A PENTECOSTAL PERSPECTIVE ON EVANGELIZATION
The Holy Spirit in Action
From the beginning the Holy Spirit moves over the waters, preparing for the realization of God's plan. This bestows on the Holy Spirit, among other atributs, the character of a witnessing actor and co-creator, and ultimately the one in charge of edification since it is the Holy Spirit who convinces the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and also guides us into the knowledge of all the truth (Gen. 1: 2; John 16: 8, 13).
The coming of The Holy Spirit to the Faith Community
If Pentecost came 50 days after the Passover and was a celebration of dedication to the God of Liberation, of the first-fruits of the harvest, in sheaves, grains and bread (Cf. Lev. 23: 15-21), it also signaled and marked the dedication of the first Christians, gathered and of one spirit as church of the Lord (Acts 2). It is there that the Holy Spirit began its action among faith communities, from where he goes out to sow and reap living offerings to God, of whom we are ambassadors in this mission.
Let us note that the Holy Spirit was free to act because the Word had already been planted in them through the preaching of Jesus. And even more so in the case of the Samaritan woman, in which had already begun what could be described as the calling to the ministry of evangelist (John 4: 25-29), and which implied the call to women to the ministry.
In our time, at the beginning of this century, the Pentecostal movement was born or I would rather say experienced a revival in several places around the world and thus we have a number of servants who were used for this purpose: Parham in Topeka, Kansas, USA, 1900; Roberts in Wales, 1904; Barrat in Norway, 1906; and that same year in the Old Methodist Church at Asuza Street, in Los Angeles, rented by the Black preacher Seymour, who during three years practised and experienced an intimate communion with the Holy Spirit, in prayers and prophesies, tongues and healings; it is considered that it was there that the modern Pentecostal movement began.
Implantation and Development in Latin America
In some countries like Brazil Pentecostalism was introduced in the beginning by immigrants and missionaries from Europe and even more North America and was established in 1910. Yet it was only with servants of the Holy Spirit like Manoel de Mello that an indigenous Pentecostalism was born, a Pentecostalism that adopted the so-called rhythmic music, with new and joyfull songs, where the Brazilian people heard contextualized, contemporary messages on political and social issues. And by maintaining the evangelistic drive in which the action of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled outside the four walls the Pentecostal movement expanded and continues growing.
In Chile, Pentecostalism was born in the Methodist Episcopal Church through Pastor Hoover, who was enlightened by the reading of a book dealing with Pentecostal doctrine. After struggles and divisions the First Methodist Pentecostal Church came into existence which grew and prospered but also suffered separations. Yet these groups kept their Pentecostal identity and set the model of integration in the ecumenical communities.
Pentecostalism arrived in Nicaragua in 1912, also through North American missionaries who at first engaged in active proselytism. Later the oppressive system contributed to a rapid growth and after that the use of printed materials, radio broadcasts, personal discipleship and evangelization marked the beginning of an era of growth not only numerically but also in the praxis of interdenominational and ecumenical unity.
Pentecostalism in Venezuela is second only to the Catholic Church and as a popular movement has experienced notable advance in the midst of a difficult social and political situation. The progressive Pentecostal movement has challenged the traditional Church and is growing and spreading, promoting the extension of the Kingdom.
Its beginnings are relatively recent, first with Federico Bender, and then with the coming in of the Assemblies of God churches in the '40s and the early '50s. There were tensions which resulted in fragmentation but already in the '60s and '70s the preaching of the Word was accompanied by healing, miracles, liberation etc. leading to a remarkable growth until this time.
I would like to emphasize that the Holy Spirit accurately chooses and indicates what he wishes to reveal: in the case of Bender, who received a vision of the map of Venezuela and the word Barquisimeto written on it; in the case of the Swedish missionaries who received a prophecy telling them to go to Para, Brazil. In both cases they ignored the meaning of these names as well as their geographical location.
The evangelization accomplished by the Bender couple not only resulted in the creation of faith communities but also reached out into social and educational work, with the establishment of a nursing home for orphan girls and primary schools. But we see that he (Bender) rejected the instruments of our folklore: "cuatro" (a local version of the Spanish guitar), drum and even guitar, because he prefered the violin, flute and organ. For this and other reasons, which we will not mention now, Pentecostalism was culturally transplanted in the beginning and less popular than it is today.
