Elijah Stephens is a former Vineyard pastor and spiritual coach belonging to Bethel Church in Redding, California. Since 2015, he has been working on a documentary about medically verified miracles. Micael Grenholm asked him a few questions.
WHAT is a medically verified miracle?
That is a good question. When it comes to miracles, we are talking about when God enters the world and does something. What makes something a miracle is God’s activity.
This is why you can’t study miracles scientifically, but what you can do is to find cases where people have prayed and there’s “before and after” medical evidence. For example, a person has a tumor, one day there is prayer, the next day the tumor disappears.
Over and over again I see how some fellow Christian activists want to de-emphasize the importance of Heaven. It is often claimed that the reason why traditional evangelical and charismatic churches have not been so involved in promoting peace and justice is because there is too much focus on Heaven, salvation and evangelism – they don’t want to waste their energy and time on politics and activism when they can use it to save souls instead.
To challenge this heresy, some Christian activists go to another extreme. They might argue that giving people eternal life wasn’t Jesus’ main concern, that the Kingdom is mainly here and now and not there and then, that evangelism is not so important, etc. God’s focus is primarily earth, not heaven, and we should mimic that, they claim.
However, Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col 3:1-2)
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:19-21)
Huw Lewis is one of the apostolic leaders of Jesus Fellowship Church, or Jesus Army, in the UK. A charismatic church founded in the late 1960’s, it has practiced intentional Christian community with a complete sharing of possessions for over 40 years. Pax Pneuma interviewed Lewis about what community is like:
Please briefly describe how the outpouring of the Spirit led you to practice community!
The main consequence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a very real and deep love for God and one another. This meant that we wanted to be together, to share meals, to meet and gather, worship, pray and open up our hearts to each other. Each night we would spontaneously just gather at the chapel and stay around until late.
It became something of a disturbance at the end of an evening to have to go back to our own houses/ flats so it was a natural progression to start experiments of living together. It began small but grew to larger community houses in time. I believe “God’s love shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5) will lead to a changed lifestyle of sharing, openness, justice and equality as hall marks of God’s character. We just didn’t want to be away from the very tangible presence of God that we found when we gathered together. Continue reading How the Holy Spirit Caused Jesus Army to Practice Community→
Trump has said that refugees the US is receiving legally are “illegal immigrants”. He’s not the only one misusing the term though, I can’t count how many times American Christians have told me that the biblical commands to welcome and care for the stranger don’t apply to “illegal immigrants”. It’s time to stop using those words and treat everyone equally as human beings created in the image of God.
Micael Grenholm is editor for Pax Pneuma. Having studied theology as well as peace and development studies in Uppsala, Sweden, Micael Grenholm’s passion is to combine charismatic spirituality with activism for peace and justice. Apart from editing the Pax Pneuma website he vlogs for the YouTube channel Holy Spirit Activism and is active with evangelism and apologetics both locally and online.
Extremely few Protestants live in a community of goods similar to that of the apostolic church in Acts 2 and 4. In fact, many Protestant denominations don’t have a single community connected to them. Just like charismatic, supernatural gifts used to be a rarity within Protestantism due to cessationism, something that has drastically changed over the last century, so is having everything in common. Both miraculous power and community life are biblical practices that many Christians simply don’t want, and both charismatic cessationism and economic cessationism have been defended and strengthened by forms of academic theology which quite frankly use very bad arguments.
Mennonite scholar Reta Halteman Finger wrote an excellent paper back in 2004 called ”Cultural attitudes in western Christianity toward the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4” (Mennonite quarterly review, vol. 78, no. 2). It’s a baffling read. An obvious mistake from Catholic and Orthodox theologians during pre-Reformation times was to equate the apostolic community of goods in Acts with the community of goods in the monastic movement, even though the latter is only available for celibates.
When Luther and Calvin protested in the 16th century, they rejected the monastic movement and thereby community of goods. Both argued that the only lesson we should learn from Acts 2 and 4 is that we should give a little gift sometimes to a poor person, not that we should have everything in common with them. They criticized Anabaptists for wanting to live apostolically; Luther argued that it is impossible to do what the apostles did for modern believers. The Hutterites proved him wrong, having lived in total community for over 400 years. Continue reading The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship→
I’ve been a peace and justice activist now for eight years; campaigning, advocating and debating for things like disarmament, pacifism, economic equality, poverty reduction, sustainability, environmental protection, gender equality, open borders and religious freedom. My motives are Christian: I believe this is what Jesus wants me to do and that it makes the earth represent God’s goodness and love better. Still, I’ve stood side by side with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, New Agers, Buddhists and others in a common fight for a better world for all.
I’ve found that activism for peace and justice can serve the role of a common denominator and a platform for cooperation between different worldviews and beliefs. That’s why it plays such a prevalent role in different ecumenical and interreligious councils – we might not agree on who God is, but we all agree that no child should starve to death. It’s why many people who aren’t Christians will still agree with Christians on one thing concerning Jesus: that he was a good moral teacher.
Hence, morality can be viewed as one of the least exclusive claim of any religion. In fact, it can be viewed as one of the least religious! I’ve had several friends who, when they doubt their Christian faith, becomes activists for a while and emphasises Jesus’ ethical teaching, before leaving the faith altogether and becoming atheists or agnostics.Continue reading Why Activists Need God to Make Their Case→
Brian Pipkin’s and Jay Beaman’s new book documents some of the pacifist and social justice convictions of early Pentecostals, many of whom were called traitors, slackers, cranks, and weak-minded people for extending Jesus’ love beyond racial, ethnic, and national boundaries.
They wrestled with citizenship and Jesus’ prohibitions on killing.
They rejected nation-worship, war profiteering, wage slavery, patriotic indoctrination, militarism, and Wall Street politics–and many suffered for it.
When sociologists Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori decided to study indigenous churches with active social programs in the developing world, they were astounded to find that the overwhelming majority of them were Pentecostal or charismatic. They studied the dynamic of Pentecostal social engagement further in their book Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement in which the coined the term “Progressive Pentecostal”. PCPJ’s Micael Grenholm asked Dr. Miller to expand on their findings in an email interview.
What does it mean to be a “Progressive Pentecostal”?
The stereotype about Pentecostals is that they are focused exclusively on salvation and not social transformation. In our research, this was a false dichotomy since we encountered many Pentecostal and charismatic congregations that were engaged with their local community, addressing issues related to poverty, drug addiction, mental illness, corruption, etc. It is relatively rare that Pentecostals are addressing social policy issues at a political level and, unfortunately, they have sometimes supported right-wing dictators. Continue reading Why Most Pentecostals Around the World are Progressive→
America’s new President is controversial, to say the least. Saying outrageous things concerning women or ethnic minorities to gain massive media attention and popularity, just to then lie about the statements ever being made, sounds like an absurd way to become the most powerful person in the world. But it tragically seems quite effective.
Hillary Clinton was also criticized for being unreliable when it comes to security and honesty, and so during the election, America found itself in a bizarre situation where most people didn’t really want any of the candidates to become President. It was an election about who you dislike the least rather than who you like the most. When people want a leader with dignity, morals and faithfulness, turning to politicians seems to guarantee a letdown.Continue reading Trump or Jesus: We Do Have to Choose→
PE News reports that for the first time, a Pentecostal pastor is going to participate in a presidential inauguration. Samuel Rodriguez, an Assemblies of God senior pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California, will do a reading and invocation as Donald Trump officially become President of the United States this Friday.