Reaffirming Our Pentecostal Heritage

I can only speak for myself, but…

I passionately believe that that “suddenlies” of Pentecost still happen (I’ve said that many times). I believe they happen in moments where people have been brought to the precipice of chaos, at least from our perspective. The uncertainty of what to do next is often combined with a pressing reality before us that forces us into an atmosphere of crisis, which imposes a subjective dependency on God’s grace and mercy that presses us through a threshold of the yet unknown into the presence and renewed purpose of God. And, He never fails.

I believe a “suddenly” moment is what happened on Wednesday afternoon. After all, we say we are Pentecostal. I believe there are still moments of grace and power when God transcends human process and sequence and “suddenly” provides a “realization” that exceeds our present capacity or limitation.

Of the key concerns before us at the 2008 Church of God General Assembly were the issues of the “Realignment of Resources” and the “Reaffirmation of our Pentecostal Distinctive.” These two matters seemed to be fraught with explosive elements. Elements of differing perspective, passion, loyalty, identity, trust, and distrust. And so, the table was set.

We believe that 2000 years ago the Holy Spirit “suddenly” visited a group of people in an upper room and so powerfully inhabited their bodies (and the room they were in) that they were catapulted beyond the limitations of their own capacities. Namely, none of them had ever taken a Rosetta Stone course in unknown tongues (at least unknown to them). None of them had the “capacity” to speak in another language. And yet- “suddenly.”

Further, in the Acts narrative, after the Holy Spirit’s “suddenly” intervention, the Apostle Peter tells us that the evidences of this encounter would be men being, “pierced to the ‘heart.’” Those in the upper room were the first to have their “hearts pierced,” and then it moved through the Jerusalem crowd.

Rewind: Earlier in Acts chapter one we hear the final conversation with Jesus concerning what we would later know the be the upper room “suddenly” visitation. It seems that everyone had their own opinion of what it was supposed to look like. Jesus graciously endured their cluelessness. He ascended and they walked away…to meet.

On this past Wednesday afternoon we all returned to a room…to meet. Many of us holding strong opinions of what it should “look like,” at the end of the day. However, I don’t know that we had the “capacity,” to resolve this on our own. For me, I wanted evidence of another kind. My commitment to integrity had set up demands in my mind and heart. I would not trust again without a specific covenant containing clear language of specific actions and measurable results.

I had trusted too many times only in my opinion, to have “games played” with the issues at hand. My “trust capacity,” had specific limitations. But then “suddenly…”

As this alleged “move of the Spirit,” began to happen my thought was, “Oh great, we’re dragging out the Ark of the Covenant to the battle field just for the sake of a sensationalized rallying of the troops. This is not good!” (cf. I Samuel 4) But, then “suddenly…” Suddenly, my heart was pierced, revealing the pride of my own disposition that there was only one way to resolve the problem at hand and that in my arrogance I proposed to “know” what that outcome was.

Thank God that He is faithful to visit my heart with a “suddenly” that exceeds the “capacity” and limitation of my own heart and my own mind. I found myself speaking in a “new tongue.” I found myself speaking in a new tongue of words of trust and hope that I did not know 60 seconds earlier. I watched as hearts were pierced, revealing secrets in the hearts of men, secrets of unforgiveness and ought against a brother. “Suddenly…”

Finally, it is not inaccurate reasoning of the mind to suppose that I have been “duped.” Some seem to think that.  Perhaps I have been. But, I don’t think so (more on that later).

Jesus tells us of things that disclose the disposition of our heart. One is well known, “from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Our words- the words of my mouth…they’re a dead give-away of our heart.  I have taken a couple days to reflect before writing…still trying to learn and grow… “quick to hear…slow to speak,” is often not my strong suit.

The words of my mouth… The following verses come at the end of the well known parable of the seed, soil, and sower. Personally, I believe it has to do with the “Word” we hear or the “words” we hear. Once again, we can receive “The Word” or just “words.” It is our choice.

23“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25“For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Mark 4:23-2520 (NASB95)

Necessary to understanding verse 25, is the antecedent in verse 23, “ears.” Verse 25 may very well read, “For whoever has ears…”

I think verse 24 provides further interpretive understanding by saying, “Take care WHAT you listen to.” What is that we “have ears to hear?”

I have been told that the term for “hear” from the original language means, “to listen with intent of appropriation.” What are we appropriating for our hearts? What are we listening to? What do we, “have ears to hear?”

“Take care what you listen to…to him will more be given.” In the end what we are listening to directly influences the fruitfulness of our lives and ministry. “To him who has ears,” to hear HIS words…will more be given…to him who has not ears…even what he has will be taken away.”

