I’m sorry to have not managed to post this before now, this was from last Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church.
The beginning of the service was taken up by testimonies, one in particular which was very inspiring, about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. From my point of view as a skeptical Pentecostal, I love the idea of it, but really don’t understand how that ‘voice’ is heard or how you can know God’s specific will apart from the Bible.
The sermon went on for 50 minutes which, by Pentecostal standards, isn’t outrageously long, but a bit of a culture shock after the standard 10 minute long Anglican sermons!
The pastor outlined the church’s ‘key scriptures’, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 61/ Luke 4, and Matthew 28:19
Matthew 28:19 is of course the famous ‘Great Commission’
‘Go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’
Considering it was a 50 minute sermon, I don’t have many notes, but probably because the majority of it was testimony about how the pastor had regretted not sharing the Gospel in the past and how he personally was attempting to share the Gospel in his everyday life now.
The pastor did mention 1 Corinthians 12 giftings and having different personality types, which I thought was really interesting as that had come up in last week’s lectionary linked with Luke 4.
He did warn against using the idea of ‘being prayer support’ as a cop-out excuse for failing to carry out the Great Commission yourself, letting others go out with their boots on, while we stay warm and say “I’ll be there with you in spirit” while we actually go back and watch TV. Personally I think that there is a really crucial need for intercessory prayer, but certainly it is true that it is easy to find excuses not to do the job ourselves – we feel inadequate, we feel that evangelism isn’t our gift, and maybe we are a little bit lazy because we don’t see it as a life and death priority, which we absolutely should do. (He alluded to the fact that the idea of ‘universalism’, where everybody is saved and goes to heaven regardless of whether they follow Christ or not, is not compatible with Pentecostal beliefs.)
However, the pastor pointed out that the most effective evangelism is genuine and authentic friendship evangelism, where we befriend people and just love them and help them (and effectively ‘be’ the gospel to them) without any ulterior motive, without the goal needing to be bringing people into the church.
I used to be quite skeptical about the idea of friendship evangelism because, I thought, people were being brought into the church without ever actually hearing the Gospel. But I think now that the Gospel is more than words, it is more than getting your doctrines correct, and it is more than church.
‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’
– 1 Corinthians 4:20
The Pastor also mentioned that he believed in bringing children up in the faith – not assuming that they will necessarily accept that faith, but giving our children all the benefits of a ‘Kingdom’ upbringing, he would like to see a restoration of ‘Family Discipleship’ and that we all need to take that responsibility seriously. It made me think of the passage in Romans 3 where St Paul asks the question, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” and he answers, “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (The whole passage, as is often the way with Paul’s writings, is troubling and difficult to understand, but I think in this context, it is saying that being raised in the faith can be an advantage because you know all ‘about’ God before you actually come to ‘know’ Him).
As always, I would have preferred a more scripture-rich sermon (and less showmanship to be quite honest – it’s entertaining, but I’m not convinced it is really spiritually edifying…), but I think that if I keep going to this church I will have to accept that this is just the way they do things here.