It was under the guidance of the Assemblies of God of the USA that a Pentecostal leadership of national character began to develop which had the opportunity to form itself. This is the aspect of witness of the evangelization in Venezuela. The other aspect or experience was the confrontation within Pentecostalism between Rev. Exeario Sosa, who was inspired with a vision of unity by Bender and missionaries opposed to interdenominational unity. The last missionaries who arrived in Venezuela brought along a stronger and more restricted doctrinal stance than the original one, which provoked a division in 1957 between the Assemblies of God and a group led by Rev. Sosa and other pastors. The latter gave birth to the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela, with Rev. Sosa as its first president. Nowadays the Evangelical Pentecostal Union is under the leadership of Rev. Gamaliel Lugo, with whom we entertain fraternal relationships.
In our country as in other countries I have mentioned, it was through faith campaigns accompanied by extraordinary healings that Pentecostalism expanded. Because of our social history, Pentecostalism needed and needs charismatic leaders, men and women of character who put on the sandals of the oppressed and marginalized people, in the manner of Jesus when He accompanied the two men on the road to Emmaus.
We have not abandoned the traditionally integrated way of evangelization but we have enriched it in a contextualized perspective of Jesus Christ in our communities. Thus we can nurture the two dimensions, not from the point of view of a sectarian ecclesiastical organization but deeply rooted in the spiritual, social and cultural structures which form the space of our struggles and victories.
All this has helped us to take the line of ecumenical action. We are aware that Pentecostalism in Latin America is still influenced by the doctrine and praxis of those Protestant societies where it was born but it is taking roots in the culture and identifying itself with the values of our peoples, growing by leaps and bonds as a movement of response in the midst of a society permanently in crisis, providing room for popular sectors to be subjects - because in this type of community there is participation, in terms of the language used at national and regional level as well as the opportunity to give witness of what we have experienced in our live.
II CONTEXTUALIZED DRAMATIZATION OF LUKE 24: 13-31
Theme: The walkers with Jesus
Message: The evangelizing revelation of the Risen Lord
Keys: Hope for the hopeless
Freedom for the oppressed
Light to dispel the darkness of mind
Salt to give taste to daily life, individually and in community
Characters: A group of traditional evangelicals
Another person, in a mission of partnership
A group of evangelicals after the worship service, talking about the political, social, economic and religious situation in the country, in their own contemporary language (like the disciples commenting about the events that occured and culminated with the resurrection of the Lord).
A couple moves away from the group.
They start walking home (we take a couple as a symbol of equality before the Lord, because of the special treatment He gave women, by choosing a woman to be the first witness of his resurrection, and because this is the International Year of the Family), carrying on the conversation as they walk; they walk because they do not have a car; they have little money and belong to the popular, poor classes of any of our Latin American cities.
A third person joins them on the road.
They accept him as if he was a new member in their faith community, or perhaps a visitor, because they do not recognize him (in the text it is the Lord himself and today it is the same Lord acting through a believer who is an instrument in his hands).
The companion asks them what they are talking about and why they look so sad. The man answers: "Brother, have you not heard about the serious crisis we are going through in our country?" The companion retorts: "What is happening?". The woman says: "Money is barely enough to buy food, prices go up day after day, social insecurity is getting worse all the time. And we ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our mission" (those on the road to Emmaus spoke about the life and work of the Lord and described his death on the cross as the end of their hopes for freedom from the Roman Empire; they expressed their astonishment because some women had said that he was risen and some had verified the facts, including the absence of the body).
The couple complains about the way they are affected by all the aspects of the system (pain, need, frustration) and adds that the worship meetings only offer a time for catharsis and we are not putting our faith into action.
In the original text Jesus Christ admonishes the walkers, helping them to see that all that was said about him in the Scriptures had to be fulfilled and makes reference to the scriptures.