Ultimately, I am not believing in the “words” of speeches. I am believing in the Word of God. I am Pentecostal. I am reaffirming that. On Wednesday WE reaffirmed that.

I still believe in suddenlies.


11 Responses

  1. Great word Tom and thanks much for it. I found myself sitting in the balcony unwilling to participate in the process since 2004. I too had set my heart in such a way that only a certain kind of “suddenly” would move me. When the afternoon meeting began the timing raised my level of cynicism, and if not for the person beside me I would have found an exit. Thank God that did not happen because the moment began to pierce me. I realized it was hard for me to criticize the process if I was not going to be an agent for change. At the end of the day it was my own pride and bitterness that was being exposed. With tears streaming down my face and my flesh resisting the moment the love of Jesus was chipping away at the stone. I am thankful that Jesus was not only on the floor but in the upper level as well. I repent and ask forgiveness for being a spectator. Thanks for all you do and have done for Lorrie and I. If not for the pastoral retreats we had through the years I am not sure that we would have made it. We appreciate the investment and your faithfulness. We will be moving from the balcony back to the floor. God Bless, Scott Pilkington

  2. ~~Suddenly, my heart was pierced, revealing the pride of my own disposition that there was only one way to resolve the problem at hand and that in my arrogance I proposed to “know” what that outcome was.~~

    Isn’t God awesome?
    The initial pierce that penetrates so deep hurts so much, but what a sense of relief and peace that comes when the pressure of such things built up within are revealed and released.

    I was once in a conversation with God on the way to a church service. I was imagining how the service could go and then I realized that if I could imagine it and think of it, it probably wasn’t going to happen that way. I felt God smile at me like I was finally ‘getting it.’ From that point on I adopted the motto “Expect the Unexpected.”

    God bless and thank you for your hard work and efforts towards the betterment of our denomination.

  3. I believe that we saw a genuine move of the Holy Spirit on Wednesday afternoon – and we needed it so much. I feel tremendously hopeful for where our movement can go, and privileged to be a part of it.

    Scott, thank you for sharing that testimony. We particularly need guys like you with your gifts and passion participating on the floor at GA. Heck, I voted for you to be up on the platform!

  4. Just want to thank you again. Scripture teaches us clearly the transparancy of hearts, you will know them by their fruits. I was inspired as I heard you and Brother Johnson speak. I noted respect for those over us, protection of everyone’s dignity, reason, daring, and a careful treatment of the Word.

    I am guardedly hopeful that our resonable demand was heard and will be responded to appropriately.

  5. I agree that the “divine interruption” on Wednesday was genuine. Did we not pray for just an event to take place at the resurgence meeting? I for one agreed in prayer with my group that if this item was not of God that He would reveal His will to our body. Is this not what happened? I appreciate Dennis McGuire’s comments that he “would not let Roberts Rules send us all to hell” as well as his personal opposition to the item. It was a gross violation of the neutrality of the Moderator and a wonderful moment that I believe will set a new precedent for allowing the heart of the GC to dictate the discussions on the floor. I don’t think it any surprise that the discussions that followed the next day concerning the role of women and the Declaration of Faith were biblical, reasoned, balanced and persuasive. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the outcomes you left with a feeling that your “side” had been heard and that the conversation would be allowed to continue in future GA’s.

  6. While our moderator began grossly violating his neutrality, my brother leaned over to me and said, “I think this is one of those suddenlies.” I half expected a point of order to bring everything to a grinding halt. When Rev. Maguire asked, “Can I share my heart I was saying and hearing other men say, “Please do!”
    For those who question was it a true move of God? I have to say it was or was not according to your disposition, or more accurately position. If you were in a position to hope for and believe it wouild happen then you were in the middle of a move of God. If you were in a position of distrust and skepticism and not willing to move from that position then for you it was all hype, and contrived manipulation. Look at the results of the day. Yes we have two more years to wait. Still it was a great risk for our new General Overseer to speak on the issue and truly pledge to get it done. I want to add that a close friend of Rev. Culpepper remarked that it was the very first time he could remember Rev. Culpepper speaking on the floor at General Assembly. For me this was a move of God and if we trust Him and pray for our leaders we will see the fruit of that move.

