Posts Tagged ‘Pentecostal Movement’
When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God. My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church. We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening. Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.
In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG. Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name. Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church. I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least. I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.
Fast forward to today. In my city there are about 10 AG churches. Only two have the AG name. COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name. This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors. Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”
Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular. Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names. Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in. I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.
First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with. There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL. Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.” The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over. This was the Rick Warren stream. Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God. Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches. I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles. Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did. They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.
Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology. When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches. Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching. I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost. Pentecostal theology was vital. I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.” At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized. When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost. The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.
Fast forward to today. Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all. In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs. I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter. He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church. Where does this come from? Rick Warren!
I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church. What did he do? In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings. This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost. Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant. The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives). Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church. They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth. Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray). In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks. At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s? He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.” The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to. Theology is not the issue. Prayer and preaching is not the issue. Pragmatism is.
Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God. I have no dog in the fight. I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers. I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time. I was there. I am thankful I am not now. The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense. Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door. My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car. All gimmicks designed to get people in the door. Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.” Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized. Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church. And my friend has one goal: numbers. It’s all about the growth. His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.
Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley. Why? Because they were not Pentecostals! Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days. The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.
Some see all of this “unity” as good. I don’t. Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology. In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal. I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal. What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel. I see unity around methods. John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology. I agree. The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches. Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place. It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.
There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology. The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21). Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19). Unity in the local church must be around theology. We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs. Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction. This is why we need the church. The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16). Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).
The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences. I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time. We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living. Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles. He would teach theology and how to put it into practice. For example, Ephesians is six chapters. The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature. The last three are application in nature. Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst. This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel. Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost. Salvation is gone. The Lordship of Jesus is robbed. Life is hopeless.
My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ. Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine. Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5). Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I want all this for myself and the church of God.
May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!
The Fire Bible was the first study Bible I ever owned. It was called the Full Life Study Bible in those days (early 1990’s). It changed its name to the Life in the Spirit Study Bible and now is the Fire Bible.
The Fire Bible was originally published by Zondervan and was found in the NIV and KJV. I had the NIV. However, over the years my theology changed as well as my Bible translation. I now use the ESV for most of my Bible reading and study. I was thrilled then to see the Fire Bible come out in the ESV.
The Fire Bible is a classical Pentecostal study Bible. The notes are focused on four cardinal doctrines of the Pentecostal movement:
- Jesus Saves (Salvation)
- Jesus Baptizes in the Spirit (Subsequent to Salvation)
- Jesus Heals (Divine Healing)
- Jesus is Coming Again (Jesus’ Second Coming)
These four doctrines are emphasized in the Fire Bible. The notes reflect these doctrines.
The layout of the ESV Fire Bible is impressive. The biblical text is double columned with cross references on the side. This Bible is easy to read without ghosting (where you can see the writing on the other page coming through to the page you are reading). The leather is well done (mine is black genuine leather and is very nice). The paper is not as quality as a Cambridge Bible but is good. I don’t write in my Bibles but this Bible does not have much space for notes.
The commentary is classical Pentecostal as I mentioned above. The view of salvation is Arminian. The view of end times is premillennial with a pre tribulation rapture. While this Bible emphasizes divine healing, the article on healing is clear that doctors are good and needed. Of course, the view of the Holy Spirit is a Pentecostal view with all spiritual gifts available today.
While I am not 100% on board with every note (for example I am post millennial), the notes are solid. What I appreciate is that the notes have a Pentecostal feel to them. Having grown up in the Pentecostal movement and was saved in a Pentecostal church, I know that doctrine does matter but experience flows from the biblical text. This study Bible emphasizes that aspect with a focus on sound doctrine but also upon living the biblical life. Christianity is not merely doctrine but is a life.
I recommend this study Bible. Even if you are not a Pentecostal (say a Wesleyan), this study Bible is useful. The commentary is soundly conservative (for example this study Bible has only one writer of Isaiah). As an Arminian, this is the only Arminian study Bible I am aware of on the market at this time (December 2015). I appreciated the articles on salvation that are clearly Arminian.
The Assemblies of God is the denomination that I was saved in and I served for over 10 years while in the “ministry” (I place this in brackets because I am still in the ministry as I serve the Lord while driving a truck for a living and seeking to glorify Christ through that). The Assemblies of God (AG hereafter) have a special place in my heart and in my prayers.
