“Just as the prophet Joel declared that God is going to pour out His Spirit on all people, both daughters and sons, we believe God is raising-up a generation of Spirit-anointed leaders, both women and men, to equip the people of God for works of service and declare the kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I am so encouraged by this refreshed statement on the church—especially how the missional nature of the church in God’s redemptive plan has been expanded and enriched. To refresh your memory, let’s review the refreshed statement on the church in its entirety:
5.6 THE CHURCH
Jesus Christ is the head of the church. All who are united with Christ are joined by the Spirit to his body. Each local church is an expression of the universal church whose role is to participate in the mission of God to restore all things. Central to the church is the shared experience of the transforming presence of God. The church responds with worship, prayer, proclamation, discipleship, and fellowship, including the practices of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism by immersion symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes the nature of Christ’s death and our communion as believers, and it proclaims his death in anticipation of his return. The Spirit gives all gifts to the church to minister to others in love for the purpose of bearing witness to Christ and for the building up of the church. The Spirit also empowers leaders, both female and male, to equip the church to fulfil its mission and purposes.
Headlining this refreshed section is the declaration: “Jesus Christ is the head of the church.” This essential doctrine proclaiming the headship and authority of Jesus is both simple and profound. First in everything, Jesus is the supreme overseer of His church, a people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In the early days of Pentecost in Canada, pastors would hang large banners with Bible verses inside their storefront missions. Among the most popular Bible verses was Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Early Pentecostals believed that what Jesus did in the Gospels, he still does today: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Although we are living in challenging times, our God reigns.
Principalities, powers, politics, and pandemics are all subject to the authority and headship of Christ. No weapon formed against the church will prosper, and every stronghold will be pulled down. Jesus is building His church, and the powers of hell will not overcome it.
Emphasizing the importance of Christ and His church, the statement continues: “All who are united with Christ are joined by the Spirit to his body.” In our individualistic and egocentric culture, some believers think they can live a “private faith”—detached and disconnected from the people of God. Someone mentioned to me just recently, “Pastor, I’m a Christian, but I don’t go to church; I pray at home and watch Christian television.” However, we are connected both vertically to God and horizontally to others. You can’t serve God without serving people. We are united with Christ and joined by the Holy Spirit to serve others. People will know that we are Christ followers not by the name of our church or by the confession of our faith, but by our love for one another. During these uncertain days, it is essential that we come together as the body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit—to edify and encourage each other even more as we see the Day approaching.
Continuing this missional theme, the next sentence states, “Each local church is an expression of the universal church whose role is to participate in the mission of God to restore all things.” We are not called to fulfil our own personal agendas or build our own kingdoms. We are called to participate in the shared mission of God to bring restoration and healing to this broken world—spiritually and practically. We are partners with Christ in God’s plan of redemption, called to serve in the power of the Holy Spirit until the day when righteousness and justice are restored. As Pentecostal theologian Grant McClung states, the “internal soul of Pentecostalism” reaches upward with eschatological expectation, reaches outward in evangelism, and reaches downward in prophetic social action. 1 Just as Jesus reached down to the hurting, lonely, and the broken, we, too, reach down to lift others out of the miry clay and onto the solid rock of Christ.
In the next statement, we emphasize the essential practice of corporate worship: “Central to the church is the shared experience of the transforming presence of God.” Experiencing the tangible presence of God is central to our Pentecostal roots. In our shared history, Pentecostals do not have a prescribed liturgy or a standardized tradition of worship; we seek the presence of God. This hunger and thirst for the presence of God is one of the primary unifying core values of our Fellowship. Our worship expression may look different in each local context, but our collective craving for a move of God in our hearts, a move of God in our churches, and a move of God across the nations is an essential part of our mutual identity as Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered believers.
Turning our attention to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the refreshed statement continues: “The Spirit gives all gifts to the church to minister to others in love for the purpose of bearing witness to Christ and for the building up of the church.” Notice here that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not limited to the four walls of the church; but they are an indispensable part of our witness for Christ in the world. For example, when someone receives their healing and testifies to their miracle, not only is the church built up and encouraged, but also those who have yet to receive Christ hear about a miracle-working Jesus. Thus, the gifts of the Holy Spirit serve both to edify the church and witness to lost people as part of the mission of God to restore our broken world. As believers, we need a fresh understanding of the missional nature of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts cannot be confined to the church but must be unleashed into the marketplace, where people can experience the transformative presence and power of God. Expressed in our daily lives, the gifts of the Spirit enable us to proclaim the in-breaking presence of God in a naturally supernatural capacity. As we interact with friends, neighbours, and co-workers, we are led by the Spirit in both word and deed to share the love of Christ.
Closing this section on the church, the statement reads: “The Spirit also empowers leaders, both female and male, to equip the church to fulfil its mission and purposes.” You likely noticed that a common gender order has been reversed. Instead of “male and female,” we have intentionally reversed the order to emphasize how God raises up leaders without preference. As a Bible college instructor, I hear first-hand stories of how many of our young women still encounter gender-based opposition and barriers to fulfilling the call of God on their lives. One female student shared with me through her tears that she can’t believe these biases still exist in the church today. Just as the prophet Joel declared that God is going to pour out His Spirit on all people, both daughters and sons, we believe God is raising-up a generation of Spirit-anointed leaders, both women and men, to equip the people of God for works of service and declare the kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
William Sloos serves as the lead pastor at Richmond Hill Pentecostal Church in Richmond Hill, Ont., and as an instructor of Pentecostal History at Master’s College and Seminary in Peterborough, Ont.
- Grant McClung, ed., Azusa Street and Beyond: 100 Years of Commentary on the Global Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2012), 32, Kindle. The full quote reads, “This internal soul of Pentecostalism then reaches outward in continual prioritized evangelism, and across in ecumenical cooperation with those who are the true Body of Christ within every Christian communion. It reaches up in a constant eschatological expectation of Christ’s return while at the same time reaching down in prophetic social activism and change, and in the responsible care of earth’s resources until the day of the new heavens and a new earth.”
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Home page photo © Lightstock and photo above © istockphoto.com.