Ordinary vs. Extraordinary Pentecostalism

Ordinary vs. Extraordinary: Revival and the Dynamic Intensity of the Spirit


In 2015, I read a book by Michael Horton called Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. I appreciated his overall message—while some Christians emphasize the need to live an extraordinary or radical life, he emphasized living an ordinary Christian life and the value of the ordinary aspects of ministry. He wrote, “It’s precisely the ordinary ministry, week-in and week-out, that provides sustained growth and encourages the roots to grow deep.” 1 This is a good reminder for Pentecostals like myself, who tend to like superlatives as they live out their faith.

On the other hand, what I didn’t appreciate about Horton’s book was his suggestion that revival is not to be desired and that it only makes us dissatisfied with the ordinary. He wrote, “Doesn’t the longing for revival tend to create the impression that between revivals you have lulls where the Spirit is not active at least in the same power or degree of power?”2 My response is, yes—the Spirit is not active everywhere and at all times in the same power or degree of power. And so, in some sense, we are justified not to be fully content with the ordinary.

The Dynamic Wind of the Spirit

Ironically, when I teach classes on the Holy Spirit, I very much want to help students realize that the Holy Spirit is involved in the ordinary and mundane. Like Michael Horton, it concerns me when Christians speak as though the Spirit is only present in sensational and dramatic experiences. We need to recognize, for example, that the Spirit is at work slowly growing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and through less dramatic spiritual gifts, like giving and encouraging (Romans 12:8).

At the same time, I still want to affirm that the presence of the Spirit is dynamic and that the Spirit does sometimes work in dramatic and extraordinary ways. As I wrote elsewhere, “The Holy Spirit is like the wind. In fact, the Hebrew and Greek words for Spirit … both mean ‘wind.’… Sometimes the wind gusts powerfully like a hurricane, whereas at other times it blows gently and we are not conscious of its stirring. Some Christians only look for the Spirit in the storm—in the spectacular and dramatic. By contrast, others assume the Spirit is only ever a calm breeze. We should not deny that the wind of the Spirit blows both powerfully and gently.”3 The reality is, even though God is omnipresent and does not change, the presence of God the Holy Spirit can become more intense in some times and places.4 Just like the wind, the Spirit is dynamic.

The Spirit and Jesus

We see the dynamic intensity of the Spirit at work in Jesus Christ. By definition, “Christ” means “anointed one”—anointed with the Spirit (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). We already see the Spirit at work in the life of Christ in bringing about the incarnation—Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35). Later when Jesus was baptized, He became “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1), even “without measure” (John 3:34, NRSV). Some exegesis, theology and art interpret Jesus’s transfiguration as another moment when Jesus received the Spirit.5 Just like at His baptism, on the mount of transfiguration, the Father affirms, “This is my dearly loved Son,” and the Spirit is (likely) present in the bright cloud that overshadowed them (Matthew 17:5, NLT). Finally, after Jesus is raised from the dead by the Spirit (Romans 8:11), Luke reports that on the day of Pentecost, Jesus again “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” before baptizing believers in the Spirit (Acts 2:33, NRSV). Even though Jesus was full of the Spirit without measure, He had subsequent experiences of receiving the Spirit from the Father. One might say that these were experiences of the intensification of the Spirit.

The Spirit in the Church

We can also look forward to experiences of the intensification of the Spirit today. On the one hand, the Spirit gives us life and breath, even before conversion. As Canadian Pentecostal scholar Wilf Hildebrandt explains, “A number of [Old Testament] texts feature the Spirit of God as the animating principle of life, which when imparted by God to humankind makes men and women living beings created in the image of God. When the Spirit is removed from a human being the body returns to its lifeless, inanimate state” (e.g., Genesis 6:17; Job 34:14-15; Psalm 104:29-30).6 The Spirit is present, sustaining the very existence of all people. And yet, the Bible also affirms that Christians receive the Spirit in a unique way at salvation, with the result that “the Spirit of God dwells in” believers (Romans 8:9, NASB) or is “living in” them (Romans 8:9, NLT). And despite this indwelling, Christians can later be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31; cf. Ephesians 5:18). One might say that after we experience the Spirit at salvation, there is still more to come. This is yet another instance where we find the intensification of the Spirit.

The Eschatological Presence of the Spirit

As an expression of the kingdom of God that has come but is not yet fully here (Matthew 12:28), we can see that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfils previous expectations regarding the coming of the Spirit (e.g., Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 39:29), while likewise also raising anticipations of the further eschatological work of the Spirit. That is, at Pentecost, the church receives “the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing” what is yet to come (Ephesians 1:13-14; cf. Hebrews 6:4-5). In other words, we expect a future intensification of the Spirit when the kingdom of God is consummated.

What About Revivals?

Pentecost was not the end of the coming of the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit continues to be dynamic and can and will intensify. Therefore, while we should affirm the work of the Spirit in the ordinary and mundane moments of life and ministry, we can also value and even expect revivals and awakenings as times and places where the Spirit is present in intense ways. At the same time, we must remember that God does not bless us with these intense moments with the Spirit just so we can feel good or experience a psychedelic worship buzz. God gives us the Spirit to unite us with Jesus and other believers, to give us hope, to transform us, and to empower us to carry on the mission of the man of the Spirit, Jesus Christ. May we pray, “Lord, as we experience the dynamic intensity of the Spirit in our lives, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Dr. Andrew K. Gabriel serves as the vice president of Academics for Master’s College and Seminary in Ontario and Horizon College & Seminary in Saskatchewan. You can read more from him at www.andrewkgabriel.com. This article appeared in the April/May/June 2024 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2024 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com.

  1. Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 23.
  2. Horton, Ordinary, 80.
  3. Andrew K. Gabriel, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019), 9.
  4. I discuss this idea in more detail in: Andrew K. Gabriel, “The Intensity of the Spirit in a Spirit-Filled World: Spirit Baptism, Subsequence, and the Spirit of Creation,” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 34 (2012): 365-382, https://www.andrewkgabriel.com/2012/11/16/spirit-baptism-and-the-intensity-of-the-spirit/.
  5. Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources Outside the Modern West (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 172.
  6. Wilf Hildebrandt, An Old Testament Theology of the Spirit of God (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 196.

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