We can’t be dead, we’re snoring!

Barry Chant thinks the Pentecostal movements need to look at themselves, look to God, and remember what happened to the Methodists, once in great revival, but lately becoming sluggish, even if not actually dead.

The Australian Pentecostal movement today seems to me to be facing a similar problem to that of the Methodists a hundred years ago. Methodism had departed from its early Wesleyan roots and was becoming more respectable. It had ministry training colleges, buildings, schools and impressive publications… and there were those who cried for a return to the old ways and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
William Taylor (1845-1934), the founder of what is now the Wesley Mission in Sydney, was convinced of the need for churches to emulate the methods of the apostles — apostolic methods will still produce apostolic results. Taylor’s passion was expressed in a sermon he preached in 1912, the one hundredth anniversary of the first Methodist meeting in Australia. Methodism’s only safety lay in its spirituality. And he pleaded with them — Back to Wesley! Back to the upper room! Rekindle the waning fires of the Church’s inner life! Give the Holy Ghost an opportunity!
It would pay them ‘a thousandfold’ to stop everything for a year and fall to their knees to ask God to ‘alter the atmosphere of the Church.’ He challenged the ministers, ‘Put fire in the pulpit, and you will soon get fire in the pew.’
‘Let the Church go to its knees and master the art of tarrying there, and then, ere this year closes, there shall come to our great Church the one thing, the only thing, that can permanently settle this question — a Pentecost, bursting upon us with all its original power.’

Another who cried for revival was John Watsford, the first Australian-born Methodist minister. He saw six causes for concern in 19th century Methodism:
Distraction from the all-important work of saving souls; too much reliance on special services and special agents; growing worldliness of the Church; modifying of grand old doctrines; neglect of the doctrine of entire sanctification; neglect of weekly class meetings.
The Pentecostal movement today faces similar challenges. I want to consider some contemporary issues – some which may prove to be controversial. If so, I hope they will stir us up to some useful thinking, praying, reflection and debate which will lead to a positive outcome.

http://www.wvi.net.au/chant

Pentecostals have traditionally been Spirit-inspired, if a little wild at times, and ready to allow God to freely move in meetings. There is a danger that contemporary ideas could push the ministry of the Spirit into the background, presumably so as not to offend unbelievers, but this would be a mistake, since the growth of Pentecostal movements has been largely due to the revival atmosphere provided by bold preaching, daring to allow the Holy Spirit to minister, not being afraid to allow gifts and manifestations to flow, and not being concerned about the sensitivities of ‘seekers’.

After all, God is God, and if he comes on the scene we should surely expect that he is capable of doing all that Jesus did on earth, and more, so it would surely be more of a sign of his presence to allow healing, miracles and the manifestations of the Spirit to have full reign in meetings. Let go and let God!

Potentially the arrival of the ‘seeker-sensitive’ style of church ministry could see some Pentecostal churches opt for a ‘safer’ environment. However, it could be time to press in deeper, in prayer, in the Spirit, and in trusting the presence of God, with an expectation of amazing works at the hands of God.

What comes to mind is the great admonition to ‘Awake, thou that sleepest!’ Not that we’re actually sleeping or anything. That sound you hear could be groaning… in the Spirit … or not!


8 thoughts on “We can’t be dead, we’re snoring!

  1. FL, you’ve just identified one of the concerns I have about the seeker sensitive approach in the Pentecostal context. Seeker sensitive churches aren’t always Pentecostal, but when they are, it can lead to changes in the way we allow expressions of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

    I have been told that some Pentecostal churches no longer allow worship in the home groups, or prayer in tongues, since this might discomfort a non-believer who visits. Maybe someone who has seen this could comment on whether it is the truly the case or not. If true, it’s pretty sad, as I’ve seen new Christians and searching people greatly touched in the context of small groups when the Holy Spirit is allowed to move.

    On a larger scale, church movements (whatever their form) seem to undergo the greatest growth when they are offensive to the societal norm – in their radical youth. Once the organisation becomes accepted by the society at large, it seems to settle down, lose its radical edge, and eventually growth peters out.

