From the Editor
A Long Range View
“If I could describe one aspect of my new faith journey that pervades my thinking and choices even after 20 years, gives me strength and hope, and helps me to recognize the enduring credibility of God’s work in and through the church, it would be the work of the Holy Spirit.”
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
In God’s sovereignty, after coming into a dynamic relationship with Christ, I got a three-dimensional view of church and ministry life from early on—many of its joys, challenges and mysteries. The one thing that continues to be a foundation for me, apart from faith in Christ Himself, is His promise of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. If I could describe one aspect of my new faith journey that pervades my thinking and choices even after 20 years, gives me strength and hope, and helps me to recognize the enduring credibility of God’s work in and through the church, it would be the work of the Holy Spirit.
Having been born and raised into the Catholic tradition, with family members who have taken vows of priesthood and convent ministry, I’m well versed in living (or in trying to live) according to specified rules and regulations, and very structured paradigms about how to interact with God, the Bible and the world in general. Such predictability has certainly been challenged in life and ministry countless times as I have learned and chosen to be “led by the Spirit.”
In hindsight, I marvel at some of the chains that can begin to hinder our joy and freedom in Christ the longer we serve in full-time ministry. I’ve learned how at least some of those chains are formed. They entangle us when we shy away from whatever is uncomfortable, even using Scripture and human reasoning to do so. But avoiding the uncomfortable or the unfamiliar delays the work of the Spirit in the very areas where liberation and transformation is the Spirit’s goal.
With so many difficult issues mushrooming over the last three years with real-time and real-life political and social consequences, we are continually being forced to sort through our response as the body of Christ. Each issue arguably impacts various parts of the body differently, but ultimately affects us all. The Spirit still desires that we be free to follow His leading and Scriptural guidance in these matters, while not giving up on His promised joy and peace, or on a peaceable relationship with our neighbour—as far as it depends on each of us (Romans 12:18).
Contemporary Christians must wrestle through the details of how what we believe applies to the circumstances we are immediately confronted with, beginning with the local body of believers to whom we belong. What response would most honour Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross as His representatives in the earth? What course of action would most honour those impacted by the emerging challenges, who are made in His image? What would most foster loving relationship with Christ at the centre? Is our reaction to lean towards the passive, not wanting to become too entangled with “the things of this world” (Romans 12:2)? Or should it be more proactive, so that we “put boots on the ground,” backing up every prayer with some sort of strategically impactful action (Proverbs 31:8-9)?
As John asked, “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him?” (1 John 3:17, CSB). “This world’s goods” can conceivably include one’s experience as one moves through their local community. What we enjoy for ourselves, we should desire for everyone in the family of God, even our small children—a kindergarten experience free of abuse, for example. The reality is that we experience life in our cities and communities—and even ministry calling—differently, and, as I saw an activist recently post on Twitter, “The best theology holds space for people’s pain.”
There is a faith-altering disconnect that some can feel when Scripture is regularly—even dogmatically—quoted without meaningful action being taken on issues confronting our brothers and sisters in Christ and the wider communities in which we find ourselves living and serving. Many of the issues remain hidden (and lived experiences remain untold) because of the lack of confidence that transparency and vulnerability will be met with compassion and solidarity.
In February, I was invited to sit on the Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America’s (PCCNA) race relations committee meeting, part of its larger “Aligned for Mission” conference. One outcome of our meeting was the decision that we should continually remind our Pentecostal brothers and sisters why PCCNA was formed. It was born out of the Spirit impressing the need for reconciliation on the hearts of Pentecostal leaders through the “Memphis Miracle” that took place in 1994 in Tennessee. The foot-washing service 29 years ago signalled the Spirit’s desire for continual acts of reconciliation and service to be implemented that demonstrated intentional inclusivity towards African Americans by white Pentecostals.1 It is interesting that Tennessee is now at the centre of deliberate challenges to democratic government protocols. How will the church respond in the present climate, given the mandate of the Memphis Miracle?
Knowledge of Jesus’s presence and power has brought tremendous hope and strength to my life, keeping me through circumstances that the prevailing Western Christian culture has often declared unimportant and even unworthy of attention in the pursuit of kingdom goals. He has shown me that He cares—and I need not pretend the issues aren’t there. As we wrestle with them, it’s important to hold to the truth that our freedom in Christ is tied to honouring God’s Word (Psalm 119:45). And that it is true not only that God’s Word endures forever, but that He amplifies its meaning through diverse groups of people globally. Let’s also value that God uses the people most crushed in life to demonstrate His strength (1 Corinthians 1:27) and the truth about His character, nature and plans for us (Jeremiah 9:24). Most importantly, as people of the Spirit, we should be open to discussing any topic, from any angle—trusting God’s Word and presence to bring outcomes that bring Him honour and advance His purposes in the earth during our lifetimes, loving one another not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com. Sunset view of the I-40 bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee.
- Dr. Vincent Synan, “Memphis 1994: Miracle and Mandate.” Accessed April 8, 2023. https://pccna.org/documents/1994Memphis.pdf.