In the Strangle of Abuse: The Ethical Dilemma of Hero and Crook

Donald-Duck-Shoulder-Angel This Piece Originally Appeared At: http://www.stateofformation.org/2015/05/in-the-strangle-of-abuse-the-ethical-dilemma-of-hero-and-crook/#comment-174546

Over the past several years, a moral and ethical dilemma has come up: how do we respond to the writings and works of great public heroes who have made significant contributions to their field of study while also realizing that at times these individuals did not exactly live moral lives?

I’m thinking specifically of one example: John Howard Yoder. Although a Mennonite, Yoder’s story has been so widely told that even Anglican, Lutherans, and Pentecostals are using his story as a case study in crooked leadership.

indexYoder, a long time professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana (formerly Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary) rose to fame through his profound writings on peace, pacifism, social justice, and ethics. A few of his books such as Nevertheless: The Varieties of Religious Pacifism and What Would You Do? have personally been very instrumental in my own academic and theological development as a pacifist and I would recommend anyone interested in peace studies to read them. Yoder was also a committed Christian, showed leadership in a number of religious settings, and was fairly well-liked by those in his small town. And yet, Yoder had a secret. Although married, Yoder engaged in sexual scandals that at the time his wife was largely unaware of (I know this because I actually attended the same church as his widow during my schooling in Indiana). To compound the issue, Yoder’s sexual scandals were not simply affairs (as damaging and distressing as that would have been) they were unwanted physical touch between himself and his female students. Yoder continued to give into his temptations for a number of years resulting in many female members of this small private institution feeling afraid, violated, and manipulated.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to his rising fame, his tenure, or his otherwise perceived good character, the school chose not to do anything about it. Despite the young women’s pleas for help, the school ignored the allegations until Yoder was eventually forced to retire in 1984, at which point he continued to write profound ethical works and was hired at Notre Dame University in Indiana (which, at the time, was a far more prestigious and well-known school than the small Mennonite academy where he used to teach).

Understanding this background, Yoder’s story indeed portrays a number of moral dilemmas. To begin, there is the issue of why Yoder engaged in these despicable acts in the first place despite holding a religious tradition that would have explicitly been against it. Yoder, a self-proclaimed pacifist should have been aware that sexual abuse is a grave form of injustice and violence. In Rid of My Disgrace, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb describe such a terrible act as being a “vandalism of shalom” – something Yoder, on paper, would have agreed with.

Secondly, I believe that the school’s inability to act upon these allegations also presents some moral quandaries. Mennonites have long been known for their active witness through their protests, dialogues, and service towards marginalized people groups. It would seem that if anyone were to take these women seriously, it would be a denomination (like the Mennonites) who push for gender equality and giving the oppressed a voice. Additionally, the Mennonites have often been known as a humble group. It would seem quite strange that this school would care more about a professor’s rise to fame than about the hurting members in their own midst. Therefore, as much as I feel Yoder did terrible things, I also feel the school was equally guilty by not being better listeners and trying to be proactive in resolving the problem. That being said, I happen to know that the school has since tried to remedy the situation by providing a public apology and even financial remuneration to those affected by this tragedy – but still, no amount of pocket cash will ever resolve the anguish these women must have felt.

Lastly, this issue brings up the question of whether or not we should continue to read Yoder’s works knowing that his moral character was quite flawed. I struggle with this one. Short of the historical reformers from whom we take our tradition, Yoder is potentially one of the most instrumental theological figures within Anabaptism today. Having only recently passed away, Yoder’s voice remains fresh and has been studied by numerous theologians and scholars. Should we simply ignore all that he has written because of his inability to control his temptations?

I’d have to say no. I believe that upright character is necessary for religious leaders to have. I believe it is hypocritical to write on topics you clearly do not practice yourself, and I also believe that when confronted by God, Yoder will have a lot of explaining to do. On the other hand, I do not think we can completely reject all of his writings. We may have to distance ourselves from the actual character and simply focus on his work, but I still believe his writings are vital to the direction pacifism within North America has taken. Therefore, I continue to recommend his writings.

Although Yoder cannot go back and change what he has done, perhaps the lesson truly lies in what we can take from this experience. We all make mistakes and sometimes our mistakes have profound effects on our credibility and how we are viewed. Our Western society still leaves much to be desired in terms of the way we treat women. Women are still being abused and manipulated every day while we sit by watching helplessly. Our silence is the greatest enemy of our time. Our apathy is just as bad as committing the acts themselves Until we learn how to stand up for those who are wounded, people like Yoder will continue to rise in power within our religious institutions. We must take a stand by believing women, respecting each other, and lobbying for tighter laws. It is only in doing this that we will begin to restore healing and hope.

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ESSAY: Worship on the Margins (An Exposition of My Visit to the Sanctuary Ministry in Downtown Toronto)

4d988dd7e46a3This reflective essay recounts my experience worshiping with the congregants at Sanctuary (an inner city Church in downtown Toronto that reaches out to the poor and marginalized).

Introduction    

Every Sunday evening, a group of about fifty individuals, fluctuating in age and life experience, gather in an old church building known as Sanctuary for prayer, worship, and fellowship. This building, currently converted into a drop-in arts center and homeless outreach, has stripped any connotations of what a traditional church looks like. They do not have a pulpit, special table for communion, or pews, and yet this place remains a church because it is where the body of Christ is gathered. Primarily serving people on the margins, including present and former addicts, homeless individuals, and people with mental illness, this church is not just proclaiming the message of Christ but is also vibrantly living it out.

Subjective Response                                                                                                                                    

Sanctuary is a church located in the downtown core of Toronto, around the Bloor-Yonge area. Under the leadership of Pastor Greg Pauls, this church thrives on participatory facilitation and joyful celebration rather than formalized leadership positions. When I first entered the sanctuary, I noticed that all the members were sitting in a rectangle surrounding the communion table. The atmosphere was very relaxed, informal, and intimate, and people were all wearing casual clothes. The service started about half an hour later than was planned, but as people freely greeted and talked with each other, it soon became apparent that the real purpose of the church was to fellowship, and so there was no need to rush into the more organized service.   When the service did begin, it included several songs set to upbeat music, which the congregation seemed to thoroughly enjoy. This was followed by an open time for sharing prayers and Scripture, a moment of silence and communion, followed by a sermon, and then ending with a blessing and fellowship time.

This type of atmosphere is unlike the carefully scripted, reverent Mennonite churches I have attended throughout my life. Instead at Sanctuary, there was a fresh sense of free-flowing movement from the Holy Spirit. At Sanctuary, everyone is invited to participate by leading prayers, readings, or instituting the communion. Proper theological training is not imperative for hosting these roles; instead, a determined obedience to Christ, a love of communion, and a desire to grow are the necessary elements that propel people forward as they participate in this service.

This openness also truly speaks to how the congregants view God. For many people, God can seem like a distant entity, one who does not have the time to care for the trivial needs of mere humans, or even one who has abandoned them during their times of trial. Considering that many people at Sanctuary have been through very difficult seasons in their lives, there is much healing and support that is able to flow from an organization that sees all people as equals and values the contributions of each member. This shows that church and God are trusting, safe places where people can go and where they will be heard and accepted regardless of their lifestyle choices or issues. Here, there is no disconnect between the Jesus in the Gospels who reached out to the Samaritan woman, the woman with the issue of blood, or the adulterous woman and the Jesus who also promises to meet His disciples where two or three are gathered.

Also of note is that certain elements that are generally found in the majority of churches such as the offering, sharing of prayer requests, and pastoral prayer were missing from this service. Nevertheless, I actually came to appreciate this because I think it is relevant to the context these individuals are in. Since the church is reaching out primarily to the marginalized population, it seems very hospitable to assume that some people will not have the means to financially contribute to the church. By not having an offering, it reduces their anxiety and promotes the philosophy that one does not need to bring anything to God before He can accept us just as we are. Also, although there was no formal time of sharing, individual fellowship was happening throughout as we spent an extended amount of time communing and eating together after the conclusion of the service.

Theological Response

Although Sanctuary now considers itself a non-denominational church, their roots trace back to the Brethren movement. This is still evident in many aspects of their church life: For example, their communal participation rather than having solo-leadership, and their weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper are representative of the Anabaptist and Anglican roots from which they come. Understanding that there are many different types of Brethren churches, Sanctuary is still more progressive than the traditional closed versions because of its allowance for women to speak and the fact that no one wears head coverings.

The sermon was also very rooted in Scriptures and displayed a distinct love for God. Greg Paul’s preaching style was more expository than narrative, as he generously went through a large portion of the book of John, teaching the congregation of Christ’s love and blessings. I was also very impressed by Paul’s delivery of the sermon, as he preached effectively with no notes – a skill not many pastors possess.

Lastly, communion is a very important aspect of both the traditional Brethren Churches and Sanctuary. Although at Sanctuary anyone is able to bless the bread and the cup (and so it varies weekly), this week, a woman instituted the elements both at the same time. It was not traditional in terms of the words and passages that are generally read surrounding communion in many traditions, but rather was just a simple prayer and the injunction to remember Christ in our daily lives. After the elements were consecrated, there was no order to who would receive the bread, but rather everyone simply went up individually to receive it. I noticed that both children and adults came to the table and that a few people even came more than once. There was an option for both a common chalice and individual cups, but there was no cloth with which to wipe the chalice. Also, no one exchanged words between each other such as “the Body of Christ broken for you,” but instead, it was a very personal act.

