May 31, 2009 is Pentecost.
Often Pentecost is viewed as the “birthday of the Church,” but this is a looking back to what God has done rather than a looking forward to the staggering possibilities of what He is going to do.
I believe God has given the Church the season of Pentecost to call us to seek new vision from the Father for advancing the Kingdom of God and to receive anew from the Holy Spirit the spiritual gifts, power and authority needed for us to be Jesus’ effective witnesses.
The first Pentecost was a unique historical event in the life of the Church. This was the day that the first disciples were all “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” which means that they were initiated into the empowering dimension of the Holy Spirit’s work. This was the beginning!
Afterwards they continued to have the Holy Spirit falling upon them equipping them with gifts and power and giving them the guidance they needed to keep on working with Jesus to extend the Gospel and grow the Church ( fulfilling Acts 1:8).
These experiences of the Holy Spirit’s equipping are referred to in Acts as the Holy Spirit upon them or the Holy Spirit filling them. This happens again and again as needed throughout the book of Acts.
Pentecost as the “Birthday of the Church” leads us to equate Pentecost with our own physical birth or new birth into the Kingdom of God, which are one time unrepeatable events.
This is not the biblical understanding of Pentecost.
The promise of the outpouring, equipping, empowering work of the Holy Spirit is not a one time event but a continuous happening that enables the Church to stay vital, growing and ever responsive to new challenges and opportunities.
We see this dynamic in the early Church. On Pentecost (Acts 2) the disciples are initiated into the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, resulting in dynamic outreach with thousands being born again.
Soon they experience persecution and crash up against the limits of their human strength to accomplish their mission.
What do they do? Look back to their initiatory experience? Or, have a “birthday party”? No they pray!
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30 NIV)
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31 NIV)
This is not the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” all over again, but rather a continuation of the dynamic working of the Holy Spirit falling upon them for power that started for them at Pentecost.
It is urgent for the whole Church to get past thinking of Pentecost as a onetime event that we look back to and make it a time when we prepare to receive new vision and empowerment for the future. When we do that we will be ready to join with Jesus in growing the Church and advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
5 minute video from Dr. Brad Long.
To help with this I have prepared a simple Prayer Walk called Preparing for Pentecost.
You can download it HERE and print it out. You may use this as an individual, prayer group or as a whole congregation. Be sure to let us know how God speaks to you.