A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Archive for April, 2012


Renewal Journal 16: Vision

Almolonga, the Miracle City, Mell Winger
Cali Transformation, George Otis Jr.
Revival in Bogotá, Guido Kuwas 
Vision for Church Growth, Daryl & Cecily Brenton 
Vision for Ministry, Geoff Waugh 
Book Review:  Jesus on Leadership by
Gene Wilkes.



Vision for the 21st Century

A new millennium, like each new year, encourages vision.  New hope.  New possibilities.  New vision.

Christian vision remains grounded in God’s revelation of himself in Scripture, inspired and illuminated by his Spirit.  So the vision is both old and new.

The vision is old because Jesus Christ is the same, “yesterday, today and forever”.  God’s word hasn’t changed with changing times.  We have the same that God Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Mary, Peter and Paul served.

They all served God in their time, their era.  Now it’s our turn, in our time, our era.

Ours is a very different world from their day.  We communicate rapidly, globally.  We fly globally for mission and holidays.  We spend billions of dollars in Kingdom business.

So is there a vision for the 21st century?

There must be.  Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Where there is no prophetic word the people cast off restraint.  See Proverbs 29:18.

This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at some visions, directions and implications for serving God in the 21st century.

The essentials remain the same.  God is.  Jesus saves.  The Holy Spirit moves in all the earth.  The church grows – with endless cultural and social expressions.  Yet still the Lord only recognizes one church – his.

All over the world powerful expressions of the church have emerged at the beginning of the 21st century.  This is not triumphalism.  But it is war.  Jesus is still building his church and smashing through the gates of hell.

Mell Winger, missionary to Latin America, tells the astounding story of Almolonga, Guetemala, the “Miracle City”.  There the Christians have united in prayer and seen the powers of darkness dramatically overcome.  The four jails, once packed, are now empty – closed.  The curse on the land has been broken and they grow the biggest and best food in the world.  Families, once at war, are united in loving service.

George Otis Jr., producer of the vivid, prophetic video Transformations, tells how Cali, Columbia, has been transformed through united repentance and prayer.  Once the centre of billions of dollars in drug trafficking with a turnover of over 400 million US dollars a month, it is now transformed.  What global law enforcement agents could not do, God has done.

Guido Kuwas describes revival in Bogotá, Columbia – another transformations story.  A church is impacting the whole city and region by applying Jesus’ principles of discipleship.  Christian disciple just 12 people.  Very effectively.  They gather in huge areas to celebrate together.

Daryl and Cecily Brenton, now missionary translators in Papua New Guinea, comment on the world’s largest data base of church growth factors to draw conclusions about effective mission and evangelism.

I have condensed my research on the emerging church into an article surveying the dramatic and powerful global shifts going on in church life and ministry amid accelerating change today.

Gene Wilkes’ book Jesus on Leadership challenges our usual ideas of leadership in the church by examining how Jesus led.

We hope you find this issue of the Renewal Journal inspiring and informative, and that you can recommend it to your friends and your church!

©  Renewal Journal #16: Vision (2000:2)

Reviews (15) Wineskins

Pentecostalism by Walter Hollenweger  (Hendrickson, 1997)

Pentecostal pastor and then Reformed minister, Dr Walter Hollenweger, retired professor of Missions at Birmingham University in England, has pioneered research on Pentecostalism for 40 years.

He published The Pentecostals in 1972, which is still a classic survey of the worldwide pentecostal movement.  His recent book, Pentecostalism is in many ways a sequel.  Hollenweger assesses the origins of the fastest growing religious movement in the world.  He describes the theological stories of the pentecostal movement within its Black oral root, Catholic root, evangelical root, critical root, and ecumenical root.

Cecil Robeck of Fuller Theological Seminary says, “I know of no one else who has the breadth of knowledge, the depth of understanding, or the grasp of such a broad base of scholarship to be able to write this book. … This fascinating book is at times playful, at times deadly serious, and at times simply informative.  It will stretch the thinking of all who care to be taught, and challenge the hypocrisy of those who think they know it all.  And it will help us all to understand better than we have before, the roots that have nurtured one of the most vital Christian movements in the twentieth century.”

Harvey Cox of Harvard University and author of another investigation of Pentecostalism, Fire from Heaven, adds, “Pentecostalism is the fastest growing and most vital Christian movement on the globe today.  What great news that the esteemed elder statesman of Pentecostal studies has now given us this comprehensive and absorbing account of how it stared and why it is growing.”

Almost 500 pages, it is not light reading, although it is peppered with vivid stories of Pentecostalism.  If you want a light-weight paperback summary, look elsewhere.  If you want a thorough, academic and fire-filled examination of this astounding movement, you have it in this book.

An increasing number of postgraduate and undergraduate students will mine this rich ore for profound insights and quotable quotes.  (GW)

The Transforming Power of Revival edited by Harold Caballeros and Mell Winger (Peniel, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1998).

This collection of 18 articles by 16 authors from five continents gathers insights from the World Congress on Intercession, Spiritual Warfare and Evangelism held in Guatemala City in October 1998.  It provides a global picture of recent developments in Spirit-filled prayer and evangelism.

Chapters include:

It’s worth it to pay the price, by Omar Cabrera.

The purpose of the anointing, by Carlos Annacondia.

The Agreement of Heaven and earth, by Cindy Jacobs.

Soulwinning, by T. L. Osborn.

The New Apostolic Reformation, by C. Peter Wagner.

The Road to Community Transformation, by George Otis Jr.

Almolonga the Miracle City, by Mell Winger.

In the sixties and seventies renewal was sweeping the churches and independent churches and movements abounded.  By the eighties and nineties revival movements gained increasing prominence.  Now he vanguard of revival movements is reporting on whole cities and even nations experiencing powerful Spirit-filled awakening and transformation.

This book from Latin America will inform and inspire you with some of those latest current accounts of God’s mighty purposes and actions in the world today.  It is the forerunner of many current books emerging to lead us into city-wide transformation and revivals which are beginning to impact nations.


A few Christian videos grab your attention and expand your horizons.  These do.

Transformations 1 (The Sentinel Group, 1999)

George Otis Jr. takes you on a mind-blowing journey to four cities, two in Latin America, one in Africa, and one in North America.  All of these cities have been radically transformed by united Christian prayer and witness.  Crime has dropped dramatically.  Christians really love one another and God answers their prayers, to the astonishment of the government and civic leaders.  Mayors and police chiefs plead with the Christians to keep praying because it has made so many revolutionary social changes.

One is a community where 92% of the population is born again.  The four city gaols have been closed for lack of crime.  Agricultural productivity has reached biblical proportions, and experts from America are now visiting the city to try and learn the secret of such abundant agricultural productivity.

Another is a city where 60,000 jam the municipal soccer stadium for all-night prayer vigils every three months.  There a multi-billion dollar drug cartel has been brought to its knees in answer to united prayer.

Another is a town where local bars have been transformed into churches.  Ancestral shrines have been destroyed.  Entire family clans have come to faith in Christ.

Another is a city where thriving occult centers have been closed, drug abuse has been significantly reduced and a crime wave has subsided as the churches fill.

Transformations 2 (The Sentinel Group, 2001)

Visit modern-day sites of transforming revival in Uganda and Canada’s Arctic provinces.
Re-visit a true historical revival in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. (75 min)

More stirring stories of whole communities transformed by the presence and power of God.

Available in Australia from Toowoomba City Church, PO Box 2216, Toowoomba, Qld. 4350.  Ph. 07 4638 2399.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

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Renewal Journal 15: Wineskins

The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenny

The New Apostolic Reformation, by C. Peter Wagner

The New Believers, by Diana Bagnall (The Bulletin)

Vision and Strategy for Church Growth, by Lawrence Khong

New Wineskins for Pentecostal Studies, by Sam Hey

New Wineskins to Develop Ministry, by Geoff Waugh

Book and DVD Reviews:
Pentecostalism, by Walter Hollenweger
The Transforming Power of Revival, by Harold Caballeros and Mell Winger
Transformations 1 and 2 DVDs (The Sentinel Group)

Renewal Journal 15: Wineskins – PDF



New Wineskins for the 21st Century

Jesus spoke about wineskins, and it is now a well known proverb:  You don’t put new wine into old wineskins because the new wine bursts the wineskins; you put new wine into new wineskins – and both are preserved (See Mark 2:22 and Matthew 9:17, Luke 5:37-39).

Even tea-totallers and know that, although they may have never seen a wineskin nor drunk wine!  In fact, most of us probably have never seen a wineskin except in pictures!

Jesus also noted that no one having drunk old wine immediately desires new because the old is better.  Luke, the radical Gentile writer preserved that wry comment for us Luke in 5:39!  So those who like the old wine in old wineskins have a reprieve!  However, in times of rapid or massive change, the new wine pours out and needs to be preserved in new wineskins.

Like it or not (some like it, some don’t) we have all be living through these massive changes in all areas of life.  Why use a typewriter if a computer is available?  Why keep a horse if a car is available?  Why use a chip heater if electric or solar power is available?  Why use ancient English (or Latin) if few or no people understand it?  Why sit on hard wooden pews if cushions, pillows or comfortable seats are available?

Change is now so rapid that Alvin Toffler called it “Future Shock” – the culture of the future invading the present.  Some of it is good, some bad – as is true in all cultures.  So new wineskins keep emerging to contain the new wine of current moves of the Spirit of God in renewal and revival.

Some churches have managed to contain the old and the new together.  One way, among a huge possible range, is to have a traditional morning service and a contemporary or renewal evening service on a Sunday.  Some churches have both traditional Bible Study groups and relational prayer groups.  Many churches use both hymns and chorouses.

However, the massive shift going on at present involves emerging new wineskins which keep multiplying, growing and changing.  This issue of the Renewal Journal gives some implications of some of those changes.  It doesn’t cover all the changes.  That would take volumes!  It does highlight a few significant ones.

Evangelist Tommy Tenny has written about the awesome presence of God invading those who earnestly seek Him.  He calls those people the God chasers.  Some of our students recently reported how they began praying together one night on an outreach weekend and were amazed to discover it was after 5 a.m. when they finished.  That was new for them.  Yet, revival is full of such accounts. By the late nineties, Peter Wagner began describing these changes in what he calls The New Apostolic Reformation.  It is not post-denominationalism because it is happening within denominations as well as in millions of independent churches and networks globally.

A leading Australian news magazine, The Bulletin, carried a significant cover article on “The New Believers” written by senior editor Dianna Bagnall.  She describes one of the more visible emerging wineskins in Australian church life, noting that Pentecostal church attendance in Australia is second only to total Catholic attendance.

Baptist visionary and pastor Lawrence Khong describes a vision and strategy for church growth he has used in Singapore where his church has grown from 350 to now over 8,000 attending.

Sam Hey comments on how emerging Pentecostal scholarship is providing new possibilities for Bible study which responds to both the Word and the Spirit.

