Today I want to Blog about something that I find interesting both theologically and practically. Its something that hits close to home: Pentecostalism and Mission. Specifically I want to Inform you about the “Pentecostal Motivations for Mission.” You see, I grew up going to a Pentecostal Church. I spent 17 years in a small hispanic pentecostal (Foursquare) church. The church had about 115 people in it, and I only had 6 or so people who were anywhere near my age. Eventually I moved to another Church, it was a primarily caucasian baptist-like megachurch. After finishing college at UCLA I went to Fuller to learn about mission. Originally I went there to learn about Intercultural Studies, but after a lot of deliberation and prayer I felt that the best thing for what God called me to do was to move over to the school of theology. So the point is, Pentecostalism and mission are two significant themes in my life. (Today I am Reformed but Charistmatic.)
Anyway this blog isn’t about my life story, its a blog about Pentecostalism and mission. So let me begin by telling you why this even matters. Without beating around the bush, one primary reason why it matters is because:
Christianity has had a global shift towards the global South. Christianity in the global South is more Conservative more charismatic than it is in the West.
David Barrett, a missiologist, has pointed out, at the year 2000 between 500 Million and 2 Billion Christians are Pentecostal/Charismatic. As you see, if so many of our brothers and sisters in the Global South are Pentecostal/Charismatic its important to know about them. So whether or not you consider yourself pentecostal or Charismatic you need to know about them.
Let me briefly explain their motivation for mission. Reading from various sources I see three common Pentecostal motivations for mission:
1-Bible, 2-Spirit, 3-Call
- Bible: Pentecostals take the Bible Seriously and interpret it at face value. If Jesus says go to the Ends of the earth Pentecostals think it means GO to the ends of the earth. If Jesus says you will heal people and cast out demons it means you will heal people and cast out demons. Another aspect of this is that Acts is seen as a “handbook” for doing mission
- Spirit: There is a belief that Every believer has been empowered for ministry. They expected to heal, preach, prophecy in the power of the Spirit. All of these things aid or lead to evangelism and mission.
- Call: This is a combination of the previous two. According to most Pentecostals believers, each Christian has been divinely commissioned and empowered to spread the Gospel. There is a sense that the laity are called to do this ministry AND Not its not merely the Pastor’s responsibility. Thus everybody is expected to do their part.
So those are the three main motivations that Pentecostals have for doing mission. Let me Leave you with a story that illustrates these three. Earlier this year I visited a Church in Texas. I went along with them on a short term mission trip. The trip consisted of about 600 college students going to a College Spring Break town to do community service and street Evangelism. (Whether or not this is an appropriate way to do mission in the West is a long convoluted debate that I don’t want to get into in this blog.) Some of these studentswent for fun…but there was certainly a sense of call. I heard many students say things like: “I’m going to sacrifice Spring Break for the sake of mission,” or “I could be doing other things right now but this is more important.” This sense of call was rooted in the Bible. Every morning before going out these students would spend an hour in “quiet time.” These students spent each morning reading their Bible and praying. Then after breakfast they would hear an sermon on why we do mission, and after the sermon they went out and evangelized/served. Finally they fulfilled their Bible given sense of call through the power of the Holy Spirit. The team would ride busses to their daily locations, when they arrived they took a few minutes to pray. In their prayers they asked for prophetic words or images to direct their evangelism. When they were out evangelizing they would share the gospel but they would also pray for physical healing. On one of the days they prayed for a deaf lady and the lady got her hearing back! This pumped everyone up to go out and evangelize even more.
As this story illustrates, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and a special sense of calling all play a big role in missional motivations among pentecostals, even here in the USA and even among college students like the ones from this church in Texas.