Every Year our church hosts a large youth conference called “Heritage.” One of its purposes is to help the young people learn about and recall the roots of Pentecostalism in the USA and understand the things that we believe and teach. Actually, many churches believed and taught the same or similar things up until about the 1960’s. If people of dissimilar sects had different ideas, they could take you to the good old King James Version of the Bible and have a spirited discussion. Every “churchy” person actually read the Book. At this conference there are both spiritual and practical day-to-day living taught.
Of course they are all so spiritually minded that they won’t even notice that there are members of the opposite sex there to meet and talk to. Lol. This year, from Wednesday to Saturday, well, Friday night, our church will host 1200+ out of town visitors.
If you have never been to a Pentecostal church, you should treat yourself. You will probably have to go a minimum of 3 – 5 times. The first couple of times will be to just watch everything that’s going on and try to figure it out. Meet some of the people and ask them what’s going on.
Seems like everybody nowadays likes to use the label, “Pentecostal” but the real Pentecostals, the ones who started out on “the wrong side of the tracks,” the “Holy Rollers” are still around. There are still people who try to practice what the Ancient Apostles taught in the first century. Called by some, “Primitive Pentecostalism” these folks still preach that in order to come to God you must follow the plan laid out in the scripture by Jesus and the first preachers.
These preachers taught that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ were the way to be saved and go to an eternal home in Heaven to with him. They taught that if you did not do this, and your life did not change, you went to an eternal Hell that burns with fire and sulfur and never goes out. I will outline their doctrines only briefly because this format is not necessarily conducive to a good, intelligent discussion but you have to understand some of these things in order to make sense out of the story I want to tell you, which is probably shorter than this introduction.
They taught that you must repent of your sins, which means that you are not only sorry for them but will also do everything you can humanly do not to do them anymore because you don’t want to do them. You want to be over with the old ways you had. You nail your sins to the cross he died on, thus fulfilling his death.
We are buried with him in baptism in his name. The only way anyone in the Bible was ever baptized was by total immersion in water and having the name of Jesus invoked over them. The triune baptism so common nowadays is taken from a misunderstanding of what is referred to as “The Great Commission.” This was done for the remission of sins. Sins were forgiven and lives were changed by a true repentance experience, but baptism washes sins away forever, burying them under the blood of Jesus.
One of the teachings they had that is often misunderstood concerns the baptism of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. I use the King James and it is called the Holy Ghost there. Either term is accurate. When you receive the Spirit, the initial evidence is speaking with other tongues “…As the Spirit [gives] utterance.” You would do well to read the book of the Acts of the Apostles for yourself to reinforce this point by the examples there. This is what happened to me 30 years ago when I was a worthless, suicidally depressed, young punk of 15. This is what Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and teach and preach to every nation, this “Born Again” experience.
As a Sunday school teacher, it is my mission in life to teach this to children and help them experience it. If you have ever been in a Pentecostal church on a Sunday night then you know that the term “quiet as a church” is not applicable. Many times, especially in the past, when being a Pentecostal meant being a “Holy Roller” from “the wrong side of the tracks” the accusation was made that it was all emotional hype and even “gibberish.”
Many of my Sunday school kids come from a large variety of cultures and every possible combination you can think of. My one buddy is a mix of Japanese, Hispanic, Black and White. One of my little friends is from a home where the mom is white and the dad is Mexican. The boy and his mother speak both Spanish and English. I, on the other hand, have never learned any other language.
Sunday night service at First Pentecostal Church (at the corner of Hancock and Monica here in Colorado Springs) you will find people shouting, dancing, running the aisles and, yes, we even have real Holy Rollers who roll on the floor. Much prayer and worship is often going up and this service was no exception. Folks was gettin’ with it. I asked one of my many favorite students, Manny, if he wanted to pray. He did. We had preachers coming and praying and his mom there praying with him and me praying with him and everyone encouraging him as he sought God in his life. When you are 7 you don’t have very many sins to repent of (well, to you, you do, of course) and can quickly get on with seeking the baptism of the Spirit, which is God’s free gift to all believers. When Pentecostals pray it is “with the spirit and with the understanding also” and is boisterous and exuberant. It wasn’t too long before my little buddy was speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance.
A couple weeks after he was baptized in Jesus’ name, I was talking to him and his mom. They were all smiles and then they asked me if I knew what I was saying when I spoke in tongues, particularly the night I was praying with Manny. Well, no, usually the “unknown” part of the phrase, “unknown tongue” means you don’t know.
“We did,” they said as the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up and goose bumps ran all over me, “You were speaking fluent Spanish. You said, ‘God, give this child the Holy Ghost right now’ and many other things including prophecies about what Manny was going to do.”
I swallowed. All I could think of to say was, “Wow! That’s a miracle. Manny, I guess the Holy Ghost wanted to tell you something.” It is one thing to read the second chapter of Acts. It is a totally different thing to experience it.
The Good Book says, “…They of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…”