Typically, in Brethren churches, communion is celebrated weekly with all believers of Christ being able to participate – although in some traditions, a closed table is practiced. Coming from Puritan roots, including situations in which people were imprisoned or martyred for their faith, it seems reasonable to expect salvation as the criteria for partaking in the Eucharist. I believe that at Sanctuary they truly embrace this. They may not have instituted the action with the typical command that only believers can participate, but this was clearly evidenced throughout their service as they shared freely of an open relationship with Christ. Sanctuary’s unique ministry and missions focus to reach out to marginalized, harken to the need for hospitality and grace to triumph over mere theological differences.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                                          

 From the beginning of the service, noticing the relaxed environment and the genuine care these members had for each other, to the final benediction and fellowship afterwards I was drawn into this sacred space. Truly, Sanctuary is a church that promotes equality, active rather than passive participation, and joyful delight in the wonders of God’s word and world. Today, as I reflect back on this experience, I am truly grateful for the unique contributions each person brought to the service, for their courage in sharing their inner struggles and dreams with one another and with the congregation, and for their desire to be hospitable and gentle with each other despite the various struggles many of them have experienced in their personal lives. I am thankful that I was able to attend a “Church on the Margins” one Sunday evening, and I am excited to do so again in the future.

ESSAY: Land of the Spirits: An Exploration of Spiritual Warfare in the African Context

index  A Lengthy Essay Explaining What Is Truly Meant By the Term “Zombie”

Spiritual warfare is prevalent in every country and continent on the globe, however, not everyone is aware of the tremendous impacts it can have on individuals and entire nations. In the West, there is a temptation to relegate spiritual warfare to the sidelines thinking that it is not a topic that is that relevant to daily living. Even within many Christian churches, warfare is considered to be something that only pertains to missionaries in the majority world, far removed from what churches experience here in North America. Yet, for the African population, spiritual warfare is something that is a very real and serious presence. To the African people, warfare occurs daily, is often the cause of much stress and tumult, and is something to be feared. Many Africans remain unaware of the power of Christ that could free them from this evil presence and yet there are not enough missionaries who go to Africa being fully equipped to deal with this reality. Instead of having missionaries teach them about how Christ triumphs over the darkness, Africans are finding that the missionaries from the West often deny the ever present reality of the demonic, or else do not know how to exercise the strength and authority they have in Christ. The thrust of this essay, then, will be to explain the need for Western missionaries to receive proper training and to become fully aware of the role that Spiritual Warfare has in the African context if they are truly to reach out to this nation. Through using a variety of written resources as well as occasionally nuancing personal stories of missionaries and native Africans from the field, this essay will draw out some key beliefs that the Africans share about spiritual warfare and its dangerous effects as well as provide modern relevance to western missionaries, and finally provide a framework for the breaking down on strongholds. While each African nation might have slightly different culturally and theological practices in terms of warfare, this essay will seek to highlight the views which are shared by the majority of the African contexts.

The African Spiritual Climate: To begin with, it is very important that Western missionaries understand the culture to which they are entering into when they step foot onto African terrain. African culture is very different than Western culture in that whereas Western culture often ignores the reality and seriousness of the demonic, African culture knows it all too well. This is because the very basis of spirituality in the African perspective encompasses “the whole range of life” with humanity being only a very small part of it.[1] Instead, everything exists because of invisible beings and as a result all African religious practices, doctrines, and attitudes consist of making sense of these invisible beings.[2]

In Africa there are many different traditional religions known as ATRs. At the core of the ATRs is a belief that there is a hierarchy of gods and goddesses which includes both spiritual beings as well as impersonal magical forces.[3] These gods and goddesses then each have special forces and include certain religious rites which are the basis for the accumulation of power.[4] Some of these links may include such aspects as: maintaining and exercising spiritual control through amulets, incantations, witchcraft, sorcery, and charms, the bestowal of certain names which have significant spiritual power, rituals that restore and balance spiritual power, and finally enlisting the help of a spiritual person who can mysteriously communicate with the other world of ancestors, spirits, and ghosts.[5] The people who possess these powers are often knownvin the African context as being spiritists, diviners, mediums, witches, wizards, and sorcerers.[6]

In the African context, nothing happens simply by chance but every consequence whether positive or negative is the result of spirits, demons, and ancestors. Spirits are the cause of one’s misfortune or success, one’s future possibilities, and even of the moral fabric of the society.[7] Everything flows from the reality of the spirit world: the very foundations not only of religion, but also of philosophy, politics, the economy, and socio-cultural realities.[8] It is largely accepted that these beings are neither inherently good nor bad but rather choose to reward or punish individuals, families, and tribes according to the way people choose to respond and show allegiance to them.[9] Therefore, by appeasing the gods and serving them, it is thought that misfortune can be prevented from occurring to an individual. Conversely, if an individual chooses to disobey the spirit through breaking a religious taboo or neglecting sacrifices these beings will then cause severe trouble to the individual and his or her tribe and family through creating disharmony, behavioural difficulties, illness, or even death.[10] These attacks, then, serve not only as a warning to the person in question, but also as an invitation or initiation of a potential “ongoing relationship between the spirit and victim, perhaps to the mutual advantage of both.”[11] It is believed that when a terrible event occurs, the reason behind it can always be explained as demonic or of a different cause if brought to the attention of one who has the gifts of divination.[12]

In the African context there three main types of spirits not all of whom are evil or cause division and hardship. To begin, the strongest and perhaps most important spirit is that of the ancestor.[13] Although departed from their earthly existence, these spirits are still very much seen as being members of the family and are revered as such.[14] They are often invoked to bring good luck, to bring a bountiful harvest or good hunt, and to hear and intercede for the prayer requests offered by their families.[15] These spirits are generally not wicked but rather represent the values and ideals of a group of people, in this case their family.[16] They are generally good spirits who protect the family and help individuals fight against the evil spirits and natural disasters which can take place.[17] They have a special standing within the clan as mediators and guiders who provide caution and warnings to families.[18] They also often create harmony amongst family units when prayers for success and fertility are addressed to them.[19] These benevolent spirits exist within the framework of hierarchy, beginning with immediate ancestors and moving up to other greater spirits until finally the Creator God is reached.[20]

The second type of spirit commonly referred to in the African worldview is Zar or Bori. Unlike the ancestors which have links to moral order, these spirits set out to create disruption often choosing individuals to afflict at random.[21]   These spirits may enter into an individual and then cause extreme pain, illness, or even death.[22]

Lastly, there are tribal gods which war against other territories and villages. These gods war against each other in order to maintain allegiances generally based on ethnicity and territory.[23] The winning or losing of a war is then dependent on the success or weakness of the gods or spirits.[24] These gods, which take up residence  in a specific geographical location or even in an inanimate object seek to protect individuals who live within their realm, yet if defeated, the allegiance the individuals have to the god must be transferred over to the more powerful god who won the war.[25] When a shifting of allegiance takes place, it frequently mirrors the “power encounters”  described in dramatic conversions to Pentecostal Christianity.[26]

How the Demons Got There: In African understanding, the entire world – in, above, and below consists of spirit beings such as gods, ancestors, ghosts, and even nature spirits.[27] Gods inhabit humans, animals, inanimate objects, and geographical locations.[28] These gods often serve as persecutors, intimidating and cajoling others into giving their allegiance to them and vying for power through fighting other gods in order to accumulate more respect from the clan.[29] Their main purpose is to control and manipulate the will and minds of the peoples, tribes, and nations that they have influence and perceived power over.[30] Yet, one may wonder how the spirits originally found their place in the lives of the African people.

Evil spirits gain entrance in a variety of ways and due to a variety of factors. Spirits like the Zar and Bori, find a gateway through improper burial, death away from home, identification of witches, dead animals, and even spirits who were always created as spirits.[31] Others may gain entrance through demonic strongholds such as curses proclaimed by slaves or through sorcery and dark magic.[32] In one specific case, Van der Meer has identified five major strongholds in Mali: “pride, mammon, Islam, disunity, and a territorial spirit with [sic] a symbol of three crocodiles.”[33] This is one example of what strongholds are present in this continent.

Once the spirits have initially gained entrance, they remain for a variety of reasons. In some instances they demand certain favours to be carried out in exchange for protection and blessings on the individual.[34] In the case of ancestral spirits they may remain until a taboo has been amended or the fault has been acknowledged and paid for.[35] They also may be summoned if dormant by a witch or wizard who calls them forth through evil magic and bids them to inflict the mind of an individual so that that person begins to act insane or to cause that person economic misfortune.[36] Spirits can also be summoned through the use of magic medicine, occasionally producing good results in the patient but in an ungodly way.[37] Lastly, it is even thought that certain person are truly “children of the devil” if they act wickedly, thus implying that they are being used by demons to bring about certain ploys.[38]

Another severe demonic stronghold in Africa results from the slave trade.  The history and present context of which still impacts the current spiritual climate of the African continent.  The horrors of the American slave trade are common knowledge. While this essay will not get into any demonic influences on the part of the Americans who bought and sold Africans, it will highlight some of the ways that African attitudes may have created demonic strongholds. Many Africans went through tremendous pain and suffering in this era and so it is of no surprise that many of them proclaimed curses on themselves, on their ethnicity and pigmentation of skin, and even on Africa as a whole.[39] While Westerners must exercise extreme compassion in this case putting themselves in the position of the slaves and understanding the atrocities they went through and why this would be a natural response, one cannot ignore the fact that the curses spoken by the slaves then developed into having significant spiritual impacts on their descendants both in “the Caribbean and Americas as well as in the continent of Africa.”[40] Therefore, in order to reverse these curses, intercessory prayer, “identificational repentance, and  proclaiming release in the spiritual realm” are necessary in order to break these bonds and undue the effects the slave trade had on this nation.[41] While not ignoring or downplaying the terrible incidences which took place, such proclamation frees the continent from having to continue to face further slavery due to the being in bondage to the spirits which have claimed them due to these  curses.

