“A practice or interest followed for a short time with exaggerated zeal” (Merrimam-Webster Dictionary).
Bermuda shorts, mood rings, Chia Pets. Garbage Pail Kids, ant farms, magic 8-balls. Pez dispensers, scratch-n-sniff stickers, pet rocks.
Flirting with fads isn’t just the infatuation of culture but also the zealous rage of Christendom. Books of every neon stripe and page-turning gimmick on how to start a new church.
It’s in-vogue to let loose of the pews and slide in the sofas. It’s all the buzz to take out the cross and hang up a flat screen TV. It’s trending to shelve the theology, especially all things sin and salvation, and just preach the self-help.
How does Pentecost teach us to be Church?
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
That the gift of the Spirit is never being prepared enough to do church.
That the Spirit blew away the disciples’ first attempt to build a sanctuary of bricks and mortar.
That inclusion is always the movement of God.
That you will always be empowered to speak the conversion language someone needs to hear.
A grand church that used to host famous preachers fell into decline, dwindled to a few members. A guest was invited to visit decades later, and during the tour, the host began recounting the story of death and life, of resurgence in ministry and people, of resurrection. The guest finally asked, “What happened?” The response was, “Our new minister started teaching the Bible” (Anthony Robinson).
We can consult every expert, chase every craze and flirt with every fad but there’s only one book on starting a church that matters.
The Bible tells me so in Acts that: Thousands will be slain in the Spirit, baptized into the Body. That we are to be a spilled out onto the streets people, to speak in the native tongues of God. To trespass all over the boundaries of exclusion. To cast out demons and welcome Centurions in, to uncover the heads of women and talk back with slaves to their masters, to empty our pockets and fill the poor with good things. And to love with such inclusion that the world will have no choice but to accuse us of being drunk on God.
We don’t need more Presbyterian Churches or Baptist Churches or United Methodists Churches. We need more Pentecostal Churches, churches who refuse to wear red only once a year, who practice Pentecost every time they gather.
Joan Gray says, there were “no buildings, no budgets, no staff. The Holy Spirit was the only thing the early Church had going for it.” And it still is.
John Wesley was not a particularly gifted preacher. He stood well short of five feet tall, had a weak voice and his sermons were dense. But laborers and derelicts, outcasts and outsiders came in mass to hear him, crowded in thousands deep. Wesley was asked about his preaching, and he responded, “I just set myself on fire [with the Holy Spirit] and let the world watch me burn.”
The most desperate and dangerous prayer a church can utter continues to be, “Come, Holy Spirit Come.” “Come, Holy Spirit Come.” “Come, Holy Spirit Come.”