I recently received my copy of The Great Commission Connection, a book which was commissioned by Raymond Culpepper (The General Overseer of the Church of God) and which includes essays my many of the best minds and most prominent figures within the denomination, all reflecting on various aspects and dimensions of the Great Commission and how it applies to the church today. In his opening chapter, one paragraph by Bro. Culpepper himself especially caught my eye, where he discusses the various boxes in which churches have attempted to place the Holy Spirit.
It’s easy for Pentecostal churches to put the Holy Spirit in a box. Some put Him in the “box of the temple” – He only moves and works while the saints are in the sanctuary. Others put Him in a “box of time” – if the Spirit is going to work in the church, He must accomplish His work during one particular hour on Sunday morning. Still others relegate Him to a “box of tongues” – the Holt Spirit is not speaking unless He speaks through an unknown tongue with a proper interpretation. And still others limit Him to a “box of tradition.” The Holy Spirit is free to work in our church in any way He desires – as long as His work does violate the traditions of our church, community, or culture. Jesus did not pray that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in order for Him to be place in a box. The Spirit wants every believer to be a witnessing, discipling missionary.
As I read this, I felt as though Dr. Culpepper put his finger directly onto the pulse of Pentecostal churches today. No church would ever admit to this practice and most would claim that they are open to any and every movement of the Holy Spirit. However, it has become increasingly clear that there exists a disconnect between what most churches profess and what they believe. A close observations of many churches in the Pentecostal churches reveals that most of us have a truly limited understanding of what the Holy Spirit really is. I have heard one person describe it by saying that the Pentecostal church has began to use the Holy Spirit like a pick-me-up drink; we get a good dose of it to enjoy on Sundays and that is all we are concerned with. However, for a Pentecostal church to move towards its missional vocation, it must first come to a complete and full understand of the person, power, and work of the Holy Spirit. We have to be able to let the Holy Spirit out of the box.