The second way that slavery has had a profound effect on the African nation is through the use of zombies. Despite the West’s fascination with the so-called “Zombie Apocalypse”, zombies are a serious issue in African spiritual warfare; which should not be taken lightly. In Africa, witchcraft is one of the biggest economic factors explaining material inequalities and helps people understand the way power and wealth is amassed.[42]  Witches continue to build up their economic repertoire by kidnapping individuals and then forcing them to work as night labourers most often in agricultural fields, yet occasionally in other ways such as in shops or markets.[43] As in typical cases of slavery, zombification exploits gender and age imbalance with the person of perceived power, usually a member of the family who is older, taking a younger person who is poor and using them for the witch’s own purposes.[44] This imbalance of familial power, however, is not uncommon in the African worldview which often finds the majority of its attacks coming from within familial units.[45] Once enslaved, the zombies are ill-treated, not offered proper nutrition and often having  to resort to cannibalization.[46] The cannibalization results from witches sending recruits to hospitals where infants who have died at birth are stolen. The flesh of the babies is then eaten by the zombies which has occult significance as the “consumption of flesh and blood suggests the destruction of the reproductive process as it is in the small babies that are consumed.”[47]

In his synopsis, Hasu describes two main variations of zombies in the African context. Firstly, there are individuals who are perceived to have died a suspicious death but in reality have been claimed by witches as zombies.[48] Often, when these zombies are taken, a fake death and funeral is staged, yet the real person remains hidden from view only seen by the witches.[49] The second variation of a zombie is those who are spiritually dead in these cases there is no allegation of a physical death.[50] The good news is that due to pastoral support, prayer, and deliverance, these zombies are able to be brought back to the present world and when this happens it is often interpreted as the biblical injunction of raising someone from the dead.[51] Yet, for the full deliverance of a zombie, all evil spirits must be cast out of him or her so that their true soul can remain.[52] The process must then be finalized through the shaving off of the zombie’s hair in order to sever any ties the zombie still has with the witch he or she was enslaved under for witches often use hair, clothing, and saliva for the purposes of witchcraft.[53]

Warfare and Dedications: In African culture, dedications of people as well as inanimate objects are normative and both provide gateways for the demonic. In personal dedications, people may become possessed due to familial or personal involvement in the occult.[54] In these instances, the doorway is open because a person has consciously made the choice to follow a spirit other than Christ and to be subject to it and to serve it. At other times, a child could be dedicated from birth to a specific god or spirit that is really a demon.[55] Therefore, in these cases families which wish to adopt a child from African countries should be very careful to claim the authority of Christ over this child in case they or someone in their ancestry line was falsely dedicated to an idol.[56]

Moreover, entire territories have been known to dedicate themselves to a god or spirit before.   Such is the case in territorial cults. Although less common now due to colonization and the influence of Western Christianity, these cults exalt a territorial spirit who can produce rain, the longer the people exalt this god the longer he will remain among them.[57]

Secondly, there is the dedication of objects. Given that animism, a belief that spirits inhabit many different items both animate and inanimate, is at the heart of African life, it is no surprise that Satan would use impersonal articles as a means to further his destruction on this nation.[58] These objects are usually dedicated through vows and sacrifices to a spirit and include personal items such as rings, pots, and sticks.[59] As a result, demons often attach themselves to these objects or to the house or building itself which houses these objects.[60] One specific example of this is “Devil’s Hill” located in Sierra Leone. In this particular location, a demonic stronghold was established and has since created much grief and illness to missionaries who have been offered this land by malicious leaders and who were unaware of the impact the demonic had on it.[61]

Impact for Western Missionaries: With the understanding of African spiritual warfare, it becomes important for those who feel a calling to minister in Africa to understand the implications this will have on them. Here, three main lessons can be learned.

Firstly, Western missionaries must be careful not to dismiss everything that happens within the African context as being demonic for all cultures and countries have certain aspects within them which are demonic.[62] Although it is imperative for demonic strongholds to be addressed and dealt with, these should be discovered and analyzed by or with the help of native believers who are more aware of their own contexts rather than missionaries or intercessors from outside of this context.[63]

Secondly, Western missionaries need to be trained in spiritual warfare before going to the field in Africa. Many times Western missionaries lack the knowledge or skills and thus show up in the field naïve or even clueless. Several times, these missionaries have just dismissed spiritual warfare as a figment of the imagination rather than understanding that it is a truly serious and predominant aspect of the culture.[64] Having denied the validity of spirits, then, once demons are encountered in the African context these same missionaries are unaware of how to exercise the authority they have in Christ against them. Many indigenous Africans are recognizing the discrepancy of the powerlessness of the evangelicals versus what is portrayed in Scripture. As a result, due to dissatisfaction with Western Christianity, the Africans then establish their own churches which can give more focus to spiritual warfare and victorious life. These churches then experience numerous healings and exorcisms and “have grown in their own contexts” in greater measures than the African western churches have.[65]

Lastly, missionaries should not be so naïve and inexperienced as to think that demons have no place in the church and to ignore the deliverance of individuals within their own congregations. For in the African mindset, there is a daily battle taking place between the forces of good and evil, between God and the demonic.[66] In fact, in many cases Christianity is not seen as replacing the worldview of evil spirits, but rather is a way of controlling the evil influences that spirits could have on one’s life.[67] For this reason it is largely understood that a Christian’s success could be blocked by demonic forces and that as a result not only could the individual remain unsaved but the one who is ministering to them could also face misfortune, illness, or economic difficulties.[68] Furthermore, it has been discovered that churches are one of the favoured places for witches to enter into for they seek to destroy the church from within.[69] Therefore, it becomes all the more important for missionaries to not only be aware of this reality, but also to understand how to exercise their spiritual authority and how to deliver others through prayer in order to break these strongholds.[70]

Breaking the Stronghold: After acquiring awareness and knowledge of the spiritual climate, the reality of demons, and the spiritual authority they hold, missionaries are then called to break down existing strongholds on the field. There are two main ways to go about this: identificational repentance and intercessory prayer.

In the first instance, a decision for collective or personal “turning away” or discarding of the spirit must be reached. This often includes a renunciation of any vows made to the spirit, a reversal of the authority once given over to it, and a refusal to continue to venerate and exalt it.[71]  The second instance involves the prayers of both the indigenous peoples as well as the church in the West. Through prayer, strongholds are not only identified but are broken down.   Of important note would be the prayer meetings which take place in certain African countries where evil spirits are rebuked and where the true God’s faithfulness is extolled for protecting individuals from the powers of evil. [72]

It is important to note, however, that whereas intercessory prayer can identify the problem in the first place or even influence a change in heart, a personal decision must still be made on the part of the one who once venerated the spirit so that the action can be stopped. Intercessory missionaries cannot make this decision for anyone else. Without the renunciation of vows and the breaking away from the spirit’s power, individuals may likely still remain enslaved to the demon even though many intercessors are praying for them.[73]

Conclusion: The West seems largely silent and uninterested in matters of spiritual warfare choosing to confine the demonic realities to musings about structures and pluralism, however, in the African context spiritual warfare is a very real and present reality which often results in curses, wars, famines, natural disasters, illness, and even death.[74] Africans live in the mindset that everything has the potential to be caused by evil spirits and even when there may be a natural explanation that the demons can choose to use any situation to exploit and harass their victims.[75] Therefore, it is so important for missionaries who hope to minister in Africa to  be aware of these complex realities, and to prepare themselves for the challenge by learning how much spiritual authority they have and how to equip themselves to be protected from the schemes of the evil one. Only when a missionary can find their strength in Christ rather than in themselves will they truly win the cosmic battle over good and evil and only then will real change be made and conversions start to happen.

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Kasambala, Amon Eddie. 2005. “The Impact of an African Spirituality and Cosmology on God-  Images in Africa: A Challenge to Practical Theology and Pastoral Ministry”.   International Journal of Practical Theology. 9, no. 2: 300-323.

Kraft, Charles H. 2012. I give you authority: practicing the authority Jesus gave us.  Minneapolis, Minn: Chosen.

Park, Nam Shin. 2011. “Hermeneutics and spiritual warfare.” Didaskalia (Otterburne, Man.) 22,   85-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 26,       2014).

Van der Meer, Erwin. 2010. “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and Mission in Africa.”      Evangelical Review Of Theology 34, no. 2: 155-166. Academic Search Premier,      EBSCOhost (accessed July 17, 2014).

Wagner, C. Peter, and Fredrick Douglas Pennoyer. Wrestling with Dark Angels: Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare. Ventura, Calif.,     U.S.A.: Regal Books, 1990.

[1] Amon Eddie Kasambala, “The Impact of an African Spirituality and Cosmology on God- Images in Africa: A Challenge to Practical Theology and Pastoral Ministry,” International Journal of Practical Theology, no. 2 (2005): 302.

[2] Ibid, 303.

[3] Tormod Engelsviken and A. Scott Moreau, Spiritual Conflict in Today’s Mission: A Report from the Consultation on “Deliver Us from Evil (Nairobi: Association of Evangelicals of Africa. Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2001), 38.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Engelsviken, Spiritual Conflict, 38.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Keith Ferdinando, “Screwtape Revisited: Demonology Western, African, and Biblical” in The Unseen World: Christian Reflections on Angels, Demons and the Heavenly Realm, A.N.S. Lane (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1996), 104.

