Empowered: The Beginning of the End of Dead Churches

Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Advocate to come and empower them for the works of the kingdom. When the time came for the Advocate to come, it is described as a rushing wind and fiery forked tongues descending on the disciples who waited in Jerusalem. They were filled with God’s power and immediately began to speak out in foreign tongues. Some thought they were drunk, but others recognized that people not native to their lands were speaking their native languages. Through the preaching of a spirit-filled Peter, three thousand people were saved that day. This event describes the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This event is to be believed to only occur during the early church by some current Christians. It was the second form of baptism, separate from water baptism but a baptism only is seen during the early church, or so they believe. [1] Many denominations, cessionalist, do not believe that baptism of the Holy Spirit is for today. Many have argued that it was only necessary for the spread of the church in that day and was completed when the last of the New Testament was written.[2] They use 1 Corinthians 13:8 which states, “’Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. ‘[3]

Pentecostals and Charismatics argue otherwise. Pentecostal is a denomination, and charismatic is a description of people who belong to a different denomination or none at all who believe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can happen today. These ideals have caused great division in church history. This paper will not cover which idea is right, but how does a church go from being a cessionalist church to a charismatic church.

Charismata was re-introduced to the world by William J. Seymour. A black preacher in the turn of the century. James S. Tinney introduces Seymour’s ministry in his introductory paragraph, detailing the history and current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

Pentecostalism, that radical expression of Christianity which emphasizes ecstatic speech in an unknown tongue as a proof of the presence of the Holy Ghost, has attracted the attention of the world. It has become, some say, the fastest-growing religion both in the United States and the world, causing it to become to some the most respected, and to others the most feared, religious development. At the turn of the century, there was not a single American Pentecostal church denomination anywhere, although Pentecostalism was represented in several “prophetic movements” on the continent of Africa. Today, however, there are more than 6 million Pentecostals, both Black and white, in the U.S. Worldwide there are approximately 30 million Pentecostals, most of these belonging to Third World countries. What is not so well known is the fact that this new world religion, which now embraces every nationality, began in a small Black church in Los Angeles, under the leadership of a Black American minister, William J. Seymour. Even the white Pentecostals trace their beginnings as distinctively Pentecostal organizations back to the church and that minister. Unheralded and often recognized, or at least unpromoted, by those who are contemptible of his race, William J. Seymour is nevertheless the “father of modern-day Pentecostalism.”[4]

Seymour was born a slave. When he and his family were freed, and he became an adult, he chose to go into ministry. He began as a Baptist pastor, but he sought a deeper relationship with God. Lucy Farrar and others introduced him to the idea of Charismata and he chose to leave the church he was pastoring. The group studied the word but eventually disbanded because of opposing views (the integration of sexual sin to their ministry) on their part. He was asked to go to Los Angeles to be a pastor at a church there and bring what he had learned. It did not go too well, but he knew he could introduce the church to the Charismata and they were not receptive to it. The issue was he had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, yet. So, there was no evidence for him to show them. He contacted Farrar, who could speak in tongues, to join him there for her help and helpful she was. He began bible study at a member’s house after he was barred from preaching at the church.  At some point, the day they were waiting for does come, which lead to a revival at an abandoned church on Azuza Street.[5] This is the secondary quote of how it started:

Sister Farrar rose from her seat, walked over to Brother Lee, and said, “The Lord tells me to lay hands on you for the Holy Ghost.” And when she laid her hands on him, he fell out of his chair as though dead, and began to speak in other tongues. Then they went over to the prayer meeting at Sister Asbury’s house. When Brother Lee walked into the house, six people were already on their knees praying. As he walked through the door, he lifted his hands and began to speak in tongues. The power fell on the others, and all six began to speak in tongues.[6]

Seymour’s ministry was not the only revival, but the most prominent one that primarily the Western world uses as their source. What is significant about Pentecostalism is it’s the fastest growing denomination in the world, and the second largest denomination, especially adding the churches that are not Pentecostal but are Charismatic. Catholicism is the only denomination bigger than Pentecostalism, making it the biggest Protestant denomination in the world. [7]

