by Sam Lee.
I have quite an interesting Christian life. Some of my fellow Pentecostals think I am liberal, and they often ask themselves “Is Samuel still a Pentecostal?” Here are my answers to the question they ask:
Indeed, I am a Pentecostal, but I wholeheartedly believe that the Pentecostal movement needs serious reform. Just like any other religious movement, it has its own blind spots and makes its own errors, yet, at the same time, it shines in its own beauty. Whenever I say that I am a Pentecostal, I do not mean that I belong to a Pentecostal religious system, organization, or denomination. Instead, I believe in the very essence, the very foundation of our faith as it is based in the Pentecost documented in the Book of Acts.
I am a Pentecostal because I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit as it was revealed in the Bible. Nevertheless, I do not agree with some of my Pentecostal friends who use the name of the Holy Spirit in a simplistic and even abusive way, i.e., to engage in a form of ethical escapism, as license to do and say what they want and hurt anyone who does not think or is like them. The greatest sign of the Holy Spirit is not speaking of tongues but the power of Unconditional Love. Love is indeed a power; it forgives, liberates, and heals. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love even the unlovable, to reach the unreachable.
I am a Pentecostal because I believe in the miracles of the Holy Spirit. I cannot deny them. I have seen them in my own life. At the same time, I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostal friends who merchandize the works of the Holy Spirit: the commercialization of His miracles is sacrilegious. I disagree with the overemphasis on miracles, signs, and wonders, at the expense of justice and the righteousness for the poor and oppressed. I disagree with those who practice Pentecostalism while their own personal character shows little or no sign of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I disagree with those who pretend to be super Pentecostals but do not know how to treat their spouses, neighbors, or children. True Pentecost-experience changes our characters and leads us to humility, grace, peace, and love. These are as important as signs and wonders.
I am a Pentecostal and do indeed believe in the Holy Spirit, but I do not believe that the Pentecostal denominations or churches have exclusive rights to the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is not an exclusive brand of Pentecostalism. Rather, the Holy Spirit is free to move among any Christ-loving church or denomination. I am a Pentecostal, but this does not make me superior to any other brothers and sisters from other denominations. I am a Pentecostal, but I do not tolerate any arrogance among those who claim to be Pentecostal. I honor all denominations that love Jesus Christ. Because I am a Pentecostal, I have learned to respect all of my brothers and sisters around the globe. Many of my friends are from other denominations or from the non-denominational realm.
I am a Pentecostal, and I believe that the Bible is an inspired work of the Holy Spirit; yet, I believe that some aspects of the Bible must be understood in historical and cultural context. I am a Pentecostal, but I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostals who recklessly quote the Bible out of context and hurt others by doing so, or use the scriptures to manipulate and control others for various reasons. I disagree with those who use the Scriptures without love or consideration. If we choose to be judgmental, the very judgment rod that we use will become the measure of our worth.
I am a Pentecostal, but I disagree with my Pentecostal friends who quote the scriptures to enrich themselves financially. I am not against blessings or prosperity. At the same time, I do not condone the manipulative and exaggerated methods of fundraising or tithe- collection that are used by some men and women who claim to be Pentecostal. Unfortunately some televangelists have gone too far with this. I disagree with and disapprove of such acts done in the name of Pentecostalism.
I am a Pentecostal because the Pentecost honors racial and cultural diversity. The Pentecost is fundamentally about people. Jesus Christ came to restore us to the Father; the Holy Spirit came to restore us to each other. Therefore, on the day of Pentecost, people from all nations were present, and when they heard the disciples praying in foreign tongues, they each heard the message in their own language, i.e., the Arabs in Arabic, the Persians in Farsi. Peter preached on that day about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all people!
I am a Pentecostal because the Pentecost is about hope, visions, and dreams. Indeed, the prophet Joel prophesied that such things would occur on the day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit came to give all of us the strength and power to believe and hope, to dream about goodness, righteousness, dignity, integrity, and unconditional love towards people and creation. Pentecost gives hope where there is no hope. When people, nations, diseases, viruses, epidemics, natural calamities threaten to ruin the world, we are given the power of vision to rebuild, restore, care, and love! As Bishop Tutu said, Christianity is about helping God to fulfill His dreams for humanity and creation. That is Pentecost to me!
I am a Pentecostal because Pentecost means sharing and participating in social action! In the Book of Acts (2), we read that the believers devoted themselves to prayer and fellowship. Those who possessed many worldly goods sold what they had and gave their resources to those who had less. So, did they come to hold all things in common? The true Pentecost to me, cares for the poor, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and the migrants. Our world is full of imbalance, injustice, and problems deriving from the improper distribution of wealth. It is the duty of the Church to rise up and do something about poverty, illness, and injustice. We must share what we have with others.
I believe that, if we do not change our lifestyle and correct our collective moral and ethical mistakes, the Pentecostal movement will lose ground in the Western world. We need a reformation within the movement. Other branches of Christianity have found themselves in a similar predicament in the past and reform movements have corrected the existing problems.
Lastly to my Non-Pentecostal friends, I would say; give the Pentecostals a chance and hear us out! Unfortunately, because of the noise generated by some “super” Pentecostals, you cannot or—choose not—to hear the the other voices. Engage in fellowship with us as we want to with you.
Let us learn from each other! Not every aspect of Christianity can be explained in strictly theological terms. And, some things cannot be explained either in this way or scientifically, but they can indeed be described as evidence of the movement of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, they are explainable through the mysticism of His love and His work. Pentecostals have great things to offer the Christian world, but at the same time, they should reform their own ways, address their own faults, and learn to listen to others, especially to fellow believers from different denominations.
Now is up to the reader to decide wether, I am a Pentecostal or not!
Samuel Lee is a husband, a father, a brother, a friend, a Pentecostal pastor, evangelist, sociologist, human rights activist, author and public speaker. His passion is reforming Pentecostalism and for advocating social justice for migrants. He and his wife Sarah live in the Netherlands and serve as pastors among the immigrant and refugee community in Amsterdam.