[8] Kasambala, African Spirituality, 303.

[9] Paul Hiebert, “Spiritual Warfare and Worldviews,” Direction 29, no. 2 (2000): 116, accessed July 26, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 116.

[10] Ferdinando, Screwtape Revisited, 115.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ferdinando, 112.

[14] Kasambala, 315.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ferdinando, 116.

[17] Kasambala, 312.

[18] Ferdinando, 112.

[19] Ibid,116.

[20] Kasambala, 312.

[21] Ferdinando, 117.

[22] Ibid, 118.

[23] Hiebert, 116.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Hiebert, Spiritual Warfare and Worldviews, 115.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Charles R. Gailey, “Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits.” Missiology 22, no. 2 (1994): 250, accessed July 27, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 250.

[31] Ferdinando, 113.

[32] Erwin Van der Meer, “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and Mission in Africa.” Evangelical Review Of Theology 34, no. 2 (2010): 155-166. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, 161.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ferdinando, 119.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ayodeji J. Adewuya, “The spiritual powers of Ephesians 6:10-18 in the light of African Pentecostal spirituality.” Bulletin For Biblical Research 22, no. 2 (2012): 251-258. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 288.

[37] Ibid, 257.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Van der Meer, Strategic Level, 161.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Päivi Hasu, “Rescuing zombies from the hands of witches: Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity and spiritual warfare in the plural religious setting of coastal Tanzania.” Svensk Missionstidskrift 97, no. 3 (January 1, 2009): 417-440. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 417.

[43] Hasu, Rescuing Zombies, 418.

[44] Hasu, 427.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid, 426.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid, 418.

[52] Ibid, 429.

[53] Ibid, 430.

[54]Engelsviken, 36.

[55] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority (Minneapolis: Chosen, 1997), 180.

[56] Ibid.

[57] David Greenlee, “Territorial Spirits Reconsidered.” Missiology 22, no. 4 (1994): 507-514. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 510.

[58] Gailey, Engaging the Enemy, 250.

[59] Engelsviken, 36.

[60] C. Peter Wagner, Wrestling with Dark Angels: Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare (Ventura, Calif.,   U.S.A.: Regal Books, 1990), 76.

[61] Wagner, 77.

[62] Van Der Meer, 164.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Adewuya, The spiritual powers of Ephesians 6:10-18, 253.

[65] Nam Shin Park, “Hermeneutics and spiritual warfare.” Didaskalia (Otterburne, Man.) 22 (2011):85-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 99.

[66] Hasu, 424.

[67] Kasambala, 312.

[68] Hasu, 424.

[69] Ibid, 425.

[70] Ibid, 424.

[71] Greenlee, Territorial Spirits, 512.

[72] Engelsviken, 36.

[73] Greenlee, 512.

[74] Ali Emmanuel El-Shariff Abdallah “Contemporary issues in mission: an African perspective.” Didaskalia (Otterburne, Man.) 13 no.1 (2001); 11-23.   ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 19.

[75] Adewuya, 253.

ESSAY: Band as Accountability, Care, and Evangelism (The Spiritual Principles of the Band Societies and Their Implications for the 21st Century)

ACCOUNTABILITY-quoteThis is an essay I wrote for my Protestant Spiritual Traditions Class on the importance of reclaiming accountability for sin despite the relatively apathetic societal views of sin.

Introduction

The twenty-first century is filled with religious lethargy, apathetic spirituality, and the dismissal of sin. For many North American Christians, sin remains elusive with excuses given for engaging in inappropriate behaviour. This lack of guilt often results in the Church failing to boldly proclaim the Gospel through her lifestyle. Understanding today’s lack of Scriptural engagement to sin provides the reason movements such as John Wesley’s Band Societies are needed. These small intentional accountability groups foster a desire to live a Christian life, shifting one’s previously held mindset into a new conviction to be holy. Thus, the Holiness of Intent, or inward desire for righteousness, recognizes the gravity of sin, encourages mutual care within the context of discipleship, and subsequently imparts grace to the world.

Background                                                                                                                                                    

John Wesley, the father of Methodism, desired a church where intimacy and accountability were fostered. This desire, rooted in Wesley’s own conversion experience at Aldersgate following a personal conversation with Peter Bohler in which his faith was challenged, provided an apparent change in the way he understood life’s purpose.[1]   In his journal, Wesley recounts his new drive for inward holiness, his deep desire for Christian living, and his avoidance of sin compared to his previous spiritual life.[2] Wesley admits that although temptations and trials did not dissipate at the moment of conversion, a gradual shift began in the way he perceived them. He states that although he always fought not to succumb to sinful gratification, he formerly was “sometimes, if not often, conquered; now I was always conqueror.”[3] This new inward strength and courage to resist temptation resulted in a keen desire to share this search for holiness with others.

Gravity of Sin

A hallmark of Wesley’s theological framework is his direct correlation to sin and corruption. Through Adam’s sin, all generations are affected by evil desires which only Christ can heal and deliver a person from.[4] Christ calls sinners out of this state of death into a new awakened state where they cease being apathetic and instead become convicted of their need for a Saviour.[5]  Wesley describes this inward working of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart as removing former carnal pleasures, replacing them with the fruits of peace, joy, and love instead.[6] Although the Holy Spirit creates newness in a person, due to one’s sinful nature he continues to be pursued by old sins. According to Wesley, humanity is continually wooed into a state of perfection where perfect love reigns and all of one’s inner motives and being are possessed by this love.[7]  Yet, David Lowes Watson concedes that Christian perfection is not “a stage which can be attained, so much as a stage in the process of sanctification.” [8]   Rather, Wesley describes a gradual event in which believers are encouraged to shun pleasures which hinder evangelism and to embrace good works instead. [9] Nevertheless Watson notes that achieving this perfection is difficult because “it does not lie through neutral territory” but instead must be “forged in the immediate reality of a world resistant to its God.” [10]

In order to address issues of sin and encourage Christ-likeness, voluntary small groups known as Band Societies were formed.[11] These meetings included elements of prayer, hymns, and teaching, followed by a personal time of sharing. Watson notes the leader’s vulnerability in opening these sessions with personal reflections, followed by confession from other members, and lastly guidance for improvement [12]

These meetings, often including piercingly private questions, allowed individuals to be open about their struggles with the group. Through intense reflection, members were encouraged to take responsibility for all aspects of their lives, with additional responsibility for those in leadership roles.

Pastoral Care

Another element of the Band Societies is the mutual care and discipleship they offered each other. Watson explains that in the early days of the Band Society, leaders were given the responsibility of going to each congregant’s house to collect the weekly offering. [13] This provided an opportunity for leaders to give spiritual support and guidance and to “not only receive the contributions, but also watch over the souls of the brethren.” [14]   Although originally this pastoral care came in the form of leader to class, it soon included the care of members for each other. Watson notes how this intimate setting was ideal for nurturing affection for one another leading to an openness to share and “bear one another’s burdens.”[15]

Watson portrays how intimate fellowship and overarching spiritual insight is produced by the leader being vulnerable at the beginning of the session [16] Such a bold action certainly propels one towards the goal of active discipleship rather than static acceptance of the Gospel. [17]

Accountability as Evangelism

Lastly, the Band Societies functioned as an effective evangelism tool by their bold witness to holy living. By providing high expectations of morality, many non-believers were drawn into the Body of Christ. These expectations included the Christian vocation of service and compassion to the marginalized. In fact, according to Watson, from their earliest inception as the Holy Club, these societies were marked not only by personal spiritual renewal, but also by outreach and missions.[18] This outreach soon extended beyond one’s own community to encompass other groups and leaders including evangelist Charles Finney who wrote in the Oberlin Evangelist, “now the business of the Church is to reform the world – to put away every kind of sin.”[19] Through all these experiences, Methodism was beginning to flourish and mark its identity in the world, not as an indifferent and passive Church, but rather as a group of Christians living in full obedience to Christ.[20]

Meaning for the 21st Century                                                                                                                         

The Band Societies of the 1700s were instrumental to creating an atmosphere of mutual accountability and care, but their legacy still remains to this day. Count von Zinzendorf said it well, “I believe without such an institution, the church would never have become what it is now.”[21] These times of prayer and devotional life still find their place in modern-day small groups and Bible studies happening across North America.

They serve as a clarion call for Christians to engage in their faith, to become active in service, and to promote a reign of peace and justice. Using the Band Society Rules, Christians are reminded to hold nothing secret, but to be vulnerable with one another. In an age that prides itself in independence and keeping thoughts hidden, it reminds believers of their common humanity and their need to both give and receive counsel.

Importantly, Wesley emphasized the entirety of the human person. Although spiritual issues such as frequently praying, partaking in communion, and avoiding temptation are important, Wesley also asked about the care members were taking of their physical health.[22] These rules are meaningful within a society that often disregards healthy lifestyles in favour of poor nutrition, harmful toxins, and excessive work for they serve as a reminder to be conscious of personal choices concerning consumption and the environment.

Lastly, these rules were instrumental in insuring that Christians spent their time wisely. Watson realizes this by the believer’s responsibility to account for each moment of his time.[23] This implies that Christians were to dedicate each moment to prayerful consideration of what God was calling them to do. This is especially meaningful to the twenty-first century fast-paced life-style where people often are consumed by electronic devices. It is wise for North Americans to heed the instructions of carefully evaluating their time given that with the advent of mass media, much of the day is now squandered due to mindless engagement on the internet or with television.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                                     

The Band Society rules provide Christians with an understanding of the damaging effects of sin, the need to care for one another, and the importance of evangelism. Although no Christian is exempt from the struggles and temptation of the flesh, by placing one’s intent solely on righteous living and obedience to Christ, believers are able to work together to help bring about the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Bibliography

Pedlar, James. “Wesleyan and Methodist Spirituality.” Class lecture, Tyndale Seminary, North    York, ON, February 20, 2015.

