Tag Archives: Activism

Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

By Elizabeth D. Rios, EdD, DMin (ABD)

I started this article a week ago, but felt something was missing. Today, I found it. I think it was holy indignation!

What sparked this holy anger?

Hearing a well-known, popular, nationally recognized Pentecostal preacher share (on an Instagram clip) on his pulpit that he hates politics. How he doesn’t give a rip about it. How he doesn’t care who is in charge.

He then goes on to say, “You know how we find our help, through Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, the power of the holy ghost. You get involved in that mess, you get involved in offenses. ‘That offends me, well I can’t believe…’ Who gives a rip what they say? I want to know what God says. I’ve lived long enough to be in a place where I am asking the question, is it going to be politics or Pentecost?”

To which you hear the congregation break out into applause. Although it wasn’t overwhelming applause there were still people who actually thought this was responsible preaching. Albeit, he’s been a pastor for decades (and I actually like and know him) but I had to hear it over a few times because I was sad and yes, mad over it. Continue reading Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

The Challenge of Followership

Leadership! It’s a fraught word, describing an even more fraught set of ideals. Leadership, in the final analysis, is neither good or bad. It is amoral. Like the notes on the musical scale and the letters of the alphabet, the essence of leadership, according to John Maxwell, is influence. When people are gifted as leaders, or in some way attain a leadership title, they walk in positions of influence. 

And therein lies the rub, because a culture is set according to the heart of the leader and those they surround themselves with, for good or evil, for strength or weakness. Someone whose influence leads people where they otherwise may not have gone, be it morally just or morally reprehensible, is setting or changing a culture for the duration of their leadership and beyond. That is, technically, good leadership, be it ever so terrible in its outcome. Nations, churches, organisations rise and fall on the way in which they’ve been led.  In 2019 the various modes of leadership across the planet denote that we, as citizens of the world, are in serious trouble.

In the face of drastic climate change in which the earth is vomiting the symptoms of its travail in torrents of floods, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, mud slides, volcanic eruptions and other ‘un’natural catastrophes across the planet, one group stands as the voice of reason, crying out for the influencers of the world to pay attention and change course before it’s too late. The other group, like the people in Noah’s day, keep working, consuming, using, spending and playing as though there’s no tomorrow – which one day may be true. Continue reading The Challenge of Followership

Pentecostals, the Church and Justice

by Elizabeth D. Rios, Ed.D. D.Min (ABD).

Pentecostalism has often been accused of being withdrawn from social and political concerns due to an either/or mentality that erroneously makes people feel like they have to choose between evangelism, personal salvation and political engagement.  When we look at the Pentecostal movement in its early days we see that there not be such an ultimatum to choose. It is not either/or but both/and.

In my research, I found that in addition to this mindset, lack of knowledge by those in positions of power in the church on things such as how justice is biblical, how civic advocacy is not the same as political campaigning and even their own Pentecostal history has contributed to the passivity of Pentecostals to take a step toward advocating for justice. Interestingly enough, the Pentecostal movement has always thrived among the underprivileged and its success was in how they made leaders out of the very people overlooked and undervalued in society.

Dr. Raymond Rivera would often quip in his office at the Latino Pastoral Action Center in NYC, Pentecostal churches turned the janitor into the Pastor and the housekeeper into the Deacon. This in itself was a prophetic and political activity which challenged power structures and hierarchies, as they elevated the lowly and raised up the oppressed. The Pentecostal church in and of itself stood as not only a beacon of hope but a political declaration to surrounding culture that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they made treasure out of what society deemed as trash.

Some churches are known for having produced leaders that went on to make significant contributions to the movement and in their communities, other churches were known to produce leaders that shook the very foundations of their cities by involving themselves in movements of peace and justice, and still others were so passive the community did not even know they existed.  What I’ve found to be true is that this happens because some pastors used their pulpit and classrooms for discipleship that focused not only on who they were being made into as new creations but how they were expected to live out Christ-center practices as citizens. Thus the church in the life of a believer is crucial for their formation not just spiritually but civically. Essentially, where you go to church matters.

Researchers Nathan Todd and Anne Rufa stated, “Understandings of social justice do not develop in a vacuum, and many social settings such as families, schools, and religious congregations provide a rich context for social justice development.”* Therefore, I argue that the church is pivotal to the making of justice crusaders.

However, a pastor, planter, leader does not know what they do not know. Unless exposed to Pentecostal history that discusses the origins of Pentecostalism as a movement of the marginalized in a variety of contexts, they will buy into the nationalistic ideology that has pervaded our westernized view of evangelicalism. If not taught about how in the early 1900s the move of the Spirit was very much political in nature by empowering disciples to stand against inequality while being victimized themselves, they will believe the narrative always taught, evangelism is the only purpose of the church.

Dario Lopez Rodriguez states,

“The God of life is the God who loves and defends life, and liberates human beings from all oppression. In this sense, for Pentecostals who have been liberated by God from the chains of oppression, it should not be strange that they be involved in the defense of the dignity of all human beings as God’s creations. This is a concrete form of living in the Spirit, and for this reason, they must denounce all forms of personal, social and structural sin.”**

Hence, Pentecostal pastors and leaders, use your worship services, your education rooms, your table fellowship as labs not only to hear about how God is working in the lives of your people but to pastor and teach them how to think and act in today’s world from a Jesus centered, practice-based perspective. In this way, discipleship becomes a means of political engagement and people energized by the Spirit are formed into defenders of human dignity committed to both spiritual and social transformation. The rise of the both/and movement has begun.

