Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches

Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, believes that the "white Pentecostal church is becoming less and less Pentecostal. It is 'Pentecostal' in name only [and] in a state of crisis. There is so much trepidation among its leaders." He says there is a "don't ask/don't tell policy mentality about the pneuma," and that by the end of this century the white Pentecostal church may be a very small community "unless there is a coming back to authentic Pentecostalism."

The diminishing of demonstrative spiritual gifts in public worship amidst North American churches is not indicative of what is happening in Pentecostal churches on other continents, however. According to Thomas Trask, former General Superintendent of the AG, "In fact, the Overseas Pentecostal Church looks at the Church in North America and asks: 'What's the matter with you? Why would you even [limit or] question the public operation of the Spirit and the Gifts? After all, these have served you so well over the years.'"

Jack Hayford, renowned Pentecostal leader and former President of the Four Square Church, concurs: "Why is the church exploding in growth south of the equator in Charismatic and Pentecostal movements? It is because those people go after the whole package and live in it. There is a sense of quest. There is no sense of a need to appease social tastes or acceptability."

Can the American Pentecostal church bring the full expression of spiritual gifts back to the fore without "scaring off" or confusing new visitors in worship services? Warren simply suggests providing some guidance to "the opera." Several churches list a handful of FAQs in their bulletins. The AG also provides a short sample on their website.

And, as for an "explanation" for dynamic gifts such as speaking in tongues, the Apostle Paul gave advice to the charismata-consumed Corinthian church somewhat similar to Warren's: "If anyone speaks in a tongue, ... someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God (1 Cor. 14:27-28 NIV)."

Perhaps most surprising of all Warren's admonitions at the council was this one: "Don't lose your Pentecostal distinctive."Could it be that God has brought a fresh word to Pentecostals in North America and that he has chosen to use an unexpected source? While Elijah sought for a sign from God, he looked for it in the "wind," the "earthquake" and the "fire." Instead it came in an unexpected "still, small voice." It may be that in this instance God didn't send a message in tongues or a prophetic word to challenge North American Pentecostals, but rather a clear message from the plainspoken tongue of a Southern Baptist pastor.

11/8/2011 5:00:00 AM
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    About Robert Crosby
    Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today, The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel. Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press).
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