Watson, David Lowes. “Methodist Spirituality” in Protestant Spiritual Traditions, edited by Frank C. Senn, 217. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.

Wesley, John. “Journal and Dairies.” In The Works of John Wesley, edited by W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater. Vol. 18. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988.

Wesley, John. “The Scripture Way of Salvation: A Sermon on Ephes. ii. 8.” In Sermons II 34-70. Vol 2 of The Works of John Wesley, edited by Albert C. Outler, 153-169. Nashville:   Abingdon Press, 1985.

[1] John Wesley, “Journal and Dairies,” in The Works of John Wesley, ed. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater, vol. 18 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988), 250.

[2] Wesley, “Journal,” 244.

[3] Wesley, “Journal,” 250.

[4] James Pedlar, “Wesleyan and Methodist Spirituality” (lecture, Tyndale Seminary, North York, ON, February 20, 2015).

[5] Pedlar, “Wesleyan.”

[6] John Wesley, “Scripture Way of Salvation,” in The Works of John Wesley: Sermons II, ed. Albert C. Outler, vol.2 (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1985), 158.

[7] Wesley, “Scripture Way,” 160.

[8] Watson, 224.

[9] Wesley, “Scripture Way,” 160.

[10] David Lowes Watson, “Methodist Spirituality” in Protestant Spiritual Tradition, ed. Frank C. Senn (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 230.

[11] Pedlar, “Wesleyan.”

[12] Watson, “Methodist,” Protestant Spiritual, 232.

[13] Watson, 231

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid, 227

[17] Ibid, 220.

[18] Ibid, 219.

[19] Ibid, 260.

[20] Ibid, 262.

[21] Ibid, 227.

[22] Ibid, 239.

[23] Ibid, 217.

What Is The Church and Why Does It Matter Essay

First_Presbyterian_Church_of_Redmond_01Keeping with the theme of some of my school essays, I am sharing one I wrote for my Intro to Christian Theology 2 class combining black liberation theology with some Bartolome De Las Casas, mixing in some disability theology and finishing off with Steve Kimes and John Howard Yoder. Best part, I got to quote from the new Mennonerds book “A Living Alternative.”

Introduction                                                                                                                                                   

From the beginning of creation, God has designed humanity to be in relationship with Him. This God-human relationship, founded in the Garden of Eden, finds its fulfillment in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, and ultimately awaits its final consummation in Christ’s second coming. Those who fully engage in this God-human relationship are part of a collective body known as the world-wide Church. However, oftentimes, the question can be asked, “What is the Church and why does it matter”? Thus, this paper will seek to answer this question, by exploring the theological, historical, and contemporary realities that surround it. Particular attention will be given to specifically defining the twenty-first century Western church. Ultimately, this paper will make the case that the Church is the visible expression of Christ’s body. This body exists in order to quell injustice, prophetically speak out on behalf of the marginalized, and promote a world of peace and justice.

Creation

Although the institutional Church did not exist until the book of Acts, the creation account exemplifies how from the beginning of the world, God created humans to be in relationship with Him and with each other.   Displaying His abiding love, God created a perfect world, in which no sin, death, or destruction existed. He then commanded that humanity live in loving relationship with Him, by worshipping and serving Him. Furthermore, having created humanity in His image, God extended His love equally to all. On this point, John Ruskin Clark shares how “a generalized concept of love as a power of attraction is the dynamic of creation. Love is an integrative principle that creates durable relationships in a novel form or order.”[1] God’s love, first displayed at Creation, then subsequently continued on through His covenantal relationship with the Israelite nation until it finally reached its climax in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. Through this re-establishment of the covenant, Christ extended His mercy, grace, and salvation not only to the hearts of the Jewish people, but to the Gentiles as well.

The creation account is imperative when answering the combined question “What is the Church and why does it matter?” because the relationship between God and humanity established at creation carries on throughout history. Existing as a prophetic voice, the Church seeks to emulate this same type of loving relationship with the world, embracing each individual as a unique creation of the Divine. Thomas Aquinas boldly asserted, “the Church is universal with respect to the condition of people, because no one is rejected, whether master or slave, male or female.”[2] This quotation illustrates the Church as both a sanctified body and a body that calls others out regardless of their position: for all are invited to be co-labourers with Christ.

Sin and Sacrifice  

Although the original creation was marked by perfect love, Adam and Eve chose to succumb to sin and embrace their selfish desires, rather than remain focused on God. This resulted in eternal separation between the Creator and His creation. Humanity was now subjected to death – the consequence for evil deeds. Until Christ came to this earth as the ultimate sacrifice for that punishment, humanity was incapable of being fully restored to right relationship with God. Nevertheless, God in His mercy did not abandon His people, but rather chose to become a human being so that creation could once again be renewed. Thus, Christ incarnated Himself in order to bring about the salvation of the world. Reflecting on this historical truth, Alister McGrath explains how Irenaeus saw “the entire process of salvation from the first moment of creation to the last moment of history, [as] the work of the one and the same God. There was a single economy of salvation, in which the one God – who was both Creator and redeemer – was at work to redeem the creation.”[3]

By dying on the Cross, Jesus     brought about justification for all of humanity. F. D. Macchia conveys how this justification draws out aspects of God’s faithfulness, liberation, and justice. This emphasizes the deliverance of humankind from the bondage of sin and oppression, and focuses on “setting things right between Creation and God.”[4] This theology shows how the freedom offered in Christ seeks to restore the creation to its original state of wholeness.

Someone who illustrated this concept of justification in her own life was Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) who received multiple visions explaining how redemption conquers sin and became empowered to reject injustice as a result. In her essay, “Julian of Norwich,” Shelly Rambo relates how Norwich received numerous visions from God which she wrote down in the book The Revelation of Divine Love. For Norwich, these visions were more than personal encounters; instead, they were a clarion call to persistently “witness to the wounds suffered at the hands of injustice.”[5] According to Rambo, one of Norwich’s most significant visions was the final one she received of the wounded servant. This vision came in response to her struggle to understand the effects of sin and culminated in her awareness that sinful humanity must rely on Christ’s death, to restore them to the original state God had intended in creation. In Christ’s atoning death, God draws humanity back to Himself despite their sinful morality. In response to this love, the Church exists as the visible manifestation of God’s love and is compelled to tell others about this saving grace both through words and actions.

The In-Breaking of the Holy Spirit and Pneumatology                                                                         

The traditional concept of church traces its history back to Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost, thousands of people were gathered together, when suddenly Christ’s disciples were able to speak in unknown languages. This resulted in thousands being converted to the Christian faith. From this point on, the Church grew exponentially, marked by several periods of revival throughout its history. This miraculous event of tongues also established for the early Christians that one of the key aspects of the Church must be evangelism and witness. This was propelled forward by Jesus’s command prior to His ascension into heaven (Matthew 28:16-20).

Recounting its Biblical and historical implications, Kirsteen Kim declares, “a theology that starts from the participation of the church in God’s mission cannot fail to point out that the church was conceived in the context of the mission of Jesus Christ, in which His disciples and the early Christians were called to take part.”[6] Essentially, this means the Church was created and continues to exist largely because of its missional focus. Thus, what began as a small, marginalized faction of the Jewish faith eventually resulted in the conversion of many nations and individuals so that today Christianity is the largest religion in the world.

Today, particularly those of the Anabaptist tradition largely view mission in what is called Kingdom theology. This theology teaches that the Church is created to be a visible sign of God’s love and justice, and that consequently, humanity should engage in acts of social justice in order to help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Manfred Marquardt describes Kingdom theology in this way: “The Kingdom of God is present, because Jesus is present. Jesus is the autobasileia, the personal embodiment of the Kingdom of God.”[7] He then relays that although the second coming is a future event, “God’s reign enters into the lives of human beings already in the present, evoking a new awareness of God’s presence and bringing forth practical consequences.”[8] According to Marquardt, this type of theology embodies a liberation from oppressive structures; re-affirms one’s commitment to love Christ and her desire to live according to His reign; and encourages acts of service and mercy.[9] This Kingdom theology also encompasses liberation theology which promotes the equality of often overlooked people groups. The case for liberation theology will subsequently be laid out throughout this paper.

Given that the Church is called to seek out injustice and liberate the marginalized, this sense of Kingdom theology is pivotal to understanding that this is the Church’s main function. David Wesley notes, “mission is the most identifiable aspect of the body of Christ…the very nature of the Church.” Thus, Kingdom theology is a vital aspect of Church life, for it embodies the very essence of the Great Commission and establishes a practical way for ushering in the Kingdom of God on this earth.[10]

Relating back to the story of Pentecost and the book of Acts, it is evident that the early Church was built upon the foundation of sharing the Gospel with those who had never heard it told before. Even today, the Holy Spirit continues to equip His Church by giving them spiritual gifts, in order for them to witness more effectively.

