Acts 2 records the coming of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way upon those first disciples. They were “all together in one place” and suddenly something happened which fueled the formation and ongoing existence of the church. Some scholars have described Pentecost as the “1st birthday of the church.” I think that’s a good way to understand this event, as Peter’s sermon and explanation of what had been going on in that upper room resulted in 3000 converts.
Pentecost Sunday offers another opportunity to utilize the Christian calendar. It comes 50 days after Easter and is worthy of being recognized by Christians on this Sunday morning. Our church will join many others in encouraging its worshippers to wear something red to symbolize those “tongues of fire” that settled on the disciples. I think I have a tie somewhere that qualifies.
The church wouldn’t exist without the Holy Spirit. My experiences early on with the Holy Spirit were limited; I didn’t hear very much about the third person of the trinity other than to know He existed. I’ve attempted to expand my understanding of not only the doctrine of the Holy Spirit but also how he affects those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. One of the ways I’ve been given that opportunity is through teaching Intro to Spiritual Formation at Southwest Baptist University. I have observed that many students are eager to know about spiritual matters, in particular about salvation and secondarily about marriage. There is an openness and desire to connect with God and have an experience that is meaningful and transformative in how they live out their days.
Baptist churches have some way to go in acknowledging the relationship between the Spirit and the church. Historically, Baptists have appeared to be reluctant to embrace the working of the Spirit because of how other denominations have projected their own views of the Spirit into a “charismatic” movement. The gift of speaking in tongues has caused a great deal of disagreement and concern among believers which are well-known for those in the Christian community. One point of clarification should be that the Acts 2 reference to tongues refer to known languages rather than uninttelligible utterances. The roll call of nations that were present in Jerusalem for that Pentecost celebration of the harvest heard the mighty works of God in their own languages and led many of the them to ask “what does this mean?”
The church continues to sort out the meaning of Pentecost and its ongoing application to its mission and ministry. My hope is that on this day we will be inspired to be connected to the power that is available through the Holy Spirit to do great things for God. I also hope that we will encouraged to be effective witnesses in our community and throughout our world.
One thing about birthdays is that it reminds us that we are getting older. The church celebrates one more year of existence on Pentecost Sunday, and while we get older I pray that we do not get old in our approaches to ministry and thinking of how the Holy Spirit still provides resources for the church to be impactful. The church needs to remain contextual, attractional, and missional in its work. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit is as viable and essential in the 21st century as it was on that 1st birthday for the church. May we be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and confident in the message of salvation and service that fuels our desire to get up and get going in the morning as followers of Christ.