Pentecostal in name, Pentecostal in experience


Last night I went down to Mattersey Hall to hear Keith Warrington (the vice-principal of Regent's Theological College & author of Pentecostal Theology) speak on issues facing Pentecostals today. (I'm not going to write about his lecture per se, but just a few things that he mentioned that got me thinking.)

Dr Warrington highlighted one particularly significant issue facing Pentecostals, particularly in the West, today: the issue of a loss of expectancy for encountering the Holy Spirit. I think quite a few people were surprised by some research he quoted (carried out by the Pew Forum) showing that out of every 5 converts in American Assemblies of God churches, only 1 is baptised in the Holy Spirit, and that (I think I'm remembering this right) 49% of people in American Pentecostal churches have never spoken in tongues. And, as Dr Warrington suggested, the UK might not be that far behind America. I think it was Margaret Poloma that he quoted as saying something along the lines that glossolalia was in danger of becoming a doctrine devoid of experience. (This is the problem with not taking notes at a lecture - you can't quite remember quotes and things afterwards.)

Now, obviously tongues aren't the be all and end all, but they do carry a certain significance for Pentecostals because we believe that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence (IPE) of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (BHS), which is the most distinctive of Pentecostal distinctives. So such statistics offer a bit of a challenge to us as Pentecostals; are we Pentecostal in name only? Is the BHS just a doctrine in our Tenets, or are people in our churches being taught about and receiving the BHS?

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The Tenets of the Apostolic Church

The Unity of the Godhead, and Trinity of the Persons therein.

The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for repentance and regeneration and the eternal doom of the finally impenitent.

The virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection, ascension, and abiding intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ; His second coming, and millennial reign upon earth.

Justification and Sanctification of the believer through the finished work of Christ.

The Baptism of the Holy Ghost for believers, with signs following.

The nine gifts of the Holy Ghost for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the Church, which is the body of Christ.

The Sacraments of Baptism by immersion and of the Lord's Supper.

The Divine inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures.

Church government by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders and deacons.

The possibility of falling from grace.

The obligatory nature of tithes and offerings.