“The intensity of what happened next convinced me that something supernatural was taking place.”
I grew up in an evangelical church which taught that certain New Testament experiences—miracles, healing, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit—ceased at the end of the Book of Acts. The leadership believed that any of these manifestations were now either “of the flesh” or a “counterfeit of Satan.”
My first experience in a Pentecostal church was in 1974. A young lady who attended Kennedy Road Tabernacle (KRT) in Brampton, Ont., had come to my church at my invitation, so I accepted her reciprocal invitation. I knew, of course, that this would be an inferior experience because musical instruments were used at KRT. In a truly biblical church there was no need for such worldly accompaniments.
I was on my guard. We sat at the back. Ten minutes into the service, while everyone else was seated, some guy in the front row stood up with his hands raised over his head. Then he started yelling something over top of the music. My first thought was What a hot dog! This is church. Good people don’t draw attention to themselves. Why doesn’t someone tell this guy to sit down? When he continued and no one rebuked him, my next thought was I’m not coming back to this circus again.
My next encounter with Pentecost was years later in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. I was working for Air Canada, and two of my co-workers were members of People’s Road Pentecostal Church. One of them invited me to their church to see the film, The Cross and the Switchblade. I agreed to attend in spite of the red flags waving in my mind.
I remember thinking, as I exited the packed out church, This is the last time I’ll be in this building. Then I saw people from my denominational church arriving for the second showing of the film and thought, This place might be OK after all.
The second co-worker invited me to his home Bible study. We looked at the account in Acts 2 of people being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. When asked what I thought, I said, “That was great for then, but not for now.” I went on to explain that 20th-century believers do not need those experiences because we have what first-century believers lacked—a New Testament. The Bible is the means by which we know the Lord and are empowered to share Him with others. All the other “stuff” ended when the last apostle died. “Look at Billy Graham,” I said. “He’s a great evangelist and he doesn’t speak in tongues.”
Everyone at the study disagreed with me.
To bolster my defence, I wrote to the man who taught our young adult Sunday school class and asked for his help in explaining to the group how to better understand the Scripture. He sent back a letter and a cassette tape. The letter included his revised version of Galatians 3:1-3—“O ye foolish Pentecostals, who has bewitched you? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” The tape followed the same theme. Convinced I was on solid ground, I returned to the study.
At the end of that night’s discussion, I was given a challenge. “What if God wants you to have this experience? What have you got to lose in asking? When you get home, ask God to baptize you in the Holy Spirit and see what happens.”
Not me, I said to myself. I wasn’t going to open my spirit up to some counterfeit experience.
But a few weeks later, while kneeling beside my bed on a Saturday afternoon asking the Lord for help to witness to my landlords, I remembered the invitation. I wanted power to witness. Acts chapter one says we would receive power. I didn’t feel very powerful. So, tentatively, I prayed, “Lord, if this is something You want for me, please baptize me in the Holy Spirit.”
The next thing I knew, I heard a language in my head that didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t English, French or German—all languages I understood. In the study I was told that I could expect to receive a prayer language and to just “speak it out.” So I did.
The intensity of what happened next convinced me that something supernatural was taking place. There was no physical reaction other than speaking in a language I didn’t understand. But I felt deeply moved.
That was a watershed moment for me. Since that day, praying in tongues has been a regular part of my spiritual experience. I felt an impetus to witness and to serve the Lord in areas I had never considered before. A year later I enrolled at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College.
By nature I am an introvert, typically non-demonstrative and soft-spoken. I recharge through solitude. I felt marginalized in Bible college chapels, altar services, and Pentecostal prayer meetings. If I had a dime for every time I heard the admonition, “Get your freedom, brother!” in reference to my quietness, I’d be rich. But the Holy Spirit empowers believers to be witnesses—not to change their personality. I’ve learned that a quiet spirit can be a powerful factor in sharing my faith with others.
I am grateful for my family and the foundation of Bible knowledge they instilled in me. Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, though, has broadened my perspective and experience. The Holy Spirit continues to take seekers like me on a personal adventure into the continuing story of Pentecost.
Rev. Bob Jones is senior pastor of North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton, Alta. You can read his blog at http://blog.northpointechurch.ca.
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This article appears in the May/June2016 Issue of testimony.