Last Sunday morning we began our service in Leeds with something that I'd venture to say is a bit unusual in a Pentecostal church. It's not something unusual in itself; in fact, it's something that's done in the majority of churches in the UK every week, but just not in most Pentecostal ones. What was this strange practice? We said the Creed.
Hang on now. Before anyone gets too upset with me for doing something so "unbiblical"/"Anglican" (I'm not sure which is meant as the harsher criticism), let's just clear a few things up.
Firstly, the Apostles' Creed is in no way unbiblical. Rather it's role is to give a succinct summary of what the Bible teaches. And that it does rather well. That means that, far from being an unbiblical statement, the Creed is one of the most biblical things we could possibly recite. In an age when all sorts of "preachers" are commanding their followers to turn to the person beside them and recite all manner of mantras, the Apostles' Creed is one of the most biblical of things that could possibly be recited in church. And, when it comes to 'worship', which is more appropriate, 'I believe in God the Father Almighty...' or some song about a 'sloppy wet kiss'?
Secondly, saying the Creed isn't 'Anglican'. Yes, they recite it in the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the rest of the Anglican Communion, but the Apostles' Creed was around a long time before there was an Anglican Communion. And, it's the shared confession of a lot of Christians beyond the bounds of the Anglican Communion as well. Anglicans actually read the Bible, preach and have communion in their services too, but that doesn't make Bible readings, sermons or the Lord's Supper 'Anglican'!
But, while it might be very biblical in its content and not at all limited to the local Anglican parish, it still has to be admitted that reciting the Creed isn't all that Pentecostal. Yet, maybe that's our problem!
You see, those who know their creed, know the basics of the Christian faith. And far too often I meet Pentecostals who don't know those basics. Last year I was speaking to a friend who had grown up in a Pentecostal/charismatic environment. At the time I was getting ready for a funeral, so he asked me what I was going to preach. Naturally enough, I answered that I'd speak about the resurrection of the body. Yet my friend who'd spent all his life in our circles had never heard of such a concept. He'd heard of heaven. He'd heard of the the rapture. But he'd never heard of the bodily resurrection of the dead. 'I believe in the Holy Ghost;The holy Catholick Church;The Communion of Saints;The Forgiveness of sins;The Resurrection of the body,And the Life everlasting.Amen.' Or, in the words of the Nicene Creed, I not only believe in the resurrection, but 'look forward' to it.
Teaching the basics of the faith has long been the role of the Apostles' Creed; together with the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments it has long structured Christian catechesis. And it's recitation is a continuing reminder of the faith which one has learned. So the Creed teaches biblical truth, and the Creed reinforces biblical teaching. But it also does something else.
You see, teaching is important in church. But, in church, teaching isn't just about transferring information. Christian teaching isn't just about increasing knowledge, but growing faith. So that's why I started off with the Creed last Lord's Day morning - to start off our service by proclaiming our faith together and allowing God to increase our faith as we see His glory and His grace in the truth of the Creed.