Tag Archive: Holy Spirit

Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit

In chapter six the authors turn to the role of the Holy Spirit in creating missional communities.  Above all, the Holy Spirit, the source of all life in creation, is the community-forming grace present in missional communities.  “The church owes its origin, its destiny, its structure, its ongoing life, its ministry to the divine Spirit of life, truth, and holiness” (145).  Specifically, the Spirit calls together a community for holy living, mutual support, and sacrificial service.  Through the creation, cultivation and sustenance of the Spirit missional communities form a culture “radical hope” for a “new way of life that has become a reality in Jesus Christ” (153).

How is a Spirit-formed community sustained? By the Spirit in ecclesial practices (prayer, fellowship, singing praise).  The authors claim that the strength of such practices comes as a result of the Spirit’s historical, communal, experiential, and dynamic presence in the life of the community.  First, the authors point to the ecclesial practice of baptism, in which persons are  “incorporated into the new humanity of God’s reign” (159).  Baptism is a public declaration of a new identity and a transformed way of life.  One’s baptismal formation bounds the person’s identity as a “sent” person of God’s mission.  Likewise, the ecclesial practice of Eucharist sustains and nourishes the baptized community in their mission.  Through the sharing of everyday elements (bread/wine) around common table (companionship), the community models for the world the “sharing and receiving the basic necessities of life” (166).

Non-sacramental practices also form and sustain missional communities.  Through reconciliation we participate in acts of accountability, repentance, honesty, forgiveness, and love.  In discernment we learn to listen, hear, test, and plan our participation in God’s mission together in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Through hospitality we exhibit peace, cross boundaries, and open ourselves to others.

As the authors describe it, the missional community’s ecclesial practices are the antidote to the competitive and alienating individualism of the world.  In these practices the church is not just one more civic institution offering religious goods.  The church is a community that takes time to be gracious, reaching out to invite fellow human beings into a relationship with God.

I greatly appreciate the authors’ emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in mission.  Often it seems evangelism is reduced to proclaiming Jesus or showing God’s love.  Evangelism is something we, Christians, do.  As a community of people we walk with the Spirit, are lead by the Spirit, and sow the Spirit so that it (now us!) might manifest the fruit of the Spirit (147, Galatians 5.22).  Evangelism is a Trinitarian endeavor.  We are not alone.  We worship and proclaim one God in three persons.  Just as evangelism requires the whole of our being, it also involves the fullness of God.

This is the sixth review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican)

The Holy Spirit in Latin American Pentecostalism

As Tennent continues his systematic look at how Christian theological beliefs are being translated into different cultures, chapter seven focuses on pneumatology in Latin America.  Tennent specifically looks at the pneumatology of Pentecostalism because Pentecostals account for three-fourths of all Latin American Protestants.  He writes, “We ignore to our own detriment the vital role Pentecostalism is playing in shaping theological discourse and practice throughout the world” (165).

Tennent points out that Pentecostalism did not arise in a vacuum.  Rather, it is a diverse movement within the bounds of historic orthodox Christianity.  Pentecostalism has its theological roots in Methodism, the Reformed tradition, and Roman Catholic spirituality.  Tennent does, however, highlight several beliefs he believes captures the essence of the diverse Pentecostal tradition.  Namely, Pentecostalism holds the authority of scripture and the centrality of Christ’s work on the cross, while emphasizing the importance of repentance, conversion, and holy living.  He points out that Pentecostals also believe in a full range of gifts and miraculous manifestations of the Spirit present in the NT and available to believers today (166).  Missionally, he argues that Pentecostals have a special urgency to evangelize the world.

What can Westerners learn from Latin American Pentecostals?  For Tennent, the answer is “a lot.”  Many Latin Americans insist that European and North American theologies of the Spirit are too static and disconnected from the suffering and economic hardships of the people of Latin America (169).  Any theology of the spirit should explore the integrative ways in which the doctrine can be applied to “real life contexts that could have a profound effect on how we talk about mission practice and global ecumenism” (189).

The Latin American mission practice embodies a radical Spirit that empowers all believers for witness in the world.  Pentecostals emphasize that a person never evangelizes alone; God the Evangelist speaks and works through believers by the power of the Holy Spirit (182).  Are Westerners “bold” in the Spirit?  Are we open to the Spirit showing up at our outreach committee meeting or at our strategic planning session?

Tennent also lauds Latin American Pentecostals embrace of ecumenism.  He claims that Pentecostals were one of the first groups to understand the implications of transcending traditional denominations (186).  Do we appreciate how the Spirit binds believers together across denominational lines?  Do our prayers, worship services, and missional endeavors reflect this?

Tennent’s thoughts on Pneumatology in Latin America are some of the best in the book.  At times his depiction of Pentecostals is too simple, but overall he seems to present a valid picture.  I would be interested also to explore pneumatology outside of Pentecostalism.  How do denominations that are not known for emphasizing the role of the Spirit understand the Spirit? Still, Tennent leaves cerebral-oriented scholastics (Westerners) with a compelling image and challenge of heart-oriented praxis (Latin American Pentecostals).

This is the seventh review in an eleven-part series looking at Timothy Tennent’s Theology in the context of World Christianity.

Here’s a thought-provoking and interesting video from workingpreacher.org that is too cool to not share!

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