I comment on how everyone can now be involved in ministry and also can easily participate in a huge range of readily accessible resources providing powerful education for ministry.

Revival not only provides new wine, sometimes in a rather heady mix, but also escalates the emergence of new wineskins.  Revival can never be contained in a ‘normal’ church service.  So when we keep praying for revival, we are also praying for new wineskins to help us preserve and share the new wine as God’s Spirit is poured out upon us.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com

Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

Renewal Journals – contents of all issues

Book Depository – free postage worldwide

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Back to Renewal Journals










New Wineskins to Develop Ministry, by Geoff Waugh

Geoff Waugh co-ordinates Distance Education and the Bachelor of Ministry course at the Brisbane Christian Outreach Centre School of Ministries.

Scene 1:  A large pentecostal or charismatic church in any Australian city in 2000

They allocate trained full time and part time staff with modern resources to run their two year government accredited pentecostal or charismatic Bible College diploma, bachelor and post-graduate courses.  Austudy and Abstudy cover fees for their full time student workers.  They train their own leadership on the job and for the future through Spirit-filled study and ministry, especially learning to move in their personal and corporate giftings and anointing.  Many people in the church study subjects there part-time for their own enjoyment and development.

Scene 2: A small pentecostal or charismatic church in any Australian town in 2000

They run small study groups led by volunteeers such as teachers or home group leaders for their people enrolled in accredited distance education courses in ministry.  They have people enrolled in diploma, bachelor and post-graduate courses in pentecostal or charismatic studies.  Austudy and Abstudy cover fees for their full time student workers.  They train their own leadership on the job and for the future through Spirit-filled study and ministry, especially learning to move in their personal and corporate giftings and anointing.  Many people in the church study subjects part-time for their own enjoyment and development.

In other words, you can now study pentecostal or charismatic courses at diploma, bachelor and post-graduate levels at home, or in a study group in your church, or in your home group.  Individual subjects are available to you right now.

This is new for many Pentecostal and charismatic Christians.  In the past, they were often suspicious of study because it seemed to put out the fire through liberal teachings full of doubt and unbelief.  Now churches and Christians are rediscovering that Spirit-filled study can fan the flame and set people on fire!

Our ministry is the ministry of Jesus Christ in his church and in the world.  He was certainly filled with the fire of the Spirit and has set people on fire for 2000 years.  This is the vital starting point and the most radical.  Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit of the Lord.  So must we.

Consequently, our ministry is charismatic by definition, nature and function.  The Holy Spirit is given to the church so that we can minister in the power of the Spirit.  The gifts of the Spirit, the charismata, enable that ministry.  Urban Holmes (1971:248) notes:

The heart of the Christian ministry is its charismatic liminal quality.  Without question there is a place for professional capacities in ministry but it is the charismatic character of the church that lends strength to professions such as counselling, teaching, and community organization that they cannot possess otherwise.

Hendrick Kraemer (1958:180) emphasized the issue:

The point we can’t evade is that, true as it may be that for many important historical reasons the Church has become from a charismatic fellowship an institutional Church, she must acknowledge that, as to her nature, she is always charismatic, for she is the working field of the Holy Spirit.  Her being an institution is a human necessity, but not the nature of the Church.

Ministry education gets caught in that institutional bind, even while seeking to respond to the Spirit.  One powerful means of freeing us from that institutional bind is to open education for ministry to everyone.

The challenge facing theological [and ministry] education today is

* to take an open attitude to structures and methods and to design programs that will be open to the whole people of God,

* to take an open attitude toward curriculum design so as to build on the students’ interests and needs and motivation,

* to take an open attitude toward the role of the student and the role of the teacher so that both can become fully involved in determining and developing the learning experiences,

* to take an open attitude toward evaluation and to discover more relevant, more human, more Christian ways to validate our program (Kinsler 1981: 86).

Not only do modern delivery systems provide us with resources to transform our educational task, but the organisational shift from bureaucratic structures towards networking offers new possibilities for effective open education for ministry.

In other words, you can train for any pentecostal or charismatic ministry anywhere now.

1.  Third Wave Megatrends

The emerging social and cultural context in which we now live has been called the Third Wave (by Alvin Toffler) and its major characteristics described as Megatrends (by John Naisbitt).  These are not to be confused with Peter Wagner’s “third wave” of renewal (first the pentecostal wave, second the charismatic wave, and the third wave in all churches).  Those waves of pentecostal renewal in the twentieth century penetrated all the current social/cultural waves of tribal life (as in Africa now), town life (as in country towns now), and technological life (as in huge cities now).

The Industrial Revolution saw a shift from a tribal, agricultural society to the emergence of the town with its mine or factory, printed media and supporting bureaucracies including schools and suburban churches.  Professional ministry gradually shifted from the village priest for all the people to denominational ministers educated in theological schools of the classroom model.

We now experience a radical social restructuring ushered in by the accelerating changes of a technological revolution.  No terms fully describe it.  Alvin Toffler writes of three waves: agricultural, industrial and what he used to call super‑industrial (1970) but changed to “third wave” (1980), arguing that most terms narrow rather than expand our understanding because they focus on a single aspect rather than describe the whole.  “Post-modern” has become the current term used to label these profound changes.

Other phrases describing this emerging era include:

Harvey Cox’s technopolitan society (following tribal and town);

Marshall McLuhan’s electric era and global village;

Daniel Bell’s post‑industrial society; and

John Naisbitt’s information society.

John Naisbitt (1982, 1990) examines megatrends shaping this new era, many of which apply directly to education for ministry.  He describes American cultural changes but these trends also apply to all societies experiencing the global technological revolution.  I comment briefly on five of his first list of megatrends (1982:1) and two from his megatrends 2000 list (1990:276, 248) which seem particularly relevant to education for ministry.

In other words, you can now be involved in a huge range of world-class opportunities for study and ministry right where you are, in your home group, cell group, study group, or mission group or in your own home alone.

1.1. From an Industrial Society to an Information Society:

Although we continue to think we live in an industrial society, we have in fact changed to an economy based on the creation and distribution of information.

Education for ministry now benefits from educational processes and resources common to society including the proliferation of media which liberate education from confinement in classrooms and make it available in ‘schools without walls’.   Britain’s Open University is an example.  External Christian degree studies is another.

Teachers and students can engage in mutually enriching interaction and research at the interface of context and content, facilitated by educational and communications technology.  For example, the computer is replacing the typewriter, the photocopier has overtaken the duplicator, the video is taking over from the audio cassette, the resource centre is assimilating the library and going electronic, the modem connects us with the Internet, and mail is increasingly by fax or e-mail.

An internet copy of this paper is now more useful than a printed copy!  It reaches more people, anywhere in the world.  Anyone can download it and use it.  Quotes can be immediately woven into other tasks, including more articles!  The material can be used and re-used in multi-media, including adapted to OHT for study groups or adapted and printed in Study Guides and Readings.

In other words, you can download this article from the Renewal Journal web page, reproduce it for your home group, study group, church paper, or tertiary study.  You can adapt it, and turn a summary of it into a hand-out or an OHT sheet.  I’ve done all that with this article and many other articles  – often.

1.2. From Centralisation to Decentralisation:

We have rediscovered the ability to act innovatively and achieve results ‑ from the bottom up.

We are familiar with this trend and encourage it in many of our church structures.  It also applies to education for ministry.  We choose resources and studies from a widening range of possibilities.

At the personal level, increasing numbers of people study for theological or ministry degrees, often by open education or distance education.  At the church level, innovative congregations or creative people in churches find ways to enrich the ministry education of their people, and this may include external studies in education for ministry which was once available only to full time college students.  At the college level, many colleges now offer external studies or distance education with decentralised programs related specifically to local contexts and guided by local tutors.

In other words, you are no longer dependent on other people to chart your course or even your beliefs.  You do that, led by the Spirit in fellowship with God’s people.

1.3. From Institutional to Self‑Help:

We are shifting from institutional help to more self‑reliance in all aspects of our lives.

Institutional Christianity is big business, but many traditional churches decline while home groups multiply and house churches proliferate.  Independent churches attract increasing numbers, and some denominational congregations experiencing rapid growth sit rather loosely or uncomfortably within traditional structures, often challenging those structures prophetically.  Large numbers of educated and committed Christians join or form study groups, renewal groups, charismatic congregations or covenant communities.

Continuing theological education is another example of self‑help programs.  Institutional help or direction is often by‑passed in favour of a wide range of personal interests including study for various degrees now increasingly accessible from colleges around the world.  This self-help option is increasingly taken where external study is available.

In other words, you can chart your own course in study and ministry according to your personal calling, gifting and anointing.  That course can fan the flame in you and set you on fire for powerful ministry if you choose your study well.

1.4. From Either/Or to Multiple Options:

From a narrow either/or society with a limited range of personal choices we are exploding into a free‑wheeling multiple‑option society.

Demarcation lines along denominational or doctrinal differences once characterised churches, theological colleges, and even Bible colleges.  These increasingly blur and merge within the unity of the Spirit and in the ecumenical landscape.

Renewed Baptists, for example, may identify more deeply with Catholic Charismatic spirituality than with their own historical distinctives.  ‘Rebaptism’ is a burning pastoral issue as increasing numbers choose to move freely among differing groups.  Multiplying home groups discover authentic unity and raise eucharistic problems.  Traditional understandings of ordination and ministry are increasingly challenged, as this statements nearly half a century ago:

The question we are now considering is that of the possible ordination of the ordinary farmer or merchant or lawyer, who is prepared to give freely to the Church the time that he can spare from the ordinary occupation in which most of his time must be spent.

The proposal seems to us strange only because, from the point of view of the Early Church, we have got things thoroughly turned upside down. … It is hardly too much to say that in those days almost anyone could celebrate the Holy Communion, and hardly anyone except the bishop could preach; whereas now almost anyone can preach (or, rather is allowed to preach!) and hardly anyone can celebrate Holy Communion.  Lack of balance in either direction is to be deplored (Neill 1957:65).

Local churches as well as Bible colleges need to take our multiple option context seriously and offer a wide range of options adapted to people’s calling, giftings, anointings, ministries and learning styles.  An example of this is the learning contract or agreement and the importance of practicum or field education learning and ministry experiences.

In other words, you will probably be ordained to your ministry in your lifetime, if you want to be, whether you are male or female, employee or boss, working in the church or in the world.  Many churches in Australia are already doing this.

1.5. From Hierarchies to Networking:

We are giving up our dependence on hierarchical structures in favour of informal networks.

Naisbitt (1982:197) identifies three fundamental reasons making networks a crucial social form now:

(1) the death of traditional structures,

(2) the din of information overload, and

(3) the past failures of hierarchies.

He adds,

The vertical to horizontal power shift that networks bring about will be enormously liberating for individuals.  Hierarchies promote moving up and getting ahead, producing stress, tension, and anxiety.  Networking empowers the individual, and people in networks tend to nurture one another.