    Given that the seeker sensitive approach tries to appeal to the broader society around it, there’s a real risk that the church will become a reflection of the world around it in many ways, and while growth may initially be good, if it follows the historical norm, the growth will then slow. The radical Christian expression that the church was birthed from, when the group had nothing to lose, is gone. Particularly when people become more concerned about society’s acceptance of them, than about what the Holy Spirit wants to do.

    This is apart from the risk that the church encourages the values of the world around them, by appearing to participate in them, rather than those we see revealed in scripture.

  2. “However, it could be time to press in deeper, in prayer, in the Spirit, and in trusting the presence of God, with an expectation of amazing works at the hands of God.”

    I would so much rather see that approach than the seeker sensitive one. If a community does this, then they may find that they are called to do something other than stick with an imported program, even if these at times have useful aspects.

  3. I don’t have a problem with the ‘seeker sensitive’ approach, as log the Holy Spirit isn’t eliminated from meetings. In some ways we need to be open and approachable to the unsaved, but should still have confidence in the leadership and understanding the Holy Spirit.

    It seems ludicrous to me to think that we would leave out the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, as if He could in some way ‘put people off’! people put people off, but the Holy Spirit convinces. Some people will reject the Holy Spirit, but it is my experience that unsaved people are either attracted to the power of God or afraid, which is what we find in the Book of Acts.

    Praying in the Spirit is part of the Pentecostal heritage. Worship and prayer, including in tongues, should be encouraged in small groups. I understand that the ‘unlearned’ should be considered when they’re present, but, again, that is down to the leading of the Holy Spirit isn’t it?

  4. It’s no so much “seeker sensitive”, but the outreach, directed nature of these approaches. They all remind me of just another sort of marketing campaign to increase bums on seats.

    A relationship approach would be better. It means dismantling most of the power structures within churches, so be careful, FaceLift.

  5. Chant raises a very good point which is that any church that gets comfortable and is more concerned about external appearances rather than seeking and making room fort God has actually lost it at that point.

    Worrying about external appearances becomes more about not offending people – being politically correct in the context of whatever the milieu is at that time with all the associated issues. For example – look at the Anglican Church at the moment and how it is self destructing.

    I don’t disagree with David’s comment about being a relationship approach, but if it is about pleasing people rather than a God focus, then the grunt and power just evaporated.

  6. David you are a freaking atheist (literally given some of your comments), you are not supposed to also be right!

  7. If being ‘seeker sensitive’ is about having concern for others, being careful not to alienate people with jargon or exclusivity, being able to relate to people. and being friendly and welcoming, then I don’t have an issue with it. When it becomes is more concerned about not offending people than following where God is leading or as MN said, being politically correct, at the expense of the gospel, then I am not happy about it. Having said that, the other extreme of forcing our views onto others who aren’t interested or who find them offensive is too insensitive!

    If people visit our meetings, whatever form they take, they should be both welcome and be able to see a true picture of what we believe, even if that’s a contrast to what they believe. I would hope for no less if I visited some other religion or say, political party. The groups that get you in under false pretences (I’m thinking of Amway etc who would never tell you that you were going to an Amway meeting until you were in there) are just rude and dishonest.

    Anyway, that’s off topic.

  8. Seeker sensitive’ assumes that there is a large demographic which is not against Christianity, or Christ, and would like to have some kind of connection with God, or enter into the supernatural, without actually knowing who God is, or how to connect.

    Many are assumed to be against organised religion, suspicious of it, or bored to tears by its presentation, and maybe with good cause.

    So the idea is to present the gospel using approachable, non-threatening means. I think relevance is alluded to. Relevance to language, culture and various demographics being a doorway into their lives. This is reasonable, but as soon as you water down the gospel it become the form without the power. nit becomes as religious as some denominations have become, as Chant points out with the Methodists.

    I’m sure Wesley would be turning in his grave if he weren’t already with the Lord! He was never averse to the moving of he Spirit in his meetings, and expected revival and repentance to have a sound, as did Whitfield, and Finney – the sound of conviction, as the Holy Ghost moved amongst the people at the preaching of the Word.

    It is possible that some of the means used by ‘seeker-sensitive’ churches can be married to Pentecostalism, but the power and presence of God should never be sacrificed for methodology. Sometimes we star with a man-built order, but when the Holy Spirit arrives he brings a different kind of arrangement, which may not suit those who fear noise and demonstrations of power.

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