I really enjoyed the book. Many of the excerpts really spoke to me and gave me some direction in some areas I have begun questioning myself. Some left me wanting more information and dialogue. I'd say every Pentecostal pastor, especially if you are younger needs to get a copy. Without a doubt, culture is changing. The harvest is growing and is ready. Time is running out. The church needs to be relevant today like it never has before. This book gives many areas of discussion and understanding for how to bridge what appears to be gaps, and sometimes sizable gaps, between the traditional Pentecostal message and real ministry in the 21st century. Below is a short run down of what the book covers.
1. Pentecostal Identity and Interpretation of the Bible - French L. Arrington - Dr. Arrington did a tremendous job of talking about the ways in which we read the Bible and how to rightly interpret scripture through old language deciphering. He also deals with the belief of the inerrancy of the Bible along with the Spirit-led inspiration of the Bible. As many no longer accept absolute truth today, defending the validity of the Bible has got to be our number one goal. After all, if the basis of who we are is discredited, then all other constructions are null and void.
2. Pastoring a Pentecostal Church - Hugh Bair - I really enjoyed Pastor Bair's excerpt as he gave direction to the need for Pentecostal pastors to understand the need for social and community involvement. He brings up the notion of "Progressive Pentecostalism" which invokes social activity in areas of social justice and community evangelism. All of this can be done without sacrificing Pentecostal distinctives. Pastor Bair also speaks to the importance of maintaining a healthy home life for pastors and their spouses and children. This area really spoke to me as there are a few decisions I've made recently in regards to making sure my family stays at its proper priority that hasn't been understood, much less accepted. The truth is still clear from God's Word. If the pastor's home and family is broken, his ministry to the church and community will follow suit and a spouse and children will be tempted to despise the church and those in it. I would have liked to dialogue a little bit here as well.
3. A Pentecostal Perspective of the Missional Church - Thomas J. Doolittle - This was one of the excerpts I enjoyed the most. Doolittle does a tremendous job of speaking to the problem of relating to culture and reimagining the church in a missional aspect. The term "missional" has meant many things, but succinctly, a "missional" church is one that trains its people to understand the need for missionary evangelism in their communities. In short, every member is a missionary. Missional churches seek to transform culture and are not afraid to engage culture or societal thought. In reality, this term "missional" simply describes the ministry of Christ which the church should be imitating anyway. While I've read books on being missional, Doolittle did a great job at introducing the missional mindset in conjunction with Pentecost. Many books I've read on missional thinking and church operations have unfortunately seemed to imply a dumbing down of spiritual gifts and Pentecostalism in general. It was refreshing and rewarding to see a marriage between Pentecost and missional thinking and provided further confirmation to the desire of my heart for a church. This excerpt is a must read.
4. World Missions of the Church - Nick Park - This excerpt was tremendous as well. Pastor Park did a tremendous job at explaining what missions really is. Having this excerpt right behind Doolittle's was also perfect. Park continued the thought of missional churches doing mission work in their communities, across their countries, and of course overseas. Park also offers an extremely insightful possibility for the reworking of the Church of God's World Missions department. I believe his suggestions are certainly something we all should consider. Great write up!
5. Life in the Spirit: Paul, the Spirit, and Romans 8 - William A. Simmons - Yet another must read! One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Romans 8, yet it's also one of the most misunderstood and widely interpreted chapters in the Bible for all manners of doctrine. Simmons does a step by step, line by line approach to rightly dividing Romans 8 in terms of the Pentecostal perspective of salvation, adoption and sonship, tongues, and God's love. This too is a must read as Simmons offers ample scripture references to push home the power of Romans 8 in the lives of Pentecostal believers.
6. Tongues - the Evidence - French L. Arrington - There has been a lot of discussion recently in Pentecostal denominations about the validity of the doctrine of initial evidence. This doctrine states that the initial physical evidence that an individual has been baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Arrington deals with the five examples in Acts where believers were said to expressly be filled with the Spirit. Three of the five times, the Bible clearly states they spoke in tongues. The other two times, it is intimated. Still however, there is no real scripture that states emphatically, that tongues is the initial evidence. Arrington does a great job of exploring the issue from both sides. The question arises if one doesn't believe tongues is the initial evidence, what is? Evidence was certainly important in the book of Acts as the Jewish church demanded evidence that the Gentiles were being filled with the Spirit. The evidence that constantly took place was tongues. If I'm honest, I have struggled in myself at times to fully understand the initial evidence doctrine. I subscribe to it first because I see ample proof of its belief, and second because I've made a covenant with the Church of God to uphold its teachings. In the process of upholding however, one may research. I would certainly like to dialogue here a bit. In particular, what is the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (I believe evangelism and accomplishing the mission of Christ - Acts 1:8) and how do we explain the lack of fulfilling of the mission of Christ by those who have received the baptism with evidence of speaking in tongues and vice versa?