Historically, the AG’s have been an Arminian fellowship. As a boy, I was taught early on in Sunday School at our AG church that we were not Calvinists and most of it centered in my mind on the doctrine of eternal security. In fact, after I was saved, for about three years, I honestly thought the entire Arminian-Calvinist debate was over the issue of “once saved, always saved.” This was the doctrine that I believed was at the heart of Calvinism. Of course, I know better now.
The AG’s preached hard against “once saved, always saved” but never taught me much about Arminianism nor about Calvinism. I honestly never heard the terms even after being saved in our AG church. While our pastor preached the Word of God, I remember him mentioning Calvinism only once and it had to do with predestination. Our church focused more on the Pentecostal aspects and upon the end times. While our church preached salvation, the doctrine of salvation as it related to Arminianism or Calvinism was not touched. I also remember one Pentecostal pastor mentioning his Arminianism during a watch night service of all places. That is it.
In my own times as an AG youth pastor and then pastor, I rarely touched the issue myself. By the time I started this blog, I had left the church. My family has attended a few AG churches over the years and I have known many AG pastors but I have yet to hear them speak of Arminianism or Calvinism. I know of one pastor who left the AG’s over the issue as he became a charismatic Reformed Baptist (that I didn’t know existed till he left).
In my own experience, the AG’s were Arminian though they did not teach it per se. My own youth pastor gave me books to read covering AG doctrine when I was first saved and I still have them. Their theology is clearly Arminian in soteriology. The official systematic theology text used by the AG’s (and edited by the late Stanley Horton) rejects Calvinism while trying to maintain an in-between over Arminianism. I am not sure why. The AG’s have long held to Arminian views regarding the work of Christ (unlimited atonement) and have rejected unconditional election as well as perseverance of the saints.
In the latest position paper published by the AG’s, the General Council (the core leaders of the AG’s) seek to reject Reformed theology while seeking not to be labeled Arminian. At least that is how I read it. While they acknowledge their Arminian roots, they don’t seem to take a stand for one against the other.
What I wish the AG’s would do is just come out in favor of Arminianism. This would be no shock to those of us who are familiar with the AG’s nor would it create waves in the Bible colleges. In fact, many would be grateful to know where the AG’s have stood on these issues. Many younger pastors in the AG’s have been influenced by Calvinists such as Piper, MacArthur, and Wayne Grudem (they especially enjoy Grudem for his stand on the charismatic gifts). Meanwhile, Arminian leaders have been slow to preach core Arminian doctrines among the AG’s. In fact, many AG leaders seem to favor methodology over theology. I know of one local AG pastor who is clearly pragmatic in his approach and will copy even Calvinists so long as they are growing (he flew out to Seattle while Driscoll was preaching out there to learn from him). Many younger AG pastors reject many of the core Pentecostal teachings such as speaking in tongues as the initial, physical evidence of Spirit-baptism and many favor grouping with even Calvinists for church growth. To many AG pastors, growth is the issue and not theology. I have personally had AG pastors tell me that they avoid theology because “theology divides.”
The AG’s will see an influx of Calvinist pastors. While the official AG position is only to reject “eternal security,” many Calvinists would agree as they hold to perseverance of the saints and not “once saved, always saved” (though I suspect there is not much difference). The AG’s will see an in house debate over the Arminian-Calvinist issue as we are seeing in the Southern Baptists in the future.
In closing, I would not classify myself as Assemblies of God. Again, I share much love for them and it was in the AG’s that I was saved and my life was transformed by the grace of God. My salvation is in Jesus, of course, and not in a church group. I classify myself as “non” but of course I would hold to the Wesleyan-Arminianism of men such as Vic Reasoner. I use to describe myself as “Reformed Arminian” but moved away from that after studying more and seeing how Wesleyan theology is vastly different than the holiness movement of the late 19th century. That said, I pray that many Arminian denominations (even those like the AG’s who lean that way but do not label themselves as such) would reject Reformed theology and preach and teach the doctrines of love as found in biblical Arminianism.