Creation and New Creation: The Role of Eschatology in the Church                                                           

Despite humanity’s sinfulness in destroying the original covenant between God and creation, God is merciful, and so He repeatedly draws His creation back to Himself. Subsequently, the Church is tasked with the responsibility of visibly revealing this truth to the world. Expounding on Gregory of Nazianzus’s teachings, Matthew Thompson states that the Holy Spirit is the One by which humanity moves closer to God and thus is redeemed in the “on-going process of salvation not just for humankind, but of all of creation.”[11] Thompson explains how “the Spirit completes the work of salvation in the creation that was polluted by humanity’s irresponsible flight from God, from love” by Christ’s atoning death on the Cross.[12] He later implies that the Eschaton, or the ending of this present age, will be “the final point of convergence between God and the world as the Spirit draws the two closer together. Then comes the Kingdom…”[13]

For Wilhelm Richebacher, mission is an eschatological activity in which the Church acts as the visible sign of God’s Kingdom, rather than simply a means of conversion.[14] Thus, the mission of the Church in this present day remains to co-labour with Christ in the renewal of God’s covenant and thereby act as a sign and witness of this truth to the world.

The Church’s Witness Today

The twenty-first century climate in the West poses many challenges to the institutional Church. Despite the Church’s call to remain faithful in restoring the former creation (especially by giving voice to the marginalized) it still faces the pressures of a society which promotes individualism, apathy, and affluence. Recognizing this reality, M.F. Bird observes the challenge that remains for the Church to understand how it can continue to be the Ekklesia, the “called out one” who witnesses and declares “the eschatological age of redemption that [will] burst upon the world.”[15] In order to understand the uniqueness of being “called out,” today’s Church must realize that it is not self-sustaining and thus must discern God’s voice, while also recognizing that evangelistic approaches have changed over time.

Firstly, the Western church must understand the unique challenges Christians in the twenty-first century face as a result of sweeping liberalism and pluralism. In his essay, “Becoming the Oppressed Church Again,” Steve Kimes poignantly states, “religion, including Christianity, still plays a role in American thoughts, but it is less and less significant. In fact, there is growing hostility toward Christianity.”[16] Kimes then lists three specific trends that are affecting the North American church of today: a decrease in church attendance, a disinterest in religion (which does not appear to have answers to the questions society is asking), and an increasingly negative view of Christians due to perceived immorality.[17] Kimes suggests that although in the 1980s Christians were generally viewed by non-Christians in mostly positive terms, today, the majority of Christians are seen by their non-religious peers as being intolerant, hypocritical, and judgmental.[18]

Secondly, the Church must recognize that it cannot survive on its own apart from God. This means that God must be at the center of all the Church’s programs empowering and equipping them. B.A. Gerrish notes in his book Thinking With the Church that Christians must be conscious of their finiteness and thus depend on “the creative causality of God.”[19] This means that ultimately humans are not capable of controlling their own lives without chaos ensuing, due to their being weak and fallible creatures. Instead, humanity must place its full trust in the Almighty who can order the lives of individuals in a way that will edify and bless both Him and them. In order to embody this, the Church must be reminded of David Wesley’s words that “mission is God’s nature and God’s activity (the Missio Dei) and furthermore, that the church is the missionary.”[20]

Lastly, the Church must understand how current mission approaches do not necessarily reflect historical understandings. In Theology in the Context of World Christianity, Timothy Tennent explains how over time, Protestantism shifted from being a largely European belief to a much wider reality.[21] He suggests that “what we further need to recognize is that the Christian faith is not only culturally translatable, it is also theologically translatable.”[22] According to Tennent, this means that the Church must then find ways of engaging in numerous new geographical contexts.

Application                                                                                                                         

Anabaptist theologian John Howard Yoder states, “the Church exists primarily as a critical witness to the world.”[23] If this is to be the case today, then it is necessary for the Church to affirm the Gospel within a pluralistic society. Recounting the socio-religious climate of the early Church, McGrath notes how Christianity first existed within a polytheistic culture in which it was imperative to “distinguish the Christian god from other gods in the religious marketplace.”[24] With this understanding, the Church must discover how to relate the Gospel to those who embrace different religions. Additionally, the concept of Liberation theology and its close connection to Kingdom theology is relevant for today’s Church. It can help in showing the Church how to respond to marginalized people groups such as the disabled, people of colour, and the Native American population.

Although people with disabilities are often overlooked within society, the Church is called to accept and support these individuals. Steven Fettke writes, “in creation God provides our animation or ‘life force’ that identifies us as who we are.”[25] This life-force sees the Holy Spirit in every individual regardless of her ability to fully articulate a deep theological awareness. Fettke maintains that in a similar way, the Church should also become inclusive to all people because God has created each individual in His image.[26]

Furthermore, Christians are called to end the racial division of marginalized people groups such as the natives and the blacks. Two individuals who have been instrumental in this prophetic witness to the world have been Bartholome de Las Casas and James Cone. Hjamil Martinez-Vazquez shares how Las Casas served “as one of the most adamant defenders of indigenous rights…a prophetic voice in the struggle to confront the empire with new theologies.”[27] A former Spanish colonist, Las Casas became compelled to renounce an oppressive system which “enslaved the indigenous population.”[28] Instead, Las Casas chose to treat the Amerindian people with dignity and equality, believing that the Christian faith should also be made accessible to them. With this new mindset, Las Casas confronted violence and injustice, advocated for human rights, and thus became a hero to the native people.

In a similar way, James Cone, a contemporary black theologian, tirelessly fights against the oppression of his people and is a leader in developing liberation theology. Linda Thomas and Dwight Hopkins write that Cone, rooting his thinking in the creation account, believes that the monopolization of power and privileges for certain individuals based on their skin colour is entirely against God’s original plan for equality.[29] Today, discussions of racism are held in various Christian communities in the United Stated, having been influenced by black liberation theology.   In Indiana, these discussions are particularly needed.   Although Indiana has made improvements in their treatment of black people, it still remains a racially divided state. For the most part, black individuals must still contend within a largely white social and political structure. Finding inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr., black liberationists seek to identify with “the oppressed blacks of America” and to interpret the Gospel of Jesus in light of the black condition.[30] They believe that the liberation of the black community is God’s doing.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                                        

The Church exists as the collective body of Christ – established for the sake of mission and evangelism. From its inception, the Church has sought to reclaim the very creation that was originally marred through the fall of humankind. Boldly proclaiming the in-coming Kingdom of Christ, Christians are invited to join God in His reconciling mission to this earth – proclaiming a reign of peace, justice, and hope. This proclamation often takes place in very practical ways such as through working alongside the marginalized population, continuing to witness even in a pluralistic culture, and maintaining hope in the restoration of this earth. Christians are called to build the Kingdom of God on this earth, while being aware that today’s evangelistic efforts are different from previous ones. When all this is accomplished, the Church will be better able to reflect the dignity and beauty of Jesus Christ. And in doing so, will leave no doubt in people’s minds as to what the Church is.

 

Bibliography

Aquinas, Thomas, “The Catholicity of the Church,” in The Christian Theology Reader, edited by Alister McGrath, 415. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Bird, M. F. 2006. “`A Light to the Nations’ (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6): Intertextuality and Mission Theology in the Early Church”. The Reformed Theological Review. 65 (3): 122-131. Clark, John Ruskin. 1979. “The dynamics of creation”. Journal of Religion and Health. 18 (2): 139-143.

Cone, James H. 1990. A Black theology of liberation. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

Fettke, Steven. 2008. “The Spirit of God Hovered Over the Waters: Creation, the Local Church, and the Mentally and Physically Challenged, A Call to Spirit-led Ministry”. Journal of Pentecostal Theology. 17 (2): 170-182.

Gerrish, B. A. 2010. Thinking with the church: essays in historical theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

Kim, Kirsteen. 2010. “Mission Theology of the Church”. International Review of Mission. 99 (1): 39-55.

Kimes, Steve, “Becoming the Oppressed Church…Again…” in A living alternative: Anabaptist    Christianity in a post-Christendom world, edited by Joanna Harader and A.O. Green, 49. New York: Ettelloc Publishing, 2014.

Macchia, F. D. 2001. “Justification through New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls”. THEOLOGY TODAY -PENNSYLVANIA-. 58: 202-         217.

Marquardt, Manfred, “The Kingdom of God and the Global Society,” in Wesleyan perspectives  on the new creation, edited by: Douglas M. Meeks, 162. Nashville, Tenn: Kingswood    Books, 2004.

Martinez-Vazquez, Hjamil, “Bartholome de Las Casas,” in Empire and the Christian tradition: new readings of classical theologians, edited by Don Compier, Pui-Lan Kwok, and Joerg    Rieger, 169. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.                                                                                                                                                                                         McGrath, Alister E. 2011. Christian theology: an introduction. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.:     Wiley-Blackwell.

McGrath, Alister E. 1998. Historical theology: an introduction to the history of Christian   thought. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Rambo, Shelly, “Julian of Norwich,” in Empire and the Christian tradition: new readings of classical theologians, edited by Don Compier, Pui-Lan Kwok, and Joerg Rieger, 169. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Richebacher, W. 2003. “Missio Dei: The Basis of Mission Theology or a Wrong Path?”      INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF MISSION. 92 (367): 588-605.

Tennent, Timothy C. 2007. Theology in the context of world Christianity: how the global church        is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan.

Thomas, Linda and Dwight Hopkins, “Voices from the Margins in the United States,” in The       twentieth century: a theological overview, edited by Gregory Baum, 205.Maryknoll, Ny: Orbis Books, 1999.

Thompson, Matthew K. 2010. Kingdom come: revisioning Pentecostal eschatology. Blandford   Forum, Dorset, U.K.: Deo Pub.

