Holy-rollers. Religious nuts. That’s usually the first thing most people think when they think of Pentecost. I grew up Baptist, and while we certainly believed in the Holy Spirit, we believed like we do in Grizzly Bears: sure He exists, just not around these parts. He was essentially the Holy Hall-monitor, telling us to stop running and behave ourselves.
And while my theology of the Holy Spirit has greatly expanded since then (thanks to seven years in a charismatic church and, well, reading the Bible), I still read about Pentecost in Acts 2 with a wondrous curiosity. This Sunday, churches across the world will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, when we commemorate the Holy Spirit being poured out on the Church for the first time. This, in fact, was the birth of the Church as we know it.
As I read Acts 2, I can’t help but wonder – what if that happened here? What would it look like? What would our church be like as a result? The Church that the Spirit gave birth to in Acts went from a timid, small group of Jews to an emboldened, empowered, diverse force to be reckoned with. And as I read the Story, I think, “I want that for us.”
What would that look like? First, an experience of God’s power when we gather together in expectancy and dependance. We should expect God to move in power when we gather together. One of my biggest prayers for our Church is that God would grow both our expectancy and dependance. We expect Him to move among us in power, and all we do is dependent on Him to do it.
But it doesn’t stop there. Acts would be a boring book if the disciples said, “Hey, this Holy Spirit stuff is great! Let’s expand the upper room to fit more people. Let’s get more and more people to come here and experience this!” This is always the temptation of the Church – continuing to remanufacture Spirit moments in the same place, over and over. This isn’t what the Holy Spirit does. He fills, then He sends. At Pentecost, the Spirit immediately sends the disciples on mission to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” As JD Greear says,
Of the 40 miracles recorded in Acts, 39 happen outside the church walls. The main place God wants to manifest his power isn’t through masterful preaching or a musical crescendo on the weekend; it’s through ordinary believers throughout the week. The way we say it at our church is that “sending capacity,” not seating capacity, is the best measure of a church’s success.
So if Pentecost came to 811 Bryan Avenue, it would be far more than a great worship service (but certainly not less). It would be the empowering and sending of every believer on mission in their jobs, homes, schools, and everywhere in between. Spirit and mission isn’t an either-or scenario – it’s a both-and. As one old pastor put it one time:
The Spirit without mission is futile. The mission without Spirit is fatal.
As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, I’m praying for the Holy Spirit’s power to fill and embolden our community in new and unexpected ways. I pray He grows both our expectancy and dependance. And as He does so, I pray His Spirit would send us into the streets – to be the people of the presence of God wherever we are. We are signposts of the future right here in the present – the people through which heaven invades earth.
If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will! Let’s celebrate it together this Sunday night – see you then!