One final note: This is not meant to be an attack on Reformed brothers and sisters. I regard Calvinists as my brothers and sisters in the faith. We are united in Christ (Ephesians 4:4). In heaven, there will be only disciples of Jesus and not denominations or isms of men.
There are those who want to deny that Jesus is God. They teach that only the Father is God and that He alone is one true and living God but Jesus is just a man, albeit an anointed man used by God and even the Messiah but certainly not divine. These groups will often claim that they hold that Jesus is the true Messiah and that He was born of the virgin Mary by the power of God but they deny that He was God or even claimed to be God. Some of them believe Jesus was the Son of God but not eternally existent with the Father and distinct from the Father in any way. The Oneness Pentecostals, for example, deny that the Son of God is eternal but rather that He came to exist in Bethlehem (Luke 1:35; Galatians 4:4).
You’ll find many of the Hebrews Roots Movement teachers denying that Jesus is God. They hold to modalism but only that Yahweh is God but not Yeshua. They teach that Jesus is the Messiah but He was not God nor did He claim to be God. They view Jesus as anointed by Yahweh and the servant of Yahweh but He is not Yahweh and He is not divine. Jesus is our example, a mighty prophet of God, the Messiah sent by Yahweh, but Jesus is not divine in their teachings. They believe this protects the monotheism of Judaism and does not elevate a man above Yahweh.
Others teach, like the Oneness Pentecostals but in different terms, that the Father alone is God. They point out the word of Jesus in such passages as Mark 12:29-30 or John 20:17. It seems that Jesus is giving honor to the Father and alone to the Father thus He is not claiming equality with God nor is claiming to receive worship but He is pointing others to the Father who alone is God.
Let us briefly examine these claims.
Jesus Is Assigned Old Testament Designations of Yahweh.
When we compare the Old Testament texts with their New Testament fulfillment in Christ, we see that Jesus is indeed Yahweh. Consider Matthew 1:23 from Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 3:3 with Isaiah 40:3; John 3:31 with Psalm 97:9; John 12:38-41 with Isaiah 6:10 and 53:1; Acts 3:14 with 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Corinthians 1:30 with Isaiah 43:24 and Jeremiah 23:5-6; 1 Corinthians 2:8 with Psalm 24:7-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10 with Ecclesiastes 12:14; Ephesians 4:7-8 with Psalm 68:18; Philippians 2:9-11 with Isaiah 45:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 with Isaiah 2:10-19; Titus 2:13 with Hosea 1:7; Hebrews 1:8-9 with Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 13:20 with Isaiah 40:10-11; 1 Peter 3:15 with Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 1:17 with Isaiah 44:6.
Jesus Is Superior to Men and Angels.
Jesus is above men and angels. He is not part of them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael from the Old Testament. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus the Son is but a man and not the eternal God. The Hebrews Roots Movement teaches that Jesus is a great prophet and even the Messiah of God but He is not God but is part of God’s creation. Consider these texts: John 1:17; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:17-18; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 1:4-6, 13; Hebrews 2:5-8; Hebrews 3:3; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Revelation 1:5.
Jesus Receives Prayer, Praise, and Worship.
How can Jesus receive prayer, praise, and worship if He is not God? This would violate the clear teachings of the Old Testament that forbids the people of God from praying to anyone but Yahweh (see Deuteronomy 4:39; 5:7-9; 13:1-5; Isaiah 43:11; 44:6-8; 45:22; etc.). The Bible is clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and there are no other gods. So if Jesus received prayer, praise, and worship and He is not God, then men are praying, praising, and worshiping a man (even an exalted man by Yahweh but Yahweh alone is to receive worship). This would be utter blasphemy (as Muslims point out) if Jesus is just a prophet, just a created being, even just the Messiah. If Jesus is not God, why pray to Him or praise Him or worship Him? This would be sinful. Yet Scripture is clear that people did pray, praise, and worshipped Him:
Acts 3:16; 7:59-60; 22:16; Romans 1:7; 10:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Galatians 1:3-5; 6:18; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 12; 2 Timothy 4:18, 23; Hebrews 1:6; 13:20-21; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:14; 7:9-10; 15:3-4.
Consider the strong words of Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The Apostles worshiped Jesus? These faithful Jewish men worshiped the Jewish Jesus.
