“Man, did you feel that?! That was awesome. God’s Spirit was just there!” It was a cool evening in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I, along with seven or eight others, had just been confirmed at the local Anglican church. In the congregation that night sat a number of family and friends, many of them Pentecostal. One of them, a young man I’ve been discipling, was totally, shamelessly blown away at what he perceived to be an outpouring of the Spirit in the midst of an ancient tradition. He needed no convincing that the Holy Spirit was at work…which is a lot more than I could have said at his age.
But what am I talking about? I’m not an old man. In the five years following my high school graduation, I left my Pentecostal denomination, joined group of churches that embraced both Calvinism and charismatic movement, and volunteered at an Anglican church plant when I had no opportunity to be with my “home church.” At the end of it all, my final commitment was with this new Anglican world that I’d joined. What was I thinking?
After all, wasn’t I trading spontaneity for predictable liturgy? Prioritizing tradition over Scripture (or at least making it equal)? Wasn’t I picking up a safe, but powerless Christianity rather than living under the dangerous rule of the Spirit? Some have thought that, said that, and even remain convinced of it. But that’s not at all what happened.
In every part of my Christian life, one thing that has been clear to me from the Scriptures, and my experience, It’s a simple truth that explains how the Gospel is effective to save messed up people like me:
The Holy Spirit does what He wants, when He wants, how He wants, to whom He wants.
That’s the kind of theology that gets acceptance and belief in all of orthodox Christian teaching. But it’s the kind of practice that is actively sought primarily among Pentecostals. That works out differently in each Pentecostal. Some expect an abundance of word gifts like prophecy, tongues and interpretation. Others expect radical healing and deliverance ministries. Still others wait for God’s people to break out into dancing as they praise the goodness of God and lift up the Name of Jesus. More could be said, but these are all expressions of the same type of submission: expectation. Expectation is our lifeblood. It’s the bread and butter of our spiritual experience.
It’s important. James K.A.Smith agrees.
The heart and soul of that Pentecostal spirituality is not the manifestations, but rather the courage and openness to see God in those unexpected manifestations, and to say, “This is what the Spirit promised.”
And the Scriptures call us to receive the promises of God and live in them. That’s what catholic Pentecostalism is all about.