In December 2015 the PAOC released another small book. Overall, I was encouraged by the key theme running through this book—theology and mission must and do meet. However, I will focus here on some specific points that stuck with me.
Pentecostals and Experience
There is no doubt that at the core of Pentecostalism are experiences of the Spirit (p. 48-51) and that these experiences are vital to success in mission (71-72). In light of this I was challenged and challenge you to consider:
- Do Pentecostals today sufficiently prioritize experiences of the Spirit (68, 103)? A return to Sunday evening services with a focus on the altar call probably won’t happen anytime soon; however, if Pentecostals cannot find new ways of facilitating and encouraging people to be open to experiences of the Spirit as Pentecostals gather in community or in everyday life (80, 104-6), will they still be able to call themselves ‘Pentecostals’?
- Historically the experience of the Spirit brought unity and community among Pentecostals (43). But, are Pentecostals making sufficient space in leadership for all who have experienced the Spirit? One author observed, in the past and today “the path for Pentecostal women in leadership was neither easy nor uncomplicated” (53), and I’m sure this is also true of indigenous people, immigrants, and visible minorities within Canadian Pentecostalism. If I have learned anything about leadership (FYI—I prefer learning about theology 🙂 ), it’s that a team with diversity (racial, gender, personality types, ages) is usually stronger than a homogeneous team.
Eschatology and Charts
Similar to comments that were made in the earlier PAOC book, Authentically Pentecostal (see my observations here), I found again in NEXUS an uncertainty regarding dispensational eschatology and was reminded that eschatology is not about end-times charts (58), unless it is, perhaps, a simplified chart (see p. 66). Rather, eschatology offers a source of hope as we look to the future (57, 59) and an explanation of our current experience of the supernatural as the age to come (the ‘not yet’) is manifested in the present (the ‘already’) (64-66).
Real and Ideal Pentecostalism
At times I got the feeling that authors of the essays in NEXUS may have been too optimistic about Pentecostals, writing more about what they desired Pentecostalism to be, rather than what it currently is. I suppose these are just signs of Pentecostalism’s good days and bad days. For example:
- Pentecostals and the Mind: I read signs of Pentecostals who value theology and study as guides for mission ( 74), and I read that Pentecostals can hold an experiential faith without abandoning the intellect (50). However, I also read of a history of Pentecostals who read the Bible without adequately considering biblical scholarship and commentaries (13-15) and whose default approach to interpreting Scripture is sometimes simply asking for divine help (“Lord speak to me”—p. 12).
- Pentecostals and Community: I read about how Pentecostals value community (40-43) and of the value of this community for guiding and discerning legitimate interpretations of Scripture (26-27). However, I also read that among Pentecostals the place of the community in interpreting Scripture has been “all too frequently set aside in favour of the private interpretation of a persuasive individual” (16).
Music and Theology
Finally, and on an entirely different note, I receive this challenge: “If we agree that there is a growing gap between ‘theology’ and ‘music,’ I would love to see pastors and theologians be the ones who take up the leadership challenge of building bridges with our artists” (96). So, in closing, I ask, can we be intentional about encouraging, equipping, and empowering the musicians and worship leaders among us (98)?
NEXUS is available (only $4) to order from Wordcom online or by calling 905-542-7400.
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As requested, her is a picture of the table of contents.