LifePoint Church, located in New Tampa, Florida is joining the list of Charismatic churches. LifePoint is a nondenominational church with a philosophy of being a church for people who do not like church. The founding and senior pastors, Brad and Stephanie White, who were both raised Baptist and were pastor kids felt like they were sent to Tampa in 2000 to start a church for the lost. [8] The church has flourished and has seen thousands of people walk through their doors. Pastor White had an issue though, many people had become members and or would visit, but very few stayed long term at the church. Pastor White began to seek God on this issue and God began to place individuals in his life who believed in Charismata. Pastor White sat down with the author of this paper to discuss his newfound beliefs in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He said he believes that God has blessed the church’s efforts until 2014 and things began to change. The church had hit a ceiling. He took a trip to Thailand and his new associates to start showing him that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for today.[9]

His description of what the LifePoint had been doing through the years, the church had been like Martha, Lazarus’ sister, very busy doing work and thinking that is how it should run. They handled the church like a business. When their business model was beginning to fail, they tried many efforts to change it, but nothing was working. God showed him that the church needed to be like Martha’s sister Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet to hear him speak and experience his presence. God showed him, through this the church will continue to flourish.

His philosophy on introducing his church and making a slow transition, which is his advice to other pastors in his same position, go slow. He is still learning and what he learns he slowly teaches the church. He is trying to prevent confusion or false teaching as he preaches. He is studying books by Sam Storm, who is theologically accurate and the advice of fellow pastors who are Baptized in the Holy Spirit. His number one priority though to get through their current transition is prayer. Prayer is the cornerstone of this movement in LifePoint. Which is biblically sound, because Jesus instructed the disciples to pray for the Advocate to come.[10] Also, the start of Pentecostalism began through prayer in someone’s apartment in California. [11]

Pastor White says he now believes all churches need this power to function. When asked what he felt about churches that do not believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for today, he said that while it is unfortunate, people should not hold them with contempt. He believes that to still engage with them and pray for God to change their hearts on the matter. Especially when the idea of possibly getting kicked out of a denomination would be possible if LifePoint church belonged to one. He said luckily, it’s not as heated as it once was. The church most likely would have held their status especially if LifePoint had been a part of the Southern Baptist denomination.

He is optimistic about the future of the church and says it is uncertain because he is now allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the church. He believes that this will spread to other churches in the area and that there is evidence it is already happening. His hope is that Tampa has a great revival through this new journey. The belief the author and Pastor White holds is similar, that Pentecostalism is reviving the church.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Blumhofer, Edith. 2006. “Azusa Street Revival.” Christian Century 123, no. 5: 20-22. OmniFile                                      Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed February 22, 2018).

Brown, Schuyler. 1977. “Water-baptism and spirit-baptism in Luke-Acts.” Anglican Theological                Review 59, no. 2: 135-151. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost                                         (accessed January 29, 2018).

Got Questions Ministries. “Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?” (accessed February                                      19, 2018)

Lifepoint.tv. “Brad and Stephanie White.” https://www.lifepoint.tv/pastors (accessed February                                           22, 2018).

Tinney, James S. 1976. “William J Seymour [1855?-1920?]: father of modern-day                                                               pentecostalism.” The Journal Of The Interdenominational Theological Center 4, no. 1:                                         34-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19,                                     2018).

[1]Schuyler Brown. 1977. “Water-baptism and spirit-baptism in Luke-Acts.” Anglican Theological Review 59, no. 2: 135-151. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 29, 2018).

 

[2] “Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?”Got Questions Ministries, accessed February 20, 2018, [https://www.gotquestions.org/cessationism.html]

 

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:8. https://www.bible.com/bible/111/1CO.13.8

 

[4] James S. Tinney, 1976. “William J Seymour [1855?-1920?]: father of modern-day pentecostalism.” The Journal Of The Interdenominational Theological Center 4, no. 1: 34-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018).

[5] Ibid.

 

[6] How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: An Eyewitness Account of the Momentous Events of the Year 1906,” Pentecostal Evangel (April 8, 1956), p 5. quoted in James S. Tinney, 1976. “William J Seymour [1855? -1920?]: father of modern-day Pentecostalism.” The Journal of The Interdenominational Theological Center 4, no. 1: 34-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018).

[7] Blumhofer, Edith. 2006. “Azusa Street Revival.” Christian Century 123, no. 5: 20-22. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed February 22, 2018).

 

[8] “Brad and Stephanie White,” Lifepoint.tv, https://www.lifepoint.tv/pastors (accessed February 22, 2018).

[10] Acts 1:14 https://www.bible.com/bible/111/ACT.1.14

 

[11] James S. Tinney, 1976. “William J Seymour [1855? -1920?]: father of modern-day Pentecostalism.” The Journal of The Interdenominational Theological Center 4, no. 1: 34-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018).

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