Summary: A sermon addressing the need to pass on to succeeding generations the faith of previous generations.
Title - The Three Generations of Faith
Intro. - In the book Pentecostals in Crisis author Ron Auch says, and I quote, “Already we can see the first symptoms of the illness creeping through the body of the Pentecostal church: we still claim to believe in the supernatural manifestations of God’s power, but we rarely see it in our services anymore. ‘I believe God sets each church on a path (vision). Once they lose sight of that path, they perish. They may not cease to be; but they just no longer exist with God’s purposes in mind.’ "
It has been said that:
1. There was a generation that saw and experienced the move of God.
2. Then there was a generation that saw the move of God but didn’t experience the move of God. (Second Generation)
3. Then there was a generation that neither saw nor experienced the move of God. (Third Generation)
Another way of saying the same thing is:
1. The first generation knew the Lord of the work.
2. The second generation knew the work of the Lord.
3. The third generation knew neither the Lord of the work or the work of the Lord.
The so-called Azusa Street revival has been recorded in history as a power encounter with God that was a hallmark for the Pentecostal church. The movements greatest distinction in its first generation was its adherents powerful encounters with God. God was there manifesting Himself without any kind of restrictions. That was enough to draw people. Holy Spirit wrought conviction drove the lost to the altars where they found God. No one knew what was going to happen next.
These powerful experiences, which set the Pentecostal church apart and made them the most radical element in Christianity, served as a reference point for the Pentecostal movement. Each new convert was reminded in a moment of great tribulation to look back to the day when he met Christ and was encouraged instantly as he was reminded of his purpose as a Christian. For the rest of his life, his purpose was to know his God in His power and to fellowship with Him.
The movement also had a collective purpose: to introduce the world to God as He is: real, conscious, and to a certain degree, quite tangible. They ran into conflict with the notion that God should be worshipped and recognized on man’s terms, as a God who was “somewhere up there,” but who (“perhaps fortunately”) didn’t intervene in the lives of men.
During this era it appeared to many that the old relic called “religion” was on its way out, while science was on its way in. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was catching on big in Europe and was just establishing a foothold in the scientific community in the United States. Many made the transition from passive Christianity to atheism and agnosticism because finally, it was supposed, science had proved that the Bible was a long-lived collection of myths. Man finally had a “rational” reason to do away with God.
At this time, most of the mainline denominations offered services that could be certified and approved by such “enlightened” skeptics. By this I mean that atheists could have attended these services without batting an eyelash. With one eyebrow smugly arched, they could have explained away those “primitive rituals” (and did!). They did this with ease and assurance because they observed nothing happening in a Christian “ritual.” People sang. People made speeches (which the Christians called “sermons”).
In the case of these many “rituals,” all was centered on a God who showed no signs of existing. As far as many learned scholars were concerned, one Christian church was pretty much like any other religious group. It was just a gathering of people doing things any atheist could have done: singing, speaking, and so forth. Such man-oriented, man-limited services were the norm -- until the Pentecostal movement surfaced.
The Pentecostal movement dared to invite God to become a very active participant in their services instead of just a dubious mute observer sitting in some kind of spiritual grandstand. Such divine involvement yielded frustration for skeptics who were left grasping at straws to explain such goings on. Some abandoned their skepticism to meet their eternal destiny, while only the most stubborn continued to grasp at their scientific straws.
The first years of the twentieth century were glorious days for those called “Pentecostals.” The flame and fire of the Holy Spirit blazed through their ranks and on into the hurting world. They introduced the world to a real God, laying waste to numerous religious ceremonies and the impersonal worship being carried out in the name of Christ.
Yet, these first generation Christians fell short of fulfilling one crucial obligation.