In the network environment, rewards come by empowering others, not by climbing over them (1982:197, 204).

That is crucial.  It fits with Christian commitment to love and serve one another.  And it helps to overcome the flaws of bureaucratic Christianity, such as the Peter Principle: ‘In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence’ (Peter 1969:22).  Where that happens in churches, people now tend to choose a better option, often going elsewhere.

Toffler describes the shift toward networking this way:

We are, in fact, witnessing the arrival of a new organizational system that will increasingly challenge and ultimately supplant bureaucracy.  This is the organisation of the future. …  Shortcuts that by‑pass the hierarchy are increasingly employed.  … The cumulative result of such small changes is a massive shift from vertical to lateral communication systems  (1970:120, 133).

The impact of networking is reflected in our growing use of short term task groups (instead of long term committees) and the supportive, nurturing home group or cell group structures (instead of formal mid-week prayer meetings in pews).

Contextual education for ministry will help to prepare ministry which can function well in a networking environment.  Not only do ministers and leaders need to know how to facilitate task groups, study groups and home fellowships (rather than be threatened by them), but the shape of ministry can be transformed in this context as task group specialists and cell group leaders minister and enable ministry, disciple others and are discipled in mutuality.

Further, Bible Colleges can provide essential resources for use in the learning and ministering networking groups as well as for individuals.

In other words, you will get your rewards and fulfil your ministry “by empowering others, not by climbing over them.” 

1.6. The triumph of the individual

The great unifying theme at the conclusion of the 20th century is the triumph of the individual.

Networking frees people from bureaucratic restrictions.  New relationships emerge in voluntary associations including the church and its activities.   Technology empowers the emerging freedom of the individual.  The motorcar, then the aircraft, dramatically increased individual mobility.  Millions now communicate freely within the electronic village.

The freedom of the individual under God within committed community is an increasing reality of church life and education for ministry.  Individual giftings and callings are openly pursued, encouraged and channelled into effective ministry within the body of Christ.

Gifted ministries emerge in ordinary people, fuelled and trained by the best teachers and leaders in the world through video, casettes, TV programs, internet articles which now include video and audio preaching and teaching.

In other words, you can use any or all of these resources as you serve God in the power of His Spirit, doing what He leads you to do, such as in personal networks, home groups or house churches.

1.7. Religious revival

At the dawn of the third millennium there are unmistakable signs of a worldwide multidenominational religious revival.

Naisbitt notes widespread religious revival including charismatic renewal, such as one-fifth, or 10 million, of America’s 53.5 million Catholics in 1990 were charismatic.  Now one third of practising Christians worldwide are pentecostal/charismatic.  Traditional, doctrinal, cognitive Christianity is increasingly challenged by transforming experience of God.

This has immediate application to education for ministry.  An urgent task for us all is to make our ministry education in renewal as widely available as possible to meet this rapidly expanding revival.

Open education for ministry can flow anywhere through networking Christian ministries to inform and inspire, to liberate and equip leadership and multiply ministry.

In other words, you will be increasingly relating to others in revival – from all kinds of denominations, or none, and with all kinds of theologies (where Jesus is Lord).  That’s one reason why good Spirit-filled study can help you see more clearly and serve more fervently.

2.  Open Education Possibilities

Adult education, continuing education and ministry education now offer wide scope for self-directed learning, which Malcolm Knowles calls andragogy (1980).

Malcolm Knowles developed the concept of andragogy to describe self-directed learning in contrast to pedagogy viewed as mainly teacher-directed learning.

In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes … Self-directed learning usually takes place in association with various kinds of helpers, such as teachers, tutors, mentors, resource people, and peers.  There is a lot of mutuality among a group of self-directed learners (Knowles 1975:18).

Many people seek out these possibilities for self-directed education, especially in extension or distance education modes.  Illich’s de-schooling proposals (and similar expressions of schools without walls) describe networking systems which apply to education in general but also to open education for ministry.  Instead of fitting educational resources to the educator’s curricula goals, he proposes four different approaches which enable students to gain access to educational resources which may help to define and achieve their goals (Illich 1971:81).  These are:

2.1. Reference Services to Educational Objects ‑ which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning.

Educational objects can include resources found in most churches such as libraries, resource centres, book shops, study notes, CDs, audio and video cassettes, TV (e.g. open university), ands study groups using overhead projectors, whiteboards, and a range of resources.

In other words, you can now offer video nights or seminars for a huge range of training including counselling, worship, evangelism, home group leadership and youth and children’s ministries.  Leaders from around the world come into your home or group by video.

2.2. Skill Exchanges ‑ which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve and the addresses at which they can be reached.

Skill exchanges can include activities such as tutoring or people who can teach or disciple others, musicians, ministry task groups, and educational or service specialists.  Most informal church programs use these skill exchanges – musicians train musicians; home group and study group leaders train other cell or study group leaders.  We call it discipling.

In other words, you can be in a group where someone disciples you (choose well!) and also in a group where you disciple others.  One great way to learn something is to also teach it to others.  Use your gifts and skills, don’t bury them!  Many people use their distance education study materials for study groups, teaching or preaching.

2.3. Peer‑Matching ‑ a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.

Peer matches can include persons interested in learning skills or forming study groups, including a wide range of ministry education activities.  Some church directories now list areas of interest, and people can easily establish common interest groups.

In other words, you can help people in your home group or church to identify their interests from a list (there are plenty around, or make up your own in the group), and then to match them.  It happens informally anyway – people who like surfing go surfing together; intercessors love to pray together.

2.4. Reference Services to Educators‑at‑Large ‑ who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self‑descriptions of professionals, para‑professionals, and freelancers, along with conditions of access to their services.

Educational leaders in churches can assist in exploratory activities and in helping students achieve specific goals.  Practicum and field education studies often link students with mentors and role models in ministry such as in music, youth or children’s work, counselling, evangelism and other significant ministries.

Open education for ministry can explore these networking facilities.  Networks, along with the other megatrends, both require and enable contextually appropriate models of education for ministry, and help to open the theologising process to the whole church in an intentional and integrative way.

In other words, you can mix life and ministry with continuing education such as in distance education, learning with others, or on your own, how to live for God and minister in the power of His Spirit.

3.  Implications and Directions

Open education for ministry can intentionally address these contextual issues of accelerating change and integrate traditional classroom procedures with open education processes.

Significant implications and directions include equipping the church for ministry, contextualising education for ministry, providing resources for the church, and renewing the church.

3.1. Equipping the Church for Ministry.

Open education for ministry not only equips pastors or leaders for ministry but opens that process to the whole church.

Ralph Winter, an extension pioneer through the Presbyterian Seminary in Guatemala, observed that their extension program cost less per student, allowed a smaller faculty to deal with a large number of students (by using seminar tutors), stressed independent study and reflection, attracted more candidates to the ministry, reached more mature students, enabled teaching on several levels more easily, and allowed students to work in the context of their ministry.

He emphasized that extension was not primarily a new method of teaching but that its greatest significance was as a new method of selection and equipping for ministry, since the underlining purpose for working by extension is in fact more important than any of the kaleidoscopic varieties of extension as a method ‑ it is the simple goal of enlisting and equipping for ministry precisely those who are best suited to it (Kinsler 1978:x).

Opening ministry education to the whole church helps to reach the real leaders and equip them.  Missionary Roland Allen severely criticised western styles of education for ministry for failing to do this.  His points include these (Mulholland 1976:16‑18):

(1) The apostles required maturity and experience with Spirit‑filled giftedness for leadership; we ordain young, inexperienced graduates.

(2) The apostles say nothing about full time employment in the church; we require it.

(3) The apostles selected the real leaders; we emphasise a subjective, internal call.

(4) The early church valued spiritual and practical formation in life and ministry; we value academic credentials.

(5) The early church allowed full ministry including the sacraments; we deny this to many groups.

Open education for ministry gives the real leaders access to theology in a ministry context.  These spiritually gifted and pastorally experienced leaders may, or may not, be officially ordained but they function in significant pastoral ministry not only with individuals but also as task group leaders, home group pastors, or worship leaders and preachers.

In other words, you can run your own ministry training centre, as in your home group or study group or ministry group or mission group.

3.2. Contextualising Education for ministry.

Opening ministry education shifts the focus from the classroom to the context of ministry, from preparation for ministry to formation in ministry.

Classrooms will undoubtedly continue to provide an essential means of serious theologising, especially when students’ ministries, gifts and contexts are taken seriously.

Open education for ministry can broaden this approach.  Ross Kinsler emphasised the role of extension in that process:

The full significance of theological education by extension will be perceived when local people discover that they are being invited to become primary agents of both ministry and theology.  For theology itself is the interplay of Christian life/ministry and reflection, of Gospel and context, of God and history. …

Theological education by extension can be treated as a stop gap for those who can’t go to seminary, a partial, pragmatic substitute for the ‘real thing’.  Or it can become a new and powerful attempt to return ministry and theology to the people, where they really belong (Kinsler 1983:3, 21).

Committed Christians often challenge entrenched structures with spiritual sensitivity, prophetic insight, pastoral concern and intellectual integrity.  The prophetic and teaching role of Bible College staff can be increasingly exercised by informed people who may never sit in college classrooms but who now have greater access to theological resources.  This is closer to the New Testament pattern for ministry formation and education.

The principal model for ministerial formation is Jesus himself, who continues to call his followers into his ministry and mission, and the classic text is Mark 10:42‑45, which speaks of service and self‑giving.  One of the enigmas we face is that theological education … leads to privilege and power, whereas ministry is fundamentally concerned with servanthood (Kinsler 1983:6).

Open education for ministry can fulfil a significant servant role in the church by providing ministry education for the whole church, not just the elite few.

In other words, you can minister as Jesus did, serve as Jesus did, disciple others as Jesus did – without desks in a classroom, but in life, in homes, in relationships.

3.3. Providing Resources for the Church.

Open education for ministry provides resources for the whole church which can be used anywhere.  Many churches now make these resources available, and produce their own.  Resource centres in churches supply audio and video cassettes as well as books and magazines including periodicals or journals.

Guest speakers are now recorded on cassettes (audio and video) and copies can be widely distributed.  The same applies to lecturing or teaching.  Distance education uses these facilities extensively.  Resource directories and publicity through church papers provide the church with access to these.

Many resources, simply produced and widely distributed, facilitate group sharing as well as provide significant input.  Taped lectures or sermons, for example, can easily include discussion questions or tasks for discussion and action.

External students value these resources.  Cassettes (easily used with accompanying material) become not only formal study tools, but also provide up‑dated resources for continuing education, for personal enquiry, and for seminar or tutorial groups.

More sophisticated distance education models can be developed also.  University external studies departments offer many examples.

