenge in front of us.
Everything that it is in heaven is also in you. The Kingdom of God is in you and it wants to manifest itself through you to a dying and lost world.
A lot of pastors talk a lot about community. We hear about it. We talk about it. We talk more about it but we miss one very important truth: it is communion, not community that drives the supernatural in our midst. The Bride of Christ is not your local YMCA or 4-H group.
I understand why pastors want to talk about it, I do. It is to their benefit to make sure people are connected. The more people who connect to your vision, the larger the offerings. Pastors seeing community as a way to live a better quality of life for themselves. Yes, pastors are just as selfish as everyone else.
In my study of history of Christianity, I have never found a revival that broke out by having lattes at Starbucks together and “doing life together.” The closest example would be the Moravians in the 1720’s. However, a closer look shows is much less about fellowship and just a group of people having similar but personal touches of the Holy Spirit.
A look at Pentecostal history tells that we have never seen a revival come from community. Azusa Street did not have it. Foursquare and Apostolic Faith didn’t either. The Latter Rain revival and the Voice of Healing did not see it, either. The same testimony would be true for Charismatic renewal and more recently the Toronto Blessing and Brownsville Revival. It has no bearing on revival whatsoever.
Not once did people gather to open the bible sipping on their lattes from Parena Bread and the Holy Spirit showed up and they started have licks of fire on their tongues like in Acts 2.
If not community, what is the key to revival?
It has always been communion with the Holy Spirit. William Seymour was not known for his hugs but he was known for putting his head in an egg crate and crying “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” The Latter Rain revival started the same way. Even Brownsville started as a response to eighteen months of deep communion with the Holy Spirit. It is the pattern we see.
Smith Wigglesworth launched his worldwide ministry is response to ten days of communion with the Spirit. He locked them himself in a room and went to bliss with the Spirit. AA Allen had the same story as well.
The pattern is they have communion with the Spirit and because of that, the culture of heaven overflow through them to the broken and dying world around them. They live and base ministry on bringing heaven to earth and living the words of Christ, “On Earth as it is in heaven.”
These guys were not the most social people on earth but they raised the dead, they healed the sick, they cast out devils and they preached with signs and wonders. A.A. Allen was known for even avoiding discussion with people at times. He are no social lite but the miracles he saw was out of this world.
If you want to change the world, you won’t do it going to the community baseball game for the church. It will be in the secret place contending for revival.
Is community anti-revival?
Not really. It can kill a revival faster than anything but it doesn’t have to be anti-revival. If it happens organically, it will not make the Holy Spirit “pack up and go home.” The keyword here is organic. In my experience, pastors struggle with having faith that is organically made.
When they made community a focus and not the presence of the Holy Spirit, revival is over. It might last a few more weeks but the Holy Spirit will be leaving with the Presence quickly. He will not take second place to home groups and coffee shops. He just won’t. He will find someone who want communion first.
Organic community where people are personally in pursuit of the Kingdom in their lives and the presence of the Holy Spirit is where God is honored.
The attempts of pastors to make it happen in their own efforts and by manilipation and guilt tactics is what grieves the Holy Spirit.
How do I know it grieves the Holy Spirit? The same greek word for “Quench Not the Spirit” is used again in Matthew 25:1-13 that is all about communion with the Holy Spirit. When we care more about community, the Spirit is grieved.
When we think that being the Bride of Christ is about us, we have miss the whole point. The Bride exist for the Bridegroom, not herself!
This problem is as old as the gospel
In Luke, we read about a story of two sisters; one was praised and the other was confronted. One day, Jesus came to their house and one of them was busying getting everything ready for everyone to have community and probably a feast.
The other sister was smarter. She did not care about community or even the culture she lived in. All she cared was she wanted to worship the Lord. It says she sit there and did not get up for anything. She was locked on the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The community focused sister was not happy and ask Jesus to tell her to help her so they could have community with other people following Christ. There are preparations needed to host people to have fellowship, after all.
Jesus respond and told her that the sister at her feet was right where she should be and if she was smart, she would quit worrying about the cake in the oven and all this community business so she could join. Worship and communion is what really matters. It is what draws the masses to Christ.
This is one thing I love about Todd Bentley. He would just sit at the feet of Jesus. He didn’t care if he was on national television. He wanted the presence of God. He would soak in the glory of the Lord every night.
People on their way to sell drugs would be draw to the meetings and they got radically saved. It was not the preaching that delivered them; it was the presence of the Lord doing it.
Communion with the Holy Spirit works!