A Pentecostal Paradox: Why Are Some Holding Their Tongues? -- Part Two

Billy Wilson, Executive Director of the International Center for Spiritual Renewal and Empowered 21, has conducted a broad set of focus groups on Pentecostal college and university campuses in recent months. Among the trends the research revealed was "a decline in teaching and preaching on the Holy Spirit from the pulpit." Wilson says, "This generation is highly interested in the supernatural and the Holy Spirit, but are unfortunately more ignorant of such things. They say, 'I want it but just don't know much about it.'"

Control -- Trask notes, "Spontaneity has been squeezed out by the leaders in many Pentecostal churches. Worship services are much more controlled in North America than in other parts of the world. As a leader, you have to make room and give place for the work of the Spirit. You see the easiest thing in a given service is to program the service so tight that you know you have control over it. Then, you control the work of the Spirit right out of it. You grieve the Spirit. You rid it of the spontaneous work of the Spirit. Sometimes we are more comfortable with the rigidness of a planned service than the risk of an open one. Sometimes, we are just control freaks."

Some observers see a reluctance to confront sin among churches due to the influence of moral relativism and secularization. Rodriguez says, "Churches are trepid over the moving of the Spirit because of the holiness that accompanies it. We don't want to preach on sin. Churches are hesitant to address sin because of the metric of success. It is the consequence of media and competitiveness. American Pentecostalism in recent years has focused more on messaging, branding and marketing instead of salvation and empowerment. We are in a state of crisis."

Concern over Excess—The open worship environments associated with Pentecostalism have fostered spontaneous expressions of faith, but have sometimes spawned excesses. Spittler acknowledges, however, that "The AG establishment has saved much of Pentecostalism from weird forms of [excess and] supernaturalism-coughing up demons into paper bags, extreme forms of dictatorial guidance cloaked as shepherding, too otherworldly forms of 'Latter Rain,' and anti-Trinitarian conceptions of the Godhead, among others."

Millennials in North America are primed for a Pentecostal experience. Trask notes, "I have had the privilege of living in some of the earlier days of the Pentecostal movement. I see fervor and the fervency of the New Pentecost that is exciting to me. I see a passion in today's young people. I don't see it so much in the Baby Boomers, but I see it in the younger ones, the Millennials. I see among the youth today that they are bold and unashamedly Pentecostal and they are saying to some of the old more staid ones, "Hey, what's the matter with you? Why aren't you on fire like we are?"

George Wood, current General Superintendent of the AG, says, "The current generation is far more passionate in their worship than my generation. Pentecostalism is uniquely fit for a post-modern generation....The young generation, however, is much more laid back and less willing to fit into a mold that brands them all in the same way. They are much more individual in their expression."

Hayford sees tongues as the most identifiable phenomenological distinctive among Pentecostals. "Without initial physical evidence [i.e., tongues] then there would be no distinctive Pentecostal or Charismatic renewal today. The pivotal point is this: Discipleship doesn't happen without Spirit fullness. I see 'Pentecostal', however, as more of a verb than a noun. And, I believe the new generation is ready to go there."

"Our generation is probably more like our grandparents' than our parents'," said Chad Lashley, a 22-year-old pastoral ministries student at Southeastern University who was raised in an Assemblies of God church. "We really want to see an authentic work of God in our lives. We are tired of "a good worship service" being determined by chill bumps. If there is one thing that is true about our generation it is that we don't mind being different. You'll notice most of us have a style of our own. We're not afraid of being Pentecostal."

2/10/2012 5:00:00 AM