Clive Lawless, a lecturer in Educational Technology at the Open University in London comments on how Britain’s largest university teaches at a distance using a wide range of media including audio and video cassettes available for personal use as well as broadcast through educational radio and television.  Most of their courses involve regular seminars as well as providing personal study resources.

Lawless (1974:8) notes three important implications of the Open University for ministry education:

(1) Open education for ministry methods can be used on a large scale and at the highest educational levels;

(2) Open education for ministry needs personnel and resources to concentrate on it; and

(3) Open education for ministry needs to use a wide range of media and materials.

He says that we need to ask two questions concerning the range of media and materials available: whether all possible media and materials are being used, and whether they are being used in an effectively integrated way.

In other words, you can have world leaders such Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Yonggi Cho and many others in your home or home group via video or cassette, leading to lively discussion and mutual ministry.  Current educational media provide resources for the church and in the process opens the classroom to the whole church.  This in turn helps to further equip the church for its ministry.

3.4. Renewing the Church.

Ministerial formation is committed to renewing the church but often frustrated and bound by entrenched traditions.  Those limiting structures are increasingly by‑passed in the shift to lateral networking fuelled by creative open ministry education resources.

The concern of theological educators in many places is to liberate our institutions and churches from dysfunctional structures in order to respond in new ways to the Spirit of God in our age and in our many diverse contexts.  Theological education by extension is a tremendously versatile and flexible approach to ministerial training; it is also now a spreading, deepening movement for change, subversion and renewal (Kinsler 1981:101).

Rigid or traditional structures may be made more flexible with new developments which emerge out of creative and courageous responses to the Spirit of God.

Renewal ministries in the church function naturally and powerfully along flexible networks of committed groups.  Some of these fit within denominational structures, though uncomfortably at times.  Others emerge as new structures, mixing formerly separated Christians into various expressions of “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.  Networks of committed and creative groupings continue to multiply.

Larger congregations also need networks of small groups for personal fellowship, effective ministry and service to others.  These congregations usually provide significant ministry education resources in paperbacks, magazines, audio and video cassettes, and also produce their own resources.

One common example of such resources in ministry education made widely available are external studies units in degree courses.  These often include:

(1) A study guide, including administrative, content, resource and assessment information;

(2) Notes and/or essential text(s);

(3) A reader containing significant articles or book chapters;

(4) Resource materials, such as disks, and audio and/or video cassettes.

These become available not only for individual or tutorial study, but also for use in ministry.

Bible College staff have abundant resources to make their teaching available anywhere as resources for open education for ministry, including overseas.  This includes accredited diploma and degree programs.

Open education for ministry uses these emerging opportunities to creatively involve the church in contextual theological reflection.  It is a significant force to equip the church for its mission in the world.

In other words, you are a theologian (you have significant thoughts about God and are continually learning), a teacher (by example, modelling, dsicipling and serving – both informally and formally), a minister (for to serve is to minister), and a disciple of Jesus who by his Spirit within us ministers through us to others, and through others to us.


Illich, Ivan  (1971) Celebration of Awareness.  Penguin.

Kinsler, Ross (1981) The Extension Movement in Theological Education. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

Kinsler, Ross (1983) “Theology by the People.”  Manuscript prepared for Pacific Basin Conference, Fuller Seminary Library.

Kinsler, Ross, ed. (1983)  Ministry by the People.  Orbis.

Knowles, Malcolm (1975)  Self-Directed Learning.  Chicago: Follet

Knowles, Malcolm  (1980)  The Modern Practice of Adult Education (Revised), Chicago: Follet.

Lawless, Clive (1974) “The Open University.”  Theological News Monograph, No. 7, April, Fuller Seminary Library.

Mulholland, Kenneth (1976)  Adventures in Training the Ministry.  Presbyterian and Reformed.

Naisbitt, John  (1982)  Megatrends.  Warner.

Naisbitt, John and Aburdene, Patricia (1990)  Megatrends 2000.  Pan.

Neil, Stephen (1957)  The Unfinished Task.  London: Edinburgh House.

Peter, Lawrence  (1969) The Peter Principle.  Pan.

Toffler, Alvin (1970)  Future Shock.  Pan.

Toffler, Alvin (1980)  The Third Wave.  Collins.

Wagner, C. Peter  (1988)  The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit.  Ann Arbor: Vine.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

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New Wineskins for Pentecostal Studies, by Sam Hey

Dr Pastor Sam Hey, a former high school science teacher, lectures in Biblical Studies at Citipointe Ministry College, the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College in Brisbane.  His article is part of his Ph.D. research studies.

“Until recently it was possible to obtain a doctorate in theology at a Pentecostal Bible College without knowledge of ancient or modern languages, without knowledge of the origin or composition of the Bible, without secondary education, and simply on the basis of six years’ instruction on the Bible” (Hollenweger 1972, 292).

As Pentecostalism has matured and been accepted into mainstream denominations this pre-critical fundamentalist view of the Bible has had to be replaced by more sophisticated approaches which are more widely accepted by those with whom they interact.  But that change rang alarm bells for many Pentecostals who had discarded scholarship as faith-destroying and even demonic.

Pentecostal beliefs have been considerably influenced by the hermeneutical approaches that they have used.  Pentecostalism inherited from the Reformation the belief that Scripture has meaning which is clearly and easily discerned (Osborne 1991, 9).  From John Wesley they inherited the conviction that the text of Scripture needed to be integrated into their own life, speech, and devotional experience (Arrington 1988,378).  The Holiness movement gave them a subjective fundamentalist view of Scripture and a suspicion of critical scholarship (Hollenweger 1972, 291).

After an initial period of isolation, Pentecostal churches found increasing opportunity for interaction with evangelical churches which shared their common goals.   The large Pentecostal Assemblies of God (AOG) movement joined the National Association of Evangelicals when it was founded in 1942 (Hyatt 1996, 179).  The upward social mobility, higher incomes and suburbanisation which followed World War II led to a change in educational outlook and aspirations of American Pentecostalism led many members to pursue a more sophisticated understanding of their beliefs.

Bible school training was improved and the Bible-based theology programs of the 1940’s were mostly replaced by liberal arts degree programs (Menzies 1971, 376).  The change in training methods has led to changes in the thinking of the graduating church leaders.  Through them it is changing the Pentecostal movements.  The inauguration of credentialing of AOG ministers in 1959 was an indicator of the increasing concern for conformity (Menzies 1971, 376).

With an increasing interaction with evangelical churches came the adoption of their historical- critical methods.   This led to an emphasis on the context and the pursuit of the intention of original author of the text (Cargal 1993, 163; Fee 1991,86).   This development has not been welcomed by older traditional Pentecostals who say that it threatens the Pentecostal belief in a post-salvation reception of the Spirit evidenced by glossolalia.

The younger, newer graduates are also concerned.  Sheppard says that a dependence on critical exegesis challenges the vitality and freedom that characterised traditional Pentecostalism and will endanger its future (Sheppard 1994, 121).   He says that Pentecostals were beginning to pursue the historical-grammatical method at a time when biblical and theological scholarship has moved beyond this emphasis (Sheppard 1994, 121).   Sheppard singles out Gordon Fee as an example of this.  Joseph Byrd suggests that the Pentecostal emphasis on detailed critical exposition in seminaries has produced pastors with a good knowledge of technical exegesis but lacking the prophetic edge which characterised early Pentecostalism (Byrd 1993, 207).

The application of scholarly methods such as that of Fee and Menzies has challenged the distinctive Pentecostal belief that a post-salvation “baptism in the Spirit” evidenced by tongues is the intended teaching and the normative pattern of Scripture.  When Fee’s critical methods are used, the experiences of Jesus and the apostles are found to be so different from those of modern day Christians that they must be considered irrelevant (Fee 1991,94).  The Pentecostal claim to an intended pattern in Acts which can be applied to all Christians is found to be unwarranted.  Glossolalia as the sole evidence of the Pentecostal baptism is also found to be untenable (Fee 1991,99).

The historical method and pursuit of the author’s intention has created an unbridgeable historical gap which has led Pentecostal scholars in recent times to question this approach (Cargal 1993, 163).  Many Pentecostal scholars in recent times have begun to look to other approaches for support for the distinctive Pentecostal beliefs.

Post-modern Pentecostalism

Recent editions of the Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Pneuma, reveal that the hermeneutical sophistication of Pentecostals has risen dramatically over the last decade as they have begun to integrate the latest hermeneutical practices.   This is seen in the writings of Pentecostal scholars such as Cargal (1993), Byrd (1993), Harrington and Pattern (1994) and Arrington (1994).  These scholars have begun to point out the inadequacies and dangers of the Pentecostal emphasis on intentionality and the grammatical, historical, and critical context of the text.  They have looked to post-modern hermeneutical methods instead (Mclean 1984, 36).

While it is beyond the scope of this article to evaluate post-modernism to any large degree, it is important to consider the ways in which this influential movement is affecting the development of Pentecostal hermeneutics in general and the distinctive Pentecostal beliefs in particular.   In recent times the ability to locate an absolute, intended meaning within the text has been challenged by the recognition that the interpreters of the text “cannot silence their own subjectivity, or achieve an objective neutrality” (Thiselton 1977, 316).

Gerald Sheppard says that both liberals and fundamentalists have perpetuated the same false notion that the original intention of the author can be located.   Both of these “left and right wing modernist groups” are pursuing the same impossible task (Sheppard 1994, 121).

Cargal (1993, 163) and Arrington (1994, 101) observe that most Pentecostal preachers have been unaffected by the greater acceptance of critical scholastic methods.  Many Pentecostals have continued the Pentecostal practise of interpreting the same text differently at different times to meet the different needs that arise.  Pentecostal readings of Acts have had less to do with a rationalistic, inductive method of biblical interpretation and more to do with a creative interaction with the text of Acts (Macchia 1993, 65).

Pentecostals usually emphasise the immediacy of the text and multiple dimensions of meaning arising from the “leading of the Spirit”.   They give scant consideration to its historical-critical context.  This approach invariably leads to multiple meanings and multiple applications the same text.  At times one of these meanings can attract strong support and become a fixed belief.  The post-salvation experience evidenced by glossolalia is an example of this.

Many Pentecostal scholars in recent times have claimed that the Pentecostal method has “more continuity with post-modern modes of interpretation than with the critical-historical method” (Cargal 1993, 165; Arrington, 1994, 101).   Post-modernism distinguishes itself from modernism by the rejection of the notion that “only what is historically and objectively true is meaningful,” (Cargal 1973, 171).  However, it must be remembered that Pentecostalism and post-modernism have different reasons for rejecting this claim.

Some Pentecostals, such as Howard Ervin, have suggested that the post-modern questioning of modern scientific certainties provides support for a return to the ancient world views of biblical times (Ervin, 1981,19).  Ervin’s view is a naive misrepresentation of post-modernism.  While post-modernism recognise that reason and rationalism cannot tell us everything, it does not claim that critical thinking is passe, but simply that it is limited (Cargal 1993, 178).

