Seeing the Future by Looking at the Past


A little over one hundred years have passed. Here is what the Christian world is saying today:

According to Christianity Today, twenty-five percent of the world’s Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic with a world growth rate of about 19,000,000 per year. 

C. Peter Wagner in his book Prayer Shield, stated, “The most massive growth of churches is found in Pentecostal/ Charismatic traditions.”

Estimates show that there are between 400 and 600 million Pentecostals worldwide—a half billion or more—not bad for a group that found its humble beginnings in a Bible school classroom.

Philip Jenkins anticipates that by 2050 there will be one billion Pentecostals/Charismatic in the world.

Mark Noll said the 21st century will belong to the Pentecostals not only in religion but in all other areas of life as well.

Global Pentecostalism is “the new face of global Christian missions.” Surely, this is ample reason to trace our roots and perform exegetical and hermeneutical analysis to ensure we are on the right track and stay there.

Lloyd Oglivie states my every-day quest, and maybe yours as well: “The greatest longing in the church today, stated both directly and indirectly, is the quest for something more than dull religion. People are in need of the intimacy, inspiration and impelling power of the Holy Spirit…It is impossible to live the Christian life without the indwelling Spirit. Courageous discipleship in the crisis of society cannot be accomplished without the guidance and enabling energy of supernatural power. The church today, like the disciples in the Upper Room, is waiting on the edge of a miracle (1983, 55-56).

Back-tracking to the First Day

The first day of the twentieth century marked the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement. That evening Agnes Ozman received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A few days later, Charles Parham, his wife, and twelve of his students received their personal Pentecost. Parham had been leading a small group of students into a study of the Acts of Apostles. They started out studying Acts, but ended up living it. The doctrine of the first church was restored as a step was made toward the Book of Acts.

Throughout the last century, the Pentecostal movement has exploded. Never has a group grown more rapidly than the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. As we wade ankle-deep into the twenty-first century, God’s army continues to sweep across the globe undaunted by worldliness and modernistic thinking, still burning with the fire ignited at Pentecost. I applaud the Pentecostal movement of the past and look forward to greater things from God and His church. I’m glad to be part!

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photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC via photo pin cc

Two Percent Makes a Difference

The local church walked in to visit the family doctor for a spiritual check-up. The doctor said, “There is good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?”

The local church responded, “Let’s get the bad news over first.”

The bad news:

Historically the trend has been for a church denomination to drift or move away from their foundational doctrines over time. Just a two percent decline in church health causes a steady, slow, sure decline.

John Trent, author of Heart Shift, and a professional counselor, tells of a plane trip where he sat beside a NASA petroleum engineer. He took advantage of the opportunity to ask the missile scientist, “How many degrees can a space rocket be off before it becomes a huge problem? Could it be two degrees off?”

The man pulled out his calculator and started punching in numbers. “To be two degrees off from when you blast off, and taking into consideration the time and distance traveled, you’ll miss not only your point of orbital entry, but you’ll miss the moon by 11,121 miles.”

Trent goes on to say, “Just be two degrees off from the right heart attitude, add in enough time and distance, and an entire church can end up miles from God’s heart.”

John Wesley once said, “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist…But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having a form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

The Charisma magazine (October 1993) quoted the Assemblies of God general superintendent as saying, “We might be Pentecostal in doctrine but we’re not Pentecostal in experience.”

“Too many people,” George Wood said (in the same meeting), “are leaving our churches unchanged, unmoved, unsaved, unfilled, unsanctified and unmotivated to turn their heart and will over to God completely. We need a holy fire which sets aside business as usual in the church until Jesus comes.”

Timothy Beougher and Alvin Reid in Evangelism for a Changing World cautioned, “When adenomination’s theology changes, that change almost always begins in the seminaries that train its leaders.” It is paramount that we as Bible school educators take special note of what was just stated. Many colleges started out with the objective of teaching God’s Word but have strayed far from that. God forbid that this ever happens in our apostolic Bible schools.

Just a two degree shift in doctrine and convictions can cause change for the worse, pulling the church away from God.

The local church was devastated, “Well, that is gloomy news! I think I would like the good news!”

The good news:

A two degree shift toward correct doctrine and appropriate convictions can bring a church closer to God. Trent adds, “Even small shifts in a positive direction could move a person from ruin to renewal.”

Yes, churches drift. Churches die. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A two percent positive shift in church health has amazing, salvaging, eternal impact.

H. B. London, Jr. and Neil Wiseman in The Shepherd’s Covenant for Pastors said, “One social scientist recently expressed…the quality of a whole culture can be changed if just two percent of the population has a new vision of what needs to be done and starts doing it.”

I want to be part of that two percent, firmly focused on God’s Word, living it daily, and proclaiming the whole gospel to the whole world. A small percentage can make a large difference. We can reverse trends. We can upsurge church health.

Two percent makes the difference.

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