7. Pentecostal Spiritual Formation in the Local Church - Jonathan Martin - This excerpt was probably one of my favorites. Martin, who planted Renovatus in Charlotte, NC, does a tremendous job of dealing with the process of spiritual formation for the Pentecostal church. Martin takes the reader through an almost step by step process that he has fleshed out in his own church plant of spiritual formation. Martin delves into spiritual formation methods espoused by Dr. Jackie and Dr. Cheryl Johns. These methods involve testimony, experience, and engagement. Martin explains how he took the Johnses' approach and applied it in his church. He explains his four movements for spiritual formation. The first consists of the sharing of personal testimonies in an effort to become vulnerable to the Spirit and one another. Martin seeks to develop an atmosphere by which individuals recognize who they are, where they've been, and what God is trying to do. The church seeks to push away the masks we typically where and deal with the truth of where we are and what we're facing. The honesty is freeing. The second movement is the process of searching the scriptures. Martin works to streamline his messages into small group studies thus maintaining continuity with the pastoral vision, understanding, and nature of what the Spirit is trying to do in the body of believers. There are other studies as well, but the notion of searching scriptures together as a church community results in being formed together into the spiritual identity of Christ and at the same time becoming one with the vision of the house. Third, Martin states that spiritual formation takes place when we learn to yield to the Spirit. It sounds simple enough, but yet it's rarely done. Martin writes about how the Spirit led a small group to adopt an apartment complex which was predominantly Muslim and foreign. The group began ministering to the people, helping them with things around their homes, providing groceries, putting together community events, etc. The Spirit led the group to move into evangelism and a great harvest is being reached by merely following the Spirit. My own thoughts were that so often Pentecostals only claim to hear the Spirit leading them to manifest in a service, move to another church, or accept some position in a church. When was the last time Pentecostals truly were known for letting the Spirit lead them to the point that apartment complexes, community events, school systems, and neighborhoods were changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and God's love? The Spirit is leading us everyday, not just in the Sunday experience. Lastly, Martin speaks to the response to the call and how that response may be different for different areas. Pentecostal expressiveness at Renovatus is very dominant in the small group area. Pentecostal elements are also present in the worship experiences. Martin explains that for Renovatus, the small group atmosphere gives an opportunity to grow, learn, and even practice the Pentecostal distinctives in a Biblical fashion that allows for those with little to no experience with Pentecost to understand and participate in the power of the Spirit. Renovatus projects the power of Pentecost and the movement of the Spirit in community. This was by far my favorite excerpt.
8. Making Disciples - David H. Gosnell and Lorna V. Gosnell - I love the Gosnell's. They were our state youth directors when I was a young teen. They've always had a heart for discipleship. Their excerpt here does a tremendous job at speaking to the need for the church to be making disciples. We are responsible for developing those the Lord saves. We are responsible as a church to make the discipleship process a major part of our church culture. Without doing so, we cannot maintain healthy growth and we will not be able to make a difference in our communities.
9. Intimacy with God - Douglas P. Small - Dr. Small is one of the leading speakers on prayer and intimacy with God. His excerpt here is chopped full of directives for knowing God and seeking His face. Small deals with the notion that without having intimacy with God, the church is truly unable to know Him, receive from Him, hear from Him, and follow Him. This was very challenging and needed.
10. Pentecostal Preaching in a Modern World - Randy Eaton - I enjoyed Eaton's take on Pentecostal preaching. Having recently read Dr. Ray Hughes' book entitled, "Pentecostal Preaching," I recognized the many quotes he used from the book. Pentecostal preaching as Eaton explains is majorly preaching done under the anointing of the Holy Spirit which causes the preacher to go beyond his own abilities and understanding to communicate and glorify Christ to those he is speaking to. I can certainly agree with his position. This was another place though I wanted to dialogue a little bit. As a young pastor myself, I believe in anointed preaching, but I must say I was a little conflicted at the comparisons of evangelical preaching to Pentecostal preaching and the Evangelical movement as a whole with the Pentecostal movement. I'd like to believe I'm Pentecostal to the core, but I also desire a strong kinship with other Evangelicals. I suppose I would like to practice by Pentecostal distinctives with Evangelical partnership rather than be seen as separated on my own volition. I'm certainly not suggesting this was what Eaton was speaking to, but reading his excerpt opened up that dialogue in my mind. I can't help but think that sometimes Pentecostals have put too much emphasis on being Pentecostal and not enough on evangelism and discipleship. In a concrete way, would I rather be in a Pentecostal church practicing the gifts or would I rather be in an Evangelical church with major focus on winning souls? The truth is, you can have the same in both church and a true Pentecostal church should be won practicing Kingdom principles with the chief being winning souls. I'm not attempting to build a straw man. I only bring up the perspectives simply to open the idea of deciding what is more pertinent. Our Pentecostal distinctives can become a sounding brass and tingling cymbal if they're not bathed in love and aligned fully and wholly with the mission of Christ to seek and save the lost.
