Last November Christianity Today published an article with the above title, minus the ‘Part 2’. That article can be read here at The Battle Cry. The article, while seeming to applaud what it termed the ‘orthodox’ Pentecostal movement. i.e., Assembly of God churches, at the expense of non-Pentecostal Protestantism. Those whose comments haven’t been exactly in agreement with the praise heaped upon the Charismatic Movement were counseled about abiding by the ‘rules’ of debate, some comments ‘edited’, and at least one ‘blocked’ (that would be me).
The conclusion of the author of the original article, Ed Stetzer, based on a survey of faith groups, was this concerning those faith groups that are declining in numbers:
“Most are mainline, a few are evangelical, but most simply are not as excited about what they believe—and don’t think it needs to be propagated as much—as the Pentecostals.”
Well, having been in the ‘orthodox’ Pentecostal camp for a number of years (Assembly of God), and have observed/participated in the ‘excitement’, I have to agree with Ed Stetzer, up a point. At that time, as a recently ‘returned home’ prodigal, I found the excitement and evangelistic fervor of my Pentecostal brethren both genuine and contagious. I wanted to be part of a body of believers who were as excited about their salvation as I was, and many were. Others, however, were more ‘excited’ about the ‘higher’ life defined by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, especially ‘speaking in tongues’. If there was ‘something more’ than just salvation that God wanted me to have, I wanted it! And who was I to argue with any of the ‘spiritual’ leaders who were telling me there was indeed /something more’?
It’s more than a few years since we moved away from Pentecostalism and I don’t intend to get into all of the reasons why we left that church environment. The reasons are many and I think very sound. What I would offer is what I consider as the very bottom line concerning the above question. Here is my answer to the question “Why do these Pentecostals Keep Growing?”, and in my mind, it’s rather simple.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic community/churches are growing and will continue to grow because they are at their core based on OUR EXPERIENCE and thus man-centered and focused on what WE can/should have as believers in a quest for the ‘higher’ life. Not only have I ‘been there, done that’, a quick Google search on “History of Pentecostalism’ will return documents from Pentecostals themselves attesting to the centrality of ‘experience(s)’.
Mr. Stetzer didn’t want to discuss the validity of Pentacostalism in his article, which I found rather disconcerting. To just assume all of the excitement and experiences are genuine moves of God and accept his conclusions would have been for me, rather pointless.
I wish I hadn’t been banned from commenting on the original article, because this just popped up over there, and was directed to me:
“Hi Daniel – I am convinced, especially in such an opinionated world, that direct experience with God through the Spirit causes church growth. We have way too many doctrines for our own good. I am glad you are excited about your salvation. However, skipping out on hell is just the beginning. Once we are sons and daughters we have no need to lay foundations of salvation in our lives any longer. Church growth seems to need excited senior saints to infect a younger generation with the glory of a Spirit-filled life.”
If that isn’t a declaration of personal experience trumping doctrine, I don’t know what does. And when subjective experience trumps objective truth…”Houston, we have a problem!”