Summary: Pentecostal power comes when we recognize: 1. The Christian life is not about keeping rules, but about knowing Christ. 2. The Christian life is not just about salvation, but about transformation. 3. You overcome apathy with zeal.
John Wimber was a product of the Jesus movement in the 60’s. He met Christ in a dramatic way, and began reading the New Testament, beginning with the Gospels and then on to the book of Acts. He was excited about what he was reading, but when he went to a church he was disillusioned. The polite and tidy service was over exactly on time. Wimber looked at some of the people around him and said: “When are you gonna do the stuff?” “What stuff?” they wanted to know. He said, “You know. . . the stuff!” He had been reading about the conversions, healings, deliverance and other miracles that took place in the early church recorded the book of Acts. But instead of signs and wonders, he saw no sign of anything that would make him wonder, except the deadness of the ritual he had just sat through.
I have been rereading the book of Acts recently myself. I am seeing again that signs and wonders were not the exceptions, they were the norm of the early church. Healings and supernatural happenings were expected and occurred regularly. Now some explain this by saying we are living in a different dispensation and that the age of miracles is over. That was for a specific time and place to authenticate the message of the apostles, but we no longer need that today. Realllly!! Does God really divide history up into neat little segments where he acts one way with one generation and a totally different way with another? If so, then God is not, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If he does respond differently at different times, then he is one kind of God at one point in history and an entirely different God at another.
The church today needs to discover once again that we have an unchanging God and an unchanging kingdom. We need once again to discover the power of Pentecost. We need to become a Pentecostal church — and I am not talking about a denomination — I am talking about an Acts 2 church. We need to be filled with the Spirit. We need to be operating in
the gifts of the Spirit. We need to see people’s lives turned around. We need to see people healed physically, emotionally, relationally, socially and spiritually. We need to experience the unity of the Spirit as the early church did. We need to be living in genuine love for each other, and when we fail at that then we need to seek reconciliation. We need to have the fire fall and the people of God to rise up.
Rick Kirchoff says, “When God sends forth the Spirit amazing things happen: barriers are broken, communities are formed, opposites are reconciled, unity is established, disease is cured, addiction is broken, cities are renewed, races are reconciled, hope is established, people are blessed, and church happens. Today the Spirit of God is present and we’re gonna’ have church. So be ready, get ready. . . God is up to something. . . discouraged folks cheer up, dishonest folks ‘fess up, sour folks sweeten up, closed folk, open up, gossipers shut up, conflicted folks make up, sleeping folks wake up, lukewarm folk, fire up, dry bones shake up, and pew potatoes stand up! But most of all, Christ the Savior of all the world is lifted up.”
If that is going to happen in our church certain conditions need to be met and certain perceptions need to be changed. We need a major paradigm shift. First of all, Pentecostal power comes when you realize: The Christian life is not about keeping rules, but about knowing Christ. As I was growing up in the church I heard a lot about being nice and how important it was to be a good person. We were told to be kind and to love everyone. If there was ever an opportunity to come to Christ, or an altar call in the church in which I grew up, I am unaware of it. In fact, I met the pastor’s son several years after our time in my childhood church. He is working for a Christian mission agency overseas. But he told me that even though he had grown up in a pastor’s home, he had never come to know the Lord until his high school chemistry teacher led him to Christ. His father was a very good man, a Christian man, but like his congregation, his faith had become privatized.
In our church, everyone dressed their best and acted their best on Sunday. The service was predictable and formal. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible was read and the preacher said all the right things I am sure. But there was no passion. I’m sure the words of the responsive readings were meaningful, but they seemed like they came from another time and place. Much of the service never connected with many of the people, or if it did, they were careful not to show it. Excitement was not exactly how you would have described the service in my home church. No one ever gave a testimony. Certainly, no one raised their hands or clapped during the music. And no one ever, ever said AMEN. As far as I knew, Christianity was about keeping the rules and being a good person. If you loved God you did it quietly and never spoke of it. The only disruption I can remember was the Sunday my sister and I started laughing in the middle of a woman’s solo who was warbling so badly that it sounded like she was in pain. The twisting of ears did not help much to squelch our giggles.