Pentecost in its purest form is transferable across all models of ministry, Pentecostalism is not. Pentecost is what God did on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecostalism is a narrow human interpretation of the moving of God’s Spirit. The “isms” of ministry have distanced many believers from the very things He wants to do in our midst.
A transferable model of Pentecost can work within any ministry without compromising the power and authority of the Holy Spirit or violating the unique assignment God has given a particular ministry.
In 1985 I was a burned-out young pastor. I wanted out of the ministry. We had gone to Montana several years earlier to plant a new church and we had begun to grow. We had a rented facility and a group of wonderful people, but I was tired and wanted out.
To augment our church income I worked as a pilot at a local airport. I thought I would return to Oregon, get a flying job, and become a faithful member of a local church. Jan and I made a trip to the Portland area where I was offered a job as a pilot flying for a local business.
We returned to Montana to share our decision with the church, pack up ,and leave. Then the words began to come. My brother said, “Garris, that doesn’t sound like God.” A long-time ministry mentor quoted a Psalm that said, the servant watches the hand of the master and only moves when His hand moves. I was jumping the gun.
We settled back into the routine of ministry and decided to not leave. Several months went by and Jan and I traveled to Los Angeles to the International Convention of the Foursquare Church. It was my first time to Angelus Temple. It was like a spiritual Disneyland for me. I wept as I read the history of the Foursquare Church and saw the crutches displayed from the healing ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson.
I don’t remember much from that convention. I do remember John Wimber who spoke in one of the evening sessions. John came out on the platform dressed in white pants and a Hawaiian shirt and said, “I am just a little fat man trying to get to heaven.” I immediately liked him.
John preached that night and uttered one sentence that will stay with me for the rest of my life. John simply said, “Go home and do what’s in the Book.” John meant, “Go home and do what Jesus did.”
When we arrived back home to our church in Montana we did not change anything. We had the same worship team, the same service structure, and the same pastor – me. What changed was an expectancy I brought home that came from hearing Heaven speak to me. Miracles began to take place during worship. Serious diseases were healed. Backs were straightened. Marriages were restored. Forgiveness was granted. God simply walked into our church and began to tell His people that He loved them enough to touch their brokenness.
In some circles of the Church today, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is viewed like a free-spirited uncle who was invited to our last Thanksgiving Dinner and had too much to drink. We are not sure we want to invite him back next year so we plan around him.
On my Twitter account, one person I follow is David Platt, a Southern Baptist pastor. David posted this chilling comment : “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” I wonder how true this might have become for some of us. The Church, birthed in power on the Day of Pentecost, has not been called to be a Rotary or Lions Club, even though these wonderful secular groups do important work in our cities. These groups are not the Church. Much of what is taking place in some corners of the Church today, any service club could do without the Holy Spirit being present. Good works alone will not accomplish God’s plan.
On the Day of Pentecost the entire Church was birthed. Those in attendance that day came to the Upper Room in Acts 2 indwelled by the Spirit. Previous to the Day of Pentecost, in John 20, Jesus had breathed the Spirit into His disciples. These disciples became the first born-again humans to walk upon the face of the earth. These “new creations,” who had the Spirit of God within them as they came to Pentecost, would now be clothed in power as the Spirit fell upon them, and they would take the Gospel to the far corners of the known world.
On the Day of Pentecost the church was given an empowered voice. That empowered voice would transmit the will of heaven upon the earth through the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, which included healing, prophecy, and miracles. This empowered voice of Pentecost would be the vehicle to carry the declarations of heaven into places of disease, suffering and bondage. This voice said, “Be healed,” “Rise up and walk,” or “Come out of him.” The Book of Acts is filled with the supernatural commands of the empowered voice. In fact, the overwhelming message of the voice of the Church throughout Acts was given in the form of commands, not prayers. In Acts they commanded more than they prayed.
The unique voice of each ministry on earth today was empowered on the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago. It will be a wise leader who discovers the sound of that voice and releases it into their unique ministry assignment.
Culture is not opened nor is the Kingdom expanded by our academics, our doctrine, our highly groomed communities of fellowship, outreach ministries, hip websites, great stage props and lighting. Culture is opened and the Kingdom is expanded because of a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit on the frontiers of darkness. As you study the Book of Acts, cultural frontiers were breached and the Kingdom expanded because the Church spoke with an empowered voice and the darkness stepped back.
Community outreach has become a buzz word today. Community outreach is a good thing. The Church is being awakened to this neglected aspect of ministry. As we pursue a fuller expression of our calling, we need to remember that our best attempts at community outreach will only be terminal events unless we are prepared and available for an encounter with the Holy Spirit against a dark spiritual frontier where hell is entrenched. Outreach is a wonderful work for the Church to engage in, but it is only intended to be a platform from which to release a supernatural encounter with the Living God.
How would you validate your ministry? What criteria would you use to make sure you did the same things Jesus did while He walked the earth?
