"The very nature of the church of the living Christ is that it is relationally based. We love God and we love others. Honouring our heavenly Father, with Jesus as our older brother, we unite as sisters and brothers to fulfil the purpose for which we have been brought together."
The characteristics of a movement
On May 5, 2020, I was again selected by our General Conference’s voting delegates to have the immense privilege of serving The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) for another four-year term as our general superintendent. With the restrictions in place because of COVID-19, I was in a church auditorium with a handful of my closest colleagues. It was a unique experience, yet I felt the affirmation and prayerful support of so many within our Fellowship. The Spirit gave us a sense of connection which was confirmed by many who communicated this to us afterwards. Thank you!
Fellowship, family, denomination, movement—we use many titles to describe ourselves. Historically, we have resisted the word denomination, as for many it speaks of institutionalization and inflexible structures and tradition. While aspects of these concerns are certainly valid and are continually addressed, we do know that the external world—Christian, religious, and secular—views us as a Christian Protestant denomination within the Pentecostal and charismatic streams. For those reasons and for legal purposes, denomination is an accurate word.
Fellowship and family are our preferred words when speaking of ourselves internally. When I became general superintendent in 2008, I wrote a book that was distributed to our churches and leaders entitled What I See. It is still a good read if I do say so myself! In it, I cast a vision for us as a “relationally based mission family.” The very nature of the church of the living Christ is that it is relationally based. We love God and we love others. Honouring our heavenly Father, with Jesus as our older brother, we unite as sisters and brothers to fulfil the purpose for which we have been brought together. Empowered by the Spirit, we glorify God by making disciplined followers of Jesus who love God and love others. Yes, we are a family. When at our best, we are a loving, Spirit-empowered Fellowship on a mission.
Lately I have been asking myself, Are we also a movement? Historically, this is a key self-descriptor of our identity. The previous generations who nurtured me, a young man with no Pentecostal background, emphasized that we were rooted in revival. We were a renewal movement divinely called in these last days to bring change to the church, the nation, and our world. In our present day, we speak of recapturing the characteristics of a movement in diverse ways such as spiritual renewal and empowerment, church planting, being outward bound in evangelism, and in reimagining the return to a pioneer nature in our global and national missions.
While reading Uptick: A Blueprint for Finding and Forming the Next Generation of Pioneering Kingdom Leaders, I was drawn to the following signature characteristics of movements from the work of Howard Snyder.
- A thirst for renewal – a holy discontent that precipitates a recovery of the church’s vitality.
A new stress on the work of the Spirit – the Spirit’s work is seen as both important and to be experienced now.
An institutional-charismatic tension – renewal creates tension for existing structures.
A concern for being a countercultural community – radical commitment leads to tensions with the world’s patterns.
Non-traditional leadership – spiritual authority is evidenced in persons who do not necessarily have positional authority. Women are noticeably more active in movements.
Ministry to the poor – movements always engage the grassroots and people on the edges and among the poor.
Energy and dynamism – movements excite and enlist others as leaders and participants.
As the recently re-elected general superintendent of our denomination, Fellowship, and family, I welcome and continue to invite the Lord of the church by His Spirit to continually form within us the characteristics of a movement. Join me in this prayer if you agree.
Gracious, Mighty God, we choose to be a movement.
As Your people we hunger and thirst for more. There is so much of Your life, presence and person yet to be known by us, Your people. Instil within us a holy discontent. The normal fails us—let us experience Your above and beyond.
Come, Holy Spirit. We honour Your person and work. We are desperate to have You do what only You can do. Be tangibly with us, moving mountains while bringing peace into our storms. Empower us to live out the life of Jesus and to proclaim His good news boldly.
Lord of the church, You determine and know what lasts. Teach us to know what is for a season and what is essential. We have seen You demonstrate how to bring life and freedom to a people trapped by dead religion while honouring ageless truth. Let grace and truth prevail in us.
Your call to us is to be of another kingdom while being in the world we are in. We consciously choose the ways of Your kingdom. We choose to follow Jesus radically, whole-heartedly, whole-mindedly. We choose simply to seek first the kingdom and to be transformed by the Servant King.
We cry out to You for every person of every age, from every ethnicity and background, to become all that Jesus calls them to be. No more but no less. May every daughter and son of Yours fulfil the calling You have placed on their life.
Take us to the people on the edge whom You, Jesus, always seemed to find. Likewise, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Our Lord, we envision fresh generations of Your followers rising and taking the church of Jesus to new dimensions of power, love, creativity, mission, integrity, reconciliation, grace and unity.
To that end, we will lay our lives down so that the church in Canada realizes the future You envision for our children and grandchildren’s generations.
We choose to be a movement.
For Your glory. Amen.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.