11. Pentecostal Biblical Interpretation - Kenneth J. Archer - Dr. Archer does a great job of dealing with the processes by which the Bible can be interpreted. Dr. Archer delves through several hundred years of Biblical interpretation to show the many ways in which it has been and is still being interpreted. Very interesting read.
12. Worship: The Journey to Worth - Tom Sterbens - This was hands down one of the best articles I've ever read on worship. Sterbens does a tremendous job at dissecting the word "worship" to show its ability to show worth to that which is being worshiped. He delves into the Exodus account of the Golden Calf and the attitudes of worship that became displayed in Exodus 32. He goes into detail with John 4 in dealing with the woman at the well and the call to worship in "Spirit and in truth." This was easily one of my top three articles in the book and is worth getting the book to read alone.
13. Spiritual Gifts as Normative for Public Worship - Dr. Arrington does a tremendous job of detailing 1 Corinthians 12-14 in dealing with the operation of the spiritual gifts in the church. In many ways, we have begun to sacrifice spiritual gifts and quench the Spirit in our services in an attempt to win people. Arrington points out that Paul gives the church the divine order for spiritual gifts and in no way ever tells the Corinthian church, who was obviously abusing the gifts, to stop allowing them to operate. Spiritual gifts are important and they are given to the church for edifying and empowerment in the mission of Christ. Arrington does a great job of writing about their need and the order in which they should be used. His book, "Divine Order in the Church," is a great read for further study in this area as well as other areas in 1 Corinthians.
14. Intergenerational Worship - Bob Bayles - I have to honestly say that I struggled with this excerpt the most. Bayles did a great job at speaking to the complexities of worship and the problems with style and making everyone happy. He used a witty story about six blind men and their understanding of what an elephant was to perfectly illustrate the power of perspective. Bayles lost me though when he began focusing on the American education system heavily influenced by John Dewey, a noted atheist. Bayles speaks of the FIC church, or the family integrated church, which practices integrated worship overall. Bayles speaks to Dewey's theory that children should be grouped together in age specific classes for the purpose of better learning and so forth. He points out that the church adopted this in the mid 20th century and began having children's church, youth groups, and age specific Sunday School classes. It's clear that Bayles is against this notion as he reminds the reader that this approach originated from Dewey, a noted atheist and professed enemy of Christianity. I nowhere near as intelligent and scholarly as Dr. Bayles, and I may a victim of brainwashing, but regardless of the originality of the idea, I do believe the age appropriation structure is important and needed. I would agree with Dr. Bayles however that it can be and often is followed to extreme measures that certainly could be made more lax.
15. Pentecostal Worship: The Spirit in the Sacraments - Dan Tomberlin - This was a great read itself. Tomberlin does a tremendous job at reminding the Pentecostal church of the sacraments of the New Testament church. I must say I read this and was guilty because I realize how little I have observed the sacraments in my own church. Tomberlin writes about water baptism, footwashing, the Lord's Supper, and the anointed touch. I think most Pentecostal churches practice the anointed touch on a regular basis. I believe Pentecostal churches as a whole all practice water baptism. The two sacraments I think that are often overlooked are the Lord's Supper and footwashing. Tomberlin shows how each sacrament is unique and Christ ordained and how each sacrament has the power to change an individual an usher in a mighty move of the Holy Spirit in a service or grouping. The insight here is very thorough and serves as a reminder of why these sacraments should still be followed and done on a regular basis.
16. The Dangers of Strong Drink - French L. Arrington - This excerpt does one of the best jobs that I've read in putting out the Biblical message about alcohol. Arrington delves into the positive aspects of strong drink and the negative ones. His overall summary at the end of his excerpt is one of the more compelling reads and rationales for overall abstinence from alcohol. Arrington is mindful of the fact that there does appear at times to be some liberty in the notion that a Christian can lawfully drink alcohol. He however focuses on the effect to the witness of the believer, the impact upon one's community, and the participation in and with a substance that is ultimately responsible, when abused, for deaths, divorces, abuses, and hurts. Arrington is clear to point out that the liberalist among us can interpret scripture in such a way to do as he pleases, but the ultimate goal of Christianity is to love God more than anyone or anything else and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The confines of those two commandments alone can certainly be restrictive in the partaking of alcohol. Good read.
17. Holiness: Reclaiming the Doctrine - J. Ayodeji Adewuya - This was a great article on the doctrine of holiness. Dr. Adewuya does a great job of connecting the Old Testament holiness found enormously in Leviticus 19 to New Testament teachings by Paul and Peter. The ultimate goal of holiness is to be set apart for use by God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that without holiness, no man will see God. So we understand holiness to be key to the salvation journey. Great article.