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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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