I see a number of strengths in the Pentecostal faith tradition. Here are a few of the main ones. Obviously, these strengths aren't limited to Pentecostals nor do all Pentecostal churches necessarily exhibit them.
1. The Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal expression of the Christian faith presents God as someone who is not only known by faith and through the Scriptures but who wants to interact with each believer on a daily basis. Pentecostals teach that God wants a personal and intimate relationship with each believer and that this occurs through prayer (including the use of spiritual language or ‘speaking in tongues’), hearing God’s voice, and ministry to and from other believers. Ministry in Pentecostal churches focuses not on just attending a church service or on hearing a sermon but on allowing the Holy Spirit to move in a person’s life to bring about change and growth.
2. Passionate Worship. Pentecostals enjoy expressing themselves at church gatherings through joyful praise and intimate worship. Voices are raised, hands are lifted up, and there is a sense of celebration and vibrancy to singing times.
3. Evangelistic Fervour. Pentecostals believe that the Spirit has filled and empowered them to be witnesses for Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8) and to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). They are passionate about personal and corporate evangelism as well as church planting and foreign mission work. Compassion for the poor and the needy is also a growing characteristic of Pentecostal churches.
4. Prophecy. Pentecostals believe that God still speaks today – to individuals and churches. This is not at the authoritative level of Scripture but all prophecy is to be taken seriously, tested, then responded to appropriately (1 Thess.5:19-22).
5. Faith for the Miraculous. Pentecostals believe that God still does miracles today, including healing the sick and setting people free from things that hold them back from their full potential in Christ. They pray for God to intervene into human situations bringing about positive change.
6. Cultural Relevance. Most Pentecostals understand that although the message of Christianity and the gospel never changes, the methods and means of communication must change with each new generation in order to remain culturally relevant. Examples of cultural relevance include choice of musical style, focus on youth and children, a more contemporary communication style, contemporary facilities, and the use of technology.
7. Compassion for the Poor and Marginalised. Modern-day Pentecostalism began among people from the lower socio-economic strata of society, including uneducated people and marginalised races. Although, this has changed somewhat in the West, with other church movements and denominations being stronger in this area, it is encouraging to see the more recent emphasis on God’s heart for the poor and needy amongst Pentecostals.
8. Visionary Leadership. Many Pentecostal churches are led by leaders with strong sense of vision and an ability to communicate that vision to motivate people to action. They are willing to take risks to advance the cause of Christ in the world. Many Pentecostal churches are in a pioneering and expansion mode (a focus on “let’s create the future”) rather than a maintenance mode (a focus on “let’s preserve the past”). In Pentecostal churches, authority tends to be vested in specific individuals, such as the senior pastor or leadership team, rather than in formal structures or bureaucratic policies. The pastor is seen as the leader of the church rather than merely an employee. In fact, congregational trust often is placed more in the senior leader than in a specific board of directors, elders or committee.
Tomorrow … Part 3