Presenting the Statement of Essential Truths
The recently adopted Statement of Essential Truths is one outcome of a greater initiative to encourage theological vitality within our Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada family.
The 2020 Initiative was launched in 2013 as our national/international, district and local leadership acknowledged what the Spirit was saying to the church regarding our spiritual, theological, and missional vitality. In seasons of prayer and contemplation, we were drawn to the Book of Revelation, noting how the Spirit spoke to seven churches in these specific areas. Where they could be affirmed, they were affirmed, such as those who were faithful in mission or those rebuking false teaching. Needed correction included the loss of spiritual vitality (first love) and acceptance of false teachers.
As we prayerfully engaged in conversations across the country, initiatives were taken in each area of vitality as we identified how the Spirit was speaking to us. “Every Day Faith” was emphasized with a focus on “Pray Every Day,” “Read Every Day,” “Give Every Day,” and “Share Every Day.” This emphasis has continued through focuses such as “This is Good News!” Multiply and Vitalization Networks were formed and have expanded in influence. Mission Canada and Mission Global have continually re-evaluated, reimagined, and refocused their missional initiatives and personnel.
Because truth matters as we worship in spirit and truth, we took steps to encourage theological vitality. Early in the 2020 Initiative, we drew attention to a Scripture engagement study that had been conducted by a coalition of Canadian ministries dedicated to Bible distribution and use. 1 In 2014-15 we communicated some concerning findings from the study including:
- About 1 in 7 (14%) of Canadian Christians read the Bible at least once a week. The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never.
- Weekly Bible reading in Canada has fallen by half since 1996. Surprisingly, the frequency of Bible reading was much the same for older and younger Bible readers.
- Only 18% of Canadians strongly agreed that the Bible is the Word of God, down from 35% in 1996.
- Only about one in 10 Canadians (11%) and two in 10 Christians (21%) reflect on the meaning of the Bible for their lives at least a few times a week.
Through 2020 Initiative conversations, communications and resources, we established vitality goals and expressed them as follows:
- To experience spiritual vitality in an ongoing manner, we envision churches and leaders who know intimacy with God through prayer and engagement with His Word, and
- To be a people of theological vitality, we envision churches and leaders who:
- Fulfil our mission to glorify God by making disciples who love God and others
- Engage the Word of God in a living, active way
- Know how to interpret the Scripture in a manner that is sound, both doctrinally and in lifestyle
- Are liberated by the truth of God’s Word and are able to share those truths by example and speech in the contexts of their daily lives.
It was in this context of evaluation, engagement, and strategic direction that in 2015 the General Executive authorized the review and refreshing of our Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths (SOFET). While a refreshed, reformatted statement was envisioned, the greater goal was to see our Fellowship’s theological vitality enhanced by putting our historic Christian and Pentecostal distinctive theology at the forefront of our leaders’ and constituents’ attention and consideration. Having a solid, living, active understanding of truth matters for our worship and discipleship.
The PAOC’s newly adopted Statement of Essential Truths (SOET) is presented here. As noted in the statement’s preamble, it represents the result of an extensive seven-year collaborative process, led by our highly committed Theological Study Commission, to rephrase and refresh what is most essential to us. We built on the good work of those who had gone before us, who framed previous statements such as the SOFET. We also incorporated the past 40 years of excellent Pentecostal scholarship such as that done by our honoured colleague, Roger Stronstad, on Lukan theology.
The result is a statement that we desire our leaders and congregations to actively engage not only for membership and credentialing purposes, but also for our discipleship and worship. A companion piece for the SOET is currently being developed by a cross-section of our constituency and facilitated by the Theological Study Commission. This piece will complement the SOET and be useful for the purposes of membership, credentialing, and discipleship. Additional resources for various age levels and ministry groups will also be created.
A personal note. Several times I have invited groups of people to stand and worshipfully read the SOET in unison. This inevitably results in a Spirit-empowered worship moment as spirit and truth meet in the hearts and minds of followers of Jesus. For me, this has been the primary goal all the way along. To see truth, living and active, in the lives of God’s people fulfilling Jesus’ passionate call that as we go, we would make disciples of all nations, baptizing and “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”2
Gracious Father, thank You for not leaving us to ourselves in our amazing and challenging journey of discipleship. By Your Word and Spirit. You speak, teach, and guide us—personally and corporately. Lord, convict us of our disregard for Your truth and enable us to re-engage it in a living, active manner so that the life and truth of Jesus are evident in our lives. For Your glory. Amen.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
- The Canadian Bible Engagement Study was sponsored by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Bible Forum (Bible League Canada, Canadian Bible Society, Every Home for Christ, Gideons Canada, OneBook, Open Doors Canada, Scripture Gift Mission Canada, Scripture Union Canada, Wycliffe Canada), 2014.
- From Matthew 28:19-20.