  7. My wife and I have attended every General Assembly except one (due to the birth of our daughter that very week) since 1966. I’ve watched as leaders called us to prayer; God move by His will; attitudes and ministries changed at having been in His very presence. I vividedly remember 1990 when, on one night, there was no preaching because God interrupted the service genuinely. People literally ran to the altar rejoicing. People received the Holy Ghost all over the arena. That night God spoke to me with an order to obey what He said. In those days I served this church as an overseer and I spoke that word from God, to the next two states where I served and we saw positive spiritual impact over those eight years. Wednesday afternoon at the 72nd GA was another such experience. With my head buried in my hands calling out to God for intervention, yet hearing singing in the , God spoke. It was so forceful I did not want to forget one word as I scrambled for my agenda notebook and finding a blank page I began to write what I, then and still now, felt was from God. I humbly and respectfully share that with the readers of this board. As it would relate to me, I was pierced deeply, repented quickly, and checked myself. I want my last years to be as pure and intent for God as were those first ones. I would welcome response from anyone who would feel identity with this prophetic word:
    “My hand is upon you as my people. My people that I have raised up as a force for all people in all places and for all times. You sing that you need me every hour, you need me. I say to you, bathe yourself in the love that I have for you. When you bathe yourself in my love, then are you covered with the very essence of who I am. It is then that my Spirit will have freedom to move through you. Your hands will become the extension of my hands, your feet will go where I lead you, when you speak your tongue will speak forth the very spirit and sweetness of my nature and character; and your actions will be subject to my will in mercy and peace. Give me My rightful place in your midst. That place in your heart that I long to occupy. Then will I heal your hurts and deliver you from your weariness and the torment of your spirit, mind, and soul. You are my love and I desire to dwell within your life, anoint your work, and direct your future, says the Lord God eternal!”

    I feel very excited with the prospects of the future of our movement and have come home with a renewed commitment to the leadership of what God wants of me and the Church I serve.

  8. Hi brothers and sisters. There seems to be a common theme in the replies to the post. “Pierced.” There is a desperate need in the Church today to be able to pierce the hearts of believers and the lost and dying. The only thing that is being pierced today in Pentecostal churches is the soulish realm and the five senses which mutually feed of each other. The senses excite the soul and the spirit remains untouched. If you go to and type in the search box “Stabbed in the Heart,” you can read my post on this subject which may bless you, hopefully it will challenge you?…………………Frank

  9. Tom,
    Like many others, I was sitting in the chair with a critical spirit thinking we are about to waste a lot of time so that we can side step the issue at hand. At that moment God moved on me and I realized that this was a divine interruption. As I pondered Wednesday afternoons encounter over the next few days I come to realize just how awesome God really is, and how much He loves His church. With all that we were facing and with the mistrust that has been within our denomination God does the only thing that will help us, He invades our world. I would have still like for us to have dealt with the issue now rather than wait, but I found that even in that there was no distrust but hope that things would be done. That is what the presence of God gives us Hope. I pray that we never loss the ability to be interrupted by the Holy Spirit.

    If you were “duped” then count me as number two on that list.

  10. “Love always hopes..” Your love for the Church of God comes shining through, Tom- I can identify with all the emotions you shared. Ultimately it was hope that drove me to the altar…and my love for the church that kept clinging to hope between the altar and the door.


  11. On Wednesday afternoon immediately following the time of prayer, worship, repentance, etc., there seemed to be a sense of holy “hesitation,” which I think was born of a genuine reverence for God’s presence and what had transpired.

    However, I was at the microphone waiting to speak when Raymond Culpepper spoke. I was going to speak in favor of the motion and the continuation of discussion and reference Acts15 where there was extended debate over what was certainly a crucial issue for the young church. In that scenario the presence of the Holy Spirit was not something that preempted them arriving at a determined conclusion…but in fact empowered and witnessed the resolution of the issue. I believed that to be God’s intention for that day…and there was no need to see continuing debate as a lack of reverence for the moment. I still believe that…however….

    When Raymond Culpepper spoke I turned off the light at the microphone where I stood. I believed the Holy Spirit was bypassing the sequence of steps I saw as necessary to the restoration of the trust I felt had been lost.

    You know…..I’ve always thought that the terms “systematic theology,” convey a potential arrogance of human conjecture unlike any other….namely…that God must move through some sequence of contrived human estimations before He can accomplish a particular thing. And yet there are principles supplied by God I believed we (the COG) needed to take to get where we needed to be. These steps of communication are Biblically based and still stand
    …..and will continue serve God’s purposes in my life well.

    However….I am reminded that the preparation for the ministry of the priests in the dedication Solomon’s temple were prescribed by God also. And then…after all the preparation to minister in that moment to achieve God’s purposes…the glory of the Lord filled the temple so that they could not minister in the very way they had been instructed (by God). Amazing….

    There are few moments in my life I think I’ve ever been really certain I did something “spiritual.” But I think turning the light off, sitting down, and keeping my mouth shut may have been one.

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