Finding peace remains an ongoing search. I continue my exegetical and practical quest concerning peace-making. First, as a student of the Scriptures, I persist in my study of peace particularly as expressed among the earliest followers of Jesus. Pentecostals confess the paradigmatic nature of Jesus’ life (and the lives of the Apostles) for the contemporary believer. Reading from the Gospels and Acts, Pentecostals believe the powerful witness, healings, miracles, and exorcisms performed by Jesus to be core aspects of positive mimesis. Ironically, Jesus’ sacrificial life and death and his holistic perspective on shalom often fails to inspire the same kind of positive imitation. The cumulative effect of more than 100 New Testament references to peace deserves greater attention as part of Pentecostal thinking. As Christians living in the “already/not yet” kingdom of God, the prayer “thy Kingdom come” must provide not only futuristic hope but also present reality. The present reality of the miraculous must be extended to a theology of peace. Thus, as Zechariah sings with anticipation concerning the future ministry of the infant messiah: “to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79b), so also the angelic host sings similar praises to God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The gospel story provides consistent fulfillment of these oracles. For example, Peter proclaims an inclusive ethnic message to Cornelius’ household: “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36) and Paul calls for believers to embrace a similar message: “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). The New Testament provides a wealth of Spirit-led oracles that call for peace with expectation for present fulfillment. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for January, 2011
Last week, I had a three-way phone conversation with friends of mine, a married couple, who live in another state. Last year, the husband became the senior pastor of their local church, where he had previously served as a board elder. My friends described a recent issue being discussed among the current board elders, which is comprised of all men. It has been suggested that a multi-gifted person in the church, who has been in fruitful ministry over many years, be invited to serve on the elder board. This person is a woman. The reaction ranges from full agreement to adamant refusal.
In this conversation, both of my friends (the pastor and his wife) are very supportive of this woman joining the elder board. Not only has she faithfully served in the church but also has ministered at other churches and in the community with obvious giftedness and anointing, which has earned her great respect. However, one elder, in particular, is having a problem with the thought of a woman having authority over a man. Of course, you can imagine the Scriptures that he has identified to preclude any such eventuality, among them 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
This issue of women serving in church leadership remains a contemporary “hot button” and raises the question of how spiritually gifted women might fulfill their God-given calling within the local church and beyond. These scriptures mentioned above remain the arsenal for the prohibition of women fully expressing their giftedness in serving the body of Christ. Further, traditional views/practices and cultural assumptions related to the preclusion of women serving in leadership roles in the church reinforce these textual interpretations.
In my previous post, I shared of my surprising journey toward pacifism. I found my way to this position due to my engagement of Mennonite theologies and communities and only later discovered the rich peacemaking heritage in the Pentecostal tradition. As I meditated further on this new discovery, I also felt immediate disappointment and betrayal. After sitting through thousands of hours of Sunday school lessons, sermons and then classes in a Pentecostal environment, not only had I never wrestled with pacifism but I had no idea of my heritage. From my teenage years, I remember no discussion concerning military duty. In fact, as my angst for college funds began to emerge, I considered joining the Canadian military for the free ride through college. No one counseled me concerning the biblical or theological pros and cons of such a decision. To the contrary, I remember specific services championing the military life. Ironically, and now upon further reflection, I am stunned at the number of preachers particularly American, who came to Canada, trumpeting their military experience. I vividly recall hearing one such preacher, Dave Roever, on several occasions. Roever’s emotional story of service in Vietnam left young respondents with little room to ponder the convergence of gospel and nationalism. Years later, I reflected with disappointment upon my 10-year pastorate in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada immediately following completion of my doctoral residency at Marquette University. As pastor of a Pentecostal church filled with many “ex-Mennonites” in Morden/Winkler, a community in southern Manitoba and in the heart of one of the largest concentrations of Mennonites in the world, I never discussed my peace position in private or public discourse. Read the rest of this entry »
Pentecostal Manifestos is a new book series by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company edited by James K. A. Smith and Amos Yong. The series will provide a forum for exhibiting the next generation of Pentecostal scholarship. Having exploded across the globe in the twentieth century, Pentecostalism now enters its second century. For the past fifty years, Pentecostal and charismatic theologians (and scholars in other disciplines) have been working “internally,” as it were, to articulate a distinctly Pentecostal theology and vision. The next generation of Pentecostal scholarship is poised to move beyond both the merely internal conversation to an outward-looking agenda, in a two-fold sense: first, Pentecostal scholars are increasingly gaining the attention of those outside pentecostal/charismatic circles as Pentecostal voices in mainstream discussions; second, Pentecostal scholars are moving beyond simply reflecting on their own tradition and instead engaging in theological and cultural analysis of a variety of issues from a Pentecostal perspective. In short, Pentecostal scholars are poised with a new boldness: Read the rest of this entry »
In his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King states, “The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” In King’s eyes this was “the Church” that Jesus built with expectation to continue his own mission in the world. Are our churches today extensions of that Church? Or, are we so personalistic and individualistic that we forget that the church was built as a transformative mechanism for society? There is a certain wayward spirit in our society that is transforming the churches into thermometers instead of thermostats.
As I survey churches across America, I notice that far too few of the churches maintain a true prophetic character. Pathetic apathy compromise the prophetic nature of the Church that Jesus expects. In the face of oppressive immigration laws, poverty, violence, abuse, bullying, resistant and evil racism, and greed, the churches must become “the Church.” There is a need for a unified prophetic voice of “the Church” that cries aloud and spares not! The Church is not a privatized business opportunity for men and women who seize the opportunity to attract people to collect tithe and offerings. The Church that Christ intends is not a social club that collects membership fees and bifurcate the haves from the have-nots. That is what I see among many of our churches. In his 1963 Strength to Love, King says, “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jesus calls followers to a lifelong journey that requires constant reflection upon theology and praxis. Honest theological reflection upon culture, the world, the church and the Scriptures results in the evolution of ideas and values. An intentional Christian embraces such discovery, understanding and transformation of basic convictions both individually and collectively. With new found convictions, this task requires a new orientation to life, specifically attitudes and actions, a desire to reflect new discoveries. Inevitably, certain core convictions treasured at one point in life may shift in light of reflection upon previously untapped information, thereby leading to subsequent understanding and new orientation. Finding a theology of peace, specifically pacifism, became one such shift in my life. Read the rest of this entry »