Wesley, David, “The Church As Missionary,” in Missio Dei – A Wesleyan Understanding, edited by Keith Schwanz and Joseph Coleson, 21. Kansas City, Mo: Beacon Hill Press of       Kansas City, 2011.

[1] John Ruskin Clark, “The Dynamics of Creation,” Journal of Religion and Health 18 (2): 140.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, “The Catholicity of the Church,” The Christian Theology Reader (2011): 415.

[3] Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 237.

[4] F.D. Macchia, “Justification through New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls,” Theology Today 58.

[5] Shelly Rambo, “Julian of Norwich,” in Empire and the Christian tradition: new readings of classical theologians, ed. Don Compier, Pui-Lan Kwok, and Joerg Rieger (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 169.

[6] Kirsteen Kim, “Mission Theology of the Church,” International Review of Mission. 99 (1): 41.

[7] Manfred Marquardt, “The Kingdom of God and the Global Society,” in Wesleyan perspectives on the new creation, ed. Douglas M. Meeks (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2004), 162.

[8] Marquardt, “Kingdom of God,” 162.

[9] Marquardt, 163.

[10] David Wesley, “The Church As Missionary,” in Missio Dei – A Wesleyan Understanding, eds. Keith Schwanz and Joseph Coleson (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2011), 21.

[11] Matthew Thompson, Kingdom come: revisioning Pentecostal eschatology (Blandford Forum: Deo Pub, 2010), 73.

[12] Thompson, Kingdom, 74.

[13] Thompson, 74.

[14] Wilhelm, Richebacher, “Missio Dei: The Basis of Mission Theology or a Wrong Path?” International Review of Mission. 92 (367): 593.

[15] M.F. Bird, “‘A Light to the Nations’ (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6): Intertextuality and Mission Theology in the Early Church,” The Reformed Theological Review. 65 (3): 126.

[16] Steve Kimes, “Becoming the Oppressed Church…Again…,” in A living alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a post-Christendom world, eds. Joanna Harader and A.O. Green (New York: Ettelloc Publishing, 2014), 49.

[17] Kimes, “Oppressed,” 50.

[18] Kimes, 50.

[19] B.A. Gerrish, Thinking with the church: essays in historical theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2010), 83.

[20] Wesley,Missionary, 23.

[21] Timothy Tennent, Theology in the context of world Christianity: how the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 1.

[22] Tennent, Theology, 16.

[23] Cited in Joon-Sik Park, Missional ecclesiologies in creative tension: H. Richard Niebuhr and John Howard Yoder (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 5.

[24] Alister McGrath, Historical theology: an introduction to the history of Christian thought (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), 2.

[25] Steven Fettke, “The Spirit of God Hovered Over the Waters: Creation, the Local Church, and the Mentally and Physically Challenged, A Call to Spirit-led Ministry,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology. 17 (2): 173.

[26] Fetke, Spirit, 173.

[27] Hjamil Martinez-Vazquez, “Bartholome de Las Casas,” in Empire and the Christian tradition: new readings of classical theologians, eds. Don Compier, Pui-Lan Kwow and Joerg Rieger (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 202.

[28] Martinez-Vasquez, “Bartholome,” 202.

[29] Linda Thomas and Dwight Hopkins, “Voices From the Margins in the United States,” in The Twentieth Century: A Theological Overview edited by Gregory Baum (Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 1999), 205.

[30] Cone, Black Theology 5.

Theologically and Spiritually Influential Women In Ministry (Past and Present) Pocket Guide

images Throughout my six years attending a Bible College and two different seminaries, I have often been surprised (and disappointed) at the lack of women’s voices that are heard in missions, scholarship, and preaching.  So, after several months of collecting stories and data, I have created a pocket guide to help combat this problem.  The names mentioned in these lists only begin to show the breadth of feminist contributions to the Church.  There are many other great women of history (and even in this present day) who continue to shape and form the Church in ways that their male counterparts cannot.  However, in the interest of space, I have only highlighted a few individuals here.  These individuals represent a wide array of positions – some were missionaries, some saints, and some martyrs.  Others are modern day speakers, leaders, artists, and actors.  In each case, each person has made a major contribution to Christian life and thought.  This list is far from complete.  I’d welcome your suggestions in the comments section.  Who do you think should have been included on this list and why?  I also want to stop here and thank the many housewives, pastor’s wives, and mothers who will forever go nameless and yet who have sustained and supported the Church and missionaries through their prayers, financial resources, and counsel.   Do you know someone like that?  If there was an award going out to a wonderful Christian woman who would you nominate?

A – Anne Frank, Amy Carmichael, Ann Judson, Amanda Berry Smith, Anne Lamott, Anna (Prophetess who held Jesus before she died), Anne Carr, Anne Bradstreet, Aimee Semple McPherson, Anne Hutchinson, Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell, ALONB (A Lady Of New Brunswick – Published Her Works Anonymously)

B – Barbara Brown Taylor, Bell Hooks, Beth Moore, Bethany Hamilton, Brenda Salter-McNeil, Bilquis Sheikh, Beverley Lewis

C – Catherine Booth, St. Cecilia, St. Clare, Christena Cleveland, Catherine of Sienna, Corrie Ten Boom, Catherine of Genoa, Clare of Assisi, Christine Caine, Carolyn Arends, Charlotte Elizabeth Tona, Charlotte Von Kirschban (Greatly Influenced the Writings of Karl Barth), Caterina Zel

D – Donna Lynn Hess, Diana Butler-Bass, Delores Williams, Donata, Dionysia, Deborah (first female judge), Dorothy Sayers, Daphne Hampson, Dorothee Solle, Darlene Deibler Rose, Domenica Narducci da Paradiso

E – Eudocia, Eleanor Davies, Elizabeth Elliot, Ellen Hebden, Elisabeth Dirks, Esther (Queen), Eloise, Evelyn Underhill, Elizabeth Fry, Ester Sowernam (Controversy Over Whether This Writer Was A Woman Or A Man Writing Under A Woman’s Name), Emily Briggs

F– Florence Nightingale, Felicitas, Felicity, Frances Willard, Francesca Battistelli, Flannery O’Connor, Fanny Crosby, Frances Elizabeth Willard

G – Mme. Guyon, Gladys Alward

H – Harriet Beecher Stowe, Helena (Constantine’s Mother), Helen Rosevear, St. Hildegard of Bingen, Hannah (Samuel’s Mother), Hagar (Ishmael’s Mother), Huldah (Prophetess), Hannah Hurnard, Heidi Baker

I – Ivone Gebora, Ida Raming, Isobel Kuhn, Irma Ramirez, Ida Scudder, Ingegerd Olofsdotter

J – Julian of Norwich, Josephine Butler, Joni Erikson Tada, Julia Greshwell (Published Under Julia Joanna), Joan of Arc, Junia, Jeanette Li, Johanna Eleonora Petersen

K – Kathryn Tanner, Katherine Hayhoe, Kari Jobe, Katie Davis, Kay Robertson, Karen Green, Kathy Ireland, Katherine C. Bushnell

L – Lucy (305), Lijsken Dirks, Lydia (Convert to Christianity), Lily Goodman, Lillias Trotter, Lottie Moon, Lorna Dueck, Linda Tripp

M – Misty Edwards, Mary Dyer, Mary (Mother of Jesus), Monica (Augustine’s Mother), Marva Dawn, Macrina, Mary Slessor, Mary Magdalene (Disciple of Christ), Morna D. Hooker, Miriam (Prophetess), Margaret Fineberg, Marie Dentiere, Margaret Askew Fell

N – Nancy Sleeth, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Natalie Sebastian

O – Olga of Rus, St. Olympias,

P – Phoebe Palmer, Phyllis Tickle, Phyllis Tribble, Perpetua, Phillis Wheatley, Prisca, Priscilla (Early Church Co-Leader Along With Husband Aquila), Puah (Egyptian Midwife Who Saved The Israelite Boys), Pat Marvenko Smith

Q – Queen Catherine II (the Great), Queen Jane Grey, Queen Jeanne D’Albret

R – Rosemary Radford Ruther, Ruth (Loyal Moabitess), Rahab (Prostitute Who Saved Israelite Spies), Roma Downey, Rachel Held Evans

S – Susanna Wesley, Sister Sue Moesteller, Shiphrah (Egyptian Midwife Who Saved Israelite Boys), Suzanne Woods Fisher, Sarah Bessey, St. Scholastica, Sallie McFague, Simone Weil, Sojourner Truth,

T – Terese of Liseaux, St. Thereas of Avila, Mother Teresa, Theodora, Tabitha (Charitable Disciple of Christ Also Known As Dorcas)

U – St. Ursula, St. Ulphia

V – St. Veronica, Valerie C. Saiving, Veronika Gross, Victoria Childress, St. Valentina

W– St. Winifrid, St. Wilfrida, St. Wiborada, St. Wivina

X

YYael (Jael – Wife Of Heber the Kenite Who Killed Sisera), Yowkebed (Jochebed – Moses’s mother)

Z – St. Zita, St. Zdislava, of Lenberk, Zelophehad’s Daughters (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah – the first feminists)

Understanding Pentecostalism: Pentecostal Questions and Aswers Essay

index This year for my Protestant Spiritual Traditions class at Tyndale Seminary I was required to write a paper on Pentecostalism.  The assignment was simple: to write three question you would ask a Pentecostal and then answer them as if you were that Pentecostal. No further research (outside of what was discussed in class and the assigned textbooks were to be used). As a Charismatic Anabaptist, this assignment was intriguing to me and when I shared what I was writing on, several individuals seemed interested in reading further.  So, I’ve included this essay here.  This essay also begins a series of a few more scholarly and longer pieces to this blog.  These essays will appear once a week throughout the month of May as an experiment to see if the readers enjoy this type of writing or not.  Please feel free to get back to me with your comments regarding how you think this is going.