Despite this qualification, the “post-modern vision of reality opens up the possibility of the transcendent virtually closed by modernity.” (Cargal 1993, 178).  Therefore Cargal is able to say that developments within post- modern methods of interpretation hold promise for Pentecostals (Cargal 1993,187).

The Pentecostal emphasis upon the Spirit as the source of multiple meanings of the text is an important contribution which Pentecostalism can make to the Western Church.  Cargal says that “the [Pentecostal] recognition of the dialogical role of the experiences of the believer in both shaping and being shaped by particular interpretations of the biblical text is both compatible with certain post-structuralist views of the reader as creator of significations and an important critique of objectivist views of the meaning of the Bible and its authority” (Cargal 1993, 186).

The larger text

In this last decade Pentecostals have recognised that the process of interacting with biblical narratives such as Acts is “more complex and creative than a mere historical investigation into the original intention of the author/editor” (Macchia 1993, 67).     Pentecostal beliefs such as the belief in the sign of glossolalia did not just arise from the biblical text, but from the larger historical and cultural texts with which Pentecostalism was interacting.

In recent years Pentecostal students of hermeneutics have recognised that the study of the text needs to be broadened to include the inter-textual connection which exists between the biblical texts, the ritual “texts” enacted in worship and the relational “texts” of the faith community (Dempster 1993, 129; Cargal 1993, 163).

A trans-contextual basis is needed which allows the “comparative evaluation of contextual criteria of interpretation and indeed the purposes for which each set of criteria gains its currency” (Thiselton 1992, 6).  Pentecostals have not interpreted the text as individuals, but as members of communities of readers who cannot be isolated from their communal expectations.  It was the expectations of the faith community and its social setting which ultimately determined the Pentecostal interpretation of glossolalia in Acts and not historical-grammatical concerns.

Pentecostalism is increasingly recognising the role of its traditions and Christian communities in shaping its beliefs (Fee 1991,69).  The text of Scripture is usually read in the light of one’s own sociological, cultural, religious, ecclesiastical and national histories.  Fee says that the Pentecostal belief in a baptism in the Holy Spirit distinct from conversion and evidenced by tongues “came less from the study of Acts, as from their own personal histories, in which it happened to them in this way and therefore was assumed to be the norm even in the New Testament” (Fee 1991, 69).

The Pentecostal New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, has challenged the Pentecostal beliefs which have arisen from their traditions suggesting that they  need to be re-examined on the basis of the biblical texts (Fee 1991, 69).  Some Pentecostals see this approach as an implicit threat to the Pentecostal belief in tongues as the evidence of a post salvation Spirit baptism (Burgess and McGee 1988, 305).

Plurality of meanings

Church of God pastor and scholar, Joseph Byrd believes that new hermeneutical methods such as those of Paul Ricoeur are needed if the distinctive Pentecostal beliefs are to survive the sophisticated theological treatments by Pentecostal scholars such as Fee (Byrd 1993,203).    The hermeneutics of Holland and Ricoeur offer promise to those who seek to preserve the Pentecostal tradition as it acknowledges the role of the readers in projecting their own interests, desires, and selfhood into the text (Thiselton 1992,472).

Wolfgang Isler suggests that biblical texts are deliberately ambivalent (Thiselton 1992,517).  This ambivalence has enabling interpretations such as those of Pentecostals to meet the spiritual needs of twentieth century Christians.  Isler suggests that the text deliberately invites the reader to place themselves into different roles within the textual setting (Thiselton 1992, 517).

Sheppard suggests that Pre-critical Pentecostalism should not be dismissed as uncritical, but recognised as attuned and acclimatised to the cultural values of the marginalised groups in which it began (Sheppard 1994, 127).  Michael Foucault has shown that modern ways of knowing have led to  pre- and post-modern values being overlooked.  Early Pentecostal hermeneutics has focused on subjective, intuitive ways of knowing, the validity of which needs to be reconsidered (Foulcault 1973, 217-249).

Pentecostal hermeneutics must allow for the claim that the Holy Spirit reveals deeper meanings of the text that allows it to be culturally relevant (Cargal 1993,174).   The difficulty with this proposal is that it easily leads to excesses and misinterpretations.  The emergence of the unitarian Pentecostals is an example of this (Synan 1997,161).  Unless other controls exist, Fee suggests that  “we must abide by rules of good exegesis and exert extreme caution in considering any deeper meanings.” (Fee 1979, 39).

In recent times the task of hermeneutics has been widened to consider the way in which biblical texts have been used to serve the interests of different groups and to loosen or maintain dominating power structures and authorise values which serve the interests of individuals or corporate entities within religious communities (Thiselton 1992, 7).  Recent Pentecostal studies by Margaret Poloma confirm that glossolalia has provided support for the Pentecostal protest against modernity and motivation for evangelism (Poloma 1989, 3).

Glossolalia has also been a symbol used to promote individual, social and racial equality, they have been replaced by beliefs which condone organisational, sexual and racial dominance (Poloma 1989, 3).  Poloma says that while charismata such as tongues are a factor in the rise and revitalisation of religious movements, “it seems to depart quickly once it has completed the task of institution building” (Poloma 1989,232).

The Appeal of Pentecostalism in a Post-modern Age

It is not difficult to locate reasons for the appeal of Pentecostalism in a post-modern world.  Pentecostalism has challenged the perceived threats inherent in post-modern approaches and has provided appealing alternatives to post-modern dilemmas.  In contrast to the uncertainty arising from a complex multiplicity in post-modernists, Pentecostalism speaks of one absolute unchanging God who is behind all different views.

In contrast to the post-modern perplexity in facing an avalanche of information, Pentecostalism reduces truth to one source of information, the Bible and one interpreter – the Holy Spirit.   Post-modernism accepts the uncertainty of past and of the future events.  In contrast to the variety of experiences which exist in a post-modern world, Pentecostals claim the one Holy Spirit which behind the variety of charismatic experiences.   Glossolalia is still the chief Pentecostal experience and it continues to provided evidence of a supernatural God and an invisible world.

The attempt by some Pentecostals to align Pentecostal hermeneutics with the popular post-modern movement must not overlook the differences that exist between them.   While post- modernism is in reality an extreme form of modernism, and a “misnomer for ultra modernity” (Oden in Dockery 1995, 26), Pentecostalism is a reaction against modernity.

Post-modernism accepts the anti-supernatural, pro-critical approaches that were important in  modernism and these would  not  be accepted by most Pentecostals.   “Although the post-modernist hesitates to deny the validity of all religions”, says Lints, “he hesitates also to assert the exclusive truth of but one religion.” (Lints 1993, 206).  Pentecostalism, in contrast still holds to a single Christian truth.  Glossolalia is considered to provide support for the existence of the supernatural and evidence that Pentecostalism is the one true faith.

Paul Ricouer

Pentecostals appear to be divided between the modern, critical approach typified by Fee and the post-modern approach of recent scholars.   One solution to this dilemma is Paul Ricoeur’s post- critical hermeneutic (Byrd 1993, 207).  Paul Ricoeur has attempted to combine attempts to reconstruct the original meaning of the text with attempts to existentially apply readings of the text to contemporary situations (Bleicher, 1980, 217).  His description of the movement of the reader from a naive, intuitive interpreter of the text to an increasingly self-critical analyst mirrors the development of Pentecostal hermeneutics well.  This hermeneutic, which has developed from that of Schleiermacher asks us to listen with tolerance and mutual respect and to balance the creative with the analytical (Thisleton 1992, 4).

Ricoeur has shown that objectivity and subjectivity need not be considered as opposites, but two aspects of the one paradigm that exist along side each other as “two sides of the one coin”.   These two should interact.  The Pentecostal praxis informed what was found in Scripture, while at the same time careful study of the text has informed Pentecostal praxis (Moore 1987, 11).  By combining the benefits of the Critical-historical-literary method with the recognition that multiple interpretations of the text exist the Pentecostal interpreter is equipped to discover and applied the “biblical” message.  (Arrington 1994, 101).   The dual recognition of the objective and the subjective leads to the acknowledgement that the differing understandings of the glossolalic references in Acts have been shaped by the differing contexts in which they were formed.   Modern hermeneutics can no longer a search for the “true” or “historical” meaning.  It must examine the effect of the text and investigate the processes which the text creatively produces and sets in motion.

The hermeneutics of Ricoeur stresses the creative effect of symbols, metaphors and narratives on religious imagination and thought.  This method encourages an awareness of the diversity of meanings that the text will present to diversity of readers (Byrd 1993, 211).  When applied to the interpretation of the glossolalic passages in Acts this method would suggest that Pentecostal and non Pentecostal interpretations exist side by side as alternative readings of the text.

The recognition that symbols within the text will be re-experienced by succeeding communities and generations in different ways builds greater tolerance and understanding of the ways in which beliefs such as that concerning glossolalia change.   New generations of Pentecostals will not be expected to have the same experience of the text’s symbols as the first generation of Pentecostals (Byrd 1993, 211).  They must be allowed to develop their own views which are appropriate to their own times and situations.

Professor of Sociology, Margaret Poloma suggests that it is not the glossolalic experience alone which makes Pentecostalism distinctive, but the expectant social reality in which it occurs (Poloma 1989, 184).  Malony and Lovekin say that the charismatic group, and not the individual’s experience determine the effects of glossolalia upon a person (1977, 383).   Poloma says that the Pentecostal experience must involve the unexpected and be constantly renewed if it is to survive the pressures of typification, patterned role expectations and institutionalization (Poloma 1989, 185).

Consequently, an exciting new wineskins for biblical scholarship is the emerging hermeneutic of Pentecostalism which challenges the historical-critical approach, and invites the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture to interpret it to the faith community and to individuals within that community.


Arrington F.L.  “Hermeneutics”, in Burgess S.M.  and McGee G.B.  Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1988.

Byrd, J.  1993.  “Paul Ricoeur’s Hermeneutical Theory and Pentecostal Proclamation.”  Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 15, No 2: 203-215.

Cargal, T. B.  1993.  “Beyond the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy: Pentecostals and Hermeneutics in a Postmodern Age.” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 15, No 2: 163-188.

Dempster, M. W.  1989  “The Church’s Moral Witness: A Study of Glossolalia in Luke’s Theology of Acts,” Paraclete, 23:11-7, Winter.

Dempster, M. W. “Paradigm Shifts and Hermeneutics: Confronting Issues Old and New”, Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 15, No 2: 129-136.

Dockery, D. S., ed.  1995.  The Challenge of Postmodernism: An evangelical Engagement. Wheaton: Victor.

Ervin, H. M.  1981.  “Hermeneutics: A Pentecostal Option,” Pneuma: The Journal for the Society for Pentecostal Studies 3, Fall.

Fee, G. D.  1991.  Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson, (Second edition, 1994).