The third person in our drama assumes the pastoral function of accompaniment in situations of conflict and explains to them that these things happen when human efforts that seek divine support are put into practice. For, as Jesus said (John 20:21) "... as the Father has sent me, so I send you". This mission is described in the words of the Lord in Matthew 10: 16: "Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves; be wary as serpents and innocent as doves".
Jesus explained the attitude of faith that is necessary to advance, and of hope to reach the goal for which we are sent out to the ends of the earth; reminding us always to live an examplary life among those who do not know God so that, "... though they slander you and treat you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of judgement" (I Peter 2:12). This implies the action of the Holy Spirit which moves and changes complaints into praise, and the sharing of acts of worship only, in view of an all-embracing life commitment, where each one is a necessary part of the Body of Christ at work in the world.
Finally, they arrive at their destination
The couple invites the third person to stay and share the food they have (bread, corn griddle-cake, sardine, or beans maybe) and moreover, they allow him to say grace for the food. Then, when he broke the bread and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized the Spirit of the Lord acting through his servant. And they feel they are united with the Risen One in action.
III. A PENTECOSTAL PERSPECTIVE FROM SITUATIONS OF CONFLICT
When believers feel they are subjects participating actively in the extension of the Kingdom of Heaven they adopt the attitude of praise in the complex reality in which they live, because this is part of the mission. And they begin to understand that it is not the organized church which fills temples through the appeal of its programmes but the Holy Spirit making living temples of those who were human wrecks of sin, pain, misery and oppression; penetrating all layers of life and making us accept that the key point is to take the Divine Design with human support, and not the human plan which seeks divine sustenance.
The Divine Design goes on amidst opposition: Jesus himself was sent out in the midst of total opposition, in the family, in the society (he was called a son of adultery), in the political realm (he represented another kingdom with another system, whereas Herod was the link with the system of the world which Christ came to break down). In the religious sphere (because he came to abolish the ceremonial law of the Old Testament with his new covenant, established through his sacrifice once and for all) and above all this he brought integral liberation with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, which instead of killing brings life...
There is an Emmaus in our time!
There are walkers who have been accompanied by Jesus in their daily life, receiving the revelation of the Risen One so that they may share it with the faith communities, leading these communities to live out their faith in their midst and in the civil society, through the liberating witness of the Savior in situations of conflict, against all the structures of oppression, suffering, misery and injustice of our time.
In this march Jesus admonishes his church because in its eagerness to do something with the best intentions it hinders the plan of evangelization designed by Him; Jesus is hoping that we invite him to share through the words of Him that we use, so that we let the Word make use of us with the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we return to our communities let us share this Emmaus and make the encounter with the Risen One a reality, in the praxis of the testimonial sharing of what we have experienced, engaging ourselves in the spritual, social and cultural commitment of each country, race, tongue. Let us be sensible like Jesus, who became flesh and lived among us (John 1: 14) so that we remain open, awake, moved in love, with the clear conviction that the Holy Spirit is guiding us to unity in the midst of diversity, not as organizations of the present order but as living bodies joined together in the Lord, upholding the resurrection as the corner stone of evangelization, letting tongues of fire come up as flame-throwers which open up paths of light in the human tongues of the various languages that exist among our peoples.
SHALOM, SAWIDI, LA PAZ, PEACE, FRIEDE, PAIX
For the Holy Spirit, what is most important for evangelization are the evangelists which He has prepared.
Communion (Koinonia) with the Risen Jesus is the basis for launching evangelization from the Pentecostal perspective.
The recovery of all the artistic, cultural and folkloric expressions of our communities as means to enter into the life of the people.
Pentecostal communities suffer internal situations of conflict which lead to divisions and split the congregations, but the Holy Spirit makes use of the opportunity to enter into all the cracks of our world so that the salt of the earth and the light of the world penetrate and enter into communion with those who are in need, and it is there that the ecumenical relations are forged.
In the two dimensions of the message the progressive Pentecostal communities are sent forth by the Holy Spirit to ecumenical communion after they have lost their denominationalist spirit.
The progressive church differs from the traditional in the following aspects: it is embedded in folklore instead of transcultural, national instead of transplanted, ecumenical instead of denominationalist, using popular instead of religious language and embodied in the community instead of being an alien body.