As I grew up, we moved somewhat frequently. We moved down the road, across town, over to the next town and down into the next state. As we would move, we often were in search of a new church. My father’s personal position wasn’t to search for a church so much as to find our pastor. This is something that I learned from and deeply respect my father for. When a pastor would leave and a new one then came, if it became somehow clear that he was not our shepherd, we would move on. It wasn’t loyalty to the denomination that was important, it was to our pastor, right or wrong. As a result, we spent considerable time in Independent, Baptist, Presbyterian, Missionary Alliance, Assembly of God, Foursquare and few others churches I do not recall. For all of this exposure to the various parts of the Body of Christ, I am today, so very grateful. It has served to give me a very real love for the Body of Christ at large.
As a result of this, I was exposed to many and varied churches, theology and forms of church. My father had received a powerful revelation of God’s Grace when he was young and in the ministry as had my grandfather before him. In fact my grandfather would have been the first in our family to become what might be called, a Bapticostal. Before my dad had the revelation of God’s Grace, my grandfather and my dad would discuss or rather argue this question over and over. Then, one night as my dad was studying the scriptures and getting ready for a meeting the next day, the Lord illuminated his understanding and he finally saw the light of the truth concerning God’s wonderful and powerful Grace. It was for him a true revelation. It was thereafter that my dad would find himself being on the same path as Grandpa, that of becoming a Pentecostal with a clear and powerful revelation of grace. They were the first, as it were, Bapticostals in our family.
When I finally came around and got my life back on track in serving the Lord Jesus Christ, no thanks to me, I too would enter the ministry. Yes, as you probably guessed it, my father and I would discuss vehemently the issue of God’s Grace. This went on for several years as it had with my dad and his father before me. Then one day, as I was preparing for a meeting, the Lord graciously revealed his light of revelation and I also saw the truth of God’s wonderful and powerful Grace. There is something essential about being in the scriptures, in prayer and receiving the revelation of the Lord. Anyway, as it had turned my fathers’ life in new direction, so it would turn my life in that same new direction. There was only one problem, I belonged to a Pentecostal Denomination and at this time, this was an issue. If not for them, at least it was for me.
I do not know if you understand some of the significance of this, but Pentecostals are usually, not always, rooted in Arminian Theology. Arminian Theology is much more than a theology of salvation but all too often and amongst too many Pentecostals, it seems to work itself out like this: You can lose your salvation pretty much at the drop of a hat. There can become a lot of personal condemnation, performance orientation and works with this. While in many Pentecostal circles this has changed, Praise the Lord, back then you would find yourself getting saved, a lot. In fact, so it seemed as I was growing up, you were always getting saved and getting saved and never truly knowing if you were saved or not. When I am asked, “when did you become a Christian?” I usually answer something like this: “I began getting saved when I was 6 and continued until it finally took hold at age 25”. Sad but true.
The teaching in my youth went something like this; “it only takes one sin to separate you from God and thus send you to hell”. This was drummed into our hearts and minds, when we were in various Pentecostal churches (especially my Jr. and Sr. High School years). We would go down and pray through (getting everything taken care of between you and the Lord) get up to leave, feeling good about yourself and the Lord, then it happens. I would see the Pastors daughter and I confess that at this time I had a crush on her. So, thinking what I was thinking had to be a sin and I did not want to go to hell, so I would turn right around and go back down to the altar; chuckle, chuckle, sob. What finally was the clincher for me was the week we had a special preacher in and he preached a message on the sins of ignorance and omission. The long and short of this is that now, it not only took one sin to eternally separate you from God and therefore condemn you to hell, but you could sin and not even know it and go to hell anyway. That, and few other things at the time, was the final straw. I simply walked away from everything. It was just too hard and seemingly impossible to be truly saved and know it. Salvation was like a revolving door, you’re in, no you’re out, and you’re in and you’re out!
The good news is that the Lord is faithful and years later he had once again captured my heart and attention. My life was restored, a story for another day, and I too, entered into the ministry. While I would not preach as I had been preached to, regarding salvation and the one sin theology, I was lacking a clear and powerful revelation of God’s Grace. My father and I argued and discussed at length God’s grace and what it genuinely meant and didn’t mean. And as I have already shared, I finally saw the light. A powerful and overwhelming revelation of God’s Grace captured me. I will be forever grateful to my grandfather, my father and especially to the Lord for this precious gift.
So, what does all of this have to do with being a Bapticostal? Of all that I grew up in and under, the truth of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost truly stuck with me. It was and had become so very real to me at every level even at a very young age. Now older, I studied this out over and over and came to know in my heart of hearts that it was truth. My Baptist friends and I would study these things out (in truth, they would try to straighten me out and I would try to do the same with them) but in good humor. Really! It was through my Baptist friends that I gained a very rich and powerful appreciation for studying the scriptures, systematically. All of this study and discussion only served to convince me even more of the truth of my Pentecostal heritage and beliefs. However, now I had this revelation of God’s grace and it was and continues growing in me and my understanding. How was this going to mesh with what I had received in my Pentecostal upbringing?
The result of this questioning wasn’t that I would become a Baptist, though I was seriously tempted (but the speaking in other languages thing always seemed to get in the way) or would I remain primarily Arminian in my theology and that was a problem with the Pentecostal side of things. No, as you have already figured out, I would become a Bapticostal; Strong on God’s Grace, God’s Word and Strong on God’s Holy Spirit Power and the Miraculous things of God. So in a very real sense, I have chosen the best of both worlds, the strong Word of God and strong Grace of God emphasis of my Baptist brethren along with the strong Holy Ghost, with signs and wonders emphasis of my Pentecostal friends.
For me, I have found that I need and have come to truly value the truths of both worlds. I do not think they are as far apart as we have been all too often led to believe. As I continue to grow up in Christ Jesus, I continue to learn, change and hopefully mature. As of late (last six to seven years), I have been looking more closely at my Reformation friends. As you might suspect, there are some things there that I also worked through and have added to my understanding of God’s Word. They fit well into what I have already gleaned, in the Lord, and from the others. The only real problem I foresee is how I come up with a new name. Bapticostal works so very well and if I add some sound Reformation Theology, which I have, rest assured, what will that look like? Maybe I will have to change the family heritage to be something like…. Reforbapticostal or Baptireforcostal or even Reformedbapticostal? What do you think? I think we will just have to wait and see.