Keys to Explaining Pentecost to Evangelicals

Dr. Gary Tyra’s recent book, The Holy Spirit in Mission (IVP Academic), encourages readers to open themselves to being used by the Holy Spirit to speak and act prophetically. He writes here about lessons learned teaching a Pentecostal doctrine of the Spirit among evangelicals:

  1. Be biblical. Evangelicals and Pentecostals share a common commitment to the authority of Scripture. Many evangelicals will acknowledge a connection between the coming of the Spirit and prophetic (Spirit-inspired) speech and action once they realize it enjoys broad biblical support (not just from the book of Acts).
  2. Avoid coming off as confrontational. Many Pentecostals use “filled with the Spirit” and “baptized in the Spirit” inter-changeably. Most evangelicals, on the other hand, use these phrases differently. If we aren’t careful, we can communicate the idea that unless our dialogue partners have spoken in tongues, they aren’t saved. It’s amazing how many evangelicals assume that this is precisely what most Pentecostals believe.
  3. Make it missional. Evangelicals and Pentecostals also share a common commitment to mission. A missional approach to ministry asks: What is the Spirit up to in this ministry context and how can we cooperate with him? Prominent evangelicals tell me privately that the Pentecostal perspective is needed as we think about the mission of the Church.
  4. Point out the practical. I recently received an email from an adult student in our SPS program thanking me for the way I articulated the personal, real-life benefits of “praying in the Spirit.” Too often Pentecostal doctrine and practice comes off as weird and/or impractical to evangelicals. We can do better at indicating what praying in the Spirit actually accomplishes in our lives.
  5. Keep it real. Most evangelicals, despite their wariness about basing doctrine on experience, are really eager to connect with God. Let’s do more than talk about the benefits of a Pentecostal spirituality. Let’s exemplify it!

In conclusion, I want to suggest that there are two types of Pentecostals in the world: those who simply want to be different from other Christians, and those who desperately want to make a difference in the world for Christ. Let’s be that second kind!

Gary Tyra, D.Min., a veteran pastor, author and leader, is Professor of Biblical and Practical Theology at VU, and available for local church ministry. Contact Dr. Tyra at gtyra@vanguard.edu, or visit his website: www.garytyra.com