Hollenweger, Walter J.  1972.  The Pentecostals : the charismatic movement in the churches.  Minneapolis: Augsburg.

Hyatt, E. L. 1996.  2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Hyatt Ministries.

Poloma, Margaret.  1989.  The Assemblies of God at the Crossroads: Charisma and Institutional Dilemmas, Knoxvile: University of Tennessee.

Johns, D. A.  1991.  “Some New Directions in the Hermeneutics of Clasical Pentecostalism’s Doctrine of Initial Evidence,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B.  McGee.  Peabody: Hendrickson.

Macchia, F. D.  1992.  “Sighs too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of Glossolalia,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology, No.  1, October, 1992, 47-73.

Malony, H. N. & Lovekin A. A.  1985.  Glossolalia Behavioural Science Perspectives on Speaking in Tongues.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Menzies, W.  1971.  Anointed to Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God, Springfield: Gospel Publishing House.

Moore, R. D.  1987.  “Approaching God’s Word Biblically: A Pentecostal Perspective,” Seminary Viewpoint 8, November.

Sheppard, G. T.  1994.  “Biblical Interpretation After Gadamer”, Pneuma: The Journal for the Society of Pentecostal Studies. 16:121.

Synan, V.  1997.  The Holiness- Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Thiselton, Anthony C. New Horizons in Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Michigan: Zondervan, 1992.

White, J.F.  1983.  Sacraments as God’s Self-Giving, Nashville: Abingdon.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

Renewal Journals – contents of all issues

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Vision and Strategy for Church Growth, by Lawrence Khong

Dr Lawrence Khong led his Baptist church in Singapore from 350 to a weekly attendance over 8,000, with a strong emphasis on expository preaching and the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.   This article is reproduced with permission from Chapter 14 of The Transforming Power of Revival edited by Harold Caballeros and Mel Winger.

On August 17, 1986, I stood on the platform in a rented auditorium in Singapore to preach in the first worship service of a brand new congregation.  As I approached the pulpit, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to my heart: “Son, today the new baby is born!”  Then the words of Haggai 2:9 flooded into my mind: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, … And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (NIV).

I was too emotionally worn out to be excited about the “greater glory.”  I simply took comfort in the fact that in this new church there will be peace.  I had just emerged from more than a year of leadership struggle in my former church.  I had grown up in this church, a Bible-believing congregation that had been growing consistently.  This had been my spiritual home throughout my teenage years.  The leadership of the church had clearly and lovingly affirmed my calling into the ministry.  They sent me to pursue my theological training in the United States.  I returned to be the pastor of the church.  Within five years, it grew from 350 to 1,600 under my pastoral leadership.

A career-changing experience

During the fifth year of my pastorate, I had an unexpected encounter with the Holy Spirit that opened my heart to the reality of God’s power.  In that encounter, I began speaking in a new tongue.  It was something I had always told my congregation would not and should not ever happen in this day and age.  I clearly taught them that this particular gift, together with other power gifts of the Holy Spirit, had ceased at the end of the apostolic age.  I taught them so well, in fact, that the leadership of the church rejected the validity of my experience and its theological implications immediately.  I realized they were doing the very thing I would have done if I were in their shoes.

I was confused.  My experience completely devastated my neat and tidy theology.  I could not at that point give a clear biblical understanding about what happened.  On the other hand, I could not deny the reality of that experience without compromising the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart.  Meanwhile, my ministry began failing apart.  Before long, theological differences within the leadership degenerated to attacks on my personal integrity.  After many months of painful struggles, I was finally asked to relinquish my role as the senior pastor of the church.

In the midst of this agonizing process, the Lord gave me a clear word from Scripture: “A woman, when she is in labour, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).

The lord told me He was bringing forth a “new baby” in my life that would launch me into a new ministry.  The painful struggles I was going through were the labour pains needed to bring forth this new birth.

The new baby is born

When the Lord said, “Son, today the new baby is born!” on August 17, 1986, Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) began.  It brought unspeakable joy to my spirit.  Since then, the promise of God has been true.  The glory of this ministry has far exceeded what I would ask or think.  Indeed, in the last 10 years of our church, there has been peace.

As I am writing this (1998), the baby has grown considerably.  The attendance in our weekly worship services has reached close to 8,000.  In the past 10 years, we have baptized more than 6,400 new believers.  During the same period, some 16,000 persons have made professions of faith for the first time.  Most significantly, in my mind, almost every person who worships with us is also part of a cell group ministry during the week.  In these small groups, we train every member to be a minister of the gospel, calling forth a higher-than-average level of commitment.

As I reflect upon the grace of the lord in Faith Community Baptist Church during the last 10 years, the Lord has impressed me with four major factors that have contributed to the phenomenal growth in this local congregation.   These four factors include

(1) a clear vision and strategy for growth;

(2) a cell  church structure;

(3) a reliance on the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit;  and

(4) one strong and anointed leader.

A clear vision and strategy for growth

During the first 12 months of FCBC, I had the leaders of the church join me in seeking the Lord for a clear vision and strategy for growth.  We were determined not to be another church that religiously maintained traditional programs.  With all our hearts, we sought the Lord for a blueprint that would enable us to take our city for God.  The Lord showed us that to do this, we must move in unity, we must share a common vision and we must agree on the appropriate strategies to fulfil the vision.  As early as 1987, we developed  a three-part vision that has guided our programs ever since.  This three-part  vision has seen refinements through the years.  Today, it stands as follows:

By God’s grace, we will,

(1) establish integrated ministries of  outreach, discipleship and service that encompass the whole of Singapore;

(2)  be a model cell group church that provides quality pastoral training and  equipping resources for transitioning cell group churches in Singapore and around the world; and

(3) establish 50 cell group churches around the world by sending out teams to reach hidden or responsive people groups.

To achieve this vision, we have adopted the following strategies:

1.  Develop an exciting and meaningful celebration every Sunday through music and the pulpit ministry;

2.  Minimize committee meetings by decentralization of operations to full-time staff;

3.  Commit to active staff recruitment to establish a multiple-staff ministry.,

4.  Establish a discipleship network for evangelism, prayer and Bible study;

5.  Provide lay leadership training for all leaders of the church;

6.  Develop and establish specialized ministries of outreach;

7.  Train, equip, send and fully support missionaries from the church to the mission field;    8.  Build a “Touch Centre” consisting of an auditorium seating some 3,000, including other ministry facilities for both the church and the community;

9.  Develop within every member a deep commitment to regular, disciplined and intense warfare prayer for spiritual revival in Singapore and around the world;

10.  Strengthen the family so as to provide a solid base for reaching the unsaved with the love of Christ.

From the beginning, we were filled with a sense of excitement that God was going to fulfill these visions among us.  In FCBC, every one of us is given a corporate challenge to fulfill the vision the Lord has given us.  We believe that “everybody’s job” becomes “nobody’s job.”  Members of FCBC believe that if no one else will do it, we will assume the responsibility of winning our nation to the Lord.  Before long, most of us would begin to realize that we could no longer possess this vision.  Rather, this vision has now totally possessed us with a consuming zeal from the Lord!

Completely structured as a cell group church

In the last five years, FCBC has organized an annual “International Conference on Cell Group Church.”  Thousands from around the world have come to learn the principles and operations of a cell group church.  Every year, I begin the conference by proclaiming a statement that has become a major landmark of my teaching about the cell church. My statement is:

There is a heaven and earth difference; an east and west difference between a CHURCH WITH CELLS and a CELL GROUP CHURCH.

Just about every church in the world has some kind of small groups.  Some of these groups are Bible study groups, fellowship groups, counselling/therapy groups, prayer groups and many others.  However, these are churches with cells and not cell churches.  The major difference between the former and the latter is a structural one.  Hence there is a fundamental, not a superficial, difference between them.

In a church with cells, the cell ministry is only a department within the total ministry of the church.  Members of the church have many options.  They can choose to serve in the missions department or the prayer department or the Christian education department or the fellowship department.  They can choose between the Sunday School or the adult fellowship.  The cell ministry is just another one of the options.

This is not so in a cell group church.  In a cell group church, the cell is the church.  No menu of options is open to every member except that they be in a cell group.  Every department of the church is designed to serve the cell ministry.  Departments do not have any constituency of their own.  All are designed to support the ministry of the cells.

In FCBC, every believer is assimilated into cell groups, similar to military squads.  Each cell is trained to edify one another and to evangelize so that it will multiply within a year to a maximum size of 12 to 15 people.  These cell groups are not independent “house churches,” but basic Christian communities linked together to penetrate every area of our community.

Approximately three to four cell groups cluster to form a sub-zone, and a volunteer zone supervisor pastors the five cells and its cell leaders.  Five sub-zones cluster to create a zone of about 250 people pastored by a full-time zone pastor.  Five or more zones cluster to form a district, and a seasoned district pastor shepherds as many as 1,500 people.

From the start, we created zones that were geographical (north, east, west) and generational (children, youth, military).  Later, we added our music zone for those participating in our choirs, bands, orchestras, drama and dance.  Even these music cells are constantly winning people to Jesus Christ.  Every year, more than 2,500 make first-time decisions for the Lord in the cells.

Foundations for ministry

In the early years, we worked hard to create the foundations for our ministry.  Pastors who had no previous experience with cell church structures were trained and cell leaders were equipped.  Nonexistent equipping materials had to be written.  Soon we had a nickname: “FCBC-Fast Changing Baptist Church”!  Every experimental step helped us learn how to equip and evangelize in the new paradigm.  We were determined to discard anything that did not help us achieve our goals, so we revised our strategy again and again as we gained experience.  Indeed, we are still doing so!

Like other cell churches, our life involves three levels: the cells, the congregations (a cluster of five zones) and the celebration on Sunday.  We quickly had to go to two and then three celebrations of 1,000 people to accommodate the growth in the cell groups.  We presently have one evening service on Saturday and four services on Sunday of two hours duration each.  A completely different congregation of people worships in the Saturday evening service.  We have studiously avoided advertising “seeker-sensitive services,” choosing instead to grow through the ministries of our members in the cells.

Our cells are seeker-sensitive, but our celebration is not.  For us, the celebration is an assembling of the Body of Christ rather than a means of attracting the unconverted.  Nevertheless, many profess faith in Jesus Christ as a result of the intense anointing that comes through worship, as well as my pulpit ministry that focuses on down-to-earth life issues.

The Year of Equipping

What we call “The Year of Equipping” has become an important part of our cell group life.  Each incoming member is visited by the cell leader, who assigns a cell member to be a sponsor for the new person.  A “Journey Guide” is used to acquaint the cell leader and sponsor with the spiritual condition of the person.  Guided by private weekly sessions with the sponsor, this person will complete a journey through the “Arrival Kit” and then be trained to share Christ with both responsive and unresponsive unbelievers.

Another major part of The Year of Equipping consists of three cycles of training for evangelism and harvest meeting in the cells throughout the year.  One such cycle begins in January, where new members of the cell are sent for a weekend of evangelism training.  This is followed by further practices during the cell meetings, leading up to the Good Friday weekend.