One cannot read the New Testament and see that Jesus is distinct from His Father. He speaks of His Father, prays to His Father, and says that He has come to do the will of His Father. Jesus said that His food “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus said that He does not nothing by His own initiative but He only spoke the things as His Father taught Him (John 8:28). Jesus said that He proceeds from the Father to do the Father’s will (John 8:42).
And on and on it goes. The Lord Jesus is portrayed as the Son of God, equal with the Father (John 10:30) but He is never said to be the Father. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet the Bible affirms that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6). 1 Corinthians 8:6 has stumbled some but John MacArthur writes:
Paul repeats the truth that there is but one God. He is the one from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. There is only one true God. He has come to us in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, and we are brought to the Father through the divine Son. Everything comes from the Father, and all believers exist for the Father. Everything is by the Son, and everyone who comes to the Father comes through the Son. This is a powerful and clear affirmation of the equality of essence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:6, rather than denying the Lordship and exaltation and deity of Jesus Christ, actually makes Him equal with the Father.
In Hebrews 1:2 tells us that God the Father made the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 1:3 it is Jesus who upholds the universe by His Word. In Hebrews 1:8 the Father says about the Son that He is God. In Hebrews 1:10 we read that Jesus is Yahweh (see Psalm 102:25-27).
So the question is whether Jesus is His own Father? The Oneness Pentecostals and other modalists insist that Jesus as the Son is less than the Father and that the Father alone is truly the eternal God. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, Jesus is the Holy Ghost. In Oneness teachings, Jesus is God but He alone is God and God is unipersonal (meaning that there is only one Person in the Godhead; Colossians 2:9). Trinitarians teach that there is only one God but we believe in three persons (unitarian versus trinitarian). I reject the Oneness view that Jesus is His own Father. I find nothing in the Bible to suggest that Jesus is His own Father nor can one find a passage without extreme twisting.
The closest text we have is Isaiah 9:6. Oneness Pentecostals will quickly quote this verse when defending the idea that the Father is Jesus and Jesus is the Father. They teach that one of the titles of the Lord Jesus would be “eternal Father.” Yet Oneness Pentecostals are alone in their unique view of Isaiah 9:6. The titles found in Isaiah 9:6 are part of who Jesus would be. He would be like a wonderful counselor. Jesus would be the mighty God. Jesus would be like an eternal Father speaking of HIs Fatherly role as our Redeemer, and He would be the Prince of Peace. These are not offices Jesus would be fulfilling but titles He would take upon Himself.
Consider this: does the New Testament ever say that Jesus is the Father or the Father is Jesus?
The Oneness view destroys so many precious doctrines. The Person of Jesus suffers. One has to read the New Testament with a weird “key” of trying to figure out if Jesus is speaking as the Father (as God) or as a man (as the Son). The sacrifice of Jesus is not infinite in its value because Jesus is just a man who is dying on the cross for our sins rather than God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14). The nature of true love is lost because the Lord Jesus is but a created being of the Father (who alone is God). Prayer suffers as we pray to Jesus (the Father, the eternal God) in the name of Jesus (the Son, the flesh but not God) rather than seeing that Jesus is God the Son praying for the saint before the throne of God the Father through the power of God the Spirit.
In closing, let me state that as I write this I am listening to a oneness Pentecostal preacher preaching. Ironically, he is shouting over and over again that Jesus is God, that Jesus alone is God, and that there is no God but Jesus. Yet he is borrowing from a trinitarian presupposition by borrowing our language to speak of God. He speaks of the Father and he preaches about praying in the name of Jesus and worshiping God through Jesus but all of this involves having to “split” Jesus up. The oneness Pentecostal must borrow from the trinitarian view to make their theology work but they then must hate the Trinity lest they be a trinitarian (which condemns the sinner). They must speak of Jesus as a unipersonal being with dual personalities (at least while on earth).
I rejoice in the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a precious doctrine. The Trinity makes sense of the Bible and helps us to see the infinite value of the atonement of Christ. Further, the work of sanctification in the disciple is enhanced by understanding that the entire Trinity is involved not just in my salvation but in my sanctification. I worship God and rejoice that He is wonderful and worthy.