Jesus sent a validation of His ministry back to John the Baptist who was in prison awaiting execution. The event is recorded in Matthew 11: 1-5
“When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. 2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen―5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. ” (NLT)
This is the same John who, on the day of Jesus’ baptism, saw heaven open up and the dove descend upon Jesus. John heard God speak. John saw first-hand the supernatural events that occurred that day and yet he asks, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
John’s question makes no sense. John saw it all. He should have been in a place to never doubt the Lord. But being in prison, whether locked up in a real steel- barred prison cell or a prison of the mind, can cause a person to lose their grip on reality. Jesus knew that in just a matter of days John’s head would be removed from his body and served up on a tray as a macabre party favor. Jesus prepared a response to send back to John to tell him he had not wasted his life and he could now die in peace.
Jesus validated His ministry to John by saying, ““Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen―5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Jesus did not say that He had been painting houses, picking up trash in the community, or running a soup kitchen. These are all wonderful things to do, but they don’t fully validate what He has called His Pentecost-empowered Church to do. Of the six points of ministry validation Jesus sent to John, five were outwardly supernatural in nature. Jesus made these statements to John knowing that you and I would show up centuries later and may need to hear the same thing in order to keep our focus.
Peter said something similar in Acts 2:22, “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders and signs through him, as you well know.” Individual and cultural transformation requires a miraculous encounter with God and that takes place when the power of Pentecost is released through the empowered voice of the Church. If we are seeking a validation or endorsement it is important that we reflect the very nature of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
So, what is the take-away from all of this? The take-away is in three areas.
For the primary ministry leader – make room for Pentecost in your personal life
My ministry coach is Dave Jacobs. Dave’s ministry touches pastors all across the United States. I am blessed to have Dave as part of our church. Dave kindly coaches my calling each month when he sticks a spiritual thermometer into my life to see my level of vocational health. Dave asks good questions.
During my times with Dave and my own interaction with God, I have realized how important it is to create margins in my life. These are margins outside of work, my daily devotional life, my sermon preparation and my family. In these margins I am alone with God without an agenda. My margin time is on Wednesday mornings when I leave my house and hike the trails in the hills above our home.
During my margin time with God I listen for the voice of heaven. I pray in my native tongue and in the tongue of the Spirit. The longer I spend in this margin time the more I understand how to discern God’s voice. We learn to speak in the empowered voice of heaven by listening to the voice of heaven.
Once we hear the word of God for our specific issues, we then have something to say to our family, our leaders and the Church.
For your leadership team – discover the unique language of Pentecost God has assigned to your ministry
It is critical for our primary leadership teams to speak the same language. Language is culture. Make room for the Spirit to speak in your primary leadership gatherings.
My pastor, Roy Hicks, Jr., once told a group of us young-pastors-in-training to never have a meeting of our primary leadership team without making room for the Holy Spirit to speak. He also went on to tell us that a public meeting should be characterized by three things – Word, Worship and the Witness of the Spirit. Many of us have a Word-language and a Worship-language, but we need to develop a Witness-language if we are going to confront darkness and bring freedom to our communities.
In Acts 13 the entire Gentile missionary movement was birthed because these leaders were worshipping and listening together before the Lord. As a result, the Gospel moved out from Jerusalem and touched the world. No gathering, no matter how small, is ever insignificant if we hear the voice of God and act upon what He said to us.
For your public ministry teams -train them how to speak in the empowered voice
The public outreach of our churches that may include our weekly public church service, some form of community outreach ministry like painting houses in town, feeding the poor and all the rest of what we do to be out and among our community, are all gracious platforms from which the empowered voice can speak. It is critical to train these ministry teams how to do their practical ministry assignment with excellence. But this alone is not enough. These public ministries will carry us to the frontiers of darkness where we will have the opportunity to speak and command life into the darkness of imprisoned lives. These encounters are supernatural and require a supernatural ministry empowered by God’s Spirit.
As you train people how to minister, include in the training how to minister with their unique and personal voice of Pentecost. Our daughter, Anna, is a gifted artist who conducts Prophetic Art workshops to help people learn to hear the voice of God. Anna instructs artists, from the stick-figure-only artists to the professional, on how to hear God’s voice and then interpret that voice back into their medium of art. Anna was released into this ministry when a wise professor told her that when the Spirit moves in her life she creates art. Today, people stand before artwork inspired by the Spirit and receive emotional, physical and spiritual healing.
The moving of the Holy Spirit upon believers can appear monolithic if we require that Pentecost be expressed in any limited form. The Kingdom of God is expanding and in that expansion He is raising up new and unique ways for people to hear His voice. Teach your teams to release what will validate the ministry of Christ and endorse His presence in your community.
This kind of leadership takes courage. In the early years of the Foursquare Church, Aimee Semple McPherson took hits from some of the traditional Pentecostal churches on one side and the mainline churches on the other. One side thought she was too cold and the other side thought she was too hot. She remained true to what God had called her to do because early on she discovered the uniquely empowered voice of Pentecost that was assigned to her life. Later that voice initiated a great move of God and birthed the Foursquare Church. Aimee did not allow what she heard from heaven to be high-jacked or re-translated.