In these months, every member of the cell is asked to pray for unsaved people whom they would invite to a special Good Friday evangelistic cell meeting.  On that one Good Friday evening, we will have as many as 4,000 unsaved people in all our cell groups spread throughout the city.  More than 10 percent of them will give their lives to the Lord for the first time.  In that meeting, every member of the cell shares the gospel with unsaved friends.  We do this three times a year.  In this way, equipping for evangelism is an ongoing lifestyle of every cell.  It is my intention that every cell becomes a fit fighting unit in the army of the Lord!

Community service

Because of our strong desire to penetrate the society around us, we have formed the Touch Community Services.  This is the neutral arm of our church designed to relate to the community.  Through this separate corporation, we conduct childcare, legal aid services, after-school clubs, marriage counselling, a workshop to train the handicapped and many other social ministry areas.  This has earned the respect of unbelievers around us and has provided openings for the gospel we would not otherwise experience.  It has established good will for us among the many racial groups that live together in harmony in our nation.

Our community services have found so much favour with government authorities that much of our service ministry is actually funded by the government.  As of now, the juvenile courts make it mandatory for their offenders to seek counselling from our youth counselling services.  The registry of marriage has invited us to conduct premarital counselling for all who are getting married in Singapore!  This is our “root system” into the unconverted world.

Reliance on the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit

The structure of the cell church is nothing but a conduit for the power of the Holy Spirit.  Unless the living water flows, the cells are lifeless.  A major spiritual breakthrough came for us in those early years as we began to recognize the place of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our midst.  As our cell groups were confronted by the need for spiritual power in caring for people, we saw a gracious outpouring of His presence in our midst.

I shall never forget a certain Sunday when the Lord visited us powerfully.  We were then conducting four worship services in a rented auditorium that seated about 800.  On that particular Sunday, I preached a message about repentance.  Many came forward to repent of their sins.  As I prayed for them from behind the pulpit, the Holy Spirit came into our midst.  Most of them fell under the power of the Spirit.  This was something we had never experienced in our church.  It surprised everyone in the auditorium, especially the people who found themselves lying on the church floor for the first time in their lives, completely unable to move.

The presence of the Lord was so overwhelming that by the beginning of the third service, members who were just walking into the auditorium for worship fell under the power of the Spirit, having no idea what had been happening in the preceding services!

This visitation of the Holy Spirit brought about a six-month period of deep repentance among the members of the church.  The anointing of the Spirit filled every cell meeting.  The sick were being healed.  The demonized were set free.  The church grew rapidly as our cell groups learned to minister in the power of the Spirit.

One strong and anointed leader

At the risk of misunderstanding me as being arrogant, I have always told audiences around the world that one of the main factors that has contributed to the growth of FCBC is the gracious gift of leadership the Lord has entrusted to me.  FCBC has grown rapidly because of my strong and anointed leadership.  In the early years of the church, the leadership team carefully studied a chapter written by Oswald J. Smith in his book Building a   Better World.  He began his chapter with these words:   “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (Isa. 55:4).

God’s plan is that His flock should be led by a Shepherd, not run by a Board.  Committees are to advise, never to dictate.  The Holy Spirit appoints men.  To Bishops and Elders is given the care of the churches, never to Committees.  They are to be the Overseers, the Shepherds.  Each one has his own flock.  Because men have failed to recognize this, there has been trouble.  When God’s plan is followed, all is well.

The cell group church is vision driven.  It needs a strong leader to rally the people toward a God-given vision.  It is also structured like the military.  It calls for a strong commander to instil a sense of strict spiritual discipline needed to complete the task.  At the inception of the church, my core leaders asked,   “Pastor, what sort of leader will you be?”

My answer was unequivocal, “I believe I will be a strong leader, one who believes what the Lord wants me to do and who pursues it with all my heart.”

Traditionally, the church has been suspicious of strong leadership, especially when it is centred in one person.  As a result, many man-made systems of checks and counterchecks have been built into traditional church polity to ensure that there can be no one-man rule.  Although I agree that there is a need for mutual accountability, these checks have more often become major roadblocks for God’s appointed leaders to lead His people into victorious ministry.  Many lay leaders have expressed great fear of so-called   “dictatorship” behind the pulpit.  After 20 years of ministry, however, I must say that I have seen more “dictators” sitting in the pews than those standing behind pulpits.

What is leadership?

One day I was praying about this issue of leadership and the Lord impressed upon me to write down these words about leadership:

Leadership is not dictatorship

Leadership is rallying people to pursue a vision.  A leader successfully instils in those he is leading a deep desire to fulfil that vision.  He gains the trust of his people by virtue of his character, his integrity, his resourcefulness, his zeal, his good judgment, his people skills and, most importantly, his anointing from God.  As a result, the people grant him the freedom to decide and the authority to supervise and control.   Such leadership can never be provided by a committee or a board.  If, indeed, such leadership is provided by a group, it is because within that group someone can provide such strong leadership first to the group and through that to the rest of the people.

We often talk about New Testament leadership as if it is completely different from Old Testament leadership.  I believe that biblical leadership is consistent throughout the New and Old Testaments.  Whenever God wants to do a work, He chooses a man.  We have leaders such as Moses, Gideon, David, Elijah and others in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, we have leaders such as Peter for the Jews and Paul for the Gentiles.   In FCBC, I assert my clear leadership in three areas:

Casting the Vision

I lead the people by casting a clear and concrete vision for the church.  In the early years, I spent countless hours sharing, discussing, praying and formulating the vision and strategies of the church.  I realize that a vision is only powerful when it is fully owned by the people.  Our vision and strategies were clearly set by the third year.  Since that time, I have constantly shared and reinforced this for my leaders and members.  I speak to every new member of the church about this vision in our new member orientation called “Spiritual Formation Weekend.”  I challenge every member to consider seriously our vision before joining our church.  If someone is not able to subscribe to the vision, I strongly recommend that the person join another church.

Once the vision and strategies have been forged, I expect every leader in the church to support them.  This is especially so for pastoral staff.  They are selected on the basis that as lay cell leaders and group supervisors they have demonstrated their commitment to the vision of the church.  Today, the church has a paid staff of almost 200.  In the last 10 years, we have had a staff turnover of fewer than 10 persons.  There is a tremendous sense of unity on the team.  The reason for this is that I have clearly provided leadership in casting for the people a clear vision and articulating specific strategies from the Lord.

Creating an environment for Growth

As leader, I am concerned about creating an environment conducive to growth.  We have written a clear mission statement and we have agreed upon specific core values that define the uniqueness of FCBC, both in terms of belief and of practice.  I will reproduce the mission statement here:  We seek to fulfil God’s role for us in bringing the gospel to the world by developing every believer to his full potential in Jesus Christ within a vision & value driven environment and a God-centred community.

Preaching and Teaching from the Pulpit

The main vehicle by which the growth environment is established comes through dynamic teaching and preaching during the celebration.  Some think that the cell church consists of only cells.  This is not true.  Although the cell is the church, the church is more than just cells.  The cells come together in the celebration meeting, absorbing the apostolic teaching that shapes the direction, commitment and spiritual atmosphere for the whole Body.  The church in Acts 2 met in homes, but they came together to listen to the   apostles’ teaching.  I spend some 20 hours every week preparing my sermon.  The sermon each week is more than teaching the Bible.  Every sermon conveys a passion for God and communicates His purposes for His people.

There is no doubt that the growth of FCBC is the result of God’s special grace in and through my life.  As long as I walk humbly before the Lord in intimacy, the Lord will lead us from glory to glory.  I realize that as I promote and support strong apostolic leadership, there is always the danger of abuse.  It is altogether possible for apostles to abuse the authority God has given us as His apostolic leaders.  Nevertheless, this apparently is a risk God is willing to take with us because, in His grace, He has chosen to do just that.  God is more than able to bring down His erring servants just as quickly as He raises them up.  Meanwhile, I believe in affirming God’s appointed leadership over   His people.

Affirmation with humility

I believe that God’s leaders need affirmation and encouragement as they agree to take positions of leadership.  Yet they must have the humility to serve.  Strong leaders have often been misunderstood to be dictatorial and proud.  For my part, though, I would rather affirm them, pray for them and release them to become a blessing to the Body of Christ.

When FCBC started, my heart was completely shattered by the rejection of the leaders of my former church.  The issues that finally brought about the split of the church turned personal.  I was attacked for being controlling, dictatorial and even dangerously influential.  At the inception of FCBC, I had lost my confidence to lead.  Thus I became laid back, relinquishing the leadership to my core leaders who, together with me, started the church.

In the beginning of 1987, a few months after the church had started, we invited Pastor Bill Yaegar from the First Baptist Church of Modesto, California, to speak to us about leadership.  Pastor Yaegar was in his 60s and since then has retired.   In his visit with us, Bill Yaegar noticed how discouraged I was.  I could never forget his parting words to me at the Singapore airport.  He said, “Son, I was praying for you this morning.  The Lord told me He was giving you a new name.  Your name shall be called ‘Ari.’  This is a Jewish name that means ‘lion.’  Lawrence, the Lord tells you that you are the ‘Lion of Singapore.’  You are to stand up and roar.  And whenever others forget that you are the ‘Lion of Singapore,’ stand up and roar again!”

No one had ever previously affirmed me that way.  It was an extremely important moment in my ministry career.  I realized in that instant that through all my years of Christian ministry, people were constantly warning me to go slower, to be more cautious and to be more “humble.”  This was the first time a seasoned servant of God had actually encouraged me to take charge, to lead and to press on.  Something burst forth within the depths of my spirit.  I have been roaring ever since for the glory of God and the advance of His kingdom!

© From Chapter 13, “A Vision and Strategy for Church Growth”, in The Transforming Power of Revival edited by Harold Caballeros and Mel Winger (Peniel, Buenos Aires, 1998), excerpted from The New Apostolic Churches edited by C.   Peter Wagner (Regal 8ooks, Ventura, 1998), used by permission.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

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The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenny

Evangelist Tommy Tenny describes people and churches who seek the Lord zealously in his book The God Chasers.  This article from his first chapter tells how he witnessed the visitation of God in the 3,000 member Christian Tabernacle church in Houston, Texas, led by Richard Heard.

This body of believers in Houston had two scheduled services on Sundays.  The first morning service started at 8:30, and the second one followed and began at 11.

When I returned for the third weekend, while in the hotel, I sensed a heavy anointing of some kind, a brooding of the Spirit, and I literally wept and trembled.

You could barely breathe

The following morning, we walked into the building for the 8:30 Sunday service expecting to see the usual early morning first service “sleepy” crowd with their low-key worship.  As I walked in to sit down in the front row that morning, the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was “thick.”  You could barely breathe.