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Rios is the Founder of the Passion Center, a justice-oriented faith-based community helping people stand up and live out the gospel mandate of loving God, loving themselves and loving their neighbor in Miramar, FL. Find out more at www.ThePassionCenter.org and www.ElizabethRios.com

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

References


*N.R. Todd and A.K. Rufa, 2013. “Social Justice and Religious Participation: A Qualitative Investigation of Christian Perspectives.” American Journal of Community Psychology 51 (3/4): 315-31, accessed November 12, 2018 doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9552-4.

**Dario Lopez Rodriguez, 2011. “The God of Life and the Spirit of Life: The Social and Political Dimension of Life in the Spirit.” Studies in World Christianity, (17.1) 1-11, accessed September 4, 2018, doi:10.3366/swc.2011.0002.


Cover photo: Rural church in South Africa, by Micael Grenholm

Four Out of Five Christians Take Action on Poverty

by Ruth Valerio, originally published on her blog.

It’s a pretty scary thing asking an external body to do some research for you and having absolutely no control over the findings. What if you don’t like what they come back with?!

So it was with some nervousness that we decided at Tearfund to team up with the research firm Barna Group to look into connections between caring for people in poverty and spiritual growth.

In particular, we wanted to look at what we call a ‘whole life response’ to poverty. Tearfund is absolutely committed to helping Christians, in the UK and around the world, respond to poverty in a ‘whole life’ way: through prayer, giving, advocacy, lifestyle, and other actions such as volunteering. We summarise that as Pray, Act, Give.

In the research we wanted to explore this whole-life response and see how that features for Christians in the UK (and in the US too – a US version is soon to be released). The research came back with a huge amount of fascinating findings – too many to go into in detail here! But three things in particular stood out for me: Continue reading Four Out of Five Christians Take Action on Poverty

Black Lives Don’t Matter As Much As the National Anthem

by Ramone Romero.

It seems sometimes that in the national debate about #TakeAKnee the focus has become about “the flag” and “the anthem”, and it is often being forgotten that #TakeAKnee is a protest about the systemic injustices of law enforcement against people of color.

Yet even if that is forgotten in the news and chatter, this is still intensely about race.

The #TakeAKnee protests in the NFL (and spreading across the sports world) are offensive precisely because they began with black athletes.

The offense people are taking as disrespect to the flag, the anthem and to “America” itself comes because these are black athletes protesting.

How dare they interrupt the anthem?
How dare they not salute the flag in the way we want?
How dare they draw any amount of attention to themselves?
How dare they interrupt our holy moment of nationalistic worship?

Continue reading Black Lives Don’t Matter As Much As the National Anthem

The Gift of Provocation? Tertullian Certainly Had It!

Tertullian (full name Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born at Carthage in North Africa around AD 155, son of a Roman centurion. He trained as a lawyer and had a razor-sharp mind. Little of his early life is known, but at about 40 he became a Christian. Immediately, he began to write – and Christendom hardly knew what had hit it!

He didn’t ‘do’ much reasoned theology; he confronted. Wrong teachings, sloppy morals, lax leaders, cowardly faith, Tertullian laid into them all. His writing is passionate, with holy sarcasm – and at times still funny even today. You sense a ‘wildness’, a burning heart for integrity and justice, contemptuous of all compromise. Here are some examples:

At a time of fierce persecution, when many favoured fleeing, he wrote: The blood of the martyrs is [the] seed [of the church], adding that once you start fleeing, you will never stop fleeing!

Seeing the growing emphasis on education in church leadership, he cried: What has Athens [headquarters of Greek philosophy] got to do with Jerusalem!

He took aim at worldly pursuits: All public entertainment damages the spirit.

He castigated the folly of persecutors: If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always to feed Christians to the lions.

He understood the fleshly human nature that he was confronting: The first reaction to truth is hatred.

Perhaps most biting of all is his judgement on self-centred living: Whoever lives only to benefit himself, benefits the world only when he dies!

Yet Tertullian was more than a polemicist. He was deeply conscious of his personal failings; once, he wrote a piece on patience because he knew he had to learn it. Continue reading The Gift of Provocation? Tertullian Certainly Had It!

Heaven Touching Earth: Christoph Blumhardt and the Kingdom Rule of God

We Christians think of a heavenly kingdom; I came to see that God intended an earthly kingdom, or rather, a heavenly kingdom on earth. God’s name was to be hallowed on earth, His kingship seen on earth, His will done on earth. The earth should announce eternity: God on earth.”

In a number of writings, Christoph Blumhardt presented his understanding of the kingdom of God and how it is forever breaking in to life on earth – for that was always God’s intention.

The angels have God in heaven, I have not – I want to pray down here. I must have God here. The earth is the stage set for the kingdom of God, because the kingship of God is in direct relationship with this earth: the Saviour, down here. God’s intention is the here and now: Jesus challenging poverty, sin and misery on earth.”

A post on the John Mark Ministries blog considers the significance of Blumhardt’s writings on the kingdom of God. ‘His ideas had seminal influence on Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more recently on Jacques Ellul and Jürgen Moltmann – theological giants among whom he would most certainly feel a stranger. Despite this legacy, Blumhardt is relatively unknown. Continue reading Heaven Touching Earth: Christoph Blumhardt and the Kingdom Rule of God