Introduction

Many individuals believe speaking in tongues, prophesy, and other manifestations of the Spirit to be the very essence of the Pentecostal Movement. However, the scope of Pentecostal spirituality encompasses considerably more than the characteristics listed above. In Protestant Spiritual Traditions class, Dr. Van Johnson related that Pentecostalism is a fairly young movement, having only been formed around one hundred years ago (Johnson 27 March 2015). Nevertheless, in this short time period, Pentecostalism has established itself as being a diverse and worldwide movement which embodies and incorporates such aspects as spiritual gifts, an individual awareness of the Holy Spirit’s movement in a believer’s life, and a passion for evangelism and mission (Johnson). Yet, despite the fact that many Christians from other faith traditions do not fully understand Pentecostalism, it remains one of the largest Christian traditions in the world. Today, over a quarter of all Christians worldwide identify as Pentecostal or Charismatic, the majority being children and youth, coming from urban centers and living in geographically poor areas (Johnson). Due to the large influence Pentecostalism has on evangelical Christianity, this paper will seek to address the specific characteristics of Pentecostalism in a way that those unfamiliar with the Pentecostal movement can understand.

nonsense-memes-speaking-tonguesQuestion 1: Many Pentecostals believe in a post-conversion experience where one is filled with the Holy Spirit. This is often referred to as “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and is accompanied by visible manifestations – primarily speaking in tongues. What does this baptism entail and why do Pentecostals believe it is important?

Speaking in tongues, commonly referred to as glossolalia, is often considered to be the initial evidence of a believer being baptized in the Holy Spirit and subsequently filled with His power. In the same way that one is physically baptized in water to testify to their love for Christ, Spirit Baptism refers to a total immersion in the Holy Spirit and a desire to witness for Him. According to Pentecostals, this concept of speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized in the Spirit first originated in the book of Acts, where on the day of Pentecost, many believers began evangelizing in foreign languages they had never spoken before. When the crowd around the believers heard them speaking in their own languages, many were amazed and drawn to the Gospel (Acts 2).

In recounting this miraculous story, the early Pentecostals initially associated this supernatural experience with xenolalia or the speaking of a foreign language unknown to the speaker but recognized as an actual earthly language. Well-known father of the Pentecostal movement, Charles Parham believed that God would give Christians the ability to speak foreign languages in order to expedite missionary activities and reach the nations for Christ (Johnson). Although Parham maintained this notion, Pentecostals later came to associate the baptism in the Holy Spirit primarily with glossolalia or the speaking of a “heavenly language” unknown to humankind (Johnson). In both instances, tongues were and are considered to be an essential witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in an individual’s life. Whether for personal edification, missionary activity, or both, tongues empower an individual to be bold in Christ and attain a place of intimacy with Him, where their desire for holiness grows.

For example, Adam Stewart writes about Ellen Hebden, a monumental figure within the Canadian history of Pentecostalism, recounting her experience with tongues in this way: “the Holy Spirit manifested His power in such a wonderful manner that everyone present saw that it was God” (qtd. in Steward 22). According to Johnson, Pentecostalism was heavily influenced by the Holiness Movement of the 1800s in which individuals focused on a New Testament restoration of the present day church (Johnson). This resulted in many of these individuals shunning worldly pleasures, including alcohol, tobacco, and dancing, in an attempt to better focus on Christ.

Thus, for many Pentecostals, tongues were (and are) a sign of combining holiness with the power of the Holy Spirit. In this pursuit of holiness, the early Pentecostals sought to live godly lives – not because they disdained worldly joys, but rather, because they had experienced such a profound joy in Christ that they did not want anything in the material realm to distract from it (Johnson). This new understanding of spiritual holiness prompted many Pentecostals to witness and evangelize; spurred on a desire to testify to the greatness of God; and ultimately established a framework for the expectation of even greater spiritual manifestations to take place.

Healing_'laying_on_of_hands'_ceremony_in_the_Pentecostal_Church_of_God._Lejunior,_Harlan_County,_Kentucky._-_NARA_-_541337Question 2: Many Pentecostals have witnessed and experienced miracles, healings, and prophetic utterances, yet many other evangelical Christians believe these events ceased after the book of Acts. Are these supernatural experiences truly still meant for today? How can one know whether or not these claims are truly legitimate?

According to Johnson, the Pentecostal movement teaches that the supernatural activities recorded in the New Testament are still happening today (Johnson). Cecil Robeck further explains how this concept of restoring the former supernatural activities found its way into what later would be termed “the latter rain movement” (Robeck 19). This theory views the book of Acts as the “early rain” creating the conditions for something of an even greater magnitude to take place in order to usher in the Second Coming of Christ (Robeck 19). Finding its validation in the prophecy of Joel 2:28 in which the Israelites are told that “your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” Pentecostals thus were and are filled with a renewed expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God (NASB).

Today, Pentecostals hold a largely experiential faith in which they frequently have personal encounters with Christ, resulting in deeper intimacy with God. Consequently, this propels them to move forward in evangelism (Johnson, “Pentecostal Wheel,” 2). Nevertheless, healings and miracles are not solely rooted in the Pentecostal openness to wonder and surprise; however, they further serve as an effective means which God uses to save the souls of many unbelievers.

According to Robeck, miracles are an increasingly important evangelistic tool tangibly proving the Holy Spirit’s empowerment for mission within an age and culture that finds fulfillment in critical thought, scientific reasoning, and logical arguments (Robeck 42). Michael McClymond further goes on to say that “healing stimulates church growth” (McClymond 40). According to McClymond this is especially the case in several Chinese churches where close to 90% of new converts “attribute their conversion to a healing experience” (McClymond 40).

Pentecostals view healings and miracles as an opportunity to evangelize and witness as well as to testify to Christ’s immutable character in which God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Pentecostals therefore imply that since God historically accomplished all of these miraculous acts and since He has not changed, that He therefore continues to work in the lives of believers in incredible ways in order to continue to build His Kingdom.

goQuestion 3: Pentecostalism has often claimed the motto of “Come, Lord Jesus.” How does Pentecostal theology fulfill the Great Commission? Do Pentecostals evangelize because of Christ’s imminent return or simply in order to serve the marginalized?

A major distinguishing feature of Pentecostal theology is its ability to interact with the poor and marginalized in society. This is evidenced by the fact that Pentecostalism is found within more Third World countries than in the West and can be identified as a movement of the poor, with close to 90% living below the poverty line worldwide (Johnson 27 March 2015). Furthermore, James Smith writes that Pentecostal theology is placed within “an overarching narrative that has an eschatological orientation towards the coming Kingdom” (Smith 45). Due to its experiential eschatology of individuals feeling the tangible closeness of Christ, this movement fosters a theology that the Kingdom of God is both imminent and already existent (Johnson, “Pentecostal Wheel,” 2). Smith further acknowledges that Pentecostalism is a belief system which challenges the complacency of the elite, empowers believers, and seeks to transform society (Smith 46).

With its emphasis on the soon return of Christ, Pentecostalism emphasizes that all believers are invited to participate in the Great Commission because many labourers are needed for the great harvest of souls (Johnson, “Pentecostal Wheel,” 9). Those who practice Pentecostal theology seek to live with the understanding that Christ is coming soon, and therefore all believers have the responsibility to evangelize to as many souls as possible. This results in a sense of urgency that Christians must always be prepared to testify, witness, and provide material resources for those in need. In this way, Pentecostalism fully recognizes the dichotomy of both the “now” and the “not yet” as they seek to build the Kingdom of God here on this earth while awaiting Christ’s final triumphant return.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                         

Pentecostalism is a faith tradition with a deep history of openness to the movement of the Spirit. It has often had a very strong emphasis on evangelism, mission, and the power of Christ resulting in the salvation of many. Pentecostalism acknowledges the power of the Holy Spirit, and encourages intimate encounters with Christ by fostering a patient expectation for His return. By embracing such traits, Pentecostals build the Kingdom of God on this earth, all the while encouraging others to do likewise. At the same time, they continually press forward to witness the Holy Spirit produce an even greater outpouring of His love on this world than what has previously been evidenced.

Works Cited

Johnson, Van. “Pentecostal Spiritual Traditions.” Tyndale Seminary. 27 March, 2015. Lecture.

Johnson, Van. “The Pentecostal Wheel: Defining Characteristics of Early Pentecostal   Movement.” Handout. Tyndale Seminary. Toronto, ON. N.D. Print.

McClymond, Michael. “Charismatic Renewal and Neopentecostalism: From North American    Origins to Global Permutations.” The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism. Eds.   Robeck and Yong. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 31-51. Print.

New American Standard Bible. La Habra, Calif: Foundation Press Publications, publisher for the Lockman Foundation, 1971. Print.

Robeck, Cecil. “The Origins of Modern Pentecostalism: Some Historiographical Issues.” The  Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism. Eds. Robeck and Yong. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 13-30. Print.

Stewart, Adam. “A Canadian Azusa? The Implications of the Hebden Mission for Pentecostal Historiography.” Winds From the North: Canadian Contributions to the Pentecostal  Movement. Eds. Wilkinson and Althouse. Boston: Brill, 2010. 17-37. Print.

Smith, James. “God’s Surprise: Elements of a Pentecostal Worldview.” Thinking in Tongues.       Ed. Smith. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 2010. 31-47. Print.