The musicians were clearly struggling to continue their ministry; their tears got in the way.  Music became more difficult to play.  Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn’t sing or play any longer.  The worship leader crumpled in sobs behind the keyboard.

If there was one good decision I made in life, it was made that day.  I had never been this close to “catching” God, and I was not going to stop.  So I spoke to my wife, Jeannie. “You should go continue to lead us to Him.”  Jeannie has an anointing to lead people into the presence of God as a worshiper and intercessor.  She quietly moved to the front and continued to facilitate the worship and ministry to the Lord.  It wasn’t anything fancy; it was just simple. That was the only appropriate response in that moment.

The atmosphere reminded me of the passage in Isaiah 6, something I’d read about, and even dared dream I might experience myself.  In this passage the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  I’d never understood what it meant for the glory of the Lord to fill a place.  I had sensed God come in places, I had sensed Him come by, but this time in Houston, even after there was all of God that I thought was available in the building, more of His presence literally packed itself into the room.  It’s like the bridal train of a bride that, after she has personally entered the building, her bridal train continues to enter the building after her.  God was there; of that there was no doubt.  But more of Him kept coming in the place until, as in Isaiah, it literally filled the building.  At times the air was so rarefied that it became almost unbreathable.  Oxygen came in short gasps, seemingly.  Muffled sobs broke through the room.  In the midst of this, the pastor turned to me and asked me a question.

“Tommy, are you ready to take the service?”

“Pastor, I’m just about half-afraid to step up there, because I sense that God is about to do something.”

Tears were streaming down my face when I said that.  I wasn’t afraid that God was going to strike me down, or that something bad was going to happen.  I just didn’t want to interfere and grieve the precious presence that was filling up that room!  For too long we humans have only allowed the Holy Spirit to take control up to a certain point.  Basically, whenever it gets outside of our comfort zone or just a little beyond our control, we pull in the reins (the Bible calls it “quenching the Spirit” in First Thessalonians 5:19).  We stop at the tabernacle veil too many times.

“I feel like I should read Second Chronicles 7:14, and I have a word from the Lord,” my pastor friend said.

With profuse tears I nodded assent and said, “Go, go.”

My friend is not a man given to any kind of outward demonstration; he is essentially a man of “even” emotions.  But when he got up to walk to the platform, he appeared visibly shaky.  At this point I so sensed something was about to happen, that I walked all the way from the front row to the back of the room to stand by the sound booth.  I knew God was going to do something; I just didn’t know where.  I was on the front row, and it could happen behind me or to the side of me.  I was so desperate to catch Him that I got up and publicly walked back to the sound booth as the pastor walked up to the pulpit to speak, so I could see whatever happened.  I wasn’t even sure that it was going to happen on the platform, but I knew something was going to happen. “God, I want to be able to see whatever it is You are about to do.”

My pastor friend stepped up to the clear pulpit in the centre of the platform, opened the Bible, and quietly read the gripping passage from Second Chronicles 7:14:  If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.    

Then he closed his Bible, gripped the edges of the pulpit with trembling hands, and said, “The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him.  We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face.”

In that instant, I heard what sounded like a thunderclap echo through the building, and the pastor was literally picked up and thrown backward about ten feet, effectively separating him from the pulpit. When he went backward, the pulpit fell forward.  The beautiful flower arrangement positioned in front of it fell to the ground, but by the time the pulpit hit the ground, it was already in two pieces.  It had split into two pieces almost as if lightning had hit it!  At that instant the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room.

People began to weep and wail

I quickly stepped to the microphone from the back of the room and said, “In case you aren’t aware of it, God has just moved into this place.  The pastor is fine.  [It was two and a half hours before he could even get up, though – and even then the ushers had to carry him.  Only his hand trembled slightly to give proof of life.]  He’s going to be fine.”

While all of this happened, the ushers quickly ran to the front to check on the pastor and to pick up the two pieces of the split pulpit.  No one really paid much attention to the split pulpit; we were too occupied with the torn heavenlies.  The presence of God had hit that place like some kind of bomb.  People began to weep and to wail.  I said, “If you’re not where you need to be, this is a good time to get right with God.”  I’ve never seen such an altar call.  It was pure pandemonium.  People shoved one another out of the way.  They wouldn’t wait for the aisles to clear; they climbed over pews, businessmen tore their ties off, and they were literally stacked on top of one another, in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard.  Just the thought of it still sends chills down my back.  When I gave the altar call then for the 8.30 a.m. service, I had no idea that it would be but the first of seven altar calls that day.

When it was time for the 11 a.m. service to begin, nobody had left the building.  The people were still on their faces and, even though there was hardly any music being played at this point, worship was rampant and uninhibited.  Grown men were ballet dancing; little children were weeping in repentance.  People were on their faces, on their feet, on their knees, but mostly in His presence.  There was so much of the presence and the power of God there that people began to feel an urgent need to be baptized.  I watched people walk through the doors of repentance, and one after another experienced the glory and the presence of God as He came near.  Then they wanted baptism, and I was in a quandary about what to do.  The pastor was still unavailable on the floor.  Prominent people walked up to me and stated, “I’ve got to be baptized.  Somebody tell me what to do.”  They joined with the parade of the unsaved, who were now saved, provoked purely by encountering the presence of God.  There was no sermon and no real song – just His Spirit that day.

Two and a half hours had passed, and since the pastor had only managed to wiggle one finger at that point to call the elders to him, the ushers had carried him to his office. Meanwhile, all these people were asking me (or anyone else they could find) if they could be baptised.  As a visiting minister at the church, I didn’t want to assume the authority to tell anyone to baptize these folks, so I sent people back to the pastor’s office to see if he would authorize the water baptisms.

I gave one altar call after another, and hundreds of people were coming forward.  As more and more people came to me asking about water baptism, I noticed that no one I had sent to the pastor’s office had returned.  Finally I sent a senior assistant pastor back there and told him, “Please find out what Pastor wants to do about the water baptisms -nobody has come back to tell me yet.”  The man stuck his head in the pastor’s office, and to his shock he saw the pastor still lying before the Lord, and everyone I had sent there was sprawled on the floor too, just weeping and repenting before God.  He hurried back to tell me what he had seen and added, “I’ll go ask him, but if I go in that office I may not be back either.”

We baptized people for hours

I shrugged my shoulders and agreed with the associate pastor, “I guess it’s all right to baptize them.”  So we began to baptize people as a physical sign of their repentance before the Lord, and we ended up baptizing people for hours.  More and more people kept pouring in, and since the people from the early service were still there, there were cars parked everywhere outside the church building.  A big open-air ball field next to the building was filled with cars parked every which way.

As people drove onto the parking lot, they sensed the presence of God so strongly that some began to weep uncontrollably.  They just found themselves driving up onto the parking lot or into the grass not knowing what was going on.  Some started to get out of their cars and barely managed to stagger across the parking lot.  Some came inside the building only to fall to the floor just inside the doors.  The hard-pressed ushers had to literally pull the helpless people away from the doors and stack them up along the walls of the hallways to clear the entrance.  Others managed to make it part way down the hallways, and some made it to the foyer before they fell on their faces in repentance.

Some actually made it inside the auditorium, but most of them didn’t bother to find seats.  They just made for the altar.  No matter what they did or how far they made it, it wasn’t long before they began to weep and repent.  As I said, there wasn’t any preaching.  There wasn’t even any music part of the time.  Primarily one thing happened that day: The presence of God showed up.  When that happens, the first thing you do is the same thing Isaiah did when he saw the Lord high and lifted up.  He cried out from the depths of his soul:

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:5).

You see, the instant Isaiah the prophet, the chosen servant of God, saw the King of glory, what he used to think was clean and holy now looked like filthy rags.  He was thinking, I thought I knew God, but I didn’t know this much of God!  That Sunday we seemed to come so close; we almost caught Him.  Now I know it’s possible.

They came right back for more

People just kept filling the auditorium again and again, beginning with that strange service that started at 8.30 that morning.  I finally went to eat at around 4:00 that afternoon, and then came right back to the church building.  Many never left.  The continuous “Sunday morning service” lasted until 1 a.m. Monday morning.  We didn’t have to announce our plans for Monday evening.  Everybody already knew.  Frankly, there would have been a meeting whether we announced it or not.  The people simply went home to get some sleep or do the things they had to do, and they came right back for more – not for more of men and their programs, but for God and His presence.

Night after night, the pastor and I would come in and say,  “What are we going to do?”

Most of the time our answer to one another was just as predictable: “What do you want to do?”

What we meant was, “I don’t know what to do.  What does He want to do?”

Sometimes we’d go in and start trying to “have church,” but the crying hunger of the people would quickly draw in the presence of God and suddenly God had us!  Listen, my friend, God doesn’t care about your music, your midget steeples, and your flesh-impressive buildings.  Your church carpet doesn’t impress Him – He carpets the fields.  God doesn’t really care about anything you can “do” for Him; He only cares about your answer to one question: “Do you want Me?

Ruin everything that isn’t of You, Lord!

We have programmed our church services so tightly that we really don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit.  Oh, we might let God speak prophetically to us a little, but we get nervous if He tries to break out of our schedules.  We can’t let God out of the box too much because He can ruin everything.  (That has become my prayer: “Break out of our boxes, Lord, and ruin everything that isn’t of You!”)

Let me ask you a question: How long has it been since you came to church and said, “We are going to wait on the Lord”?  I think we are afraid to wait on Him because we’re afraid He won’t show up.  I have a promise for you: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isa. 40:31).  Do you want to know why we’ve lived in weakness as Christians and have not had all that God wanted for us?  Do you want to know why we have lived beneath our privilege and have not had the strength to overcome our own carnality?  Maybe it’s because we haven’t waited on Him to show up to empower us, and we’re trying to do too much in the power of our own soulish realm.

God ruined everything in Houston

I am not trying to make you feel bad.  I know most Christians and most of our leaders genuinely mean well, but there is so much more.  You can “catch” God – ask Jacob – and it might ruin the way you’ve always walked!  But you can catch Him.  We’ve talked, preached, and taught about revival until the Church is sick of hearing about it.  That’s what I did for a living: I preached revivals – or so I thought.  Then God broke out of His box and ruined everything when He showed up.  Seven nights a week, for the next four or five weeks straight, hundreds of people a night would stand in line to repent and receive Christ, worship, wait, and pray.  What had happened in history, past and present, was happening again.  Then it dawned on me, “God, You’re wanting to do this everywhere.”  For months His manifest presence hovered.

© Tommy Tenny, 1998, The God Chasers, pages 5-12, reproduced with permission from the publishers, Destiny Image.

©  Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins (2000:1)  www.renewaljournal.com

Richard Heard’s account of that visitation is reproduced in the Renewal Journal, # 10: Evangelism (1997:2).  He tells of continual evangelism and the whole carpet of the church being tear-stained from people repenting for over a year.

© Renewal Journal #15: Wineskins, http://www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

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